In A Nutshell
Serial killers aren’t a new thing. It is only fairly recently, however, that serial killers have been broken down into different types based on their motivations for killing. These include those that are motivated by anger, by financial gain, by psychosis, and by a need for power. There are also serial killers that commit their murders based on ideology, inclusion in a criminal organization, or because of a sexual need. There are, of course, cases that fall between the cracks or hit multiple areas, and these categories certainly are not 100 percent complete or absolute.
The Whole Bushel
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there are seven main different types of serial killers, although some organizations combine some of these different types. It’s also important to note that there can be some overlap. For instance, the serial killer driven by psychosis to murder can also have characteristics that would make him an anger-motivated killer.
An anger-motivated serial killer is one that’s driven by an intense hatred of a group of people. This anger can be based on religion, gender, lifestyle, or race, and could be fueled by something from a life-changing event to the irrational development of racist views. Some profiles also call this type a “mission serial killer,” as they believe it is their purpose in life to rid the world of a certain type of person.
Ideology can also be a very powerful motivator for some types of serial killers. These are the people that also tend to target a single group of people, but it’s to further their own cause and ideals rather than to rid the world of a very specific type of person, as in anger-motivated killings. Terrorist groups are often ideology-based.
Some serial killers are motivated by financial gain. These are the killers that ingratiate themselves into a household, then perhaps kill for their inheritance, and they’re the ones that take out insurance policies then kill to receive their payoff. Robbery-homicides are also an example of crimes with a financially motivated serial killer. These killers are also known as comfort-oriented serial killers, and many female serial killers fall into this category.
Some serial killers commit murder because they’re driven to do so by their own psychosis or mental illness. Also called visionary serial killers, they often suffer from delusions and hallucinations, thinking that something is telling them to commit murder. These are the serial killers that are usually found incompetent to stand trial, as they often truly believe that demons, gods, or other otherworldly influences are pushing them.
Power or thrill killers simply do it for the rush. These people are often aware that they’re going against what’s socially acceptable, but the feel of power and domination is too great for them to pass up. Sometimes the dominance can take on a sexual aspect, but here it’s more about the feeling of power than about the actual act itself.
There are also those that kill because of their own perverse sexual desires. Unlike power or thrill killers, it’s about the act instead of the power that it imparts to them over their victim. In some cases, this might not even be reflected clearly in the crime scene, and it may only be later, at home or in an environment they feel is safe, that they can fulfill their fantasies.
The other main type of serial killer is that which commits multiple murders in conjunction with another criminal element. Examples include a member of a drug or street gang committing gang violence, an enforcer for organized crime.
When it comes to investigations, these are broad guidelines that are often applied to help investigators understand the motivations behind their suspects actions. They are by no means absolute and 100 percent complete, and there is always the possibility for overlap between motivations. Applying the general principles behind these categories can also prove valuable during suspect interviews and during trials.