A mysterious killer of thirty-something women with red hair is a key plot element of my new thriller Blood Sisters. In my research for the book, I debunked many common myths about these notorious criminals.
Many assume the typical serial killer is a white male–a misfit with above average intelligence who lives an unusual lifestyle and kills for the pure enjoyment of it or to satisfy some perverted lust. There are examples of the above to be sure, but the majority of serial killers are quite different.
Slightly over 50% of all serial killers are, in fact, white males, but the balance are a very diverse bunch. Chinese-American mass murderer Charles Ng tortured and killed at least eleven people with an accomplice in a remote cabin in Northern California. Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, a native of Mexico, murdered nine people in Kentucky, Texas and Illinois before turning himself in. Derrick Todd Lee, an African-American known as the “Baton Rouge Serial Killer,” went on a killing spree beginning that claimed the lives of seven women in Louisiana. Aileen Wuornos was executed for killing at least six men she met along Interstate 75 in Florida.
Surprisingly, serial killer's motives are as diverse as their demographics. Only thirty-two percent kill for enjoyment or to satisfy some perverted lust. Financial gain is the next most popular motive at thirty percent, followed by anger or revenge at eighteen. The remaining twenty percent is comprised of gang activity, organized crime, drugs, etc.
What makes most serial killers dangerous is the fact that they are typically not the reclusive misfits often depicted in crime novels and newspaper articles. They often live very normal lifestyles, hiding in plain sight of the authorities.
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., the “Golden State Killer”, eluded authorities for forty years, all while getting married to an attorney, divorcing, and raising three daughters. He faces trial for raping at least forty-six women and killing a dozen people. When he was arrested, the Navy veteran was cooking a roast at his home in Citrus Heights, California, where he lived with his daughter and granddaughter, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Robert Yates, a decorated US Army veteran, allegedly killed seventeen prostitutes in Washington state while married with five children and living in a middle-class neighborhood. The "BTK Killer", Dennis Rader, killed 10 victims as a married Boy Scout leader, raising two children, and serving in the US Air Force. Rader was also president of his church.
Another common myth about serial killers is that they are criminal masterminds, but that too is often far from the truth. Charles Manson had an IQ of seventy-five, well below the 85-115 range considered to be average. Tommy Lynn Sells was guilty of at least twenty-two murders in Texas and eluded law enforcement for over twenty years, yet only had an IQ of sixty-four.
There are, however, a few examples of serial killer geniuses, including the infamous "Boston Strangler". Albert DeSalvo was eventually arrested and revealed to be the famous serial killer, but only after he had raped and murdered thirteen women between 1962 and 1964. A test of DeSalvo revealed an IQ of 170, well above the generally-accepted genius level 140.
As evidenced in my new murder mystery Blood Sister, serial killers can be male or female, old or young, black or white or yellow….alive or dead. Their motives and intelligence levels can vary widely, but they have one thing in common with the mysterious antagonist in my latest thriller.
They are very, very dangerous.