Clinical Anger and Traits of Serial Killers

Ten Traits of a Serial Killer

Serial killers, weather they are signature sexual killers or not share some of the same traits.
They are:
Most are single white men
They tend to be smart
Despite their intelligence they do poorly in school and have spotty employment records and generally end up in unskilled work
They come from deeply troubled families
There is a long history of psychiatric problems, criminal behavior and alcoholism in their families
As children t hey suffer significant abuse
Trouble with male authority figures and hostility toward women
Manifest psyatric problems at en early age and often have spent time in institutions as children
Because of their extreme social isolation and a general hatred of the world and everyone in it (including themselves) they often feel suicidal as teenagers
they display a precocious and abiding intersst in deviant sexuality and are obsessive with fetishism, voyeurism and violent pornography.

Twenty-One Behavioral Patterns of Aggressive Behavior


Extreme anger will be a reoccurring theme throughout this paper. Before that anger boils over into killing or sexual assault, the killer will show patterns of aggressive behavior throughout life. The child will show an extreme cruelty to animals and violence toward siblings and other children. Many will have some contact with the juvenile justice system. They may also be fire setters. This behavior begins for a reason. The following are 21 patterns of episodic aggressive behavior as described by Joel Norris:

Ritualistic Behavior- The ritual that is always part of the serial murders MO is either explicit at the scene or made explicit by the murder when he confesses to the police this ritual is a repeated observable patter so that there is a fundamental sameness from crime to crime that even the killer canít alter. It forms the basis of the serial killers personality and is evident perhaps even in outline form long before the 1st crime is ever committed. As we can see the first stage of aggressive behavior according to Mr. Norris is fantasy life and ritual behavior showing the development of signature in childhood and being related to his fantasy.

Pattern 2 Mask of Sanity- In this pattern it almost if the killer has a split personality or diphasic personality. The killer in the pattern in moving into his aura phase, the point in his development where the fantasy is becoming all consuming where itís all that he cares about, all he thinks about. Even though the killer is beginning to be consumed by his fantasy there is still enough of him left in this reality that he appears normal to the outside world. Normal to everyone not looking to closely to his behavior. That is why the killer mush like the psychopath choices to have only superficial friendships, they never want anyone getting to close for fear that friends/family/lover/spouse finds out his dirty secret.

Pattern 3 Compulsivity- The killer may suffer from some type of obsessive compulsive disorder. This obsession will cause him to commit the same crime over and over again. It will first appear in the second developmental stage of serial killing, the trolling phase where the killer drives or walks around for hours looking for the perfect victim. It will also be evident at the crime scene the killer will have a compulsion to hide a body in a certain place or commit certain acts of post -mortem mutilation. Itís also the reason the killer will keep items from each of his victims.

Pattern 5 Sever Memory Disorders: This pattern covers the disordered thinking experienced by the killer. His inability to hold down a job or to tell the truth because everything in his life now revolves around stalking potential victims, raping, killing or torturing.

It is in this patter where the psychopathological development will be seen. The would be killer is an inability to tell the truth. He many have grand ideas on how to make money to become rich but has on actual ambition to do anything. Pattern 6 Suicidal Tendencies-Low Self Esteem and paranoid thinking.

Pattern 7 History of sexual assault. Evidence has shown that many killers have experienced sexual assault and physical and emotional abuse during childhood. Things in the childís home because so terrible to deal with the nightly sexual assault the hitting the screaming is to much for him to continue to deal with so he escapes the nightmare of his home be creating a fantasy world where those things donít happen. But because children learn by example the killer will begin to incorporate what is happening in his life e.g. the sexual assault into his fantasy and over time when he moves into killing will replay things that happened to him in childhood.

Pattern 8 Deviate Sexual Behavior and hyper sexuality: Because of the history of sexual abuse and the killer retreating into fantasy he will experience deviant sexuality. The BSU has detailed types of sadism and brutality of killers or lust murders as they are also called and find that they are afraid of sex they want to engage in therefore they can only have sex with victims only after they are bound, unconscious or dead. Most lust killers canít confront the act of sex with a living person. The killer may also experience hyper sexuality which is sexual desire that is never satisfied no matter what the killer tries to do about it.

9 Head injuries: The killer may have experiences some time of head injury either during birth or at some point in child hood that effects the way he interacts with the world. Richard Ramirez was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy that he would have hallucinations of monsters and could no longer play on the football team. Making him even more of an outsider with his peers.

10 History of drug or alcohol abuse: In an attempt to keep his demons at bay the killer may engage in drug or alcohol abuse. This only serves to fuel his fantasy.

11 drug or alcohol abuse parents: The killers family mother or father is he is present in the home may be a drug abuser.

12 victim of abuse: The killer is the victim of sever emotional, physical and/ or sexual abuse in childhood affecting how he views others the rest of his life.

