ChapterPDF Available

Case Linkage



This chapter begins by explaining the purposes of linking crimes committed by the same offender and what case linkage can add to a police investigation and prosecution. The various steps involved in the process of case linkage are explained. The assumptions of behavioral consistency and inter-individual behavioral variation, which case linkage rests on, are outlined, and the research that has begun to test these assumptions is reported. The effect of poor-quality data on the case linkage process and on empirical research is examined. Current methods and future developments for overcoming this difficulty are described. The obstacles to identifying linked crimes across police boundaries are discussed. Case linkage research and practice are compared with various criteria for expert evidence with promising results. The chapter closes by considering future avenues for research and practice in case linkage.
Criminal Profiling
Criminal Profiling
International Theory, Research,
and Practice
Edited by
Richard N. Kocsis, PhD
Forensic Psychologist
© 2007 Humana Press Inc.
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Ezt a konyvet neked irtam Anyukam szereto fiad Rihard.
About the Editor
Richard N. Kocsis, PhD, is a forensic psychologist in private practice. He
is the author/co-author of close to 90 scholarly publications (articles, book
chapters, etc.) on the topics of criminal profiling, serial violent offenders,
and their criminal investigation. He has served as an expert consultant to law
enforcement, emergency, and prosecution agencies as well as private law firms.
In addition to his clinical and forensic work, he has held various academic
positions in the areas of forensic psychology and criminology including Lecturer
in Investigations (Policing). In 2000, he was awarded the Australian Museum’s
prestigious Eureka prize for critical thinking in recognition of his scientific
research in the area of criminal profiling.
International Perspectives into the Practice
and Research of Criminal Profiling
Today criminal profiling is no longer viewed as some secretive,
mysterious technique that police from the United States of America exclu-
sively indulge in when seeking to solve high-profile aberrant forms of crime.
Although popular culture representations of criminal profiling still mostly favor
such depictions by emphasizing this context, the reality is that individuals
from a range of occupational and disciplinary backgrounds from around the
world are involved in the practice loosely referred to as “criminal profiling.”
Different nomenclature is adopted from time to time to describe essentially the
same practice such as “offender profiling,” “psychological profiling,” “person-
ality profiling,” and “crime analysis,” and indeed different techniques are often
employed, but nonetheless as an endeavor profiling has expanded both in appli-
cation and in popularity across the world.
Criminal profiling has evolved chiefly because researchers and commen-
tators from around the globe have spent many years examining the perpetrators
of serious crimes such as murder, rape, and arson. In particular, they have
concentrated their efforts on studying the motivations and actions of violent
offenders while seeking to document the experiences of both the victims and
the perpetrators of crime. Many have also sought to assess the input of inves-
tigative experience employed in criminal investigations and the influence of
expert witnesses on jury decisions and examined at length the assessment
and treatment of the protagonists of crime. Although many practitioners such
as criminologists, sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and police have
devoted much of their time to examining these important issues, many have
done so within the context of criminal profiling and how such studies can better
inform the practice of profiling.
Criminal profiling at its core is concerned with understanding crime
from the perspective of both the perpetrator and the victim. Specifically, it is
concerned with identifying, that is, predicting who is most likely to offend in
x Preface
given ways and who may be most at risk in terms of being a victim of crime.
Societies all around the world have historically been interested in understanding
and explaining the phenomenon of crime and its myriad of manifestations which
is why perhaps the profiling of all manner of crimes has gathered so much
interest around the world and continues to occupy our collective fascination.
This book has sought to focus this interest in criminal profiling by bringing
together some of the more interesting analyses undertaken in countries such
as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Finland, France, Belgium, Canada,
Italy, Switzerland, Australia, and of course the United States of America by
drawing together the work of international authors in the field of criminal
profiling. Put simply, the aim of this book is to highlight differing perspectives
and challenges in profiling by discussing work that has been undertaken to
date and identifying the research that remains to be done if criminal profiling
is to be developed into a robust, scientific endeavor. This book is not confined
to examining simply the various applications of profiling and discussing the
various techniques it employs but endeavors to explore the legal and policy
dimensions concerning its admissibility in various criminal jurisdictions and
the theoretical assumptions underpinning its practice. The broader intent of this
book is to encourage continued interest in criminal profiling with the view
to promoting its further development to the point where it can be used in a
reliable, responsible manner. Ultimately, it is hoped that criminal profiling will
assist in improving our comprehension of crime in its many and varied forms
and help societies the world over to prevent and combat crime in the future.
