The inner workings of female serial killers by

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Literature Review

A. Describing Behavior: Definitions & Typologies

To begin, there is no universally accepted definition of a serial killer. Steven Egger,

Ronald Holmes and Stephen Holmes are three professionals respected in the Criminal Justice community and their definitions offer similarities and differences to the description of a serial killer. First, Steven Egger’s (1984) definition referring to serial killing is:

Serial murder occurs when (1) one or more individuals (in many cases, male) commit(s) a second murder and/or subsequent murder; (2) there is generally no prior relationship between victim and attacker (if there is a relationship, such a relationship will place the victim in a subjugated role to the killer); (3) subsequent murders are at different times and have no apparent connection to the initial murder; and (4) are usually committed in a different geographical location. Further, (5) the motive is not for material gain and is for the murderer's desire to have power or dominance over his victims. (6) Victims may have symbolic value for the murderer and/or are perceived to be prestigeless and in most instances are unable to defend themselves or alert others to their plight, or are perceived as powerless given their situation in time, place, or status within their immediate surroundings, examples being (7) vagrants, the homeless, prostitutes, migrant workers, homosexuals, missing children, single women (out by themselves), elderly women, college students, and hospital patients.

Secondly, Ronald Holmes and Stephen Holmes (1994) define a serial killer “as

someone who murders three persons in more than a 30-day period. These killings

typically involve one victim per episode” (p.92). Additionally, Holmes & Holmes have

classified serial killing into six categories, which include visionary, comfort, hedonistic,

power seeker and disciples (Frei, 170). Unlike Egger, Holmes and Holmes believe there is evidence that suggest women are serial killers (Holmes, Hickey and Holmes 61).

Each typology of a serial killer compiled by Holmes & Holmes, gives us access

into the mind of a serial killer. The Visionary serial killer is the one who may see visions or suffer from hallucinations, delusions or breaks from reality that demand her to kill everyone in site (Holmes, Hickey and Holmes 65). In other words, the murder will be impulsive coming from the direction or voices from the “message giver” (Holmes, Hickey and Holmes 65). The Comfort serial killer seeks to obtain material possessions that only the victim can give and the victim usually knows the attacker’s identity (ie. Lovers, acquaintances, etc..). Material possessions are monetary and can either be in the form of “money or the promise of money such as insurance benefits, acquisition of business interests or real estate” (Holmes, Hickey and Holmes 66). Moreover, research has shown that these women are the most common among female serial killers. Next, the Hedonistic serial killer is the one who seeks pleasure or sexual enjoyment from their victims. The sheer excitement of mutilation or even dismemberment coupled with sexual activity before and after death is a psychological thrill that these killers thrive off of (Holmes, Hickey and Holmes 67). Similarly, Power Seekers thrive off of their power or domination over another person, while feeding their desires. Lastly, the Disciple killer’s desire to kill is psychological. She craves the attention of her idol or leader and wants to please him by any means necessary. Therefore, by committing these murders under his authority she will be looked upon greatly. The need to fulfill this void comes from “mutually shared fantasies involving violence and sexual experimentation [that] appear to stimulate some relationships to actualize their fantasies” (Holmes, Hickey and Holmes 69).

In comparison to Holmes & Holmes typology, Michael D. Kelleher and C. L. Kelleher in their book Murder Most Rare (1998), categorized female serial killers into two parts, as those who act alone and those who are acting in a partnership with one or more people (p.14). It must be noted that the female serial killer is complex, “careful, precise, methodical, and quiet in committing her crimes [therefore]... the female serial murderer also presents significant challenges to those who try to understand her crimes” (Kelleher and Kelleher 11). Additionally, the female serial killer who acts alone will be “mature, careful, deliberate, socially adept, and highly organized” and will choose to attack her victims while they are at work or home by lethal injection or poison (Kelleher and Kelleher 23). On the other hand, women acting in partnership will usually be “younger, aggressive, disorganized” women who prefer to use violent methods such as guns, knives or torture while not necessarily attacking their victims at home or at work, but attacking them at any location they deem (Kelleher and Kelleher 23).

To illustrate those serial killers acting alone or in a partnership, Kelleher & Kelleher’s (1998) summary of classifications of a female serial killer are as follows: the Black Widow - murders those close to her (ie. Spouses, partners or other family members), the Angel of Death - kills people who she is taking care of or people who count on her for support or medical attention, the Sexual Predator - commits murderous acts sexual in nature, Revenge - clearly indicates that she murders her victims for revenge or jealousy, Profit or Crime - is self explanatory, Team Killers - kill their victims with one or more people, Question of Sanity - this woman kills randomly without a clear motive and legally she will be deemed insane, Unexplained - this woman murders her victims for reasons only known to her and Unsolved - “a systematic pattern of murders that may be attributed to a woman (or women) with relative confidence, but which have not been solved” (pp.15-16).

Although, both authors seem to separate female serial killers into different categories the commonality among them is that the described motives are the same.

Biological & Psychological Perspectives

Prior research into biology and aggression has focused primarily on hormonal influences in males. As a result of lack of information pertaining to female serial killers and their hormonal influences, I will discuss biological and psychological perspectives in male serial killers as a reference for future study into what is the aggressive drive in females? Interestingly enough, Sigmund Freud’s approach to the mother-child emotional relationship or lack of is still used today to analyze the psyche of a person. According to Freud, the mother is the first one to give emotional love to her child and if she rejects the love he gives in return she ultimately breaks down “an all-important potentiality in him with disastrous consequences for his future healthy development” (Whitman and Akutagawa 695). This all-important potentiality is to establish trust, emotional support, and love, instead without this an aggressive child who is possessive, jealous, and competitive with an impulse to kill is formed (Whitman and Akutagawa 695). In addition, absent this mother-child relationship anxiety steps in where the child has destructive impulses, focuses on finding a pleasurable substitute, and dehumanizes the worth of others, while “having the power to inflict pain and death on another is an intoxicating antidote to such anxiety” (Whitman and Akutagawa 698).

It is common knowledge, the mind can easily snap at any time causing one to “lose it.” However, psychologically what happened to the mind of a serial killer that blinded the imaginary line between reality and fantasy? Findings in research diagnose that the sudden changes can come from “psychopathy, antisocial personality, sexual sadism and other paraphilias (voyeurism, fetishism and sometimes necrophilia)” (Knoll 2006). Statistics show that greater than 70% of the sexual murders committed use these paraphilias in their acts (Knoll 2006). Moreover, research has shown paraphilias and compulsive masturbation is not a shock with sexual serial killers because “those activities do not require erotic reciprocity” (Whitman and Akutagawa 696).

Additional diagnoses include Stockholm syndrome, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the battered woman syndrome (Silvio, 253). In brief, Stockholm syndrome refers to situations where the hostage and victim begin to share positive feelings for one another, PTSD occurs when there is a traumatic experience or event that causes the individual to suffer from flashbacks, avoidance of anything that may remind him or her of the event and battered woman syndrome is a mixture of all symptoms above, including mental, physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse from an intimate partner (Silvio, et al. 253).

