07 April 2007
This thesis examines the inner workings of female serial killers, a topic of discussion that is overlooked in the criminal justice community. These silent killers murder their victims and continue to murder until they are finally caught, which leads one to believe that they would never stop killing if the chance of getting caught was slim. Interestingly enough these women are correct the chance of getting caught is greater for their male counterparts and then can easily slip through the cracks. As a rare breed, female serial killers have been recently placed into the media’s attention, but these women are not just stepping forward into the limelight they have taken a stand behind society’s curtains for sometime now. Therefore, this thesis begins by introducing definitional issues, and the biological, psychological and social learning perspectives society has placed on these females. It examines the lives of five female serial killers and their road to destruction. In addition, this thesis offers recommendations for treatment and prevention of up and coming female serial killers and/or violent female criminals.
The research findings suggest that a significant amount of time and effort needs to take place so we can truly understand what we are facing when encountering the mind of a female serial killer.
First, I am grateful that God has granted me the opportunity to accomplish so many things in my life and has given me the strength to continue working towards all my goals because what is mine is mine by Divine Right! Secondly, my support and love comes from my Mommy, thank you for all the times you pushed me along the way, especially when I was tired of running this race. In addition, the first person that wanted a copy of my work, my Uncle, thanks for realizing the potential your niece has. Finally, I would like to thank my teammates and Professor Hal Campbell for the encouragement and feedback that was bestowed upon me in writing this thesis.
INTRODUCTION How do you categorize a female? Close your eyes and envision what she is to you. Is she soft, innocent, timid, submissive or strong, manipulative, aggressive and cold? Now that I have your attention, as a killer or serial killer she may be all the above and in one single moment encompass your mind and body catching you off guard. As we know, society is shocked to see a female serial killer come into play and regardless of whether the chosen victims are family members, acquaintances or strangers, women do kill. The problem at hand is that the inner workings of female serial killers are overlooked since credit for most acts of violent crimes are given to male offenders. Although, population estimates from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, show that female offenders only accounted for 14% between 1993 and 1997, which equates to 2.1 million women committing violent acts on average a year (Greenfeld and Snell 1999), these violent acts include killings which are cold blooded and sometimes can be just as heinous as a homicide a male counterpart could commit. Therefore, to underestimate the motives of these women is to ignore that they hold as much power in their grasp as men do committing multiple murders.
This paper will examine issues related to the definition and study of female serial killers to better understand what motivates these women to kill, how five women came to be ruthless killers, and implications for prevention, treatment and research. Although, female serial killers amount for a small portion of serial killing, despite popular belief it has not just come into existence, but has been around for many decades and this paper is the roadmap to the female serial murderess.
NEED FOR THE STUDY
The purpose for this research study is to provide criminal justice students and professionals with a greater understanding of female serial killers, so that the causes and effects of their behaviors can be addressed appropriately and treated with the same vigor and perseverance that their male counterparts are when found guilty of these crimes. Unfortunately, judging by the minimal amount of information about female serial killers that haS been made public, the thought of a female having the gumption to commit these acts has been overlooked by society’s perception of the typical violent offender being a male. Unless the female serial killer attacks total strangers, making her actions similar to that of the “classic predatory type male serial killer” the law enforcement community will not label her a serial killer (Silvio, McCloskey and Ramos-Grenier 256). As a result, female serial killers go under the radar and are programmed to kill and get away with their ferocious acts silently or outspoken with a smile because we have not taken out a substantial amount of time to examine or educate ourselves of the past, present and soon to come characteristics central to female serial killers.
The problem with understanding the inherent nature of female serial killers is society’s gender role socialization associated with women. Society is taken aback by the feminist woman who echoes her beliefs and frustrations about gender inequality, while pushing towards the empowerment of women’s right and the power she may possess. Additionally, they see no wrong in her, but are afraid to believe that she could be a cold-blooded murderer, because each act challenges the authority society has designated for her. Therefore, the research question is: Can a female be a serial killer and a woman of society too? For this thesis, there is evidence that points to her being capable of possessing both traits and being able to engage in murders either acting alone or with a male accomplice. Additionally, “one thing that female serial killers have in common with their male counterpart is that no one theory can explain the phenomenon” (Frei, Vollm, Graf and Volker 167).
In this thesis, I develop a theoretical framework to explain the minds of female serial
killers. The theories behind this research will be twofold: descriptive and exploratory in nature.
The descriptive theory will describe the characteristics of female serial killers, while identifying and observing why these women kill, including their preferred methods, the number of victims that died at the hands of these women and the circumstances under which the killings occurred. Next, the exploratory theory will determine the relationships and influences these women had in their lives that lead them to a life of serial killing, in addition to, the influences they maintained over their victims. Moreover, this thesis explores and investigates this little understood phenomena, female serial killing.
In applying this framework, I will conduct an empirical analysis of five female serial killers. The evidence portrayed from their actions will indicate that female serial killers not only choose victims that are indefensible (ie. Children, elderly or the infirm), and who are family members or have close ties to her, but some of her victims are chosen at random with no rhyme or reason other than to fulfill a need or want. The main lesson to draw form this analysis is that female serial killers are no different from male serial killers and both equally need treatment and prevention to cure their insatiable hunger to kill.