Richard N. Kocsis, PhD
Preface ............................................................ ix
Notes on Contributors............................................... xv
Part I Profiling Crimes of Violence
Homicidal Syndromes: A Clinical Psychiatric Perspective
George B. Palermo.............................................. 3
Offender Profiles and Crime Scene Patterns in Belgian Sexual Murders
Fanny Gerard, Christian Mormont, and Richard N. Kocsis ........ 27
Profiling Sexual Fantasy: Fantasy in Sexual Offending
and the Implications for Criminal Profiling
Dion Gee and Aleksandra Belofastov............................. 49
Murder by Manual and Ligature Strangulation: Profiling Crime Scene
Behaviors and Offender Characteristics
Helinä Häkkänen ............................................... 73
Criminal Propensity and Criminal Opportunity: An Investigation
of Crime Scene Behaviors of Sexual Aggressors of Women
Eric Beauregard, Patrick Lussier, and Jean Proulx ............... 89
xii Contents
Part II New Techniques and Applications
Case Linkage: Identifying Crimes Committed by the Same Offender
Jessica Woodhams, Ray Bull, and Clive R. Hollin ................ 117
Predicting Offender Profiles From Offense and Victim Characteristics
David P. Farrington and Sandra Lambert ........................ 135
Criminal Profiling in a Terrorism Context
Geoff Dean ..................................................... 169
Geographic Profiling of Terrorist Attacks
Craig Bennell and Shevaun Corey ............................... 189
Part III Legal and Policy Considerations
for Criminal Profiling
Criminal Profiling as Expert Evidence?: An International Case Law
Caroline B. Meyer .............................................. 207
Criminal Profiling: Impact on Mock Juror Decision Making
and Implications for Admissibility
Anne Marie R. Paclebar, Bryan Myers, and Jocelyn Brineman .... 249
The Phenomenon of Serial Murder and the Judicial Admission
of Criminal Profiling in Italy
Angelo Zappalà and Dario Bosco ................................ 263
Contents xiii
Criminal Profiling and Public Policy
Jeffrey B. Bumgarner ........................................... 273
The Observations of the French Judiciary: A Critique
of the French Ministry of Justice Policy Report
into Criminal Analysis
Laurent Montet ................................................. 289
The Image of Profiling: Media Treatment and General
James S. Herndon .............................................. 303
Part IV Critiques and Conceptual Dimensions
to Criminal Profiling
Contemporary Problems in Criminal Profiling
Richard N. Kocsis and George B. Palermo ....................... 327
Fine-Tuning Geographical Profiling
Jasper J. van der Kemp and Peter J. van Koppen ................. 347
Skills and Accuracy in Criminal Profiling
Richard N. Kocsis............................................... 365
Investigative Experience and Profile Accuracy:
A Replication Study
David Gogan ................................................... 383
xiv Contents
Schools of Thought Related to Criminal Profiling
Richard N. Kocsis............................................... 393
Index .............................................................. 405
Notes on Contributors
Eric Beauregard PhD is an assistant professor in the Department of Crimi-
nology at the University of South Florida, USA. He has been involved in the
assessment of sex offenders for 8 years while working as a clinical criminologist
for the Correctional Service of Canada. His research and clinical work center
on sex offenders, sexual homicide, psychological and geographic profiling, and
the hunting process of sex offenders.
Aleksandra Belofastov has a Doctor of Psychology degree in Clinical
Psychology (with a specialization in Forensic Psychology) from Monash
University in Victoria. She has been working in a medium/low-secure forensic
mental health hospital in the United Kingdom for over 3 years. Her clinical
work involves the assessment and treatment of individuals detained under the
Mental Health Act (1983); many of whom have committed sexual offenses.
of severe mental illness and their potential relationships to criminal behavior,
rehabilitation utilizing the Good-Lives framework, and victim-related issues.
Craig Bennell PhD is an assistant professor of psychology at Carleton
University, where he directs the Police Research Laboratory. His research
examines the validity of psychologically based investigative techniques such as
geographic and criminal profiling, police decision making in critical incidents
(and the development of decision aids), and the application of cognitive load
theory to police training.