Alternatively, psychologists believe that a disruption in a child’s development can be a significant factor as to who they will become as adults. A study conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of 36 serial murderers showed that as children they either suffered from sexual or psychological abuse involving humiliation (Knoll, 2006). Moreover, some psychologists believe that a “sexually provocative mother may contribute to the formation of a serial murderer” because her actions to many can be a form of sexual abuse (Knoll, 2006).

Social-Learning Perspective

The social-learning perspective of this thesis focuses on females and society’s expectation of them. As little girls, society trains females to play with dolls, cook in make-believe kitchens, and grow up looking forward to marrying their prince charming, while boys play with toy weapons and learn how to fight. These societal expectations follow females into adulthood where they take on the role as the primary caregiver, now in real kitchens with children and families to look after. The “major tenet of feminine social identity is that women must maintain these relationships and place the needs of others before their own” (Silvio, McCloskey and Ramos-Grenier 253) and this responsibility for some women becomes a hassle coupled with dealing with life’s up and downs. Therefore, living out their fantasies or changing their situation is what motivates them to kill.

According to Robert Hale and Anthony Bolin (1998) women realize what they are doing or getting themselves into if they commit murder. The aggression that has been built inside of them decreases when they consider the pain that they are putting the victim through, the thought that the victim may lose a relationship or their reputation may be harmed (Hale and Bolin 34). However, other theorists believe society has played a role in formulating female serial killers through low social equality and lack of opportunities afforded to them (Jensen 117). Therefore “the connections between women’s overall homicide offending rates and gender equality lies largely in the connection between gender stratification and women’s domestic lives” (Jensen 8).

B. Case Studies : Why Do Women Kill?

Why do women kill? Is the question running through our minds and prior

speculation implies that these women can be passive or “compliant victims of their murderous male partners” (Davis 247). However, from my research these speculations do not hold true for all women. Therefore, this thesis will address five female serial killers (Margie Velma Barfield, Genene Jones, Aileen Wournos, Dorethea Puente and Charlene Gallego) and their road to killing. Implications will suggest that some of these women single handedly killed their victims with no remorse for their actions and were not just compliant victims to the men they were acting in partnership with, but willing participants.

Black Widow: Margie Velma Barfield

First, Margie Velma Barfield is categorized as a Black Widow or the “Death Row Grandma.” Black Widows typically begin a life of crime at approximately 25 years of age and for 10-15 years these women may kill about 6-8 victims with whom they have personal relationships (ie. Spouses, partners, family members, etc..) with (O’Connor, p.3). Their preferred method of choice is poison, which allows them to dose their victims with a lethal substance “to mimic more medically appropriate and diagnosable illnesses to collect life insurance and inheritance proceeds” (O’Connor, p.3).

Margie Barfield was born Margie Velma Bullard (a.k.a Velma) the second of nine children on October 29, 1932 to Murphy and Lillie Bullard. As a child, Margie lived with no electricity, running water, or outhouse to use the bathroom on her family’s farm (Noe, ch.4). Murphy Bullard, her father, was an alcoholic, a jealous man who cheated on her mother and was a strict disciplinarian with his children (ie. he beat them with rods and/or straps to prove his point). In contrast, Lillie Bullard, her mother, was a submissive woman who treaded lightly around her husband’s temper. Unbeknownst to her mother, this submissiveness angered Velma because she believed her mother’s role was to stand up for her and her siblings, but instead she stayed quietly in the back while her husband viciously took his anger out on them (Noe, ch.4).

Despite the fact Velma’s father was a strict disciplinarian, times with her father were not always bad. There were moments when Murphy was a “good father” who played baseball with the children, went swimming with them and made Velma feel like “daddy’s little girl.” Although, being “daddy’s little girl” to many seems like an honor, Velma stated she was molested by her father and at 13 he raped her (Jones 350). Unfortunately, there was no way to determine the validity of her accusations. Her brothers and sisters both disputed any accounts of molestation (Noe, ch.4).

By the time Velma turned 17, Thomas Burke, her high school sweetheart already proposed to her and by 21, she was married with two kids. Life seemed to be going good for her and her family, but then it took a turn. Thomas got into a car accident, and as a result suffered from severe headaches became an alcoholic and Velma turned to prescription medication to help cope with the turmoil of her marriage (Noe, ch.5). The medication then turned into a crutch and Velma became heavily addicted to taking these drugs. This was the beginning and the end for Velma’s life. Thomas died unexpectedly from a house fire and smoke inhalation, and this was the first unexplained death to surround Velma (Noe, ch.5).

Shortly thereafter, Velma re-married Jennings Barfield and kept his name until she died. Jennings was a widower who had his share of health problems (ie. Diabetes, emphysema and heart disease) and within six months of them becoming newlyweds he was dead (Noe, ch.6). It was stated that he died from natural causes, “coincidentally leaving the bereaved widow a few dollars, which she desperately needed for her medication” (Kelleher & Kelleher 64) and to handle her addiction. Since Velma did not have enough money to get by or pay the medical expenses incurred from Jennings she began writing bad checks. Writing bad checks is a misdemeanor offense and once caught Velma did not suffer under the hands of justice, but was given a warning (Kelleher and Kelleher 64).

By the summer of 1974, Velma and her daughter decided to move back in with her mother Lillie. In no time, Lillie became extremely sick (ie. Vomiting, diarrhea, pains in her stomach and upper back) to the point where medical attention was needed. The cause of Lillie’s illness was unknown to the doctors, but it looked as if Velma was there to take care of her mother (Noe, ch. 7). Velma’s short-term stay was enough time for her mother to apparently die from natural causes too. The strange circumstances surrounding this death was that Velma had forged a loan application in her mother’s name claiming it was in her favor for the amount of $1,000 (Kelleher & Kelleher 65). This put the death toll to three people, Thomas Burke, Jennings Barfield, and Lillie Bullard, with the exception of Thomas Burke death being labeled an accident by the authorities.

Again, Velma turned to writing bad checks and this time was convicted and sentenced to six months, but only ended up serving three before being released (Noe, ch.7). 1976 rolled around and now Velma found a job as a caregiver for Montgomery and Dollie Edwards. Here is where she met her next and last victim Stuart Taylor. Stuart was Dollie’s nephew (Kelleher & Kelleher 66) and of course, Dollie died under the care of Velma and the cause was “acute gastroenteritis” (Kelleher & Kelleher 65). Eventually Velma and Stuart became intimate and Stuart began to notice that Velma was forging checks on his bank account to “pay for her addiction” (Clark Prosecutor n.d.). His suspicions grew and when confronted Velma pleaded that she would never do it again. However, Stuart’s mistake was to point out Velma’s actions because soon after, Velma “mixed arsenic based rat poison into his beer and tea” (Clark Prosecutor, n.d.). Stuart later died and this death was the death that caused people to look closer into the life of the black widow.

