Examining the differences between serial and mass murderers always has been challenging. One way to distinguish serial murderers from mass murderers is to examine the number of murders that occur in a given amount of time. For instance, a serial murderer kills at least three victims over an extended period of time, while a mass murderer kills at one point in time. Another way to distinguish between serial murderers and mass murderers is to examine the murderers’ individual characteristics. A crime scene also can provide insight into whether the perpetrator is a serial murderer, a mass murderer, or some other type of killer. Understanding the distinctive features of mass and serial murderers is critical to the success and effectiveness of a criminal profiler.
To prepare for this Discussion:
- Review the Course Introduction, located in the navigation bar on the left. Keep this overview in mind as you work through each week of the course.
- Review the book excerpt, “Defining Multiple Murder.” Reflect on what distinguishes serial murderers from mass murderers.
- Review the article, “Understanding Mass Murder: A Starting Point.” Focus on the differences between serial and mass murders. In addition, consider the characteristics and typologies of the various mass murderers.
- Review Chapter 2 of your course text, Profiling Violent Crimes: An Investigative Tool. Pay particular attention to the case studies of Richard Kuklinski and Dennis Rader (the BTK Strangler). Focus on the factors, especially the number of victims and the time between killings, which separate serial murderers from mass murderers.
- Review the stories of at least two serial killers on the Biography website. Become familiar with the details of the crimes.
- Select an example each of a serial murderer and a mass murderer. These examples can be ones you read about this week or ones you create based on the readings.
- Reflect on the examples you selected and think about why each is a serial or mass murderer.
With these thoughts in mind:
By Day 4
Post an example of a serial murderer and an example of a mass murderer, and explain why each person in your examples is characterized as a serial murderer or a mass murderer. That is, explain how the crimes they committed and their motivations to commit the crimes characterize each of them as a serial murderer or a mass murderer.
Note: In this Discussion, feel free to “create” your own serial murderer and mass murderer. You may or may not choose to use examples of real-life offenders. You can use all the readings to “construct” what you would consider a prototypical serial murderer and a prototypical mass murderer.
Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources.