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Monday, December 18, 2017 MAGAZINE Volume 1, Issue 1

Psychological Profiling of the ‘Disorganized’ Killer


by Julie Bowen

October 1, 2013

Psychological Profiling of the ‘Disorganized’ Killer

Psychology plays a major role in identifying and profiling criminals today. There are many different terms to describe this type of work, from investigative psychology to crime action profiling. The act of profiling killers is central to crime scene investigations in the 21st Century and encompasses behavior, personality, age and geographical location to build a picture of the suspect. Profiling also explores organized and disorganized criminals and the factors involved in each. With the rise of seemingly random rampage killers and alcohol or drug related sexual murders, profiling the disorganized criminal is proving more crucial than ever.

The Importance of the Profile

There have always existed profiles of infamous killers, dating back to the days of Jack the Ripper, but these have largely been intuitive on the role of the physician or profiler. In the 1960s and 70s, Schlossberg profiled many killers, including the Son of Sam, and detailed how he listed all attributes of criminals and then concentrate on the ones that were the most common.

The organized and disorganized profile was established in the 1970s by the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit. Organized killers were seen to be sane, antisocial and to have little remorse, whilst disorganized criminals did not plan their crimes and left vital evidence at the scene. Their crimes were not premeditated and alcohol and drugs were seen to play a major role, with perpetrators being young and under their influence.

This dichotomy of profiling killers has evolved into sub categories but its premise remains. The emphasis is on personality and how behavior reflects this. Organized criminals’ behavior at the crime scene is crucial to determining their profile, explains David Canter PhD from the Center of Investigative Psychology at the University of Liverpool. Serial killers show organization in the way they might pose or conceal their victim’s body and these variables are frequent and form a pattern. Disorganized behavior such as mutilation and sexual control allow serial killers to be divided up into categories. Canter believes that statistical techniques are the only way to develop scientific classifications.

Alcohol and Disorganized Crime

When compiling profiles for disorganized killers, alcohol and drugs are seen to play a significant role, from evidence compiled at the crime scene. Alcohol receives a great deal of media attention for car fatalities, explain NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), but its relationship to serious crime is often overlooked. There is a particularly strong link between alcohol abuse and violent, sexual crime. The US Department of Justice believes that a significant number of offenders were under the influence of alcohol during their crimes. Alcohol is evident in 40% of violent crimes taking place today, and in 37% of rapes and sexual assaults. Whilst alcohol rehabilitation centers play an important role in American society, with many sufferers seeking help to gain control of their lives from support offered by places such as the New Jersey alcoholism treatment center and alike, alcohol addiction can lead to a violent downward spiral for some.

The infamous Richmond High School gang rape case is a prime example of disorganized, alcohol-induced crime and made national headlines in 2009. The victim left a home coming dance and began drinking with a group of young men before she was attacked, beaten and raped for 2 hours in a darkened courtyard. Her blood alcohol content was at 0.35, an almost fatal level, and brandy was poured over her during the ordeal. The men left vital evidence at the crime scene such as discarded condoms and additional DNA, which has recently led to the conviction of Manuel Ortega, Ari Morales, Jose Montano and Marcelles Peter. Two other men are also awaiting trial on the case. The perpetrators fit the disorganized profile through their age and alcohol or drug induced crime.

The Rampage Killer

The rise of youngsters who embark on killing sprees is of a particular concern for criminal investigators. Common factors cited in media include mental illness, access to firearms and violent video games, but these killers are proving difficult to profile accurately. There are not many of them and they often end their killing spree with a suicide. There are some insights that are being compiled into a profile for this type of killer however, according to Psychology Today.

Most rampage killers are young men; they vary in ethnicity and most performed well in school. Almost half of these criminals integrated well with peers, with 34% being loners. Most, however felt persecuted by bullying, felt suicidal or depressed, with a quarter suffering from alcohol or drug abuse. The most significant factor was that these students had experienced a sense of loss before the attacks, such as romantic relationships or family deaths. The killer profiles also showed a careful sense of planning, before the attacks were carried out.

James Holmes, the Colorado killer, was more difficult to profile, as he did not suffer from any obvious mental illness and did not attempt suicide after the 12 killings in a movie theater in 2012. Levin, a professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern, explained that Holmes was different to the other rampage killers studied and profiled. Psychologists believe he may have suffered from paranoia, which is difficult to detect and that severe strain may have led him to externalize blame and target others.

Julie Bowen is a freelance writer who writes on a wide variety of topics.