Stuart Taylor’s family did not believe Velma was an innocent bystander and requested that an autopsy be done. The autopsy showed that Stuart died from arsenic poisoning and the authorities then picked up Velma. She then later confessed to “spiking Taylor’s beer with lethal amounts of arsenic..murdering her second husband, Jennings Barfield in the same manner as Stuart Taylor” and administering a “fatal dose of insecticide [to her mother] to eliminate the possibility of the bank contacting her about the loan papers that [she] had forged” (Kelleher & Kelleher 66). Interestingly enough, at trial Velma pleaded insanity (Clark Prosecutor n.d.) and her defense was “the deaths were actually bungled attempts to incapacitate her victims while she covered the various theft that had financed her uncontrollable drug addiction” (Kelleher & Kelleher 67). Unfortunately, that defense did not sit well with the jury and Velma was the first female murderer executed in the United States since 1976 on November 2, 1984 by lethal injection in North Carolina (Clark Prosecutor, n.d.)

Angel of Death: Genene Jones

Genene Jones is categorized as an Angel of Death serial killer. Angels of Death

start killing their victims at the prime age of 21 and choose places such as nursing homes or hospitals where death is normal. The Angel of Death picks these places because someone may not pick up on the fact a murder has been committed and this environment gives them the perfect opportunity to play the role of “GOD,” deciding who should live or die (O’Connor 5). Their motivation is “ego and a compulsion for domination” .... and attacking victims who are “incapable of warding off any significant physical assault and [who] have come to believe their attacker is a concerned and supportive caretaker” (Kelleher & Kelleher 86-87). In the case of Genene, all of her victims were children and the parents were the ones who believed she was a supportive caretaker.

Genene Jones was born in Texas on July 13, 1950 and was instantly given up for adoption to proud parents, Dick and Gladys Jones. Genene was a happy addition to their ever-expanding family, as Dick and Gladys also had three other adopted children (Ramsland, ch.2). Genene was well off and lived in a four-bedroom mansion outside of San Antonio with her family. Both of Genene’s parents were busy, her mother caring for her and her siblings and her father’s business ventures. Dick was an entrepreneur who had many investments, including a nightclub, restaurant, and billboard business (Ramsland, ch. 2). The billboard business was a favorite of Genene because while he put up the billboards she got to spend time with him (Davis 74). She yearned for attention growing up, at times pretending to be sick just, and lying, and manipulating people to be in charge (Ramsland , ch.2), so any moment where the attention was on her she grabbed it.

Genene’s only best friend was her younger brother, Travis, who died when she was a teenager from a pipe bomb that he built that, blew up in his face (Ramsland, ch.2), This incident had Genene distraught and alone. On the outside, she was a short, overweight teenager and on the inside she was dealing with things her family were yet to find out. Then just one year shy of her brother’s untimely passing, Dick, her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer (Ramsland, ch.2). As a senior in high school Genene believed that the best thing for her to do would be to get married, and at least that would cure the pain and loss she was suffering inside.

Genene decided to trick her boyfriend into believing that she was pregnant, so he would marry her and postpone his plans of going into the Navy. At first, he believed her lies and did the honorable thing by marrying her (Ramsland, ch.2). However, there was no child coming, her husband noticed that her stomach was not protruding, and hurt that she lied he still enlisted in the Navy (Davis 75). While gone in the Navy, Genene made up stories that he abused her and that she was the innocent one in the relationship, while simultaneously being unfaithful (Ramsland, ch.2). Eventually, her husband returned from the Navy and they had their first child. However, four years into the marriage, Genene had enough and gave her husband divorce papers.

Now Genene was alone and dependent on Gladys, her mother for finances. Gladys urged her to get a job and Genene chose to take on a job as a beautician. The problem was when Genene’s older brother died of cancer, being a beautician and “working with hair dyes” that might cause cancer, had Genene believing it was time to look for another career (Ramsland, ch.2). Her dream was to become a nurse. So, Genene became a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) and “her interest in medicine began to take on mystical dimensions and, as acquaintances put it, she became obsessed with diagnosing people” (Ramsland, ch.2). Her first job was at San Antonio’s Methodist Hospital. She did not stay there too long, because she was fired for trying “to make decisions in areas where she had no authority, and in part because she made rude demands (Ramsland, ch.2). However, finding a job was not difficult for her and in no time she was working in the “intensive care section of the pediatric unit of Bexar County Medical Center Hospital” (Ramsland, ch.2). This is where the killings began.

In a matter of seven months there were accounts of twenty babies who had died under her supervision (Davis 2001). Every case was different, some children died from unexplained seizures, cardiac arrests, heart attacks, and unexplained bleeding, among other things (Ramsland, ch.4). Doctors questioned why children died around her and nurses were afraid to confront her. When complaints were raised, officials at Bexar ignored it for the sake that bad publicity would ruin the hospital’s reputation (Ramsland, ch.4). It was so bad, the people in the hospital began to refer to her as the Death Shift nurse because between 3-11pm, children would turn up dead (Ramsland, ch.4).

For instance, Jose Antonio Flores was a six-month old baby who came into Bexar because he was vomiting, had a fever and diarrhea. After Genene took care of him he “developed unexplained seizures and went into cardiac arrest” (Ramsland, ch.4). Joshua Sawyer an 11-month old baby came in because a fire in his home had him suffering from smoke inhalation. Under Genene’s care he had a cardiac arrest, two heart attacks and died (Ramsland, ch.4). Rolando Santos, a one-month old baby came into Bexar for pneumonia. After Genene got a hold of him, he had a cardiac arrest, seizures and unexplained bleeding. Luckily, Genene was off for three days, but when she came back he had a heart attack and went into a coma, where “blood came up into his throat and his blood pressure dropped dangerously” (Ramsland 2007). A doctor had him put under 24-hour surveillance and saved his life by doing this. There were endless other deaths and babies continued dying. Bexar finally believed there was a problem. They did not blame it on Genene, but they changed the staff from Licensed Vocational Nurses to Registered Nurses. This took away Genene’s power, so she resigned and moved on to another facility (Ramsland, ch.4).

The facility she moved to was owned and operated by Dr. Kathleen Holland. Dr. Holland knew of Genene’s background, but did not believe it and hired her anyway. Within months, strange occurrences began to happen, including seven children suffering from seizures (Ramsland, ch.5). One 21-month old girl came into the facility for meningitis and Genene set up her IV and then the child became limp. Another child, Chelsea McClellan came in and died en route from the facility to the Emergency Room at the nearby hospital (Ramsland, ch.5) Adding the total list of eight children who died and were both patients at Dr. Holland’s facility and of the nearby hospital (Davis 83). The hospital was amazed at the amount of deaths and began an investigation into Dr. Holland’s practice without her knowledge. At the same time, bothered by the death of Chelsea McClellan, Dr. Holland too began to look into Genene’s work habits and found, to her surprise, that a muscle relaxant was missing from the facility and Genene was later charged for using the relaxant to paralyze her victims (Ramsland, ch.5).

