Investigation: Serial Killers cover

Investigation: Serial Killers


Sometimes they ARE the next-door-neighbor.

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Investigation: Serial Killers

Lurking Next Door

They are the monsters of our worst nightmares, the murderers with a taste for blood who kill once and keep going back for more.

But in the harsh light of day, real life serial killers are not the beasts we recognize from horror movies. They don’t bare fangs or wear frightening masks. Often they look just like the next-door-neighbor or the man next to you in the grocery store line.

Sometimes they ARE the next-door-neighbor.

Studying A Killer

Studying A Killer


Every Minute Counts

For the FBI experts who devote their lives to tracking these bloodthirsty fiends down, it is one of the most rewarding jobs in law enforcement. It’s also one of the most difficult.

Every minute that passes while the highly trained members of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico, Virginia, are profiling the killers could mean another murder, another victim.

And even after all the forensic, scientific and psychological clues have been tied together, the big break in a case may come down to something as simple as an inspired hunch, usually the result of years of working hundreds or even thousands of murder cases, according to former top FBI profiler Jim Clemente.

One Step Ahead

For 12 years, Jim pitted his wits against serial killers and America’s most wanted as a Supervisory Special Agent at the unit, part of the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.

The profilers work on about 25 serial killer cases a year – and may help solve about 15 of them.

But Jim says the agents believe there are many more multiple murderers at any one time in America – all trying to stay one step ahead of the law.

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Federal Bureau of Investigation


Wide Spectrum Of Motives

“Serial killers are a spectrum of people with a spectrum of motives.

You can’t put them all in one box,” he explained in an exclusive interview.

“Some psychopaths are literally getting sexually aroused by causing and witnessing death. It is sex to them. You also get the hit men, who kill for money. To them it is business. And then you get a variety of others in-between.

Following The Patterns

“There are people who fantasize about it and intend to keep killing as long as possible.

We believe that most psychopaths are born without any human empathy. “Basically they don’t have the ability to form human attachments. But if they are intelligent they can observe this in others and copy those emotions for their own ends.”

Ted Bundy, the “charismatic” killer of at least 30 young women and girls in the 1970s, fitted into this category, he added.

Living The Dream

There’s also a category of thrill killers.

“They are just seeking excitement,” he said. “They are trying to push the system to the edge. They are also likely to interact with law enforcement and play cat and mouse games.

“They feel like they’re smarter than law enforcement. They want to talk to cops; they think they’re better than them.”

He said it’s a fallacy that serial killers want to get caught. “They want to get away with it – they’re too arrogant to believe that they will be captured.”

Winning The Spotlight

In fact, serial killers are looking to outdo one another to become the number on in the US annals of infamy.

“There is a level of competition between some of these guys to be the best,” said Joe. “It’s like the school shootings syndrome. Eric Harris and Dylan Kleboold wanted to go out with the biggest bang at Columbine and since then everybody is trying to one-up them.

The Grandstand


The Grandstand

“The 24-hour news cycle feeds the problem, giving them their own names and the grandstand they want. I never use these names for that reason.”

Examining Every Detail

After being asked to assist with a serial killer investigation, the FBI profilers will look at the times the murderers strike, the victims, the places it happens.

They will try to determine if they were impulse killings or carefully planned.

Then they will examine the crime scenes. “Was it in the middle of Manhattan with 10,000 witnesses or in the middle of a farm in Iowa? Do they have a thinking or a manual job? It takes different types of people,” said Jim.

“Did they bring the weapon with them or pick it up along the way? Are they criminally and forensically sophisticated? What does that tell you about their intellectual capacity or their personality?

Looking For Signatures

“With serial killers there is also the mater of repetition.

Things that remain the same are very important. If they make mistakes do they learn from them and fix them? If it’s a ritual killing what do they do with the victim? Does the killer have a signature that links the killings?

“We look at the actual behavior of the criminal. What is their pre, during and post crime behavior? I can narrow all this down and put forward a profile of the person. We’re looking for that lost piece of the puzzle.

Looking for Clues

Looking for Clues


Knowing What To Look For

Jim, who was with the FBI for 22 years and now works as a Hollywood consultant and is a sought-after expert witness, said it was an “awesome job” but required years of expert training.

“You have to know what’s important - to see the trees from the forest. That’s what the job is all about.”