Tuesday, June 4, 2013

3.3 Crime Evaluation: Signature

The offender signature refers to aspects of the offense that go beyond what is necessary to commit a crime and which are related to an offender's personality. It is what the offender does to realize himself. Signature encompasses the choices an offender makes and the acts  he performs and that establish the them of the crime. These acts are committed to satisfy psychological and emotional needs. Signature behaviors are important as they help investigators, not only to link cases, but also to reconstruct the criminal scenario (see next post), as the offender acts on the fantasy and the scenario that goes with it.

This concept, unlike the MO, is mostly considered being an intangible concept, but reveal the direction of the killer's singular fantasy. This fantasy gives a sense and purpose to his life. There is no specific rule, and usually does not change from one murder to the other in the same series.  This is a reason why signature is important as it is one if not the main element that enables investigators to link different crimes to the same perpetrator. But, similar to MO behavior, it is possible to notice a certain devolution in signature behaviors in some rare cases. This devolution is mostly due to a significant deterioration in the offender's mental state, an increased use of drugs/alcohol, or an offender's growing confidence in his ability between personality, psychopathy, and sexual fantasy (as is the case for sadistic psychopaths). In that case, the offender's fantasy may become confused and/or chaotic possibly because of the over refinement of his fantasy or his over use of the fantasy as a means to escape reality.

Attributing psychological motives to crime scene behavior is complicated by the fact that, unlike aspects of the personality, mental state is not static across time. Therefore, in some situations, signature behaviors would be more a reflection of an offender's psychological and mental state at the time of the offense rather than of an underlying personality structure or of enduring psychopathology. But mostly, signature behavior captures the distinctiveness of a particular offender's needs and can thus best be conceptualized as a reflection of the underlying personality, lifestyle, and developmental experiences of an offender.We all develop representations or templates in our mind and brain depicting the idealized lover and the idealized program of sexual and erotic activity that we project as an image or actually engage in. Criminal behaviors result when the human developmental process is derailed and a person is able to make pleasurable associations with violent or otherwise criminal activities. As an offender's fantasy behavior develops over time, so does the need to live out those fantasies. When acted out, the act itself fuels the fantasy in the mind of the offender and causes it to evolve.

The signature mirrors the offender's core fantasy. Its content demonstrates that perpetrators of sexual crimes fantasize both about general sexual and about offense focused themes.

There are two parts to the signature: the signature aspects (the emotional and psychological themes that the offender satisfies when committing an offense such as profit, anger/retaliation...) and the signature behaviors (acts committed by an offender that are not necessary to commit the crime but that suggest the psychological or emotional needs of that offender).

As much as staging was referring to MO behaviors (see 3.2 Crime Evaluation: MO), posing clearly is part of an offender's signature. Posing occurs when an offender positions the body in a specific way. By doing that he ritualizes the crime scene and expresses, consciously or not, a specific message. The victim then becomes an accessory used to convey his message. 
- This ritualization differs from body degradation that is mostly the result of a lack of control of the offender's anger.
- Posing can encompass the alteration of the body of the victim, a specific way the body is dumped (significant positioning) or the location where the body is dumped (significant street name, landmarks...)
- Posing implies that the offender's fantasy has matured for a long time
- If the posing is controlled, the offender is highly organized, and if the posing is not controlled, the offender is more likely disorganized
- In case of serial killer who poses his victims, it is highly likely that he works alone, without partner

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3.2.1 Crime Evaluation: Motive and Motivation - Holmes, Holmes, DeBurger Serial Killer Motivational Classification

(Excerpt from Peter Vronski's "Serial Killers: Method and Madness of Monsters")

Ronald Holmes, Stephan Holmes and James DeBurger grouped serial killers based on their motives. They determined four types with several subgroups:

1. The Visionary: they kils at the command of hallucinated external or internal voices or visions that they experience. Such individuals are almost always suffering from psychosis or other mental illness.
- they commit incomprehensible murders, leaving behind chaotic crime scenes
- they often leave behind an abundance of physical evidence, and their victim seem to fit no comprehensible pattern (the killer's mind is completely disconnected from reality)
- sometimes they are completely nonfunctional in society, living alone and having no contact with other people
- in other cases, the offenders have episodic breaks with reality during which they kill but otherwise appear harmless or at worst, eccentric to those around them
- they most genuinely suffer from mental illness and some are schizophrenic or psychotic
- they might grow up completely normal, in supportive family settings
- because mental illnesses such as schizophrenia often first manifest themselves in late adolescence or early adulthood, visionary killers are often young
- while they do little to disguise their identity and leave behind evidence, they are difficult to apprehend because there is no clear method or motive to their crimes. They operate on an agenda entirely synced to the incomprehensible madness within them
- they select their victims at random in a logic often indiscernible to an investigator
- they often kill close to home (because of their disturbed state of mind, they are unlikely to venture very far)
- they almost exclusively fall into the FBI disorganized category

2. The Mission-Oriented: they come to believe that it is their mission to rid the community of certain types of people (children, prostitutes, old people or members of a specific race or minority)
- they feel compelled to kill a certain type of victims whom they believe is worthy of death. Often, the choice of victims is influenced by the killer's past experience(s) or current beliefs that lead him to conclude that a certain type of people is "undesirable"
- they are highly organized: often intelligent and white collar or professional workers
- they are compulsively seeking out and stalking their victim type and killing them quickly
- they usually do not commit sexual offenses, but there are exceptions, particularly in the murder of prostitutes
- they are often stable, gainfully employed, long term residents of the geographical territory in which they kill
- they usually refrain from posing or mutilating the corpse
- the body is frequently found at the location of the murder, as they have minimum contact with their victims because they are uncomfortable relating to the object of their hate
- they sometimes team up into groups and can be arguably also classified as "cult killers" when they do

3. The Hedonistic: this category includes killers who murder for financial gain (comfort killers), those who gain pleasure from mutilating or having sex with corpses, drinking their blood or cannibalizing them (lust killers) and those who enjoy the actual act of killing (thrill killers). For comfort and lust killers, murder is only a means to an end and in itself is less important that the acts accompanying or following the killing. For the thrill killer, the desire to kill is central to the motive.

3.1 The Hedonistic Comfort Killers
- they kill for profit or for gain (thus for comfort)
- they were highly prevalent in previous centuries: pirates, bandits, baby farmers, black widows, bluebeards, landlady killers, innkeeper murderers, medical cadaver harvesters...
- these types of crimes continue to occur in rural areas or in economically depressed urban communities, where victims are often transients and are not missed
- victims are frequently known to the killer (husband, wife, business partner, friend, or employer-employee). They are carefully chosen for the profit their death will yield, their murders are planned and their bodies carefully disposed of
- there is a division between geocentric killers who lure their victims to their place of residence or business and nomadic killers who seek out the victim
- victims are often killed quickly, and any mutilation of the corpse has to do with disposal as opposed to psychopathology

3.2 The Hedonistic Lust Killers
- they often have an ideal victim type in mind with fetishistic elements
- they often need intimate skin to skin contact in their killing, and use a knife or strangulation to murder
- necrophilia is a very frequent aspect of lust killer homicides
- they are mostly highly organized, having gone through years of the process of transforming and rehearsing their often bizarre fantasies into reality
- they are often aware that their victim choice is visible to police and may choose to travel to various jurisdictions in both their hunt for and disposal of victims
- because sometimes these killers consume certain body parts or focus on them, dismembered victims might be spread over different locations
- they usually choose different dumping grounds for each victim