Altogether, there were “47 suspicious deaths of children at Bexar Coutny Medical Center,” while Genene was working there (Ramsland, ch.6). Chelsea’s autopsy showed that she was injected with a muscle relaxant, Rolando Santos was injected with heparin, which almost killed him, and she was a suspect in close to a dozen more unexplained deaths at the hospital (Ramsland, ch.6). Statistics showed that “children were 25% more likely to have a cardiac arrest when Jones was in charge and 10% more likely to die” (Ramsland, ch.6). Unfortunately, other children could not be accounted for because “the staff at Bexar County Medical Center Hospital shredded 9,000 pounds of pharmaceutical records, thus destroying potential evidence that was under grand jury’s subpoena” (Ramsland, ch.6).

Genene is now serving a sentence of 159 years in jail. After ten years from her original sentence date in 1985, she was up for parole, but the McClellan family fought against it. However, Genene is eligible again in 2009 (Ramsland, ch.6) and will receive automatic parole in 2017 (Wikipedia 2007).

Sexual Predator: Aileen Wuornos

The world’s first known female sexual serial killer. The word sexual is italicize for the emphasis placed on the category she properly belongs in. There is no mistake that Aileen Wuornos was a female serial killer, but different accounts give praise to her as being the first when in fact there were many predecessors and there may be successors following in her footsteps.

Aileen Wuornos was born on February 29, 1956 as Aileen Pittman to teenagers Diane Pratt and Leo Pittman. Aileen never met her father, Leo Pittman, since he separated from her mother before she was born (Kelleher & Kelleher 110). It causes one to believe that genes play a role in which we become since Leo was a “schizophrenic” (Silvio, et al. 256) and was convicted for molesting a seven-year-old girl (Kelleher & Kelleher 109). Moreover, Leo chose to end his life while in prison (Davis 180) having not played a role or influence in Aileen’s life. In comparison, Diane Pratt was not a better parent, she was young and not ready for the responsibility of raising a child, so she gave Aileen and her older brother to her maternal grandparents for them to take care of her children (Kelleher & Kelleher 110).

Between Aileen’s birth parents and her maternal grandparents, I am not sure who was worse. Aileen’s grandfather physically, mentally and emotionally abused her. He was an alcoholic; he beat her with leather straps on her behind, at times until her skin was raw (Arrigo and Griffin 383). Her grandfather disliked her and made sure that she knew she was “evil, wicked, worthless [and that she] should have never been born [and] she wasn’t worthy of the air she breathed” (Arrigo and Griffin 383). Moreover, her grandfather would beat her laying face down and naked on the bed (Arrigo & Griffin 383), “there was clearly a strong humiliation - and possible sexual - aspect to the punishments for he would make little Aileen strip” (Davis 180). On the other hand, Aileen’s grandmother did not involve herself in the acts of her husband and turned the left cheek to the abuse taken place underneath her roof.

In her teens, people saw Aileen as a hopeless little girl with a temper. In school she offered sexual favors, so she could get cigarettes and beer, mood-altering pills (Davis 181) and loose change (Arrigo & Griffin 384). It was evident that Aileen was already losing herself in a life she could not control. Soon Aileen became pregnant and told her family that a friend of her grandfather had raped her. No one believed her and upon giving birth Aileen immediately gave the baby up for adoption (Silvio, 254). Life was rough for the teen, she was arrested for “drunk driving, assault, disorderly conduct, passing bad checks” (Robbins 33) and shoplifting (Arrigo & Griffin 384). Additionally, when Aileen’s grandmother died in 1971, her grandfather made it clear that there was no use for her or her brother. He threatened to kill them and eventually they became “wards of the court” (Kelleher & Kelleher 110). Aileen was no good to herself or her brother, “she was completely alone, destitute, unskilled, virtually uneducated, and only fifteen” (Kelleher & Kelleher 110).

By 20 years old Aileen was in Florida married to a man who was 70, which did not last long since he divorced her within a month filing charges that she beat him with his own cane (Arrigo & Griffin 182). Aileen was drinking heavily, partying hard and prostituting herself (Davis 182). By 1976, her brother had died from throat cancer leaving Aileen with $10,000 of insurance proceeds (Kelleher & Kelleher 111). It only took a few months and the $10,000 was gone and Aileen was back to working the streets. The important people in her family had now passed and Aileen continued to get into trouble, she was prostituting, caught robbing a convenience store, was a suspect in a case for stealing a gun and bullets, was charged with automobile theft, and obstructing justice by giving an alias (ie. Lori Gordy) to a cop among other things (Kelleher & Kelleher 112).

By June of 1986, Aileen met Tyria Moore whom she referred to as the love of her life. Tyria, about 22 years old and Aileen who was 30 years old at the time became lovers. The first year ignited passion, romance and excitement. The two were in-love, living together and Aileen was the dominant one in the relationship taking care of Tyria’s needs (Davis 184). “Throughout their association, prostitution, deceit, transience (they lived from hotel to hotel), excessive drinking, violence, jealousy, and grandiosity were a part of Aileen’s daily life” (Arrigo & Griffin 385). After the first year, there was friction between the two women and the fire had burned out. Their main concern shifted gears and it was no longer sex and fun, but trying to take care of themselves (Arrigo & Griffin 385).

Now its 1989, and Aileen’s murdering spree began. In November she killed her first victim Richard Mallory, who was later found to be a convicted rapist (Davis 185). Mallory was a difficult man to get along with. He was in his early 50's with a reputation for drinking a lot, being a frequent visitor at strip clubs, and for having an obsession with porn (Kelleher & Kelleher 114). The night of the killing began with Aileen and Mallory driving along the Florida highways and Mallory telling Aileen that he wanted “to get some tittie [topless] dancers, get them on video doing some dirty stuff, and then kill them and sell the video” (Robbins 35). Aileen testified that he asked her for sex and then soon violently began attacking her. In defense, she shot him once in the chest with her .22 caliber gun, but for fear of getting caught she shot him two more times. She emptied out his pockets looking for valuables and then “wrapped [him] in a piece of carpet and drove off in his car” (Kelleher & Kelleher 115).

The second victim was David Spears. David Spears was driving his truck from work to his ex-wife’s home in Orlando and saw her hitchhiking on the highway and decided to pick her up (Davis 185-186). David Spears then turns up missing. A month later an unidentified body is found in a wooded area near Tampa, naked with a “used condom” by the body and six bullet holes from a .22 caliber gun (Kelleher & Kelleher 115). Dental records later identified the unidentified body as David Spears (Kelleher & Kelleher 115).

The third victim was Charles Carskaddon. Aileen shot him nine times with his own weapon, a .45 automatic gun, took his money, jewelry and his car (Davis 186). Authorities found his body approximately “thirty miles south of the location of David Spear’s corpse” (Kelleher & Kelleher 115). Research showed that Aileen flagged him down as he was driving to Tampa to visit his fiancé (Davis 186).

The fourth victim was Peter Siems. There are different accounts mentioned as to where he was driving to, but there are consistent statements indicating that he was en route to visit relatives. At 65 years old, Siems was a religious man or a missionary and was driving his Pontiac Sunbird on the highway when he picked Aileen up (Davis 186-187). His body was never found, but his car was involved in an accident a couple of weeks later. Witnesses to the accident told the police that they saw “one blonde (Wuornos) and one brunette (Moore)” fleeing from the scene (Kelleher & Kelleher 116) and they were willing to give the police sketches of what these women looked like. The mistake Aileen made was leaving a “bloody palm print behind, on the trunk of Siem’s car” (Kelleher & Kelleher 116).

