Saturday, July 09, 2005

Serial killers among us

Hundreds of serial killers lurk among us

CHICAGO - From 1900 to 1999, at least 236 serial killers haunted the United States, killing a combined 3,130 persons, said Steven Egger, a police officer turned professor who has written extensively on the topic.
And it has been estimated that anywhere from 10 to 500 serial killers are active in the United States at any given time.
"There are more serial killers among us than we know. When you start counting serial killers, you're counting the ones we've caught," said Tomas Guillen, a professor at Seattle University and co-author of "The Search for the Green River Killer."
Last week's confessions by BTK suspect Dennis Rader and Charles Cullen -- a former nurse who killed as many as 40 patients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania -- highlighted the phenomenon.
In a June 27 court appearance in Wichita, Kan., Rader described in grisly detail how he strangled, stabbed and shot 10 victims to satisfy his sexual fantasies. Cullen last week admitted to five more deaths.
These two men have joined a growing list of notorious killers who have sent chills through the nation and provided ample fodder for filmmakers and novelists.
When serial killers are finally caught, it is often a shock to those who know them. Unlike the monsters and recluses of the movies, many serial killers are relatively personable, despite their sometime obsession with sex and death.
That's one reason why they are able to evade police.
"They're very, very smart -- not intellectually, but very, very streetwise," Mr. Guillen said. "They're very good at disarming people, especially women and children."
Serial killers are also able to evade detection because of the very nature of their crimes. Because they rarely know their victims, they don't fall in the traditional circle of murder suspects. And they rarely leave behind evidence that links them to their victims.
DNA analysis is changing that.
Police had long suspected Gary Leon Ridgway of the nearly 50 Green River killings that terrified Seattle in the 1980s. It was not until they compared a swab of his saliva to evidence found on his victims that police were able to charge him in 2001.
Source News World Communications, Inc


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