Dario Bosco MSc received his legal qualifications from University “Federico
II,” Naples, Faculty of Law. Additionally, he possesses a Masters degree in
Criminology and Forensic Science from the Università di Roma Sapienza,
Faculty of Medicine. He is a registered criminal lawyer with the Naples bar at
law. He is also a crime analyst. He has undertaken scholarship in the production
of research and publications related to the topics of criminal profiling, criminal
law, and forensic science.
Jocelyn Brineman received her BA in Psychology from the University of
North Carolina Wilmington and is presently completing her PhD in Clinical-
Health Psychology at University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her research
xvi Notes on Contributors
interests are in the area of forensic psychology. She has researched such topics
as jury decision making and false memories of early childhood events and has
an article in press in the Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice.
Ray Bull PhD is a professor of forensic psychology at the University of
Leicester. His major research topic is investigative interviewing. In 1991, he
was commissioned by the Home Office (together with a Law Professor) to write
the first working draft of the Memorandum of Good Practice on Video Recorded
document Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance for
Vulnerable or Intimidated Witnesses, Including Children (ABE). In 2002–2003,
he led the small team commissioned by government to produce an extensive
training pack relating to ABEIn 2004, he was commissioned by the Scottish
Executive to draft guidance on the taking of evidence on commission. In
2005, he received a Commendation from the London Metropolitan Police for
innovation and professionalism whilst assisting a complex rape investigation.
He has authored and co-authored many articles in quality research journals and
has co-authored and co-edited many books including Investigative Interviewing:
Psychology and Practice (1999—a second edition is now being written). In
recognition of the quality and extent of his research publications, he was, in
1995, awarded a higher doctorate (Doctor of Science). Interviews With Child
Witnesses for Criminal Proceedings. He was part of the small team commis-
sioned by the Home Office in 2000 to write the 2002 government.
Jeffrey B. Bumgarner earned a BA in Political Science from the University
of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), an MA in Public Administration from Northern
Illinois University, and a PhD in Training and Organization Development from
the University of Minnesota. He is an associate professor of criminal justice
at Texas Christian University in FT. Worth, TX. He has several years of
experience in local and federal law enforcement as a patrol officer, criminal
investigator, and trainer. He has authored several works on police practice and
Shevaun Corey, BSc (Hon), is a Masters student in the Department of
Psychology at Carleton University. Her research examines the validity of inves-
tigative techniques such as geographic and criminal profiling, the application
of cognitive load theory to police training, and the development of personnel
selection tools for specialized police units (e.g., emergency response teams).
Geoff Dean PhD is a senior lecturer in the School of Justice Studies
in the Faculty of Law at the Queensland University of Technology in
Brisbane, Australia. He specializes in investigative psychology and policing,
criminal/offender profiling, terrorism, and international crime.
Notes on Contributors xvii
David P. Farrington, OBE, is a professor of psychological criminology at
the Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University, United Kingdom. He is a
Fellow of the British Academy, of the Academy of Medical Sciences, of the
British Psychological Society, and of the American Society of Criminology.
He has been President of the British Society of Criminology, President of the
American Society of Criminology, President of the European Association of
Psychology and Law, President of the Academy of Experimental Criminology,
Chair of the Division of Forensic Psychology of the British Psychological
Society, and Vice-Chair of the US National Academy of Sciences Panel on
Violence. He has received the Sellin-Glueck and Sutherland awards of the
American Society of Criminology, the Joan McCord award of the Academy of
Experimental Criminology, and the Beccaria Gold Medal of the Criminology
Society of German-Speaking Countries. He received his PhD in Psychology
from Cambridge University and has published 46 books and monographs and
over 380 articles on criminological and psychological topics.
Dion Gee has a Masters of Science degree from the University of Canterbury,
New Zealand, and a Doctor of Psychology degree in Forensic Psychology from
the University of Melbourne, Victoria. For the past 3 years, he has worked in
a medium/low-secure forensic mental health hospital in the United Kingdom.
His clinical work involves the assessment and treatment of individuals
detained under the Mental Health Act (1983); the majority of whom have
committed violent and/or sexual offenses. Clinical and research interests include
psychological profiling, risk assessment/management, assessment of and inter-
vention for sexual offenders, and offender rehabilitation within the Good-Lives
Fanny Gerard is a Masters graduate in psychology (with high distinction)
from the University of Liege in Belgium. Her research interests include the
study of sexual and sex-related homicides as well as the development of psycho-
logical techniques that may assist in the criminal investigation of these violent
David Gogan obtained his BA in Psychology from the University College
Dublin and his MA in Forensic Psychology from the University College Cork.