The fifth victim is Eugene Troy Burress. Burress was a 50-year-old deliveryman on duty when he picked Aileen up. When he did not come into work the next morning and his delivery truck was deserted his employers filed a missing persons report (Kelleher & Kelleher 116). Burress body was found in Ocala National Forest (Kelleher & Kelleher 116) and “she shot him once in the back and once in the chest, then covered his body with leaves and stole his cash” (Davis 187).

The sixth victim was Richard (Dick) Humphreys. At 56 Humphreys was a retired police officer, working as a child abuse investigator (Davis 187). He was shot seven times with Aileen’s .22 caliber gun, placed in an empty lot with no identification or personal belongings on his body (Kelleher & Kelleher 116). Humphreys id, badge and personal belongings were later found approximately “70 miles south of where his body was found” (Kelleher & Kelleher 116).

The last noted victim is Walter Gino Antonio. Antonio was a 60 year old trucker who picked Aileen up for sex. Aileen proceeded to shoot him four times (three in the back and one in the head) (Davis 188). When his body was found all that he had on was a pair socks and he had been robbed of all his personal belongings, including his “police reserve badge, handcuffs, cash and a gold ring” (Kelleher & Kelleher 117).

By the seventh victim, police sketches had been floating around of Tyria and Aileen. Tyria then decided to leave Aileen in Florida and go back to her relatives (Davis 188). While in Florida Aileen had to take care of herself, so she pawned the items that she had stolen from her victims, and unfortunately for her, Florida law requires that “you leave your finger or thumb print when pawning possessions” (Davis 188). The police were able to track her down, keep her under surveillance and undercover officers were able to trick her into to going to a motel with them, where she was arrested for an outstanding warrant (Davis 189). Not long after that Tyria was apprehended in Ohio at her relatives home and decided to cooperate with the authorities to bring Aileen down. A taped phone confession between the two was set up by authorities where Tyria pleaded to Aileen about not wanting to go down for the murders and Aileen promised her that she would not instead she would take the fall (Davis 189).

Aileen confessed to the murders stating:

I shot them because, to me, it was like a self-defending thing. Because I felt if I didn’t shoot them and didn’t kill them, first of all... if they had survived, my ass would be getting in trouble for attempted murder, so I’m up shits creek on that one anyway; and if I didn’t kill them, you know of course, I mean I had to kill them... or its like retaliation, too. It’s like, you bastards, you were going to hurt me (Kelleher & Kelleher 118).

Unfortunately, at trial her self-defense claim did not coincide with Tyria’s account of the crimes and within two hours of completing the case the jury found Aileen guilty of first-degree murder of Mallory (Kelleher & Kelleher 118). To explain her feelings of joy, Aileen blurted out “I’m innocent! I was raped! I hope you get raped! Scumbags of America!” (Kelleher & Keller 119). It was a rapid downfall for Aileen after that, juries at the trials for Burress, Humphreys and Spears all found her guilty for murder and she was sentenced to death in each trial. Aileen later confessed to CourtTV that it was not self-defense and she killed these men because she wanted to (Davis 193). Aileen was executed October 9, 2002 by lethal injection in Florida.

In contrast to the accounts of authors analyzing Aileen’s motives, authors Silvio, McCloskey and Ramos-Grenier (2006) believe that her motive was not one of a female sexual serial killer, but one of profit and/or crime or revenge. Indeed, the bodies found exhibit a sexual nature but there “was no evidence of sexual activity on their bodies”(Silvio, 255), at trial she did not give the jury the impression that sex was what she wanted and received pleasure from the accounts, and lastly, from Aileen’s childhood (being raped and sexually abused by men) one can relate the killings to a psychological profile of revenge (Silvio, 255).

Profit or Crime: Dorothea Puente

When one looks at Dorothea Puente, you see a sweet old lady who is willing to help you with anything that you may need. What an incorrect observation! Dorothea Puente is a serial killer whose main objective was to kill for money. Profit or Crime serial killers are women who cheat their victims out of money, personal and/or business assets and finish them off by murdering them (O’Connor 6). These women are smart, careful and organized killers who can gather up enough money to retire. The methods used vary and they show no care or remorse for the crimes they have committed (O’Connor 6).

Dorothea Puente’s birth name is Dorothea Helen Gray. Dorothea was born on January 9, 1929 in California to a “physically and mentally ill father and an alcoholic mother” (Robbins 64) and by the age of eight both parents were already deceased (Scheeres, ch.8). Her father died from tuberculosis and her mother was a casualty in a motorcycle accident (Scheeres, ch.8). Dorothea’s relatives raised her and between eight and 16 she bounced between different schools. At 17, she went under the alias “Sherriale A. Riscile” and married a solider back home from the war (Scheeres, ch.8). There are conflicting stories as to whether she had one or two daughters (ie. Scheeres, ch. 8, wrote she had two daughters that were raised by other people and Kelleher & Kelleher (141) state that she had one daughter which she gave up for adoption). However, this union only lasted about three years.

What is important is, Dorothea had a criminal mind way before she started murdering her victims. By 20, she already served time in jail for writing bad checks, was busted in a brothel (Robbins 64) and engaged in a sleuth of other crimes, including “forgery, fraud, theft and vagrancy” (Gibson 107). Her first husband stated “she was a good looking female...she knew how to make a buck when she wanted to” (Scheeres, ch. 8). Moreover, you can also say Dorothea was a con artist who men loved, she married three more times however there were only two documented divorces (Gibson 106).

In the eyes of everyone, Dorothea was just a sweet woman. One man who lived at the boarding house where she committed her murders told reporters “she fed stray cats, gave her boarders clothes and cigarettes, and even bought one disabled tenant an adult tricycle so he could be more mobile” (Scheeres, ch.7). A cab driver that drove her around also looked up to her and thought she was “savvy” (Scheeres, ch.7). However, this sweet savvy woman had a dark side.

This dark side emanated at 1426 F Street in Sacramento, California. There she cared for elderly people by fixing them meals, taking care of their finances and providing reasonable housing (Kelleher & Kelleher 142). Dorothea only charged her boarders $350 a month and provided them with two hot meals a day (Scheeres, ch.6). Her rules included boarders not being able to go into the kitchen other then when breakfast or dinner was served (6:30 a.m/3:30 p.m.), and no usage of the phone or checking the mail was permitted (Scheeres, ch.6) she took care of that herself.

Research shows law enforcement officials believed Dorothea’s killing began with Ruth Monrow. Ruth and Dorothea were business partners and once Ruth moved into the boarding house she starting feeling ill and within two weeks died “of a massive overdose of Tylenol and codeine” (Scheeres, ch.10). However, Dorothea’s future preferred weapon of choice was “Dalmane (flurazepam) - a prescription strength sleeping pill” (Scheeres, ch.15). This drug in conjunction with alcohol and sedatives is enough to kill someone, especially an elderly person. In addition, her motive was clear, she drugged her boarders, forged their signatures on checks that came to the house, to the point where “she was making $5000 a month from the forgeries” (Scheeres, ch.16).