3.3 The Hedonistic Thrill Killers
- they specifically derive sadistic pleasure from the process of killing - not the actual killing but the acts leading up to it
- to enjoy the act, they need to keep the victim immobilized and alive and aware of what is happening to them
- they often kill in elaborate ritualized methods and sometimes take a respite and revive the victims who lose consciousness before continuing their torture
- these sadistically  driven killers derive pleasure from the pain and suffering their victims go through as they die
- once the victim is dead, they almost immediately lose interest
- postmortem mutilation and necrophiliac acts are not a frequent characteristic of this kind of murder
- they often involve 3 distinct crime scenes (where the victim is captured, a highly controlled environment where the victim is tortured and killed, and finally a site where the victim is quickly dumped)
- they are often attractive, intelligent, and have charismatic psychopathic personalities, relying on their charm to seduce and lure victims to their deaths
- they are highly controlled and controlling, carefully selecting and stalking their desired victim type
- the body is often disposed of so as to deliberately lead investigators away from the killing scene

4. The Power/Control Oriented: they are the most common of all serial killers, for whom the fundamental pleasure of their crime lies in the power and control they exert over their victims. They enjoy torturing their prey and find it sexually arousing, and murder is often the most satisfying and final expression of their power and control over their victims.
- they are highly organized and closely related to sadistic thrill killers, with the difference that causing pain and suffering is not the primary motive of their offense
- dominating and controlling the victim is the primary motive (but they may use pain as a method of control and torture as a token of it)
- the actual pleasure of controlling the victim may begin before the victim even realizes it as the serial killer manipulates and seduces the victim
- they are often charming, charismatic, and intelligent, gradually taking control over their victim before springing a physical capture
- they often pick a certain "type of victims, but fetishistic elements are less important. The murder is often the ultimate expression of the serial killer's control over his victim - but unlike the thrill killer, the power/control killer does not necessarily lose interest once the victim is dead
- control often continues into death with the offender keeping the corpses near him, sometimes in his home or in some safe place where they can be revisited
- sometimes various post mortem sexual acts, mutilations and necrophilia can occur

3.2 Crime Evaluation: Motive and Motivation

To start with, let's clarify the meaning of the words:
- a motive is made of the emotional, psychological and material needs that impel and are satisfied by behavior
- the intent is the specific aim that guides behavior

That said, determining the motivation behind a crime provides several advantages to a criminal investigation:
- it reduces the suspect pool
- it helps linking unsolved cases
- it can provide circumstantial bearing on the offender's identity
- it can provide bearing on the offender's state of mind
- it can provide bearing on whether a crime has actually occurred

If the motivation underlying a crime is obvious and classic:
- money: the crime is committed just to depossess a victim from his or her valuables and/or money
- personal:  could be crimes committed out of compassion (euthanasia) or for revenge or other personal reason
- passion: jealousy, marital fights that go wrong
- accident: self defense, negligence or inattention

If there are no obvious or classic motivation explaining a crime, it is highly likely that the motivation is at least partly narcissistic/sexual
- the sexual aspect is not necessarily obvious (no sexual act performed) or can be overpowered on the crime scene by a narcissistic component.
- the killer's intent can be expressed as much in a rape than in the power and control he uses on the victims
          * The sexual dimension is given by the evidence of acts with a strong sexual connotation: naked body,
             rape, humiliation, degradation through posing, obscene messages, fetishist objects on the crime
          * The more the crime scene seems to be ritualized, the more the offender's fantasy is elaborate and the
             more the narcissistic dimension is important

Also, a motivation can be underlying another and thus you have to look for:
- conscious motivations: these are motivations that the offender is aware of and that seem to be what lead them, at least on the surface, to commit the crime (for example greed, sexual pulsion)
- unconscious motivations: these are motivations that the offender is not aware of but very often are the ones that are giving a "sense" to their actions (need for control, power, domination)

In general, the more the motives are obvious, the more the victim is familiar to the offender. The same applies if the offender depersonalizes the victim during the crime (even more if the offender destroys or hides the victim's face). But be careful as this not always apply to every crime scene where the victim is disfigured: it can also mean that the offender chose this victim as a substitute to the real person he wants to attack.

The more the crime scene shows sexual, narcissistic or violent aspects, the more likely it is or will become serial, as the killer is only able to express his sexuality or emotions through violent behaviors.

