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Predestined Serial Killers

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									                         Predestined Serial Killers
                                 Annabella Rutigliano

serial killer: a person who commits a series of murders, often with no apparent motive
and usually following a similar, characteristic pattern of behavior. (8)

As participants in today's information obsessed society we are constantly being
bombarded with the brutal actions that mankind is capable of. One watches the news and
hears about a murder, or reads a book about a mysterious killer. The only time that the
New York Daily News has ever outsold the New York Times was when the headline
claimed the letters that proved the 'real' identity of Jack the Ripper. As you wade through
these bits and pieces of reality, one can't help but be struck by the thought-- what causes a
person to actively commit such horrendous acts? There have been many different studies
done in hopes of finding an answer. For a crime such as serial killing there are two main
schools of thought. The first idea is that serial killing is caused by an abnormality in the
frontal lobe region of the brain. Another theory is that serial killers are bred by
circumstance. However, I believe that with some analysis the evidence for both theories
can serve to prove that serial killers are genetically different. Thus demonstrating that
serial killing can find its origins in genetics.

A startling amount of criminals on death row have been clinically diagnosed with brain
disorders. A recent study has demonstrated that 20 out of 31 confessed killers are
diagnosed as mentally ill. Out of that 20, 64% have frontal lobe abnormalities. (1) A
thorough study of the profiles of many serial killers shows that many of them had
suffered sever head injuries (to the frontal lobe) when they were children. To discover
why damage to the frontal lobe could be a cause of serial killing, one must look at the
function of the frontal lobe of the brain.

The frontal lobe is located in the most anterior part of the brain hemispheres. It is
considered responsible for much of the behavior that makes possible stable and adequate
social relations. Self-control, planning, judgment, the balance of individual versus social
needs, and many other essential functions underlying effective social intercourse are
mediated by the frontal structures of the brain. (3) Antonio and Anna Damasio, two noted
Portuguese neurologists and researchers working in the University of Iowa, have been
investigating in the last decade the neurological basis of psychopathy. They have shown
that individuals who had undergone damage to the ventromedial frontal cortex (and who
had normal personalities before the damage) developed abnormal social conduct, leading
to negative personal consequences. Among other things, they presented inadequate
decision-making and planning abilities, which are known to be processed by the frontal
lobe of the brain. (5) For a long time now, neuroscientists have known that lesions to this
part of the brain lead to severe deficits in all these behaviors. The inordinate use of
prefrontal lobotomy as a therapeutic tool by surgeons for many mental diseases in the 40s
and 50s, provided researchers with enough data to implicate the frontal brain in the
genesis of dissocial and antisocial personalities. (6) Through this information one can
posit that the frontal lobe acts as a conscience.
An example of a serial killer that had suffered sever injury to his frontal lobe is Albert
Fish, better known as the Brooklyn Vampire. At the age of seven he had a severe fall off
a cherry tree which caused a head injury from which he would have permanent problems
with, such as headaches and dizzy spells. (2) After his fall he began to display many
violent tendencies, including an interest in sadomasochistic activities. At the age of
twenty he killed his fist victim, a twelve-year-old neighbor by the name of Gracie whom
he cannibalized. (2) It would appear that a damaged frontal lobe is a prime suspect in the
causation of serial killing. However, if you look closer this argument flows over to prove
that genetics is the main cause of serial killing. Could it be the case that we are all
genetically encoded to become serial killers, and the frontal lobe is the proverbial muzzle
that stops us from acting on our tendencies? All of us have at one point or another
imagined killing a person because they displayed tendencies that we did not like. None of
us went out and killed them in a ritualized manner.

The idea that the frontal lobe is a stop button, or acts as a conscience that stops a 'normal'
human from acting on their more violent tendencies, is not a new one. Evolutionary
biologists point that the frontal lobe evolved in tandem with the evolution of man from a
beast to purveyor of civilization. (3) The trademark of all social primates is a highly
developed frontal brain, and human beings have the largest one of all. It is a simple jump
in reason to understand that, like a dog without its muzzle, the human animal without a
frontal lobe is more likely to 'bite.'

Brain damage cannot be the motivator for all serial killing. 46% of all confessed serial
killers have no frontal or general brain damage. The majority admits that they were
perfectly aware of what they were doing before, during, and after the crime. Some even
confess that they know that what they were doing was wrong, and contemplated 'giving
up' after the first time. The thrill derived from murder is a temporary fix. Like any other
powerful narcotic, homicidal violence satisfies the senses for a time, but the effect soon
fades. And when it does, a predator goes hunting. (1) Caroll Edward Cole commented
that after his first kill " I thought my life was going to improve, I was sadly mistaken.
Neither at home or at school. I was getting meaner and meaner, fighting all the time in a
way to hurt or maim, and my thoughts were not the ideas of an innocent child, believe
me." By the end of his career Cole had killed so many people that he could not even
remember the names of his victims. At one point during his testimony he remembered a
new victim, "This one is almost a complete blank," Cole said of the victim. He didn't
know the woman's name, but Cole remembered finding pieces of her body scattered from
the bathroom to the kitchen of his small apartment. "Evidently I had done some cooking
the night before," he testified. "There was some meat on the stove in a frying pan and part
that I hadn't eaten on a plate, on the table." (1) Caroll Edward Cole had no mental
illnesses, and was aware that he was committing morally abhorrent acts.

