According to Hickey (2003, p. 420) the investigative difficulties with regard to the serial murder investigation is the lack of recognition of foreign cases. This is a common problem in the U.S. among their foreign investigators due to the inability to identify the motive of the accused, random victims, high geographic mobility of offenders and linkage blindness. Serial crime investigations often lead to criticism, public and media pressure for failure to provide a strong identification of the accused and weak crime linkage. The investigative tools and approaches used by law enforcement include media forensic DNA analysis, case linkage system and criminal profiling (Hickey, 2003).
The law enforcement in the U.S. and other countries abroad has made use of DNA data bases. In 1998, the U.S. FBI has created the National DNA Indexing System (NDIS), which allowed the federal, state and local crime laboratories to record and make a comparison of the DNA records available in the country (Hickey, 2003, p. 420). In the same way, U.K. created a similar database system in 1995 in order to provide assistance to criminal investigations conducted by foreign and international agencies. This type of centralized system in the U.S. was used in the first computer linkage system for violent crimes and was made known as the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP) developed in 1995. Several countries all over the world followed this concept and created their own systems. Thus, it opened the door of national borders in various parts of the globe by developing an international case linkage system. At present, the understanding and investigation of serial violence has progressed since it is being used to analyze behavioral evidence and research which was called criminal profiling. Profiling has branched out to several aspects in line with the criminal investigation analysis which cover crime scene profiling, geographic profiling and psychological profiling (Hickey, 2003).
Media pressure is one of the effects of globalization has caused a great impact on the investigation of serial killing. Media has assisted in the advancement of public literacy which led to the deeper understanding of cultures. In fact, it is through mass media which has fed public appetites for the sensational and influenced the public to become cynical with the result of the investigation. Media has the effect of institutionalizing a culture of celebrity among serial killers (Haggerty, 2009, p. 173). One illustration is the Zodiac killer, who has been identified as a serial killer who used the media to taunt the police and to convey messages to the public. Media is not doing just the reporting of the crime, but has created a celebrity out of serial killers to earn profit. Media has helped to fashion a serial killer identity to complete an identity transformation, as what they do for athletes and entertainers (Haggerty, 2009, p. 175). In effect, mass media has become an important factor of serial killing by exposing a wealth of information to the public that could affect the result of the investigation and trial of the case.
There are two operating words associated in investigative work of the police such as criminal profiling, otherwise known as modus operandi, which literally means method of operation and behavior. This is based on the premise that the offender or the criminal will commit a particular crime in a similar or like pattern (Ebisike, 2008). There are three purposes in conducting criminal profiling: 1.) For make a social and psychological assessments of the offenders; 2.) To consider psychological belongings that will be found in the possession of the supposed criminal in his home such as pictures, books, videos, magazines and other material evidence that may be related to the crime; 3.) To account techniques and interrogation strategies that will be conducted by the FBI investigators to extract information from the suspects (Ebisike, 2008).
In the case of criminal investigation of serial killers, the police should study the root cause of the problem. According to Castle and Hensley (2002, p. 453), the study of serial homicide starts during infancy. In fact, the motivation of one of the indicators of criminal behavior is mental illness of a person which influences a person to become a serial killer. Aside from these biological factors, the personality, environment, traumatic experiences and lack of human socialization can contribute to the development of a deviant behavior of serial killers (Haggerty, 2009, p. 169). Hickey (2003, p. 422) stated serial killing is a problem in various parts of the globe due to ignorance and denial of the problem. It is vital that there should be expanded characteristics of serial murder, as well as the characteristics of the killer and the crime committed. In order to gain insight of the behavior of the serial killers will require a multidisciplinary approach to unravel the phenomenon of serial murder.
In conclusion, criminal investigators should be able to integrate multiple paradigms including sociological, cultural, psychological and biological perspectives (Hickey, 2003, p. 422). Thus, it is imperative that there should be a study on genetics and biological factor that may affect the criminal mind which drives a person to killer another. Mental illness can be considered as a structural brain abnormality alongside psychological and environmental factors that may result to patterns of episodic aggressive behavior that includes severe memory disorder, suicidal tendencies, deviant sexual behavior, history of sexual assault, suicidal tendencies, genetic disorder and the feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy (Castle and Hesley 456). In order for the police and criminal investigators to solve serial killing, they have to factor in the behavioral pattern and psychological condition of the defendant. In fact, there are also some serial killers who suffer from episodes of psychosis, paranoia and psychosis. These are the instances when such individual breaks from reality and develops violent and deviant behavior which compels him to kill other people. These serial killers are what they call as paranoid schizophrenics who have been influenced to kill despite lack of provocation (Castle and Hesley 456). The criminal investigators should identify the episodes when the serial killer hears voices caused by hallucinations and delusions that create their violent tendencies. The violence exhibited by schizophrenics may occur during these psychotic episodes where studies have shown that the killers hear voices commanding them to murder their victims. Criminal investigation of serial killing will require thorough study of all factors to solve the case and bring justice to the victims. Hence, media should only make reports of the crime to the public based on facts, and not to create celebrities out of serial killers for the purpose of earning material gain. This will prevent media hype that may negatively affect the resolution of the case.
Castle, T. and Hensley, C. (2002). “Serial Killers with Military Experience: Applying
Learning Theory to Serial Murder”. International Journal of Offender Therapy and
Comparative Criminology. 46(4), 453-465.
Ebisike, N. (2008). Offender Profiling in the Courtroom. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood
Haggerty, K. (2009). “Modern Serial Killers”. Crime, Media and Culture. 5(2), 168-187.
Hickey, E.W. (2003). Encyclopedia of Murder and Violent Crime. California: SAGE.