Conventionally, a ‘serial killer’ is an individual who has killed more than three persons at different times usually with an inert period between the killings. However, the FBI defines a ‘serial killer’ as ‘a killer who has committed a series of two or more murders, committed as separate events usually but not always, by one offender acting alone.’ In most of the cases, the motive behind the killing was attaining some sort of psychological satisfaction. It is mostly on account of some sort of sexual satisfaction sought by the killer. But according to the FBI, the predominant motives behind serial killing are: ‘anger, thrill, financial gain, and attention seeking.’ In serial killings, the mode of murder and the type of victims have something in common with them. Serial killers are distinguished from the mass murderers and spree killers in that the latter kill in a continuous event which may take place in two or more different sites with a notable period between the killings. The serial killer, contrarily, remains dormant during a hiding period following a killing and plans the next cold-blooded murder. Occasionally, the purpose behind such killings is to spread terror in certain communities. Usually, a serial killer repeats the pattern of killing.
1. Ottis Elwood Toole
Ottis Elwood Toole was born in Jacksonville, Florida, U.S. on March 5, 1947 and died of liver failure while serving a death sentence commuted to life imprisonment. Toole had a disturbed childhood and was sexually abused by many close relatives. His grandmother used to call him the ‘Devil’s Child.’ He was gay and also suffered from epilepsy. Toole has been considered a serial killer, cannibal, and necrophile. He confessed to many murders, rapes, and was suspected for having committed many unresolved murder cases. Toole was convicted of six murders, and he confessed to four more before dying in prison.
2. Henry Lee Lucas
Henry Lee Lucas was born to Viola Dixon Waugh and Anderson Lucas on August 23, 1936 and died of heart failure on March 13, 2001 at the age of 64. His mother was a prostitute and father was an alcoholic. Lucas is regarded as one of the top serial killers in America. He was convicted of 11 murders and confessed his involvement in about 600 murders. At one time he denied totally any involvement in any murder, but the evidence was against him. Amnesty International supported his innocence in two murder cases for which he was sentenced to death. His sentence was later on commuted to life imprisonment in 1998 by then governor George W. Bush.
3. Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy was born to unmarried Eleanor Louise on November 24, 1946 and died in the electric chair on January 24, 1989 in Raiford Prison, Stark, Florida. Tedd Bundy was the most cruel serial killer in the history of America. He was an American serial killer, kidnapper, rapist, and nacrophile described by his biographer Ann Rule as ”¦a sadistic, sociopath who took pleasure from another human’s pain and the control he had over his victims to the point of death and even after.’ He decapitated 12 victims and kept their heads as souvenirs. He confessed to 30 murders at the time of his execution.
4. Aleen Carol Wuornos
Aleen Carol Wuornos was born in Rochester, Michigan on February 29, 1956 and died of lethal injection in Florida State Prison, Bradford County, Florida, U.S. She killed seven men during 1989-1990. She maintained that she had killed all the men in her self-defense while the victims raped or attempted to rape her while working as a prostitute. She was convicted of seven murders and sentenced to death. She was executed in the State of Florida prison by lethal injection.
5. John Floyd Thomas
John Floyd Thomas was born in Los Angeles, U.S. on July 26, 1936. He is an American serial killer who killed 7 women and was convicted of 7 murders in Los Angeles during the 1970s to 1980s. Police suspected there were 15 more murders by him. He has been given seven consecutive life sentences without any possibility of parole. He attended Manual Arts High School, Los Angeles and served in the U.S. Air Force for short time. He was given a dishonorable discharge from the Air Force. His victims included: Ethel Sokoloff, Elizabeth McKeown, Cora Perry, Maybelle Hudson, Miriam McKinley, Evalan Bunner, and Adrian Askew.
6. Gary Charles Evans
Gary Charles Evans was born to Roy Evans and Flora Mae Lee in Troy, New York, U.S. on October 7, 1954 and committed suicide by jumping off a bridge on August 14, 1998, at the age 43. He died before his trial. He was infatuated with stealing antiques and was caught red-handed many times. Evans was indicted for 8 murders on August 14, 1998 in Rensselaer County, New York. He confessed to killing Falco, Cumo, and Rysedorph. He killed Rysedorph because he witnessed Falco’s murder.
7. Douglas Clark
Douglas Clark was born in Pennsylvania on March 10, 1948. He is an American serial killer and has been sentenced to death after being convicted for seven murders. Along with his accomplice, Carol M. Bundy, both were called the ‘Sunset Strip Killers,’ and both were convicted of serial killings in Los Angeles. Clark married Bundy after his first marriage failed. Bundy later started sharing Clark’s fantasies, and to fulfill him she would lure prostitutes to their car and would kill them after Clark’s sexual satisfaction. He was sentenced to death in 1983 and waits on California’s Death Row. In consideration for her testimony, Bundy has been sentenced to life imprisonment.
8. Leslie Irvin
Leslie Irvin was born in Indiana, U.S. on April 2, 1924 and died of lung cancer on November 9, 1983. He was a notorious American serial killer who was an embodiment of terror in southwestern Indiana. Irvin was convicted of six murders and was sentenced to life imprisonment but died of cancer in the prison. During his trial he was brought to the Supreme Court chained and crawling on his hands and knees like a dog on a leash. He was known as ‘Mad Dog’ afterwards.
9. Robert Nixon
Robert Nixon was an African-American serial killer. He was born in Tallulah, Louisiana in 1919 and died on June 16, 1939. He confessed to five murders. He was a brutal killer and nicknamed as ‘Brick Moron’ after his mode of killing with bricks. He was convicted of murder and executed in Chicago in 1939. His victims include: Edna A. Worden and her 12-year-old daughter who were sexually assaulted prior to being killed, Rose Valdez, Elizabeth Rice, and Zoe Damrell.
10. Robert Shulman
Robert Shulman was born on March 28, 1954 and died of undisclosed natural causes in Albany, New York on April 13, 2006. Shulman was an American serial killer and was convicted of killing five prostitutes; Lori Vasquez, an unidentified woman, Jane Doe Medford, Lisa Ann Warner, and Kelly Sue Bunting. He was arrested on April 6, 1996 and confessed to only three murders on interrogation. Shulman was sentenced to death, but it was reduced to life imprisonment after the court invalidated the death penalty in New York.
Although a serial killer is involved in two or more killings, it has been observed that the serial killers are usually involved in five to eight murders whereas the confession normally exceeds the number of believable murders. It is probably to get the maximum attention knowing that capital punishment is imminent that they want to get publicity for their psychological satisfaction. Those subjected to harsh treatment in childhood or bullied during school years have also at times turned out to be cold-blooded serial killers to avenge the excesses they faced in their early childhoods. Anger, revenge, and the thought of being rich overnight are the major causes behind serial killings.