He is currently undertaking a PhD at the University College Dublin, studying
risk assessment in unconvicted perpetrators of sexual abuse as part of a cross-
border collaboration between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Helinä Häkkänen, PhD, is a forensic psychologist and Academy Research
Fellow at the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation. She is the group leader
of the Forensic Psychology Research Group at the Department of Psychology,
xviii Notes on Contributors
University of Helsinki, where she also holds an adjunct professorship. She has
published several scientific and general articles dealing with offender profiling
and violent crime issues. She has assisted the police in several arson, rape,
and homicide investigations and has lectured on offender profiling within the
university and the police administration in different countries. Her current
research interests include risk assessment, critical incident decision making,
personality and psychopathic features of violent offenders, violent re-offending,
and investigative interviewing.
James S. Herndon has a PhD in industrial/organizational psychology from Old
Dominion University and EdD in counseling psychology from the University of
Sarasota. He has been a police psychologist for 20 years. He served as the Staff
Psychologist for the Orange County (FL) Sheriff’s Office from 1992 to 2002.
Prior to that, he was the Executive Director of Police Psychological Services
of Hampton Roads, Virginia. He is a Past President of the Council of Police
Psychological Services (COPPS) and a Past President of the Society for Police
and Criminal Psychology (SPCP). He holds a diplomate in police psychology
from SPCP and is the Chair of the Diplomate Committee. He serves on the
editorial board of the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology. Additionally,
he holds diplomate status from the American College of Forensic Examiners.
He currently consults with law enforcement agencies on organizational and
operational issues and serves as an adjunct professor at four colleges and
universities in Florida.
Clive R. Hollin, PhD, alongside his various academic appointments at the
universities of East London, Birmingham, and Leicester has worked as a
psychologist in both the Prison Service and the Youth Treatment Service and
as a clinical scientist with Rampton Hospital Authority. In 1998, he was the
recipient of the Senior Award for distinguished contribution to the field of
legal, criminological, and forensic psychology presented by the Division of
Criminological and Legal Psychology of The British Psychological Society. He
is currently Head of the School of Psychology at The University of Leicester,
where he holds a personal chair as Professor of Criminological Psychology.
He has published over 200 academic papers and 17 books, including the text
Psychology and Crime: An Introduction to Criminological Psychology, and he
edits the academic journal Psychology, Crime, & Law.
Sandra Lambert received her MPhil in Criminology from Cambridge
University and worked for the Police Foundation and the Cambridge University
Institute of Criminology as a researcher for several years. She has also worked
as a research officer at the Home Office Police Research Group and as a
Notes on Contributors xix
criminal intelligence analyst for the Metropolitan Police. She is currently the
Head of Intelligence Analysis at Hampshire Constabulary.
Patrick Lussier, PhD, is an assistant professor in the School of Crimi-
nology at Simon Fraser University, Canada. He has been involved in research
and clinical activities at the Philippe Pinel Institute of Montreal, a maximum
security psychiatric institution. His research interests include the developmental
pathways of antisocial behavior and interpersonal violence, risk assessment of
sexual violence, and quantitative research methods.
Caroline B. Meyer finished Basel University Law School in Switzerland in
June 2001 (M. Law summa cum laude), after being editor of the University’s
Law Review for two years. From 2001 to 2004, she was employed as a scientific
research assistant at Basel University and as a tutor for students in private and
criminal law; published papers and book chapters. In 2003, she began her PhD
project on comparative law approach regarding personality and publicity rights
in North America, Germany and Switzerland. The same year, she was elected
by the government of Basel as chairwoman of the Dispute Resolution Tribunal
on Landlord and Tenant Law. In 2005 and 2006, she clerked at a well-known
law firm (where she is presently working again) and at the Criminal and the
Civil Court in Basel in preparation for the Swiss bar exam. Her thesis was
completed and submitted in March 2007. More information is available at
Laurent Montet, MSc, is a certified expert in the field of criminal profiling
and criminology as applied to the investigation of crime and operates as a
judiciary and/or private expert investigator within the French criminal justice
system. He is a co-ordinator of several criminology courses in various French
Universities and Police Academies and is the author of six French books
concerning the topics of criminal profiling; four of which were published by
the Presses Universitaires de France. He is the Director of the Institute of High
Studies in Criminology (IHECRIM) ( In 2002, he was
the co-organizer of the first scholarly international conference about criminal
profiling in France and founder of the first school of criminal analysis and
profiling in Paris.
