disorganized killers


Disorganized Offenders

When profiling a serial killer, detectives first place their unidentified subject into one of two categories: Organized or disorganized. The disorganized killer is much more common than their cool, calm and collected counterparts, and are often the inspiration for horror movies due to the gruesome nature of their crimes.

Further investigation into this area of criminology suggests that many killer overlap into the categories. For example, Jeffrey Dahmer possessed many of the characteristics associated with a disorganized murderer; He was socially awkward, depersonalized his victims, and lived alone for the greater part of his life. Yet again, he had a stable family, and made a good attempt to conceal the crime scenes. Below are some of the more common traits of a disorganized offender.

  • Killer leaves a chaotic and sloppy crime scene
  • Notable substance abuse
  • Overkill
  • Will usually stab or “butcher” their victims
  • Won’t follow the media’s interest in their crimes.
  • Paranoid about getting caught
  • Has poor hygiene
  • Very secretive habits. Often nocturnal ones.
  • Typically won’t transport the body to another place
  • Is a highschool dropout

Ted Bundy can be classified as an organized killer due to his high IQ, his charm, the fact that he got away with murder for so long, and the fact that he was able to keep a steady relationship while on his spree.

Some characteristics of disorganized killers:

•Low IQs
•Bad at socializing; don’t have a partner
•Poor hygiene
•Most likely a high school dropout
•Aren’t interested in the news
•Have a hiding place at home
•Cluttered living spaces
•Drive an average car
•Will return to crime scene to relive the murder
•Have an obligation to taunt victim’s families
•Usually leave behind incriminating evidence
•Will leave the corpse at the scene of the murder
•Uses “blitz” attacks to stun victims

Characteristics of organized killers:

•High IQs
•Are able to keep a steady relationship
•Usually follow the news
•Won’t have a hiding place at home
•Clean and organized at everything
•Own an expensive car/decent car
•Won’t taunt victim’s families but will taunt the police instead
•Dump the corpse at other sites
•Use charm and/or seduction to gain victims
•Are careful not to leave incriminating evidence
•Most likely educated; college graduate

Organized vs. Disorganized Killers

The FBI has also worked hard to develop a useful classification of serial killers. In 1974, the agency formed its now-famous Behavioral Science Unit (BSU). One of the first tasks of the BSU, between 1976 and 1979, was to interview 36 serial murderers in an effort to understand their motivation and psychology. Investigators determined that serial killers could be divided into three groups:

  1. Organized — As the name suggests, organized killers plan their attacks methodically, allowing the planning process itself to become part of a powerful and consuming mental fantasy. They target victims carefully and may stalk them for weeks or months. They carry the tools of their crime — weapons and restraints — with them and almost never kill at the scene where they encounter a victim. Instead, they transport their victims to another location, commit the murder there and then dump the bodies in a third location, making it difficult to collect evidence. After a killing, they often follow the investigation in the media.
  2. Disorganized — Disorganized serial killers are the complete opposite. They plan nothing and most often attack suddenly and without notice. Their victims hold no symbolic value and have the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They don’t carry weapons to the crime scene, choosing instead to use what they can put their hands on — a pipe, a rock, a knife. They don’t dispose of bodies, although they often take anatomical “souvenirs.” Ultimately, their disorganized behavior makes it easier for law enforcement officials to track and find them. Until that happens, however, the public lives in fear as they wait for the unpredictable killer to strike again.
  3. Mixed — Of course, some serial killers defy classification. Perhaps they kill occasionally while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Or perhaps their methods make their attacks more susceptible to interruption. Or, finally, perhaps they fall in with other criminals who are quick to kill, but prefer different methods. Whatever the circumstances, the FBI created a third catch-all category for serial killers who can’t be classified neatly as either organized or disorganized.

In this system, the psychology of serial killers becomes a bit more muddled. Organized killers, for example, are classic psychopaths and tend to kill in a merciless, cold-blooded fashion. They make meticulous plans and always know what they’re doing. Disorganized and mixed-category killers can be psychopathic, but they can also be psychotic. Someone who is psychotic loses contact with reality and may suffer from hallucinations or delusions. In some serial killers, such reality breaks can play a significant role in their murders.

In an unreleased interview, a man named Robert Ressler got insight into the mind of Jeffrey Dahmer. He made some key points on Dahmer’s mentality, but one of the best ones was this:

Dahmer had the “invincible” feeling that most killers get. He thought he couldn’t get caught. Especially seeing as how police and his landlord had almost five instances in which they would have caught him red handed. Because of this though it seems that Dahmer’s excitement for the killing went down and it became routine. Cutting up a body was no longer exciting, just something he had to do with clean-up. Dahmer than became more and more careless, a trend that would eventually lead to his apprehension.” 

Ressler categorized him as a mixed offender, meaning he displayed traits of both an organized killer and a disorganized killer.

You can read his full insight here: http://faculty.csbsju.edu/uspp/CrimPsych/CPSG-4.htm