Monday, June 3, 2013

3.1 Crime Evaluation: Modus Operandi

(based partly on "Criminal Profiling: International Theory, Research and Practice" written by Richard N. Kocsis)

Modus Operandi, or MO, refers to those behaviors committed during an offense that serve to ensure its completion while also protecting the perpetrator's identity and facilitating escaping following the offense. MO accounts for how an offender commits his crimes. It is what the offender does and has to do to commit his crimes. The criminal's MO follows a certain number of principles:
- It is believed to be dynamic in nature, wherein learned behaviors develop and evolve as the perpetrator gains expertise in his offending career. But it is possible that some facts appear repeatedly in the chronology of the crimes, especially during the crime. Some variation might still occur though at one point in time as they are inherent to the criminal's evolution.
- Some events in the offender's life might bring him to change his scenario (death, breakup, loss of employment, wedding, birth...). But sometimes, the offender might also change his MO on purpose to avoid detection. The most sadist offenders enjoy doing that to play cat and mouse with the media and the police and keep an upper hand on them.
- As highlighted by Geberth, an offender's MO may devolve, with a perpetrator becoming less competent and/or skillful overtime. Such decompensation often coincides with a deteriorating mental state, increased use of drugs/alcohol, or an offender's growing confidence in their ability to avoid apprehension.
- Moreover, the influence of extraneous variables (witnesses, victim resistance), means that the criminal activity does not always go to plan, resulting in the need for improvisation or offender retreat.
- Sexual fantasy plays an important role in the development and maintenance of MO behavior, as it provides a stage on which the perpetrator can rehearse and plan anticipated offenses. Also, after the commission of a crime, sexual fantasy provides a means by which to reenact specific aspects of an offense, with a view to correcting any perceived flaws, thereby refining the offense script. But sexual fantasy can contribute to the understanding of a devolving MO: as an offender's fantasy becomes more complex, the successful completion of an offense becomes more difficult too.
- The core sexual fantasy shapes various aspects of an offender's MO including the context of the offense, victim selection, method of approach, grooming processes, control and organizing the type of resources needed to complete the offense. This is why it is essential to divide the MO analysis in 3 parts:
          * before the offense: this is the planning and preparation stage.
          * during the offense: from the moment he comes in contact with the victim to the moment before 
             disposing the body.
          * after the offense: when he disposes the body and after until he starts preparing the next attack.

The MO represents the killers' habits, techniques and other peculiarities of behavior. Sometimes, it is somewhat consistent, but often it grows and changes over time as the offender becomes more skillful, or according to his plan (the Zodiac was using a gun when attacking couples in medium to high risk environments, and was also using a knife when he had more time with them). If the offender is geographically mobile, his MO can change in accordance to the changes in his social and lifestyle environment. The MO also shows the choices an offender makes and the acts he further commits to further accomplish the crime.

There are basically 3 methods of approach used by serial killers:
- Surprise attack: the offender is lying in wait for a moment of vulnerability and attacks when the victim does not expect it.
- Con approach: the offender uses deception or subterfuge to gain the victim's trust.
- Blitz approach/attack: the offender delivers an immediate application of overpowering force. The offender's intent here is to deprive the victim of any reaction time and give the offender immediate control of the situation.

Precautionary acts are behaviors that an offender commits before, during and after an offense that are consciously intended to confuse, tamper or defeat investigative or forensic efforts for the purposes of concealing the offender's identity, connection to the crime, or the crime itself. These may include:
- clothing/disguise
- alteration of the voice
- blindfolds
- time of day
- location selection
- victim selection
- use of gloves
- use of condoms
- use of fire
- collecting victim's identity card
- disposing of the victim's clothing

MO also includes departure strategies, that is to say how an offender chooses to leave behind living victims after an attack is concluded gives insight into the motive and intent of the offender's offense behavior.