The next seven people who died under her roof were Alvaro “Bert” Montoya, Dorothy Miller, Benjamin Fink, Betty Palmer, Leona Carpenter, James Gallop and Vera Faye Martin (Scheeres, ch.4). Their bodies were found in Dorothea’s backyard. The first body was discovered November 11, 1988 and three days later the rest were discovered (Gibson 108). Montoya was neatly tucked under her apricot tree and Martin’s “wristwatch was still ticking when” they pulled her out of the ground (Scheeres, ch.4).

Now, how could such a sweet lady get caught? One of the social workers who sent boarders to Dorothea noticed that one of her clients was missing. When she contacted Dorothea about her client, Alvaro “Bert” Montoya, Dorothea offered many excuses except where he was (Gibson 109). This worried the social worker and she contacted Sacramento police. Detective Cabrera was sent to investigate. Once at 1426 F Street, Det. Cabrera and a team of men inspected her home, which seemed to be normal, until they noticed that in the backyard “the ground had been recently disturbed” (Scheeres, ch.2), they started digging and Cabrera was under the impression that he found a tree rot instead “[he] pulled so hard that it broke loose, and when [he] pulled it up, [he] could see the joint. It was a bone...”(Scheeres, ch.2).

Once alerted Dorothea politely asked to leave to go get a cup of coffee and she was on the run. Authorities later got a tip she was in Los Angeles. An elderly man whom she tried to coerce into living with her, upon finding out how much he was given in Social Security checks, told the authorities where she was staying at (Scheeres, ch.13). Her first words to the authorities were “I have not killed anyone. The checks I cashed, yes... I used to be a good person at one time” (Sheeres, ch.13).

At trial, the prosecution could not find anyone who witnessed Dorothea drugging her victims or burying the bodies. However, prosecutors did down play the accounts of her being a kind woman and depicted her as “an evil-hearted woman bent on obtaining profit at the ultimate expense of her elderly, and often frail tenants” (Kelleher & Kelleher 144). For six months, the prosecution and defense went back and forth and finally the jury came back with a guilty verdict for three murders, Dorothy Miller, Benjamin Fink and Leona Carpenter (Scheeres, ch. 17). On October 14, 1993 Dorothea was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (Gibson, 111). The brighter side for Dorothea Puente is although in prison Dorothea managed to have a book published “Cooking With a Serial Killer Recipes from Dorothea Puente” (LuLu, n.d.). A quote from her book is as follows:

None of them were murdered...They died of natural causes...I couldn’t do that anyhow, I’m not that type of person...I’m too caring and I worry too much about my people eating...Everybody can tell you that, why would I spend money fattening them up if I was going to kill them” (Lulu, n.d).

Team Killers: Charlene Gallego (in conjunction with Gerald Gallego)

According to O’Connor’s (2006) summation of team killers, they are put into

three categories compiling of male and female teams, female teams and male teams (p.7). The category that we are familiar with is the male and female team. This team chooses crimes that revolve around sex and maintain a path of destruction for approximately two years (O’Connor 7). Moreover, there is no particular preferred weapon of choice all will suffice. Therefore, to illustrate team killers this thesis will focus on Charlene and Gerald Gallego, with emphasis placed on Charlene’s life.

To begin, Charlene Gallego was born as Charlene Adelle Williams in October 1956 as the only child to Charles and Mercedes. Charlene’s father, Charles, was a respected businessman, hard worker and “entrepreneur who had to wine and dine clients as part of his job,” while Mercedes, her mother, stood by his side as his “hostess” (Davis 61). Both parents traveled a lot on business trips, which Charlene had the opportunity to accompany them on (Silvio, 254). Unlike the above-mentioned serial killers, research states that Charlene was a “shy, quiet child who had a good attendance record” (Davis 61) and she “was obedient and respectful” (Silvio, 254). Charlene was daddy’s girl, he believed a lady should present herself as a lady at all times and uphold good manners and Charlene listened and followed her father’s words. As she wore beautiful dresses, was book smart, articulate and knew she had a talent for “making friends with men and alienating women” (Davis 62).

However, being a little girl does not last forever. When Charlene was gearing towards becoming a preteen she began experimenting with drugs, drinking and having sex (Davis 62). Charles and Mercedes were aware of the downward spiral of their daughter, but discredited the thought of something being wrong (Davis 62). By 20 years old, Charlene had started college, but did not work towards completing it, was married and divorced twice, and attempted suicide (Davis 63). Through dozen of unsuccessful relationships, she finally met the man who could play a dominant role in her life as her father did and that man was Gerald Gallego (Davis 63).

Gerald and Charlene seemed like an odd couple. Gerald’s life was different. He was ten years older than Charlene and never had the chance to meet his father because his father was executed in Mississippi for murdering two police officers (Kelleher & Kelleher 189). According to Kelleher & Kelleher (1998), Gerald followed in his father’s footsteps and by the time he reached 13 Gerald was already arrested “for sexually molesting a six-year old girl in his neighborhood, and by his early thirties, he had been married seven times, was a known bigamist, and was fleeing from charges of assault, incest, and a variety of sex crimes” (p.189). On the other hand, sex was not an issue between Gerald and Charlene, the sexual drive and attraction between the two was powerful. Charlene was submissive when it came to their sexual conquests and his demands (ie. Anal sex, oral sex and vaginal sex being the last) (Davis 64). Before long she knew that his main objective was his own satisfaction, but she was enticed by his macho attitude (Davis 65). However, by this time the two were already living together and Gerald made it clear that he was the “breadwinner, told her what clothes to wear, and began to beat her” (Silvio,, 254).

Soon sex only with Charlene was not enough and Gerald wanted others to join them. The first time it was a 16-year-old dancer that Gerald wanted. He made sure during sex the women stayed away from one another, but their attraction lead them to eventually have sex without Gerald (Davis 65). This enraged him and Charlene was put on punishment. Thereafter, younger girls became his conquest and after a year Gerald told Charlene that sex slaves should be used to entice his sexual drive (Davis 65). Charlene’s job was then to bring these sex slaves to Gerald’s car and “ensure that they were under control while Gerald had his way with them” (Kelleher & Kelleher 191).

There were ten victims in total who died under the ranks of what the media called the ‘The Sex Slave Murderers.” The first two victims were Kippi Vaught and Rhonda Scheffler, a 16 year old and 17 year old, who were at a shopping mall in Sacramento when Charlene lured them into Gerald’s car under the impression that they were going to smoke marijuana (Davis 66). However, that was not the case. The girls “were repeatedly sexually molested” (Kelleher & Kelleher 191) and the sexual acts included Gerald making them perform oral sex on him, in return he engaged in vaginal sex with one of the girls because the other had her period, and both Charlene and Gerald placed bite marks on the breasts of the girls (Davis 66). In addition, Charlene was then ordered to find an area where Gerald could be alone with his victims. In this wooded area, Gerald “cracked their skulls with a jack handle then shot them” (Davis 66) “with a single shot through the head” (Kelleher & Kelleher 191).