13 unwanted pregnancy: The killer finds that he is the product of an unwanted pregnancy. Be it because his mother was the victim of a sexual assault or for other reasons the killer grows up knowing that he isnít wanted.

14 difficult pregnancy: The mother has a difficult pregnancy and begins to feel that it would be better is she has never had children.

15 not happy childhood In childhood the killer always feels like the odd man out. Because of this he is never invited to join in on the normal childhood games or become one of the gang so to speak. Combined that with the abuse that many killers experiences in childhood and the feeling weather it be true of not that his mother possible both parents didnít want him around and there wonít be much for a child to be happy about. Both Joel Rifken and Jeffrey Dahmer report not being happy in childhood.

16 Cruelty to animals: This will be were the killers violence will express itself in c childhood. The killer will take out all of his violent and aggressive feeling toward others on animals. Jeffrey Dahmer would dissect animals to see how things were put together. He would use this later when he would cut up the bodies of his victims.

17 Arson/Homicidal tendencies young: The next area where the killers violent tendencies will manifest in childhood is fire setting. The killer canít control anything else in his life but he was the power over the fire department and police when his fires are discovered. Arsonist have reported that the act of setting fires is sexual, the killer is beginning to find sexual satisfaction through the act of setting fire. The following three behavioral patterns deal with biological patterns and are beyond the scope of this research paper.

18 Symptoms of neuropsychological impairment Evidence may be found that the killer suffers from some form of psychological impairment.

19 Evidence of Genetic Disorders:

20 Biochemical symptoms

21 Feeling of powerlessness or inadequacy: The killer feels that he is unable to control anything in his life. Because of his feeling of powerlessness he will feed the need to exude power over his victims. He becomes powerful with them because he can control their life and death.

By killing some victims and not killing otherís heís showing everyone exactly how much power he has. These feelings are why the signature killer will use some form of restrain with his victims. He needs to have control over his victims at all times to be able to perform his crime.

Clinical Anger
Ted Bundy talked about the entity, about the thing he would become, something not him during his murders. Both Joel Rifken and Arthur Shawcross talk about becoming angry with their victims before they were killed. The anger was what led them to murder.

Every one of us becomes angry and frustrated with life, thatís part of living. Anger it itself is not an abnormal thing. But a killerís anger isnít the normal anger that the rest of us experience. It is something completely and totally separate from the norm.

That anger begins early on in childhood as does his fantasy. He anger will stem from slights real or imagined from partners, other family members, school mates, friends (if the killer has any) and society in general for the lousy lot in life the killer was dealt. Killing is his way of taking out that anger on society, heíll teach his victim never to make fun of him again.

In almost all cases of serial murder, the killer has what is called a prescribe stressor. Something has gone wrong in the killers life and he becomes so angry over it he can no longer control himself. While for the type of killer being discussed in the paper the murder is only incidental to the sexual satisfaction that he will experience from torturing and causing pain in his victim something in his life needs to occur to push him over the edge from petty crimes to sexual assault and from sexual assault to murder.

This precrime stressor can be anything from getting into a fight with his significant other, a family member, losing a job getting a speeding ticket or being laughed at. Most killer of this type are angry at a woman in their life wife or mother. However, they are to cowardly to actually confront her so they take out their anger and aggression out on a substitute target. The victim becomes the woman that the killer is angry with. As in the case of Edmund Kemper, he hated his mother for the way he treated him. So he went out looking for victims he could take his homicidal rage out on. It wasnít until he could finally take his range out on the target of his anger that he turned himself in. He killer is mother.

The anger that the serial killer experiences is totally different from the everyday anger that the rest of us feel. The key points to clinical anger is outlined below:

One of the key points in the signature killer personality development, is the development of clinical anger, it is an anger that according to Robert Keppel Ph.D is:

Totally abnormal

Is constant rather than transient or situational

The child and ultimately the about perceives as beyond his control or bigger than him

The child or adult never really understands

Increases progressively and exponentially as the child matures through adolescence and into adulthood

Cannot be compensated for except by the performance of defiant or violent acts which provide only a temporarily release

Initially becomes the driver for deviant behavior and ultimately violent sexual behavior

Keeps getting worse until an equilibrium is reached one that may include the performance of violent acts, sexual crimes and murder

Incites the predator into violent retaliatory behavior on surrogate representatives of the source of that anger or excites the predator into committing violent and criminal sexual acts even murder

Even at a low ebb requires medication by alcohol, drugs, other chemical or physical abuses, or deviant sexual outlets such as pornographic fantasy or violent sex with prostitutes.

Becomes imprinted psychologically in such a way that the child or adult develops a pattern of signature behavior throughout the rest of his life right though the performance of his crimes..

Sorce Information--Signature Killers by Robert D. Keppel Ph.D with William J. Birnes 1997 Pocket Books
Serial Killers by Joel Norris 1988 Doubleday
The Serial Killer Files by Harold Schechter 2003 Random House