There are three general types of multiple homicides: Mass Murder, Spree Murder, and Serial Murder (Durrant, 2013).
Mass murders entail the killing of at least three victims in one place and at one time. In contrast to serial killings, mass murders involve the killing of four or more victims by one or a few assailants within a single event. The murderous incident can last but a few minutes or as long as several hours.
Most often, mass murderers are not severely mentallyill; however, they do tend to harbor strong feelings of resentment and are often motivated by revenge against their victims. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of mass murderers do not attack strangers at random; in almost 80% of studied mass murders, the assailant was related to or well acquainted with the victims, and in many cases, the attack was a carefully planned assault rather than an impulsive rampage(Heilbrun & Greene, 2013). Most mass murders are solved by law enforcement; the typical assailant is killed at the location of the crime, commits suicide, or surrenders to the police.
Spree murder involves the killing of three or more people over a long period of time, from different times in the day to a period of a month at different locations, but viewed as part of the same killing episode.The spree murderer murders at two or more locations, with no emotional cooling-off period between the homicides.Unlike mass murders, spree killing is not confined to a single outburst, and unlike serial killers do not return to their normal identities in between killings. Spree killers engage in a rampage of violence over a period of days or weeks. Some spree killers target a specific group or class, while other kill randomly and do not seek a specific class of victim. A spree murderer isdifferent from a serial killer in that he does not wear a “mask of sanity” and there is no “cooling-off” period between occurrences of the murders. Thus their murderous spree isdeemed to be a single event, even though the killingstake place in different locations.
Serial murder refers to the killing of three or more victims over an extended period of time, sometimes even years, at different locations. It is estimated that serial murderers account for approximately 2% of all murder victims annually. The typical offender in the United States is a Caucasian man, aged in his late 20s or early 30s, although African Americansappear to be overrepresented among serial murderers. Victims are typically strangers and offenders often have specific targets, with prostitutes and the homeless being common victims. Killing is normally premeditated and clearly planned with offenders aiming to avoid detection. Attempts to develop typologies for serial murders have led to the identification of four main types of serial murderer. According to Durrant(2013) these are: the visionary type who feels impelled to murder as a result of voices in their head commanding them to kill; the hedonistic type who kills simply for the pleasure of killing, with the murders often having a sexual component to them; the power/ control serial killer who is primarily motivated by the feeling of power and control that they exercise over their victims; and finally, the mission-oriented serial killer who simply believes that it is their mission in life to eliminate certain types of people- often prostitutes, the homeless, or particular ethnic minorities. It is worth noting that these typologies are not necessarily mutually exclusive as a serial murderer can be more than one type and the motivation to exert power and control over victims may be an important component of most serial murderers. Also, many but not all, serial homicides have a strong sexual component.
Serial murderers are more likely to have neurobiological deficits such as impaired functioning of the prefrontal cortex, experience of childhood abuse, neglect and deprivation. They are normal individual, far from insane and only a few may be suffering from disorders such as schizophrenia. They may have psychopathic traits such as callousness, lack of guilt, lo empathy and sensation seeking, and personality disorders such as antisocial personality disorder, psychopathy and narcissistic personality disorder are prevalent among serial murderers.
It is also likely that situational and social-structural factors may play a role in serial homicide. For instance, they target individuals whose disappearance may be less likely to be noted. Defronzo (2007) suggests that social environments that are more likely to endorse the use of violencemay elevate the risk the risk of homicide.
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