KN, p. 191 “Is he/she a serial killer?”


Warning: Some content may be too intense for some readers.


In 2005, the FBI conducted a symposium in Texas for law enforcement officers and defined serial murders in this way: “The unlawful killing of two or more victims by the same offender(s), in separate events.”


As terrifying and brutal as these events are, the FBI reports that serial murders occur in less than one percent of all murders committed in any given year.


That doesn’t mean that law enforcement treats serial murders any less seriously, just that most cops will never encounter that kind of case. When they do, the hardest part of the investigation might be recognizing that two or three murders committed across several counties could be linked in some way. Different personnel spread through different jurisdictions might not see all the facts in evidence and never see the connections, hence the reason that some serial killers are never caught.


Although not every point is true for all serial killers, there seems to be a common thread in the backgrounds of most, starting in their childhoods. Here are a few of the behaviors that appear to tie the Serial Killer category together.


  • Childhood abuse and/or neglect
  • Lousy grades in school or poor work performance, despite a high IQ
  • Damage to the brain’s frontal lobe – childhood head injuries
  • Bedwetting
  • Arson
  • Animal Torture


As possible suspects are investigated, and/or eliminated, more weight is given to those on the list who have those behaviors somewhere in their history.


Serial killers like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Gacey all had above average intelligence, as evidenced by their ability to commit multiple crimes and evade capture (and even detection) for so many years. But Dr. Katherine Ramsland, Forensic Psychologist, maintains that even the smart ones can do dumb things.


“…serial killers range from Ivy League caliber to downright moronic. Self-defeating habits or failure to plan wisely have brought many down. It’s not all about IQ. Even smart ones can be idiots at just the wrong time.”



  • Ted Bundy drove erratically in a stolen car.
  • Randy Kraft had a dead body in his passenger seat when the highway patrol stopped him for suspected drunk driving.
  • Joel Rifkin was also “transporting,” but without a license plate.

As Dr. Ramsland said, “You’d think if you had a corpse with you, you’d at least try to be inconspicuous.”



Dr. DP Lyle, cardiologist, forensic expert, and crime writer, interviewed Dr. Ramsland on his Writers Forensics blog, discussing the various descriptions of serial killers being used today.


Dr. Ramsland said, “The behaviors that stand out for budding psychopaths who are the most apt to become violent involve unmotivated deception, tendency to blame others, callous disregard, and ADHD – a combination of them all. Such children will tend to manipulation, deflect responsibility, damage property, steal, do poorly in activities that require sustained discipline and focus, and play cruel pranks. They will also exercise their need for control on others who are weaker, including animals, and this could involve experiments, mutilation and killing.”


Some serial killers are angry for imagined (or real) slights and seek revenge against those who were “mean” to them.


For more information about the criminal mind, visit Dr. Ramsland is the author of dozens of books and articles on the subject. Her latest, “Confessions of a Serial Killer,” is the untold story of Dennis Bader, the BTK killer. Scary stuff.


The average person is unlikely to interact with a serial killer, but many law enforcement officers or profilers get specific training in order to keep it that way – to keep the community safe from predators. It has been found that not all serial killers work alone, and a good percentage (around 15%) are women.



How do you keep from becoming a victim?


  • Don’t go out with people you don’t know.
  • Don’t get into cars with people you don’t know.
  • Don’t go shopping at night by yourself.
  • Park your car in well-lit areas and lock it.
  • If your car has a flat tire in a grocery store parking lot, go back into the store to get help. Don’t accept assistance from a stranger who just happens to be near your car.
  • Become familiar with self-defense techniques. Take a class to become proficient.


Use common sense, be extra aware when alone, and stay safe!


*Photo credit: Ted Bundy – Wikipedia







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4 thoughts on “KN, p. 191 “Is he/she a serial killer?””

  1. As it is true beware of strangers and your suroundings. You can know a person for years and would never figure him/her a killer. It’s scary they are out there. Most of the time you hear how nice and quiet that person is. I feel it’s still a mystery what makes them tic. Out of nowhere they start killing. Could it always be on their mind and when they get the nerve to kill and like how they got away with it makes them do it again and again ? No matter how careful you are you just never know.

    1. Good points and questions, Barbara. I chatted with another expert in the field not mentioned in the article, who felt that while circumstances in their childhood may cause the serial killers to develop in ways that others would not, the killers are still choosing to kill. Some appear to have a wish to stay concealed as long as possible, and others seek to get caught by doing high-risk activities. Their minds simply do not work in the same way as ours do. They don’t feel the same social constraints as we do. So, yes, we must always be careful.

  2. Scary stuff! Thank you for the “survival tips.” Before reading this, I would have accepted help from a stranger in a parking lot if I had a flat tire. I’m too trusting!

    1. Hi Sue,
      The odds of this being a problem rise around the holidays, both for abductions and for robbery. So, always be aware.

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