A Short Tour Through the Mind of a Serial Killer

Nevada Public Radio recently reported on the strange case of the “Grim Sleeper.”

According to NPR, Lonnie David Franklin preyed on prostitutes and addicts in California and Nevada in a string of murders reaching back to the 1980s.

The Grim Sleeper moniker comes from the early belief by investigators that the killer had stopped killing following the 1980s killings; only to begin killing again in 2002.

NPR reports that prosecutors now believe Franklin never stopped; he just wasn’t suspected in additional cases until recently.

Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer

Put on a Hazmat suit, make sure to wear gloves boots and a mask and respirator.

The minds of serial killers are dark, murky, damp places where nightmares go to die.

That is, when they’re killing.

Most serial murders interviewed by the FBI are ordinary people — except for the short amount of time in which they are actively engaged with listening to the demons inside.

Bright, intelligent and articulate, serial killers are less like Hannibal Lechter and more like the nerdy college professor who wears a tweed jacket with elbow patches.

The reality is different than what most people suspect. It is this mismatch between perception and reality that makes it relatively easy for so many serial killers to attract new victims and of n get away with their crimes for years.


The FBI explains serial murder as:

  • At least of three or four killings with a “downtime” between killings
  • The murderer is no typically known by the victim
  • The killer has a drive to sadistically control his victims
  • The motive for murder is psychological and not “for profit.”
  • There is often a “symbolic” value of the victim to the murderer.
  • Killers typically select defenseless victims

A common serial killer is a white man with a lower-to-middle-class history. Generally in their 20s or 30s, many were abused physically or emotionally as children. Some of the serial killers were adopted and often set fires or tortured animals.

Brain injuries are common among serial killers. Still, some have been brilliant and at one time showed promise in a white-collar field.

Others either attempted to become law enforcement officers, worked as security guards or have a military background.

Nature or Nurture?

Where does the urge to kill serially come from? Why does the fixation get so strong?

Is it genetic — nature? Or is it cultural — nurture? Do serial killers have control over their behaviors?

Regardless if the answer lies in issues of morality or concerns about “social programming”, some people don’t have the emotional, intellectual or other restraints that keep inner monsters locked up.

Nick Wooldridge – a prominent criminal defense lawyer in Las Vegas – says that serial killers have used a variety of excuses to justify their killing:

Henry Lee Lucas and Jeffrey Dahmer

Both claimed they were born with a part of them missing.  The “inner voice” or regulator that controlled the behavior of others.

Ted Bundy

“Pornography made me do it,” said the former law student.

Herbert Mullin

Mullin killed thirteen and blamed it on the voices in his head.

Carl Panzram

Incarcerated before his killing spree, Panzram blamed his serial murders in prison; it turned him, he claimed, into a monster.

Bobby Joe Longsaid

Longsaid is believed to have become hypersexual and a “serial lust killer” following a motorcycle accident.

John Wayne Gacy

Gacy blamed his victims and claimed he was doing society a favor by killing them.

To any generalization there are exceptions. Carl Panzram could be the exception. When Panzram was hanged in 1930, he was asked if he had any last words. Panzram answered, “Yes. Hutt up, you Hoosier bastard. I could kill a dozen men while you’re screwing around!”

Badass and psychotic to the end.