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Can Serial Killers Quit?

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  • Can Serial Killers Quit?

    Are serial killers able to quit?

    This has been debated many times on these boards and I personally came gradually to the conclusion that they could. I base this mostly on Dennis Rader. My personal opinion which will probably be disputed is that at least in Rader's case it had a lot to do with the death penalty. The DP was abolished in Kansas two years before Rader started killing and after it was reinstituted he stopped.

    But that is not my main point. I wonder if the discussion needs to be broken down some.

    Since there are different kinds of serial killers it seems to me that whether they are able to quit would depend a lot on what kind they are.

    There are sociopaths and psychopaths (some people say that these two are the same), paranoid schizophrenics, sadists, and people who do it for money, and probably a few kinds I haven't thought of.

    I was kind of muddled for a long time on what kind I thought Jack was. The Canadian bus decapitation in August helped me to clarify my thinking. What was done was very similar to Jack's activities. Mr. Li is a paranoid schizophrenic. Then I read A.P.'s excellent book posted on the Casebook and that firmed up my thinking.

    I think we need to narrow it down to, "Can a paranoid schizophrenic killer quit?"

  • #2
    There is the case of serial killer Ed Kemperer who raped, tortured, and murdered his victims, then after he killed his mother simply stopped. The psychology seems to be he was killing his mother in his mind each time he killed a victim. Once he killed his actual mother he didn't feel any need to kill anyone else. Some twisted logic, but it worked in his mind.

    It really all depends on the individual mind motivating the actions of said serial killer. For some it's simple and easy to quit. For others (sadly the majority) it is a compulsion they cannot control, and must kill until circumstance (prison, asylum commitment, death, etc.) prevents them from killing anymore.
    "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." Winston Churchill

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    • #3
      I was under the impression that when BTK was caught he was planning another kill.

      it's hard to tell with JtR because we can't get into his mind, but we can pop up lots of theories as to what may have been going on. In my opinion I believe that if JtR was to have stopped it only would have been for a certain amount of time. Ex: 1 year then murders start cropping up in other places (provided by that time he would have had the money or means to travel and take up residence in another town or city) paranoid S. could be a problem he had, but judging from what he did, I'd be more inclined to say he had multiple personality disorder before Paranoid S, and even then there isn't enough known about him to say MPD - all in theory there could have been so many abnormal psychological illnesses he may have had.

      I do think he could have stopped but it wouldn't have been for good. JMO
      "Truth only reveals itself when one gives up all preconceived ideas. ~Shoseki

      When one has one's hand full of truth it is not always wise to open it. ~French Proverb

      Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first, it is ridiculed, in the second it is opposed, in the third it is regarded as self-evident. ~Arthur Schopenhauer

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      • #4
        Hello all,

        From what I can gather it seems it can be very difficult to know if and when a serial killer might have stopped, because we have ample evidence that many of them killed in a variety of ways, and as it seems Zodiak discovered, the more variety, and jurisdictions, and locations, the better. He had a connection to one of his first victims apparently, but by spreading himself around method style, and across a variety of city and state lines, became even harder to catch, or to spot in the details of the cases. Cause the data wasnt compiled under one investigation...they were several seperate ones, all around the state. He didnt claim them all at the time they were killed either in his letters, so theres the lag that complicates the paperwork as well.

        If this question relates to what we believe was a work stoppage in November 1888, I think I would have to go with the notion that they either kill themselves, die by the law or others, or get caught. Sadly, we dont have the luxury of having that bottom line.

        Just imagine if we did have the final outcome, what fun it would be seeing if there were others before his death/incarceration that should have ben added. We'd hardly have any arguments about those issues....lol.


        Best regards all.
        Last edited by perrymason; 11-27-2008, 02:06 PM.

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        • #5
          Most of the ones who don't get caught quit. Stopping is the reason they get away with it in most cases. No way all these guys die, go to prison for another crime or whatever. The FBI doesn't want to admit they were wrong about this all along but they were. It's one of those myths from profilers who are myths themselves.
          This my opinion and to the best of my knowledge, that is, if I'm not joking.

