Exploring Four Types of Serial Killers


In my Emily Stone Thriller Series, the tough heroine Emily Stone goes up against ruthless and  diabolical serial killers.  In Dead Game, Samuel uses his unique signature as a voyeuristic serial killer to commit his crimes.  I created Samuel to be a power and control predator and perhaps with a sliver of a hedonistic type of serial killer.  In Dark Mind, the serial killer known to readers as Keo has a much different approach that would be considered a mission or visionary type of killer.  My latest novel Dead Burn created a young serial killer known only as Angel who sees himself cleansing the world of sin.

Serial killer is defined by the act either of two or more separate murders, acting alone or with another, during a period of time with breaks in between each murder or what has been referred to as a cooling off period.  They are a unique breed of individuals that make special efforts to elude detection of being caught from law enforcement.

It is not exactly known how many are practicing at any given time across the US.  The FBI has given an estimate of 200 serial killers roaming in the US, but according Joel Norris, author of Serial Killers, he suggests that there are three to four times more.  We do not really know the exact count with any certainty until we catch these elusive killers.

Even though most have heard of serial killers and it has taken over much of television and movies, this type of predator is relatively rare.

These are the four basic types of serial killers:

Power & Control

This type of serial killer experiences complete sexual gratification from the domination and humiliation of the victim.  This killer is a true sociopath and lives by his own personal set of rules and guidelines.  Many of the famous serial killers we have seen in history would fall under his type of serial killer.


This type of serial killer is compelled by voices or visions they experience and are considered psychotic.  These voices and visions compel them to kill certain kinds of people.


This type of serial killer feels a “need” or duty to kill certain types of people or “class” of people such as religious or racial groups or prostitutes.  This type of serial killer is not considered psychotic.


This type of serial killer makes a strong connection between personal violence and sexual gratification.  This type of killer can also be described as a “lust” or “thrill” killer.  This killer receives pleasure from the act and has eroticized the experience.  They generally take the time to torture or mutilate their victims.


I feel that these descriptions are a fair assessment of the types of serial killers.  It gives us a reasonable description that begins to help law enforcement investigators to piece together the motivations and clues of serial killings.

What do we really know about serial killers?  And has it changed in the last twenty years?

Recently, I have found some honest, thought-provoking comments made by professionals from:

Behavioral Analysis Unit-2
National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime
Critical Incident Response Group
Federal Bureau of Investigation

There were several additional observations made by the attendees regarding causality of serial killers:

• Predisposition to serial killing, much like other violent offenses, is biological, social, and psychological in nature, and it is not limited to any specific characteristic or trait.

• The development of a serial killer involves a combination of these factors, which exist together in a rare confluence in certain individuals. They have the appropriate biological predisposition, molded by their psychological makeup, which is present at a critical time in their social development.

• There are no specific combinations of traits or characteristics shown to differentiate serial killers from other violent offenders.

• There is no generic template for a serial killer.

• Serial killers are driven by their own unique motives or reasons.

• Serial killers are not limited to any specific demographic group, such as their sex,
age, race, or religion.

• The majority of serial killers who are sexually motivated erotized violence during development. For them, violence and sexual gratification are inexplicably intertwined
in their psyche.

• More research is needed to identify specific pathways of development that produce serial killers

What do you think is the number one trait or behavior in detecting a serial killer?



More articles on serial killers:

Texas Filmmaker Searches for Identity of 19th Century Serial Killer
Love for a Serial Killer
Hell’s Belle – The Matronly Face of a Brutal Serial Killer?


Author Blog: https://authorjenniferchase.com/
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Jennifer-Chase/208188122534165
Book & Crime Talk:  http://blogtalkradio.com/jennifer-chase
Books: Compulsion  Dead Game  Dark Mind  Dead Burn Silent Partner  Screenwriting

About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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17 Responses to Exploring Four Types of Serial Killers

  1. I’ve been fascinated by your continuing ‘talks’ on serial killers, and, I’ve learned a few things along the way. I’ve been nursing a story titled SERIAL, so you can guess what the subject is. I’m working on creating my own e-books, already having a romantic thriller being tested by e-readers. If you have nothing else to do, and spend your day bending paper clips, may I suggest sending you a pdf for, hopefully, your own entertainment, and a chance to critique. I’d like to put SERIAL into e-book format, but am not certain of the reception. One reader said, “It looks like it was spawned by shades of PSYCHO and SILENCE OF THE LAMBS”.


  2. “Serial killers are not limited to any specific demographic group, such as their sex..”

    This is true, although the majority of serial killers are male. Do you think this is because males are better wired to experience sexual gratification from killing? For example, male serial killers have nearly always been portrayed as killing for the thrill of it, where females seem to have a very specific purpose or agenda. Aileen Wuornos claimed that her seven male victims had attempted to rape her, but she was working as a prostitute, which made her stories rather implausible. It seemed she deliberately put herself in situations where she would be taken advantage of and could therefore carry out her agenda under the guise of self-defense. Wuornos’ biological father was a schizophrenic, so there was likely a genetic factor behind her behavior as well.

    Serial killers are an interesting species, for certain.


  3. Tessa Hudson says:

    Thank you all the great information you put out there for us writers! It’s so interesting to see how a criminal’s mind works. I am working on a story where the female is a killer and she kills off all her lovers. I don’t consider her a serial killer as she doesn’t have the same method, doesn’t really get off on it and isn’t on a mission. I loved reading this with the differences in how they think!! Keep up the great work!!


  4. Jane Risdon says:

    So interesting and informative as usual Jennifer, thanks so much. Food for thought indeed.


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  7. Yours is one of my favorite blogs. I minored in psychology and criminology in college and I’m currently writing psychological thrillers. I find your posts so helpful and often refer to them and post sections of them on my own blog because you’re just so much better at explaining the nuances of the subject. Thank you and take care.


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  9. suecoletta says:

    I would have to say, pattern. Their MO. Usually, from what I’ve read, there is a need buried deep within them that they must act out a certain ritual before, during, or after their kill. I would think this is how they usually get caught.


  10. suecoletta says:

    By the way, I LOVE your blog! There is so much to dig into I don’t know where to start. 🙂


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