When we think about serial killers and other multiple murderers, we think of Berkowitz (Son of Sam) in New York, Bundy in Seattle and Tallahassee, Speck and Gacy in Chicago, Dahmer in Milwaukee, Buono & Bianchi (The Hillside Stranglers) and Manson in LA, the Zodiac in San Francisco, and Corll, Brooks, and Henley in Houston. Now such a killer is loose in the rural community of Gaffney, SC, a city of 15,000 or so.
This killer has murdered four and seriously injured another in the past week. The police aren’t saying how they connected the murders but since a gun was apparently used in each, it is reasonable to assume the connections are due to matching bullets or shell casings found at the scenes. This killer has been tagged as a serial killer, but is he?
Multiple murderers tend to fit into three broad categories: Mass, Spree, and Serial. The definitions of these vary from expert to expert and change from time to time but these definitions are as good as any:
Mass Murderers kill more than 4 people in one place at one time and tend to have a clear agenda, They want to send a message. This is the killer that walks into his workplace or school and shoots several people in a rapid-fire assault. The attack often ends with the killer taking his own life or in a shoot-out with the police. The motive is often some perceived wrong. Examples would be Charles Whitman and the Columbine killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
Spree Killers kill several people at two or more locations with the killings linked by motive and with no “cooling off” period between. The spree killer goes on a rampage, moving from place to place, city to city, even state to state, leaving bodies in his wake. It’s as if an underlying rage pushes the perpetrator to act and once he begins, he doesn’t stop or deviate from his goal. As with Mass murders, the spree often ends in suicide or a confrontation with law enforcement. Andrew Cunanan offers an example of a spree killer.
Serial Killers kill several people at different times and locations with a “cooling off” period between the killings. The cooling off period, which may be days, weeks, months, even years in duration, distinguishes serial from spree killers. The catalog of serial killers includes some very famous names: Bundy, Gacy, Berkowitz, Ridgeway, Dahmer, Kraft, Rader, Corll, and the list goes on.