Christian Mormont, PhD, is a psychologist from the University of Liège,
Belgium, where he teaches clinical psychology especially applied to sexual and
forensic fields. He and his collaborators are involved in the treatment of sexual
offenders. He is also Vice-President of the International Academy of Law and
Mental Health.
xx Notes on Contributors
Bryan Myers received his PhD in Experimental Psychology in 1998 from
Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. He is an associate professor of psychology at
the University of North Carolina Wilmington. His research interests are in law
and psychology and has published research on jury decision making in journals
such as Law and Human Behavior,Journal of Applied Social Psychology, and
Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. Since 1998, he has served as an associate
editor of the Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice.
Anne Marie R. Paclebar received her PsyD in Forensic Psychology in 2004
from the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International
University, Fresno, CA. She is a staff psychologist at Napa State Hospital,
Napa, CA. Although her interests lie mainly within the clinical aspects of her
work, her research interests include criminal profiling and serial sex crimes.
She has also published in the areas of serial sex crimes and paraphilias.
George B. Palermo graduated from the University of Bologna Medical
School, Bologna, Italy, and was trained in general medicine and psychiatry in
the United States. In 2004, he received a Master of Science Degree in Crimi-
nology from the University of Rome, La Sapienza. He is a Diplomate of the
American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Psychiatry and a Diplomate
of the American Board of Forensic Examiners and of Forensic Medicine. He
is presently Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology and the Medical
College of Wisconsin, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of
Nevada Medical School and Adjunct Professor of Criminology and Law Studies
at Marquette University in Milwaukee. He is a member of various national and
international psychiatric and criminological organizations, and he has published
numerous articles and books on forensic psychiatry and criminology. He is
the director of the Center for Forensic Psychiatry and Risk Assessment in
Milwaukee and in Henderson, Nevada.
Jean Proulx, PhD, is a professor and director of the School of Criminology
at the University of Montreal, Canada. From 1991 to 2005, he published more
than 60 papers or book chapters in the field of sexual aggression. His research
interests include the following: phallometric assessment, offending process
in child molesters, rapists, and sexual murderers, predictors of recidivism,
treatment compliance, and criminal career parameters in sexual aggressors. In
addition, since 1987, he has worked as a clinical psychologist at the Philippe
Pinel Institute of Montreal.
Jasper J. van der Kemp is a psychologist and is preparing a PhD dissertation
on geographical profiling. He has been working at the Netherlands Institute for
the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR) in Leiden, the Netherlands,
Notes on Contributors xxi
for some years and recently moved to the Department of Criminal Law and
Criminology of the Free University Amsterdam.
Peter J. van Koppen , PhD, is senior researcher at the Netherlands Institute for
the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR) at Leiden, The Netherlands,
Professor of Law and Psychology at the Department of Law of Maastricht
University, and Professor of Law and Psychology at the Department of Law of
the Free University Amsterdam. Formerly he has been Professor of Law and
Psychology at the Department of Law of Antwerp University, Belgium. He is
a psychologist. He studied law in Groningen, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam. He
now serves as President of the European Association for Psychology and Law.
His research encompasses the broad area of social science research in law.
Jessica Woodhams, MSc, is a lecturer in Forensic Psychology at the University
of Leicester. Prior to commencing her post at Leicester in 2002, she worked
as a crime analyst for the London Metropolitan Police, specializing in the
analysis of stranger sexual crime. Her major research topics reflect her previous
employment. She has conducted and continues to conduct applied research into
investigative techniques for sexual and non-sexual crimes, the behaviors of
offenders and victims during adult and juvenile sexual offenses, and the identi-
fication of false allegations. She has advised police forces on the development
of databases for linking crimes and local Youth Offending Teams working
with juvenile sexual offenders. She has written many research papers and book
chapters on her research topics and has presented her findings at both national
and international conferences.
Angelo Zappalà, MSc, is a forensic psychologist and crime analyst. He
graduated in clinical psychology from the University degli Studi di Torino in
1999. In 2002, he received his specialization (3 years) at the University of Milan
in clinical criminology. In 2003, he received his specialization (4 years) at the
Clinical Center (Centro Clinico Crocetta Torino) in cognitive psychotherapy.