Finally, some aspects of the disposal/dump sites. How the offender chooses to leave behind deceased victims in the disposal site also gives insight into the motive and intent of the individual offense behavior (whether or not, where, when and whom an offender intended for the victim's body to be found).
- Convenience aspects refer to a disposal site that an offender chooses by virtue of the fact that it is available or less difficult than any other location.
- Remorse aspects refer to a disposal site where there is evidence that the offender felt some regret over the victim's death. This can be seen in behaviors that attempt to "undo" the homicide, including washing the blood off a victim, dressing a victim in clean clothes, and placing the victim in a natural state such as sleeping, sitting in a chair, or in the seat of a vehicle.
- Preselected aspects refer to a disposal site that an offender chooses before actually committing the offense.
- Precautionary aspects refer to a disposal site where an offender has gone to some effort to destroy evidence or otherwise hamper the investigative effort. This can be done in form of mutilating the body to prevent identification, disposing of it in water to wash away evidence, disposing of it in a remote or hard to reach location or burying it very deep to forestall/prevent its recovery.
- Staged aspects refer to a disposal site that an offender has contrived so as to purposefully mislead the investigation.
- Arranged aspects refer to a disposal site where an offender has arranged the body and the items within the crime scene in such manner as to serve ritual or fantasy purposes.

Staging is part of the MO. The offender voluntarily modifies the crime scene to mislead the investigation.
- Staging belongs completely to the criminal scenario. The offender has to include it into his preparation to commit the crime. For example when a murder is changed to look like a suicide or a theft that went wrong.
- It is the key of murders inside the family: the closer the killer is to the victim, the more he will try to mislead the investigation and the suspicions.
- The main question is to know if there are personal elements in the crime: the victim was found in her home, manual strangulation, blunt force trauma in the face, body hidden on the crime scene (to avoid the body to be discovered by a child living in the house), a witness testifying that the robber did not neutralize the biggest threat first, traces left that could point to a sexual crime but no sexual act was committed (pull up the bra or pull down the panties), rolled the body to make sure it is protected...
- Staging enables to get to know the killers personality more in details, by telling what the killer does not want to do or who he does not want to be. His motivations are often one of the two following:
          * he wants to manipulate the investigators (then he is rather organized, someone close)
          * he wants to lead them in a different direction (rather disorganized, loner who was just passing by)

However, posing is part of the signature: the offender poses the body and thus ritualizes the crime scene. (see signature)

2.5 Criminological Classifications: Serial Killer Classification

This is a fundamental distinction as every criminal profile is based on it. At this point of your profiling, the best is to make a list of all the elements showing that the criminal is organized, and those showing any level of disorganization.

Profile Characteristics of Organized and Disorganized Serial Killers
IQ above average, ranging between 105 and 120
IQ below average, ranging between 80 and 95
Socially adequate
Socially inadequate
Skilled work
Unskilled work or unemployed
Lives with a partner or dates frequently
Lives alone, usually does not date
Sexually competent
Sexually incompetent
Commits sexual and/or violent acts ante mortem
Commits sexual and/or violent acts post mortem
Stable father figure
Absent or unstable father
Family physical abuse, harsh
Family emotional abuse, inconsistent
Geographically/occupationally mobile
Lives and/or works near the crime scene
Follows the news and media
Minimal interest in news and media
May be college educated
Usually a high school drop out
Good hygiene
Poor hygiene
Victim is usually unknown and he targets and stalks  them according to personal criteria
Victim is known or at least seen before
Targets more victims of opportunity
If many victims, they tend to have commonalities
If many victims, there is no commonality
Diurnal (daytime) habits
Nocturnal (nighttime) habits
Drives a neat and nice car
Drives a clunky car or pickup truck if he owns a car
Needs to return to crime scene to see what police have done
Needs to return to crime scene for reliving memories
Usually contacts the police to play games
May contact victim’s family to play games
plans his murders and escape carefully Often attacks victims spontaneously (opportunity)
Multiple crime scene
Unique crime scene
Might make the victims disappear so special attention must be given to missing victims with similar profile
Body usually left on the crime scene
May dismember the body
Kills at one site, considers mission over
Attacks using seduction into restrains. He gains control over them at the crime scene
Attacks in a blitz pattern
Keeps personal, holds a conversation
Depersonalized victim to thing or it
Leaves a controlled crime scene
Leaves chaotic crime scene
Brings his own weapon, even his torture kit
The weapon is taken from the crime scene
Leaves little physical evidence
Leaves physical evidence

