Victimology as used by profilers: is the study of a victim’s life to figure out how they became the target of a violent crime. This study includes personality, physical type, lifestyle choices, and running a risk analysis (a stay at home mom is far less likely to run across a serial killer than a 16 year old prostitute). Ted Bundy swore he had a type. He swore he only killed women with long straight dark hair. However, it is Ted Bundy and everything he said, should be taken with a grain or two of salt. Because Bundy loved to lie just because he could. Having said that, victimology is a real thing and serial killers do have a type. Of course, they are all willing to take victims of opportunity when it arises.
As I typed the first paragraph, I immediately thought of the Weepy Voiced Killer, who may be the only serial killer that has a true physical attribute kill-trigger. As far as serial killers go, Paul Michael Stephani isn’t well known. He killed three and attempted two others. He is so named, because he called 911 to report his kills using a strange voice that became known as a weepy voice. Oddly, it would be this need for notoriety that would lead to his capture. Stephani’s last attempted victim fought back and broke a bottle over his head, leaving him with a deep laceration on his scalp. She got away and Stephani drove himself home, where he decided he needed to go to the ER. He called 911 to dispatch an ambulance to get him and the 911 operator recognizes his high pitched semi-hysterical voice as that of the Weepy Voiced Killer. What does this have to do with victimology? Every woman Stephani attacked was wearing red. I have always wondered if Stephani was mentally ill. There have been cases of people with paranoid schizophrenia reacting violently to a color, sound, or other stimuli. And Stephani’s need to confess (in the form of 911 calls begging to be stopped), isn’t all that unusual for people with schizophrenia who don’t kill, to still beg for someone to control their external behaviors.
the point being, for most serial killers, victimology is very generalized. They kill prostitutes or they kill women in their 20s. Or they kill homosexual men they pick up at bars. It’s all about who they can lure, not about whether a woman has long, straight, dark hair, parted down the middle. For example, Israel Keyes, who murdered teenager Samantha Koenig in Alaska in 2012. Before that, he killed a couple in Vermont. He confessed to a few others, that are still not confirmed and he’s becoming the 2010s version of Henry Lee Lucas (who can we pin to Keyes, now that he’s dead?) At any rate, the murder of the Curriers, which happened a few years before Koenig. However, killing couples, especially older couples, is a much different victimology than killing a 17 year old barista.
However, this variation in victimology is pretty standard among serial killers, especially among prolific serial killers. It actually helps prevent detection and capture. Sam Little (the man who is possibly America’s most prolific serial killer) varied not just gender, but ethnicity, which is rare. Little, an African-American man, killed women who were white, black, Latino, and even Asian. He also confessed to killing a handful of men who stood in his way. It is one of the reasons, why he wasn’t detected for many years.
And it is a hallmark of most serial killers. Zodiac had a victimology of “couples”, but the murder of cab driver Paul Stine, didn’t fit his victimology. For that matter, his admittance of early kills also don’t fit the pattern because they were women who were alone.
Dennis Rader’s first known attack was on the Otero family, where he killed a father, mother, and two young children. His second attack was on Kathryn Bright, who was a lovely 21 year old female. She was attacked by BTK while in the company of her brother, 19 year old Kevin. Kevin managed to escape while Rader was killing Kathryn. His third victim was Shirley Vian. Shirley was 26 and to everyone’s horror, BTK attacked, raped, and murdered her in front of her very young son. Six months later, he attacked and killed 25 year old Nancy Fox. Fox was the first victim Rader took who was completely alone. His next kill would be Marine Hedge and she was not a vivacious twenty-something like most of Rader’s victims. She was 53. That was in 1985. In 1987, he killed Vicki Wegerle who was 28. His last murder would be committed in 1991 and it would claim the life of Dolores Davis who was 62.
This means Rader’s victimology was people between 19 and 62 years of age, and while they were mostly women, the murders of Joseph Otero, Joseph Otero II, and attempted murder of Kevin Bright illustrate, he didn’t mind killing men and children as well as women. He’s never said why he didn’t kill the son of Shirley Vian. It should be noted that Kevin Bright and Shirley Vian’s son both filed and won civil suits against Dennis Rader after his capture.
Furthermore, victimology can be confusing to a case. Some of the questions that still remain in the Atlanta Child Murders is were there multiple serial killers preying on the same neighborhoods in 1979 through 1981 Atlanta. The reason for this is because some don’t think Wayne Williams mentally competent enough to kill this many people, but also because there is some serious differences in the victims… starting with not all of them were children. Eventually, all 6 of the adult victims were cited as being killed by Wayne Williams as well as 18 of the 24 child victims. Which is what tomorrow’s post is about, because I have serious doubts about the Atlanta Child Murders.