          Stan Reid

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          • #6
            Originally posted by sdreid View Post
            Most of the ones who don't get caught quit. Stopping is the reason they get away with it in most cases. No way all these guys die, go to prison for another crime or whatever. The FBI doesn't want to admit they were wrong about this all along but they were. It's one of those myths from profilers who are myths themselves.
            Hi Stan, long time no see...

            I think you may be hasty there my friend, because if they are not caught and they dont later confess or write memoirs, we have no way of knowing if they changed venues, tactics, weapons, if this was just a lull between kills...

            The only ones that the FBI knows and studies in Quantico, or wherever, were caught. So thats all they can use. And the ones that were caught....like Henry Lee Lucas, Gacy and others, showed that without their help or a police discovery during the investigation the police might never have known how many, where the bodies were and whether they would have ever stopped on their own.

            Cheers Stan.

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            • #7
              Yes, surely its an unanswerable question....if they stop they are unlikely to be cault..most arnt cault anyway...just look at the statistics for missing people

              I'm not sugesting that they were all victims of serial killers..but even if you suggest between 0.5 and 1 % or missing persons. Thats a lot of serial killers.

              Wandering about our there somewhere?

              Pirate

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              • #8
                There are always at least two serial killers on the loose in the UK, and lots of missing persons and unsolved murders in the midst of them!

                Serial killers do quit, that is a fact. Why they quit is the big question. Sex criminals kill out of a need for a sexual hit, a massive sexual "high." Once they're almost used to sex murder as an outlet, it becomes boring and they quit, only for the urge to return and the appeal to return after maybe weeks, months, or years, like a bigger, watershed cooling-off-period.

                Ireland killed five victims and then stopped because five victims qualified him as a serial killer according to the books he'd read.

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                • #9
                  To kill or not to kill, that is indeed the burning question.
                  I suppose the most prolific serial killer of the Late Victorian Period was the British hangman, with twenty or more victims under his belt... victims horribly murdered in the most revolting manner imaginable.
                  But what happened to these men when they retired?
                  Did one meet up with them in dark alleyways swinging an idle noose in their hands?
                  I think not.
                  More likely they grew roses or courgettes.
                  Killers by trade or by nature?
                  Is there a difference?
                  I think not.
                  I knew this very violent man once. He is in Broadmoor now for life.
                  A repressed and surpressed homosexual, supposedly happily married with three young children, he became a leader in a boy's movement where he took advantage of his position by molesting the boys under his control, but he never actually harmed them, that is until he coerced a boy into performing oral sex on him... he then battered the boy with his fists about the head. He got away with it the first time, explaining it as some freak accident, however the second boy he persuaded to do the same was almost killed in the savage attack that rapidly followed.
                  Why did he only batter the boys whom he convinced to provide oral sex and not the boys he routinely molested?
                  'Shame,' he happily told me. 'I was ashamed of what those boys were doing to me so I hit them to make them stop.'
                  'But you asked them to do that thing?' I put to him.
                  'I know,' he sighed. 'The boys should have known better.'
                  He blamed the boys you see.
                  We can never hope to understand the twisted logic of men who would kill, and we are unable to say anything about them with any degree of certainty.

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                  • #10
                    Hi Billy.

                    In the case of Kemper, I would think that the reason he phoned the police after killing his mother is because it would be obvious that the same guy who had killed his grandparents when an adolescent would be the main candidate for killing his own mother (whom the authorities recommended he should never live with again when he was initially released years before) and her friend. We can't rule out the possibility that Kemper, being quite an intelligent chap from what I understand, knew that the game was up and felt that an admission might have made things easier for him before he was actually caught.

                    Likewise, DP, I thought the reason Ireland stopped and approached a solicitor was because he had clearly been seen and ID'd on the CCTV footage with Emanuel Spiteri? I thought three murders at more than one time 'qualified' someone as an SK?