After the first two victims, Gerald and Charlene decided to make their union official and get married. Charlene’s parents attended and they were happy that their daughter was happy. Unfortunately, it would come out that the marriage was not legal, because Gerald was still married (Davis 67). For a while they tried to remain united and continue sexual escapades between the two, but boredom came in and they moved on to their next victims.

The third and fourth victims were another group of teenagers, Sandra Kaye Colley and Brenda Judd, a 14 year old and a 15 year old (Davis 67). The technique used to lure them in was the idea of having a job or getting paid for making deliveries of leaflets. Once they followed Charlene to the van Gerald was waiting with a gun and just like Kippi and Rhonda, Gerald took them to a remote location where Charlene had sex with both girls and Gerald proceeded to “crush their skulls with a spade and buried them in a shallow grave” (Davis 67). These two girls were missing for about three years until Charlene confessed to being an accomplice to the killings. However, “their skeletal remains weren’t found for almost twenty years, dug up by a tractor driver in November 1999" (Davis 68).

The shopping mall is a place where teens frequently go and must have been a place where Charlene and Gerald felt comfortable enough to approach these young girls. Victims four and five, Karen Chipman-Twiggs and Stacy Redican, were approached and lured by Charlene at another shopping mall in Sacramento (Davis 68) and were “brutally beaten and sexually molested” (Kelleher & Kelleher 191) “and shot by Gerald” (Davis 68).

Before the seventh victim their ammunition was to abduct two girls at a time, allowing each one the opportunity with one girl. Now, Charlene was pregnant and the seventh victim was taken alone (Davis 68). This episode seems to be the worse considering their victim Linda Aguilar, was 21 years old and pregnant too. According to Davis (2001) Linda was hitchhiking when Gerald and Charlene picked her up, but Kelleher & Kelleher (1998) state Linda was “kidnapped off a public street.” Once inside the car Charlene inspected her pregnant body, but it did not entice Gerald’s sexual desires. As Linda begged for them to let her go, Gerald “tied her hands behind her back, then he beat her about the head, strangled her and buried her” (Davis 69) alive. The autopsy proved that after being beat in the head she “regained consciousness,” but by that time she was already six feet under.

The eighth victim was Virginia Mochel. Virginia was a waitress in the diner where the Gallego’s came to eat. The plan at first was to have Charlene “forget” her jacket inside the diner and after hours approach Virginia for her to let Charlene back in where they would abduct her (Davis 69). However, that did not work and they waited for Virginia outside the diner and proceeded to force her in the car at gunpoint. She was then later taken back to Gerald’s home (Charlene had moved back in with her parents), where she was stripped, bounded with a fishing line, molested, and whipped (Davis 69). In addition, “the remains indicated that she had been strangled after repeated sexual molestation” (Kelleher & Kelleher 191).

The ninth and tenth victims were couple Beth Sowers and Craig Miller. Gerald had contacted Charlene earlier in the day to go scouting for victims. Once the two were spotted, Gerald believed he had to have Beth and Charlene did the job she was taught, by pointing a gun at the couple and ordering them to get into the car (Davis 69). What the Gallego’s did not know is someone saw the couple in the car arguing with them and decided to take the license information down (Kelleher & Kelleher 192). Gerald got what he wanted. He shot Craig in the head and took Beth back to his house where she was sexually molested (Davis 70). Her body was disposed of in the same manner, shot in the head and dumped in a remote location (Davis 70).

Now with the license plate given to the authorities by the witness, Charlene and Gerald were on the run. However, federal agents were able to pinpoint their whereabouts since the Gallego’s needed money and contacted Charlene’s parents. At this time, Charlene’s father was scared that his daughter was in danger and obtained a lawyer for her (Davis 71). By now, Charlene and Gerald were taken into custody. Charlene began writing love letters to Gerald expressing her undying love for him and in return he did the same thing. Surprisingly enough, the one who got bored was Charlene and she became intimate with another female inmate (Davis 71) and soon she decided to testify against the man who she “loved” so very much.

At trial, Charlene played the victim and testified against Gerald stating he was the one who made her get girls to entice his sexual drive, but his lawyer counter argument was that the letters sent to Gerald professing her undying love and begging for him to “please don’t ever leave me were - hardly the sentiments of a woman who was glad to be rid of a murderous man” (Davis 72). Additionally, Charlene wanted the jury to believe that “she could do nothing to help these girls” (Davis 72). Lucky for her, testifying against Gerald cut her a deal with the prosecution to spend 16 years in prison, while Gerald was sentenced to death. Presently, Charlene is no longer in prison; she was released on July 27, 1997.

The team killers conclude this chapter of the literature review on the definitions and explanations of why women kill. This chapter’s focus was to bring you the reader into the lives of each woman and try to understand what they were doing or thinking when committing these ferocious acts. There acts are not intended to be glorified but intended to widen your mind as to how a female can become a killer, let alone a serial killer. Each woman suffered her own abuse as a child. It was either through the use of drugs, alcohol, sex or trying to find someone to love them. Although, Charlene Gallego was more fortunate than the rest of the women in this thesis, she lacked something that she could only find in a man and Gerald gave that to her. Sadly, enough each woman never showed remorse or believed what they were doing was wrong. As I researched for this topic, I wondered if the only reason while in prison some confessed was because of the pressure of being locked in a box for the rest of their life or losing a loved one. Other than that, would the world have known an Aileen Wuornos or Charlene Gallego?



A. Research Design

The research for this thesis was centered on qualitative research concepts that were meant to enhance the understanding of the inner workings of female serial killers. The qualitative approach that I took on was to analyze the scope of serial murder from a female serial killer’s perspective, while attempting to theoretically show and explain the causes of the killings, how and why these killings took place and what led these women to kill. In doing so, this thesis shows how women do not maintain the same methods of killing, reasons for killing or receives the same punishment set by the criminal justice system. Additionally, the analysis of this research included identifying the problem within the criminal justice community by using a non-experimental approach to study five convicted female serial killers, and by using data collection methods, such as re-analysis of existing data. With all research leading up to the conclusion of what does this mean in the larger context of the criminal justice community or the world?

The use of secondary analysis as a review or summary of female serial killers was chosen by using academic journal articles, online databases (ie. Academic Search Primer, EBSCOhost, Custom Newspapers), and multiple visits to the New York Public Library and Humanities and Social Sciences Library to obtain books and reference material about female serial killers. The reason secondary data sources were chosen is because analyses, syntheses and evaluations of female serial killers have been previously addressed, therefore giving me an opening to their world and a path for me to elaborate on the female killer instinct. As we know, female serial killers are a hidden population and to get close enough to measure their actions is close to impossible. Therefore, the female serial killers chosen in this thesis were categorized by the typologies detailed by Michael D. Kelleher and C.L. Kelleher in their book Murder Most Rare: The Female Serial Killer. Although previous research has been conducted as of 2007 there is still a limited amount of information with respect to profiling female serial killers.

