'Catching Killers' Season 2: What makes a person become a serial killer?

Serial killers have a chronic and overwhelming urge to kill, which sets them apart from criminals who kill once for other purposes


                            'Catching Killers' Season 2: What makes a person become a serial killer?
'Catching Killers' (Netflix)
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A question left unanswered for eons and still one of the oldest, predominant ones in Criminology is - are criminals born or made? Season 2 of Netflix's 'Catching Killers' will delve deeper into this abyss. 

Research states that almost all serial killers are survivors of the onset of early childhood trauma, be it any kind. Underlying factors could be physical or sexual abuse (or both), family negligence or dysfunction, and emotionally unavailable or absent parents. Several studies show that trauma is the single most recurring pattern in the records of most killers. This is what makes serial killers like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and the Zodiac Killer so intriguing to the public. So why do they inflict pain for pleasure? Read on to find out. 

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Peter Vronsky, author of 'Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from Stone Age to the Present', a book that explores why some people become killers and others don’t has spoken about how traumatic individuals tend to suppress their emotions as a result of untreated trauma diagnosis. He has explained how in the absence of learning the proper responses to trauma (seeking professional help, checking in on oneself, etc. ), they lack empathy and the ability to do so with others. This is why most killers, regardless of how heinous and horrific their crimes are, are without remorse. 

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What makes a person become a serial killer?

While this question requires volumes to explain, many experts and criminologists have tried to explain this in simpler terms.  A serial killer is a person who goes on a murdering spree and lays low between murders. More often than not, the driving force behind these murders is psychological thrill or pleasure. Serial killers have a chronic and overwhelming urge to kill, which sets them apart from criminals who kill once for other purposes. Since serial killers often lack both empathy and guilt and grow to become egocentric individuals, these specific characteristic traits classify certain serial killers as psychopaths. What's unbelievable is that they can even appear completely normal, to hide their true psychopathic tendencies.

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Several serial killers experience and live childhood trauma in the form of early separation from their mothers. As a result of that trauma or separation, it is believed by researchers that these people learn to suppress their empathy and suffered damage in areas of the brain that is in charge of controlling emotional impulses. Infamous serial killers who were rejected or abandoned by their birth mothers include David Berkowitz, Ted Bundy and Joel Rifkin. Some serial killers such as Edmund Kemper are tormented, abused and even tortured by their birth mothers.

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Another point to note is that serial killers have usually been alone all their lives and so, they have a natural fear of all relationships. In order to seek control of a situation, they'll also go to any lengths to destroy other people thereby eliminating the possibility of rejection. People who have closely studied serial killers are aware that these psychopaths are partly motivated (to do what they do) by the attention and fame that the media provides. Most serial killers commit their crimes because they want to. The exception to this would be those few serial killers suffering from a severe mental illness for whom no coherent motive exists. Psychology Today states there are some categories, though not a complete measure of serial offenders, that comprise a theory of their motivation. As concisely reported by the FBI in 2005, they are anger, financial gain, criminal ideology, power and thrill, psychosis or sex-based.

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Season 2 of 'Catching Killers' was released on February 9, 2022, on Netflix and Season 2 explores the Phoenix Serial Shooter, devotes two episodes to the Toronto Village Killer, and in its premiere, the effort to identify and capture the infamous BTK.