                    PHILIP
                    Tour guides do it loudly in front of a crowd.

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                    • #11
                      2 as/ NIJ
                      This my opinion and to the best of my knowledge, that is, if I'm not joking.

                      Stan Reid

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                      • #12
                        Do you suppose it's possible that some serial killers engineer their own capture in order to stop killing? Or do they just get too arrogant, thinking they are too clever to be caught? i am thinking about Harold Shipman. It is likely that the number of his victims runs into hundreds. After twenty five years or more, he does something very stupid. He falsifies a will and is rumbled. Did he do that hoping he would be caught or was carried away with his own cleverness?

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                        • #13
                          What I was thinking of was that a psychopath, for instance, is cold and calculating. If he sees that the situation has deteriorated (from his perspective) to the point where he is likely to be caught if he goes on with it I would think he would be more likely to stop.

                          On the other hand a paranoid schizophrenic has lost touch with reality. There are degrees of this. Mr Li was so far gone that he killed his victim on a crowded bus with plenty of witnesses ensuring his capture. Jack was, I believe, also a paranoid schizophrenic. But apparently he was not so far affected that he ignored the need to avoid witnesses and get away. Would someone like him have enough impulse control left to be able to stop if he thought going on would have ensured his capture?

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Cap'n Jack View Post
                            To kill or not to kill, that is indeed the burning question.
                            I suppose the most prolific serial killer of the Late Victorian Period was the British hangman, with twenty or more victims under his belt... victims horribly murdered in the most revolting manner imaginable.
                            As in, the state executioner? He's not a serial killer. There's a big difference between a state executioner and a serial killer.

                            I knew this very violent man once. He is in Broadmoor now for life.
                            A repressed and surpressed homosexual, supposedly happily married with three young children, he became a leader in a boy's movement where he took advantage of his position by molesting the boys under his control, but he never actually harmed them, that is until he coerced a boy into performing oral sex on him... he then battered the boy with his fists about the head. He got away with it the first time, explaining it as some freak accident, however the second boy he persuaded to do the same was almost killed in the savage attack that rapidly followed.
                            Why did he only batter the boys whom he convinced to provide oral sex and not the boys he routinely molested?
                            'Shame,' he happily told me. 'I was ashamed of what those boys were doing to me so I hit them to make them stop.'
                            'But you asked them to do that thing?' I put to him.
                            'I know,' he sighed. 'The boys should have known better.'
                            He blamed the boys you see.
                            We can never hope to understand the twisted logic of men who would kill, and we are unable to say anything about them with any degree of certainty.
                            Psychopaths are notorious users of techniques of neutralization, and externalization for their crimes. It's never their fault, it's either society, or his parents, or "those girls shouldn't have been walking home so late, it's their own fault," or it's "those boys should have known better." It's partly how they cope, and partly how they justify their actions.
                            Brady was just a paedophile, but he claimed it was for "higher spiritual reasons" and cited all kinds of philosophy. Last time I checked, Nietzsche didn't ordain murdering children but maybe I have a bum translation...

                            These people blame anything but themselves - another reason they will say, "oh, and then Brenda died right after Sally died," not, "I killed Brenda after killing Sally." They can't take responsibility.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by George Hutchinson View Post
                              Likewise, DP, I thought the reason Ireland stopped and approached a solicitor was because he had clearly been seen and ID'd on the CCTV footage with Emanuel Spiteri? I thought three murders at more than one time 'qualified' someone as an SK?

                              PHILIP
                              He made sure he reached five because his FBI Manuals said he had to kill five. Basically, if you wanted to be a serial killer, five victims is about the sensible amount to avoid confusion, and I think he was being pragmatic. Steve Wright was classified as a spree killer by some people who thought he killed five in ten days, instead of the true five in six weeks. Similarly, David Wilson did not include Steven Grieveson and Trevor Hardy in his book because their status is considered unclear, although both fulfil the criteria for serial killers.

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