If the elements that you find are in equal parts between organized and disorganized, you are in presence of a mixed serial killer. Many scenarios are possible here:
- there might be more than one killer: in case of a killer duo, there is generally one who is dominant and organized and the other is submissive and disorganized.
- victim resistance or some other unexpected event might bring an organized killer to lose control and leash out, becoming completely disorganized.
- age and experience might contribute to a killer becoming more and more organized in time.
- the killer might be organized before the crime and unorganized after, or reversed.

Friday, May 31, 2013

2.4 Criminological Classifications: Criminal Escalation

Criminal escalation for a serial killer is when the crimes increase in intensity or in magnitude. 

The profiler should analyze the killer's propensity to escalate:

- his criminal career: some serial rapists might escalate to murder during their career, either by accident (a victim fights back an the killer discovers the pleasure that the killing brings) or by choice (the French serial Killer Michel Fourniret started killing after one of his rape victims reported him to the police and he got arrested, and wanted to make sure not to get caught again). At the same time, no serial killer wakes up one day and start killing people just like this. There is always a history that leads them to killing people, and for most of the time, the killings are the end result of a life of crime. So it is important to determine what possible criminal career the serial killer went through even before starting killing. For example, some can start by breaking and entering homes to steal people's valuables, and realizing one night that there is a woman living alone in the house and sleeping in the bedroom, can rape her. That could lead to an escalation in his crimes as he would target the houses of women who live alone and the real intention would shift from theft to rape. Later he could strangle one of his victims as she tried to fight back, but realizes how much he enjoyed the power the strangulation gave him. So a serial killer who breaks into houses, steals valuables, rapes and strangles women could have an extensive criminal record with traces of breaking and entering, theft, even maybe rape or sexual molestation themed arrests.

- his series of crimes: usually, the time between the first and the second killing is longer than between the following killings. And if the serial killer is not in control, killing is for them like drug abuse: the more they use the drug, the less the effect of the drug will last, the sooner they will need a new fix. In other words, the serial will have a shorter cooling off period every time he will kill, as the pleasure and the reminiscence of the pleasure will pass by quicker and the need to kill again will appear sooner. But some serial killers (highly organized, mature and sophisticated) can keep their urges in check and stop killing for longer periods for various reasons, such as the police being close to catch them, personal events and changes in their personal lives... This was the case for BTK who could stop killing for several years in a row. 

- the intensity of each crime: this refers to the crime escalation during a specific crime. For example if the killer wants to take time and enjoy torturing but the victim does not react the way he is expecting, he might get angry, lose control, and end up leaching out his anger on his victim. This is traditionally called an overkill, meaning that the killer will use more blunt force and savagery than is necessary to kill his victims. At the same time, a serial killer can just enjoy strangling his victims for the beginning, but then as the killings go by, and his maturity and confidence is growing, he might start to spend more time torturing the victims before killing them.

It is also important to figure out the stages of the development of a serial killer, and see if he is evolving or devolving:
- an evolving serial killer is usually organized and demonstrates more maturity and more confidence with each killing. He shows an ability to learn from his experience and modify his MO to get more satisfaction from his killings. It can also describe a change in the fantasy of the serial killer. When I say change, I don't mean that he would have or develop a totally different fantasy, but rather that the more his kills or tortures, would refine his fantasy or make it more complex (a sadistic killer could first start with buying an isolated place where he could torture his victims without being disturbed, and later create and build his own torture chamber, matching his specific needs).
- a devolving serial killer is at the contrary in most cases unorganized and is totally controlled by his fantasy and his impulses. His crimes would become more and more erratic, without real purpose and usually loses complete control over reality and his own actions. The need for a victim would me more and more urgent and some might even go on a real killing spree.