He now teaches Italian investigative psychology and criminology in many
Italian universities such as the Università di Roma Sapienza. He is an honorary
Judge in the Surveillance Tribunal of Turin and works as a clinical psychologist
and expert witness.
Part I
Profiling Crimes
of Violence
Chapter 1
Homicidal Syndromes
A Clinical Psychiatric Perspective
George B. Palermo
After a brief review of pertinent sociological, neurological, and psychological theories of
crime, an overview of the various types of single and multiple homicides is presented. Anger
and uncontrolled destructive hostility are thought to be the basis of homicidal acting-out in all
Homicide, the taking of one or more human lives, is the worst manifes-
tation of interpersonal violence and often mirrors the personality of the offender.
Great passion and emotions are frequently behind the act of murder. Holmes
and Holmes summarized well the personality of the violent offender as the
“result of a special combination of factors that include biological inheritance,
culture, and environment as well as common and unique experiences. Because
of this unique combination, the violent personal offender will commit crimes
as an outgrowth of an existing pathological condition” (1, p. 46).
Homicide, from the Latin homicidium, is a term composed of homo,
meaning “man,” and cidium derived from the verb caedo, meaning “to cut” or
“to kill.” From a legal point of view, there is a difference between homicide
and murder: homicide is defined as “the killing of one human being by
another,” whereas murder is “the crime of unlawfully killing a person, especially
From: Criminal Profiling: International Theory, Research, and Practice
Edited by: R. N. Kocsis © Humana Press Inc., Totowa, NJ
4 G.B. Palermo
with malice aforethought.” (2) There are various types of homicide, including
intentional homicide, manslaughter, reckless/negligent homicide, felony and
suspected felony homicide, argument-motivated homicide, and homicide due
to unknown motives. Homicide may be further differentiated into single
or multiple homicides. Examples of single homicides are parricide, spousal
homicide, jealous paranoia homicide, filicide, matricide, patricide, and drive-by
shootings. Multiple murders are classified as mass murder, spree murder, and
serial murder.
From an epidemiological point of view, we encounter social periods with
varying levels of homicide. These fluctuations are the result of different factors.
One can safely say, however, that the frequency of homicide generally reflects
not only the character of the person who commits the homicide but also the
moral and socioeconomic status of the society in which he or she lives.
From a historical point of view, homicide is part of humankind. It is
ubiquitous and has been reported since earliest recorded history. Although
initially it may have been a means of protecting one’s property or of providing
food for one’s family, over time it has become a predatory means of carrying
out vengeance at all social levels (e.g., Cain’s killing of Abel or present-day
kidnappings and killings for political reasons). Great writers, such as Dante,
Shakespeare, and Dostoyevsky, have rendered immortal famous and infamous
homicidal acts in their works (3).
In an attempt to reach a better understanding of such destructive types
of behavior, various theories have been proposed to examine factors thought
to be at the basis of homicidal violence and violence in general: sociological
theories, neurobiological theories, and psychological theories. Thus, as can be
seen, the approach is a multifactorial one.
Sociological theories that have attempted an interpretation of homicidal
violence are many, including those of Lorenz (4), Sutherland (5), Durkheim (6),
Merton (7), Reik (8), and Glueck and Glueck (9). Wolfgang and Ferracuti (10)
asserted that homicidal tendencies belonged to the so-called subculture of
violence. They claimed that this behavior is typical of urban ghettos, a mixture
of learned violence and social rebellion against blocked opportunities and the
inability to obtain occupations commensurate with their skills. Others, such as
Foucault, Rousseau, and Marcuse, viewed violence as the consequence of a
social vacuum (3).
Homicide is more frequent in large and medium-sized cities, where
stress may, at times, cause people to give vent to violent homicidal impulses,
especially when the individual is in a state of disinhibition because of drugs
Homicidal Syndromes 5
or alcohol. Merton’s strain theory of violent aggression can well explain such
behaviors (7).
Homicide is present at all levels of society. It seems, however, that there
is an inverse rapport between social status and homicidal tendencies. Scholars
have found that individuals at risk of committing, or who have committed,
homicide are likely to be members of socially dysfunctional families, live in
substandard economic conditions, and tend to use drugs and alcohol and to
behave antisocially. These persons are socially dysfunctional and are subject
to social emargination (3,11).
