Mass Murderers and Serial Killers
Review the two case studies outlined below:
Case 1: Mass Murder
Andrea Yates was convicted of drowning her five children and given a sentence of life in prison.
Later, it was found that the sentence of life in prison was based on the inaccurate testimony of a highly respected forensic psychiatrist. Her life sentence was overturned, and she was found guilty by reason of insanity and sent to a mental hospital.
Yates suffered from severe postpartum depression and had been hospitalized for an attempted suicide before she killed her children. Yates was delusional and reported having thoughts that were degrading and persecuting her for her motherhood. She was also having command hallucinations telling her she was a bad mother and her children would grow up to be criminals, so she should save them by drowning them.
Case 2: Serial Killer
In 1980, John Wayne Gacy was found guilty of murdering 33 young men. He picked up some of his victims at a local homosexual bar. Other victims were taken home for “interviews” as prospective employees for his construction business. The remains of 29 victims were found buried under his home while the other four victims had been thrown into the Des Plaines River near Chicago.
Gacy always maintained his innocence throughout the trial and appeals process claiming someone else put the bodies in the crawl space beneath his house. Also known as “The Killer Clown,” Gacy used handcuffs and chloroform to subdue his victims, and then he would tie a rope around their necks and slowly twist until he squeezed the life out of them.
Gacy had been married twice and had two children from the first marriage. Both marriages ended in divorce when his wives found items from his victims or were unhappy from a lack of any sexual contact between them. During both marriages and afterwards, Gacy was considered an outstanding member of his community. Gacy was executed on May 10, 1994.
Case 1 (mass murder) and Case 2 (serial murder) can be analyzed and categorized by fitting them into one or more of the theories developed to explain the phenomenon of multiple murder. The theories are developed by experts in the field who study mass and serial murderers.
After reading the two case studies, discuss the following:
- What are the similarities and differences between the definitions for serial and mass murder?
- What purposes are served by establishing the typologies that apply to a mass murderer? Are they the same purposes that are served by establishing the typology of a serial killer?
- Could a serial murderer ever become a mass murderer and vice versa? Why or why not?
- Considering the cases described above, which typologies apply to each killer? Explain how you arrived at this conclusion.