B. Statistical Analysis

As of 1995, a study outlining female serial killers in the United States showed about 17 female serial killers murdering victims between 1825 and 1995 (Silvio, 251). Out of those 17 females, 68 % committed the crimes alone, while the other 32 % had an accomplice. The racial makeup is 74% White, 25 % Black and 1% Asian (Silvio, 252). Additionally, estimates suggest that 28% of all serial killers were acting in partnership and there were almost 50 team killers between 1875 and 1995, with about seventeen male and female teams (Silvio, 252).

Robert Hale and Anthony Bolin (1998) conducted another study of over 180 female serial killers between 1580 and 1990, and their findings suggest most female serial killers are between 20 (34%) and 30 (39%) years of age when they begin killing. However, there are some who begin in their 40's (13%) and in their 50's (5%) (p.37). Furthermore, recent data presented by the Bureau of Justice Statistics on Women Offenders show that there are 2,135,000 (14%) violent women offenders committing crimes annually (Greenfeld & Snell 1999). Although, between 1993 and 1999 murders committed by women have decreased, in 1998 there was “about 1 murderer for every 77,000 women” (Greenfeld & Snell 1999). Additionally, there were 1 in 50 female offenders committing sexual acts, 53% committed violent acts alone, and 8% worked together with a male accomplice (Greenfeld & Snell 1999).



This thesis has examined the issue regarding female serial killers. A topic that

has not been discussed heavily within the criminal justice community or society at large. Til this day, in conversations people are still amazed or shocked when the topic of a female serial killer being a threat to society is raised under the belief that she could not commit the crime. The contention of this thesis has been to provide an understanding of female serial killers, through defining terminology used to describe them, categorizing their motives and providing case studies which allowed you to be a witness to their life. However, through research what remains clear is that there is still a significant amount of information lacking in respect to female serial killers and what steps need to be taken to prevent these women from killing or beginning to kill. It is understood that female serial killers are rare, but the ones who have been found guilty need to be study, especially their biological and psychological traits, to assist us in initiating proper prevention methods or treatment that will help these women and all involved.




As previously mentioned to prevent these women from killing or being killed

there must be a way for researchers, criminal justice professionals and/or members of the academic community to study and analyze these women to uncover the means behind their actions or attempt to comprehend the rationale behind what they were trying to accomplish by murdering their victims. Implications have been made early on in child development that link violent actions of children and their behavior as indicators that a child may become a killer (ie. Constant temper tantrums, substance abuse, risk takers, etc..). Therefore, prevention needs to begin when these females are children.

It has been proven numerous times that boys and girls are different. Being different does not mean when we look towards finding ways to impede the chances of them becoming killers or criminals we decided to focus on males only, not realizing females are at risk also. Being different and preventing a sleuth of female serial killers from being on the rise is to implement more control over the actions of these children and monitor the parent and child relationship. The case studies showed that these females were victims of abuse within their home or were victims to alcohol and substance abuse, which validates the argument that prevention must begin at home. It is sad that as a society we would have to play close attention to how parents are raising their children or the values set, but when we do not children, male or female, may fall prey to a cycle of violence either at the hands of family, friends of the family or inflict violence on others.

How would we do this? First, we could require school counselors to speak to children not only when children get into trouble, but make a plan for children to have time to talk about or write in a journal what is going on in their lives. Children have a tendency to speak to those who listen. Second, visit the homes of students to determine whether these children live in a safe environment. Guidelines should be set forth as to what is deemed a safe environment because consistency among all counselors is very important. Third, if we can act on what the problem is when they are young, there is a better chance for them to not go down the wrong path. In other words, if we can get through to some of these children and educate them on their self worth and importance then we helped another child that may not have a way out. Additionally, self worth and importance also helps those teenagers who had parents who showered them with love, but still lacked something within them. Although, some may disagree that teachers and/or counselors should not have such a huge responsibility in caring for these children, children are in school for approximately eight hours a day and within that time we should help them mature and grow. A great teacher does not only teach, but shows their students the way.


Can society rehabilitate a serial killer? It has been stated that treatment can either

lead to “enabl[ing] a serial killer to socialize with the open population in prison...[or] enable a killer to appear psychological healthy to others for the purposes of manipulation” (Silvio, 258). With this in mind, the answer seems to be no. If we rehabilitate a serial killer, release them from prison and they kill again we are to blame, if we sentence them to life in prison they may kill inmates or guards adding more to the list, and if we sentence them to death then we “alleviate the problem,” but that does not treat the upcoming serial killers that will affect society.

In my opinion, the biggest problem with all serial killers is that their actions are premeditated. Each serial killer mentioned in this thesis, had a method or plan they were going to incorporate into the killing and then they executed the murdering of their victims and then delivered the cover-up afterward. However, to say there is no hope is hypocritical considering when these convicted killers are sentenced, some members of society hope they learn their lesson and someday become respectable members of the community, but for them to learn their lesson is for us to implement programs and work with the convicted killers already in the criminal justice system.

In regards to this thesis, researchers and the academia must begin working with violent females in prison and/or jail to uncover their motivations and what made them turn to a life of crime. This could help us form treatment programs that would deter these women from future acts and help them overcome their existing problems, problems that have haunted them in the past and ghosts that linger around in their heads. We should never just give up on them; no one simply wakes up and decides today I want to be a killer.


There is a limited amount of research on the topic of female serial killers.

Although, it is possible to begin research around the typologies of male serial killers, there needs to be case studies that focus on women on death row and violent females. Additionally, in conjunction with the suggestions made in Theoretical consideration of female sexual predator serial killers in the United States that “further research with offender profiling, victim profiling, crime scene profiling, and psychological profiling... [in addition] to utilizing a team of experts, including law enforcement, social services, and psychiatric personnel, to develop and implement prevention strategies” (Silvio, 258) would benefit society as a whole. My research also suggests that if we are able to study these women to determine if their traits are hereditary (ie. Gerald Gallego’s father was a convicted murderer and Aileen Wuornos father was a child molester) then maybe we can find alternatives to help these women while they are young in hopes of deterring any future chances of them becoming serial killers.



In conclusion, one must know and understand that we all have evil thoughts and maybe evil intentions, but we balance out our emotions so that we do not commit acts that both kill or endanger someone. The killers mentioned above seemed to live and react off of emotions that possessed their minds and helped carry out their thoughts. A female serial killer came into this world the same way every other person did, grew up with some of the same problems other children did, but somewhere society lost that little girl and the world took over. Now, our job is to clean up the mess no one else wanted too and prevent more of these women from coming in and killing. As a criminal justice student and soon to be professional that will be my job and if stopping one makes a difference I will stop them dead in their tracks!



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Table 1: Murderers















Other family












Totals: 1976-1997




Greenfeld, Lawrence A., and Tracy L.Snell. "Women Offenders." Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report NCJ 175688 (December 1999). February 17, 2007 .
Table 2: Women Offenders

Women Offenders Violent All Convicted Felony Correctional

Offenders Arrestees Defendants Populations
Number 2,135,000 3,171,000 160,500 951,900

As a percent

of each category 14% 22% 16% 16%


Greenfeld, Lawrence A., and Tracy L.Snell. "Women Offenders." Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report NCJ 175688 (December 1999). February 17, 2007 .
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