Other factors contributing to homicide, frequently found among the
violent/antisocial group, are poor school achievement, lack of specific skills,
and lack of steady employment. Langevin and Handy (12), in a 1987 study,
found that perpetrators of homicide are frequently unmarried (50% less than
the general population). Daly and Wilson, analyzing the relationship between
homicide and family (intimate homicide), noted that the homicidal offender
usually does not kill consanguineous family members, but their homicidal fury is
more likely to be directed at acquired relatives, such as a spouse or in-laws (13).
In the 1970s, Abraham Maslow (14) proposed a theory of basic needs—
what he believed to be fundamental for each individual to achieve social
maturity. They include physiological needs (hunger, thirst, sleep, etc.), personal
security, affection/love and self-esteem, and a chance to achieve the highest
level of social maturation possible for the individual in a progressive fashion.
If one believes that the satisfaction of the above needs is necessary for good
social development, one can argue that frustration at any of those levels may
lead to antisocial behaviors, one of which may be homicide. In other words,
Maslow’s theory may also be applied to explain cases of homicidal violence.
Personal space is often equated with a sense of security. Lorenz (4)
and Ardrey (15) found that even the primate subjects of their experiments
cherished their own shelter and tended to fight away unwelcome strangers.
We all recognize the importance of adequate space when in an overcrowded
situation. That space may be a room, a house, or even a nation. Wars have
been fought claiming the necessity for space. However, limiting the discussion
to the overcrowding of a home, or even a jail cell, there can be no doubt
that it may be an incentive for arguments and physical struggle, often with
deleterious consequences. Correctional institution management is quite aware of
the so-called vital space, and some US federal judges have ruled that prisoners
need 60 square feet of cell space (16).
Sociological theories have taken into consideration economic and social
opportunities when trying to explain the rise and fall of homicidal violence. In
fact, microlevel interpersonal dynamics may be influenced by macrolevel social
dynamics. The latter factor may include blocked opportunities, the consequence
6 G.B. Palermo
of economic frustration, and/or the unequal distribution of economic possibil-
ities and their restrictive realization. Only rarely expressed socially, this type
of homicidal violence is frequently acted out in the domesticity of a person’s
home, and the victims are well known to him or her. Exceptions to this are
found in those adolescent violent crimes in which the victims are strangers—in
some mass murders, in sexual killings, and even more so in serial killing.
Messner (17) subscribed to the possibility that economic inequality is
positively related to the societal level of homicide. Durkheim (18) asserted that
as a society becomes larger, it becomes progressively more heterogenous and
differentiated, and instead of benefiting from competitive individuals or group
contributions, this may lead to an apathetic stance and anomie. It is such a state
of anomie that breeds homicide.
Chamlin and Cochrane, subscribing to the ideas of Messner, are of the
opinion that “ascribed economic inequality undermines the legitimacy of the
social order…[and society] simultaneously loses its moral authority and thereby
the capacity to regulate the behavior of [its] members…[and] will be positively
related to homicide rates…” (19, p. 22). Although it should be recognized that
ascribed/illegitimate economic inequality may undermine the moral authority
of a conventional society, as proposed by Chamlin and Cochrane, this author
believes that it is only partially and indirectly responsible for the fluctuation in
the rates of homicide.
Both social and psychological factors contribute to homicidal aggression.
Bergson recognized this when stating that society may exert a constraint on
violent people, he rightly added, “For society to exist at all, the individual
must bring with it a whole group of inborn tendencies; society, therefore, is not
self explanatory, so we must search below the social accretion” (20, p. 270).
Below that social accretion, there are people with their individuality who remain
unknown in their totality because of the complexity of their nature.
From Lombroso’s long-outdated theory of the born criminal to the more
recent dyscontrol theory of Menninger, the act of murder, short of those cases in
which there is premeditation, organization, and clear planning, is viewed today
as the outcome of an individual’s disorganization and his or her incapacity to
control basic dangerous impulses, internal or external (21,22).
Neurobiological theories attempt to explain homicidal violence as the
result of neurohumoral dysfunction at the level of the brain, with the
involvement of the amygdalae, the hippocampus, the hypothalamic nuclei,
especially the preoptic area, and also the prefrontal lobes (23). Investigative
Homicidal Syndromes 7
biology has pointed out the involvement of above brain areas in the homicidal
syndrome, including also the limbic system and the mid-temporal region, which
are the sites of emotional trigger zones. The controlling influence for emotional
reaction resides in the prefrontal cortex, which exercises cognitive control and
regulation of affect. Early damage to the fronto-orbital cortex is frequently
associated with behavioral and affective changes. In addition, the dysfunction
of several neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine, dopamine, and serotonin
at brain level, may predispose an individual to uncontrolled violence. It is
well-known that the above dysfunctions are contemporaneous to electrical
discharges, especially in the limbic system. The violent individual may also
possess a personal predisposition to a destructive type of behavior when exposed
to or under the effect of negative environmental noxae.