Circumstance is another argument that is proposed as a cause of serial killing. As the
study of the profiles of serial killers progresses many similarities in their pasts, and in
their recurring actions become eerily apparent. As children many suffered through
traumatic childhoods, usually being physically or mentally abused. From this fact, it
emerges that all reported cases of abuse committed against serial killers was done by their
mothers. Most serial killers kill either for personal gain (revenge, money etc...) or
pleasure (usually sexual). Many serial killers have above average intelligence, and are
well employed in high wage jobs (engineers, doctors, lawyers etc...). The majority came
from middle to high-income families. They are usually handsome/ beautiful, very
articulate, and sexually promiscuous. (1) As killers they have a specific trait that they
look for in the victims that they ritually kill. In interviews, many serial killers admitted
that the people they killed fulfilled some aspect of a person that abused or taunted them.
Caroll Edward Cole killed little boys that reminded him of a schoolyard bully that taunted
him for having a girl's name. He later expanded his modus operandi to include young
brown haired females that looked like his abusive mother. Under oath, he told a story of
childhood abuse inflicted by his sadistic, adulterous mother, giving rise to a morbid
obsession with women who betrayed their husbands or lovers. "I think," he told the jury,
"I've been killing her through them." (1)

Do these disquieting threads of commonality among serial killers make a strong case
towards the idea that serial killers are caused by circumstance? It would appear to be true,
until you take into consideration the distribution curve. If serial killers give the
impression of being linked by similar circumstance it is because the genetic traits of serial
killing are all found at one end of the distribution curve (which by chance could be the
same end in which a higher probability of certain circumstances occurs). The normal
distribution curve is one of the most commonly observed and is the starting point for
modeling many natural processes. (4) There are also cases of serial killers that break the
thread of commonality. For example, one pair of killers, killed as a form of earning
income. In the 1800's William Burke and William Hare poisoned over 200 people, and
sold their corpses to medical universities so that medical students could learn how to
autopsy cadavers. (1) If there is no commonality of experience between serial killers,
then serial killing must be genetic.

An interesting idea comes forward when discussing the commonality of serial killers.
Many genetic diseases are carried by a female and become active in their male offspring.
For example, the most common form of color blindness, affects about 7 percent of men
and less than 1 percent of women. It is identified as a sex-linked hereditary characteristic,
passed from the mother to her son. (7) Can the same be said for serial killing? It is
observed that their mother abused the majority of serial killers. Following this with the
thought that serial killing is caused by genetics, could the mother be passing the genetic
trait down to her son? This would account for the reason that serial killers are
predominantly male.

In this paper the question has been raised: are serial killers genetically different? This
question spawned the idea that serial killing is genetic. To prove this the two main
arguments against genetics were looked at, and disproved. The first argument proposed
that serial killing was caused by mental illness, or more specifically that serial killing was
caused by trauma to the frontal lobe. If you look closely at this argument it actually turns
to prove that serial killing can be genetic. The argument generates the idea that we are all
genetically encoded to become serial killers, and the frontal lobe (acting as a conscience)
stops us from doing so. The argument does not refute the idea that serial killing is
genetic. The next major argument towards the causation of serial killing supposes that a
serial killer is created by circumstance. To oppose this one can simply say that the
apparent commonality of experience among serial killers only demonstrates that since
serial killers are genetically different, in general they are at one end of the distribution
curve. If there is no commonality of experience, then serial killing must be genetically
caused. Maybe our founding fathers claims of manifest destiny and predestination were
accurate after all.

Web References

1)Crime Library, This is a web site that houses the profiles of many serial killers, it also
give detailed case history, and modus operandi. It specializes in hard to find serial killer
cases. Especially older ones.
2)AtoZ Serial Killers, Here you will find a psychological profile of serial killers. Has
photos, and sketches of the serial killers. Gives profiles of modern, and operating killers.
3)Frontal Lobe Abnormalities, This site provides a very good case for abnormalities in
the frontal lobe. It specializes in brain abnormalities, and how that affects behavior.
4) Distribution Curve, Here you will find provided a really simple description of the
distribution curve.
5)A Study of Brain Physiology ,This site focuses on the physiology of the brain.
6)History of Psychosurgery, This site looks at the different treatments for brain diseases.
It is a historical look at psychosurgery and the effects that it has on the brain.
7)A History of Color Blindness, A basic history of color blindness, and its genetic
origins.
8)Oxford English Dictionary, This is the site that hosts the complete Oxford English
Dictionary.

								
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