Serial Killer on the Loose

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Recently in Tampa, police suspected there is a serial killer afoot. Serial killers have always fascinated the American people and people around the world. Jack the Ripper begins the process of well-known killings. It was in a limited area, as are the killings are in Tampa. The recent killings selected victims who were themselves “night people.” In Jack the Ripper’s case, these were generally “ladies of the night.”

However, in the Tampa case, we see variation on theme. That is, the victims for the various killings are both female and male, black and white. That cross relationship between victims, in the case of serial killers, is somewhat unusual and is indicative of different individuals involved in the slaying, rather than a single individual. We’ve seen that in previous serial killer cases, particularly in Florida.

The most interesting aspect of the serial killer in Tampa has not been released by police… And that is the actual killing, how did it occur? Generally, there are 2 types of serial killers. The first is the event killer. This particular killer gets a thrill from the act of killing. The other, Hollywood portrays in movies, is the process killer. The process killer enjoys the pain and suffering endured by their victims. Given the circumstances, the Tampa suspect seems to be an event killer. He could use different victims of different races and sexes because the excitement is derived from the actual killing and not the process.

The other aspect of these serial killers, and it’s critical to the identification of someone as a serial killer, is the manner of death. You may recall that serial killers, as they begin to act out their crimes, are not unlike the rest of us. We all mow our own lawns a certain way, cook a certain way, clean a certain way. Just like a burglar may choose to peel a safe starting from the left to the right or vice versa. This is what we call Modus Operandi (MO) and they’re engaged in by criminals because they are comfortable doing it in that particular way. It also has the impact of identifying them as the individual who partook that crime. The same thing is true for individual serial killers. Their process of killing people requires they behave in certain ways that have a similarity.

For an example, in the Atlanta kid-killing cases, each of the victims (Wayne Williams case in Atlanta, Ga during the 80s) were killed by a single ligature strangulation around the neck. There was petechiae in the white of the eyes, which means they were killed by strangulation. Interestingly, there were no resistance marks, which led investigators (Dale Carson’s team) to believe the victims were either asleep or drugged before they were killed by Wayne Williams. The detectives in Tampa, having examined each of the three homicides, have specific clues as to the method of death. This could determine, based on MO, if there was a similarity between them. If one is shot, the other is strangled and another clubbed to death, that’s not likely to be the same killer – simply because killers, like all the rest of us, have ways of doing certain activities and they tend to be consistent.

Another interesting aspect about serial killers is their processes become ritualized overtime. That is a manner in which investigators can determine how active a killer has been over a certain period of time. Ritualization has to do with things like the specific type of victim, how the victim is approached, clothing worn by victim, or maybe even clothing worn by subject. All of these things can be determined from microscopic evidence found in the crime scene or on the bodies of the victims and can be used to determine how sophisticated, how involved, and how long the perp has been engaging in this activity.

Those are some of the factors which the general public are unfamiliar with in the Tampa cases, which would determine whether or not the individual is actually a serial killer or the individual deaths are caused by more than one subject. Killings in the same area doesn’t necessarily qualify as the basis for determining if someone is a serial killer, it requires much more than that.

Recently, the FBI has moved away from their VVCAP program, which is the Victims Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. That program is no longer necessary because enforcement activity against killers has increased. The enforcement activity includes the increased ability to analyze DNA, fingerprints, and allows agencies to work collectively. These tactics largely prevent the serial killer from existing. He no longer can hide by moving jurisdictions and engaging in the same behavior because he will soon be caught up with. The numbers of victims these days are much less than they have been before. Video cameras have also worked against serial killers in city areas. The countryside can have more people killed and not located for longer amounts of time, thus there may still be killers operating outside of big cities like Tampa. Because of a video camera, law enforcement now has video of the individual in Tampa walking. The publication of those videos may soon aid in the identification of the man responsible for these killings.

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