Prefrontal lobe dysfunction is not infrequent in the homicidal person.
Usually, these offenders show impulsivity, lack of control, an inability to
modify or control their tendency to antisocial behavior, poor objectivity, poor
discriminative capacity, and a lack of appreciation of the consequences of their
actions or an inability to properly assess the situation with which they are
confronted. At times, like “good” psychopaths, they place themselves above the
law. Alcohol, cocaine, ecstasy (recently), and the large group of opioids may act
as co-factors in precipitating their often-destructive violence by disinhibiting
Violent people show typical personality traits. Those traits are more
marked in persons at risk for homicidal violence. They include egocen-
trism, impulsivity, narcissism, obsessive compulsion, paranoia, sadism, aggres-
siveness, ambivalence, and emotional lability. These traits frequently form
patterns of personality disorders found in homicidal offenders. They are frequent
contributors to homicidal aggression and are probably determinant in many
cases of such aggression because, in the last analysis, people are assumed to be
free to exercise their will and, unless psychologically deranged, are responsible
for their decisions.
James (24), more than a century ago, wrote that human behavior can
be explained by understanding humankind’s instinctive tendencies. Freud (25)
elaborated on the role that emotions and feelings play in the genesis of hostility
in human destructive aggression.He recognized that a libidinal force is present
in all human beings, and just as that force may drive one to achieve good
goals, it may equally direct one to destructive aggression, including homicide,
8 G.B. Palermo
by overcoming the control of the superego and the ego and allowing basic
negative emotions to be expressed in all their fury.
The most common emotion behind any violent criminal act, and particu-
larly in cases of homicide, is anger. Anger promotes aggressive feelings, and
the quality and intensity of the aggression bring about the violence. Many
cases of homicidal aggression are reactive because of impulsivity. Frustration
and fear and a general behavioral immaturity are often found in those who
kill. These are the characteristics found in the majority of homicidal people,
people who are thought to be normal in their daily behavior but, because of
their inner conflicts, are like time bombs. They suddenly explode, and their
destructive fury kills both those known and those unknown to them—intimates
and strangers. Rarely do the mentally ill kill others, and when they occasionally
do so, they are generally under the influence of delusions or hallucinations.
In a 25-year longitudinal study of homicide and of the relationship
between homicide and major mental disorders, Schanda and colleagues (26)
found that such disorders were associated with an increased likelihood of
homicide, especially in males and females suffering from schizophrenia and in
males suffering from a delusional disorder. They also found that the increased
likelihood of homicide in people suffering from major mental disorders cannot
be fully explained by comorbid alcoholism.
The United States has the highest number of homicides among developed
countries. However, statistics reveal that it is a rare occurrence: only one-
tenth of 1% of the index crimes in 2002 and 1.1% of violent crimes (27).
During the same period, 14 of every 10,000 arrests were for homicide, and
the clearance rate for homicide was 64% (28). The homicide ratio was 5.6
per 100,000 inhabitants. Victims reportedly knew their assailant in 43% of the
cases. The victims of homicide are almost evenly divided between Whites and
non-Whites; 77% are male and 88% are adults. In 2002, Blacks were six times
more likely to be murdered than Whites (29). Stranger homicides are more
likely to crossracial lines than those that involve friends or acquaintances (30).
In 2002, an analysis of single homicides found that Blacks were seven
times more likely than Whites to commit homicide. To be more specific,
52.1% of all homicides were committed by Blacks, 45.9% by Whites, and
2% by others. Blacks were approximately 12% of the population at the time.
Fox and Levin (31) found that homicides committed by Blacks are drug
related in two-thirds (66.7%) of the cases and are workplace related in almost
one-third (27.2%).
Homicidal Syndromes 9
The total number of US homicides dramatically decreased from the 23,040
level of the mid-1980s to 15,151 of 2004 (32). However, the homicide rate
jumped 2.1% during the first 6 months of 2005, and it is possible tha