Forensic psychologists identify a cycle that a serial killers goes through when planning and executing a murder. It is generally six phases -
1.) The Aura Phase: This is where the motive to kill begins. A serial killer fed up with the stressors of real life will slowly begin to shift into a fantasy world. Here, the ideas of murder will begin to flourish; fantasies of the impending satisfaction and details of the killing will become an obsession. If the killer drinks or does drugs, use will increase tremendously.
2.) The Trolling Phase: Now the killer will begin to lurk and “troll” around for a potential setting - and potential victims for their crime. They usually seek areas that they are familiar and comfortable with.
3.) The Wooing Phase: Kinda self explanatory. The killer has focused in on his/her potential victim. Now they work on luring the individual in, whether through grooming, charming, or gaining their trust. The wooing phase leads to…
4.) The Capture Phase: Again, self explanatory. After gaining a victim’s confidence, the killer captures them. They are now in almost complete control of the individual.
5.) The Murder and Totem Phase: The killer’s vision is finally fulfilled. They finally indulge in a murder, satisfying themselves in whatever way they see fit - either for sexual, excitement, or financial/material gratification. This provides the ultimate high; a killer feels in control of his/her life in a way that is impossible anyway else. But the high cannot last forever, and that is why many serial killers take an extra step and keep some kind of totem. Whether it’s a photograph of the victim, a piece of clothing, or even a body part, many keep these little charms to try to lengthen out the feeling.
6.) Depression - But even a totem is not enough. Soon the killer snaps out of the delusion. The victim was a brief break from a reality, and depression sets in. We have now come full circle! Because the serial killer will soon grow exhausted and fall back into the Aura Phase, beginning the cycle again.