Serial Killers

By: Ruilin Chen

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What is a Serial Killer?

A serial killer is a person who murders three or more people in different locations over a short period of time. They make up only 1% of the homicides in the U.S. each year, but get a lot of news coverage because of the public's morbid fascination.

Why Do They Kill?

There are many answers as to why serial killers may kill, but the most common belief is that they want to feel that they have complete control over another person. It is accepted that they feel a strong urge to commit murder.


A variety of different of biological, social, and psychological traits can lead to an increased likelihood of a person becoming a serial killer. Childhood neglect and abuse has been shown to increase the chances of future violence. Severe head injuries can also lead to violent tendencies.


A great number of serial killers suffer from anti-personality disorder or psychopathy. However, most of them are not defined as legally insane. Insanity is defined as having a mental illness that is so severe that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct their affairs as a result, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior.

Differences in Brains

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The frontal lobes of people with anti-social personality disorder are noticeably smaller in volume. Psychopaths are known for their lack of empathy, but can be empathetic if they make the effort. They have a default mode with empathy turned off, while most people have a default mode with empathy turned on.
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Victim Selection and Motivations

A serial killer will likely have an idea of what their ideal victim would be. They would seek out people with traits similar to those that they had in mind. Serial killing may seem random at first because of the fact that only the killer knows what traits his victims have in common. Serial killers usually choose strangers that are accessible, vulnerable, and appealing.


The killer may have many different motives for killing. A few categories are:


  • Anger against a specific group or society
  • Promotions in status or monetary compensation from gangs or other forms of organized crime
  • Financial gain
  • Act on the ideas of a person or group (ex: terrorists)
  • POWER!
  • Thrill of the kill
  • Severe mental illness
  • They are perverts

Consequences for Murder: The Death Penalty

The death penalty is the ultimate punishment for someone convicted of a crime—execution. Today, all 32 states that have the death penalty use lethal injection, or killing a person by inserting drugs intravenously.

Murder, treason, terrorism, and drug trafficking are crimes that can lead to the application of the death penalty.

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Lethal Injection Process

Once a person is sentenced to death, they will be moved to a section of a state or federal prison called death row. They will then be moved to death watch once their date of execution has been set.


In the last 24 hours, the inmate can have visits from family members, friends, attorneys, and spiritual advisors. The last meal is provided if it is allowed if the state allows it. (Texas doesn't anymore after a death row inmate requested a giant last meal and then refused to eat it.) The inmate will be accompanied by the warden and the chaplain (religious minister) until the end of the execution. The witnesses who will watch the execution as it occurs arrive. Some states give male inmates a pair of pants and a shirt and female inmates a dress, while other states require that the person has to remove their outer clothing.


The inmate is Secured to a gurney or table with wrist and ankle restraints. Two tubes are then inserted within the veins. The drugs are administered with a saline solution being flushed down between the administration of the drugs.



1. Anesthetic (Pentothal), after administered, it is believed that the person does not feel anything.

2. Paralyzing agent (Pavulon), muscle relaxant that when given in large amounts stops breathing by paralyzing the lungs and diaphragm.

3. (Not used everywhere in the U.S.) Toxic Agent (Potassium Chloride), which stops signals to the brain needed for heart function.


Death is declared within a minute or two of the last drug being administered. There have been 1427 executions since 1976, with 28 people executed in 2015 alone.

So, in summary...

Don't kill anyone illegally or this may end up being where you die.
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