Serial killers will often have a victim type.
In other words, they will sometimes fantasize about attacking a specific type of person.
For example, Offender A might target young brunettes, while Offender B might not care as much about hair color. Instead, he might only care about age.
All in all, it depends on the killer and his fantasy.
They won’t always target their exact victim type.
It is difficult for us to understand serial killers because most of us cannot grasp why they think the way that they do.
So let’s take a look at the following analogy.
You have been craving pizza all afternoon.
Dinner time is approaching and you are starting to feel peckish.
After work, you drive into town looking for a pizza diner, only to discover that your favorite place is not open.
“Damn it!”, you think to yourself. “I completely forgot that they are shut on Mondays.”
You drive off and continue to search for a place that sells pizza. Now, you are willing to settle for any pizza place.
However, time passes by and you are unable to find anywhere suitable. It is now getting late and your stomach is beginning to growl.
It feels like you have been driving around for ages.
At this stage, you have a choice. You can either settle for something else or you can continue to go hungry and hope that you finally find a place that sells pizza.
The choice is yours, but the longer you leave it, the more likely it is that you will eventually give up and pick something else.
Serial killers have an urge to kill.
Serial killers often have an urge to act out their violent fantasies. This urge can become stronger and stronger over time.
To the offender, it can feel like an addiction.
As the weeks and months pass by, this impulse will continue to build up inside of him. Then, one day, the offender will decide that he wants to act on it.
The killer goes searching.
At this point, the offender will begin to search around for a victim. This is known as the Trolling Phase. He may drive around streets, scope out local parks or hang out in bars.
Essentially, he is on the “hunt” for his type.
However, this does not mean that he will always be able get what he wants.
For example, he might drive by his exact type and see that she is with a group of people. Or perhaps there are just too many witnesses around.
Either way, he knows that he is unable to get to her without being caught or identified, so he decides to move on.
The following week, he comes across a woman who is pretty similar to his type. Her hair is a little shorter than what he typically goes for, but on the whole, he still finds her desirable.
The killer follows the woman for a bit, hoping for some sort of opportunity. However, in this case, the woman in question gets into a parked car and then drives away.
Three days later, the offender sees a woman walking through a local park by herself. She is a bit older than his usual type and her hair is a different color. However, he still decides to follow her from afar, just to see where she goes.
At this stage, if his urges are strong enough, the killer may decide to compromise. In other words, it is possible that he will “step outside” of his regular target group. Especially if the opportunity presents itself.
According to the FBI, serial killers will select victims that are available, vulnerable and desirable.
As you can see, “desire” is just one part of the equation. This means that they may compromise and target a different victim type if the opportunity presents itself.
A serial killer whose usual type is blonde women may target a brunette if he sees that she is by herself and easy to reach.
If you go back to our food analogy, this is like someone offering you tacos. You have been craving pizza all day but the tacos are right there in front of you.
As a result, you must now make a decision. You can take the easy route and eat the tacos or you can politely decline the offer and stick to your original plan of driving into town to buy pizza.
As you can imagine, your decision will be based on a number of different factors. Hunger, laziness and how much you like tacos will all play a role.
The main point to remember here is that humans beings are complex. We are constantly weighing up decisions in our heads.
We hum and haw, we backtrack and we also end up making decisions that we regret. Factors such as alcohol, drugs and our general state of mind also come into play.
Therefore, it is wrong to believe that a serial killer will always religiously stick to his desired victim type.
Why did Ted Bundy kill a kid?
Ted Bundy had a specific type of victim. Typically, he liked to target young brunette women in their early 20s and late teens.
However, he also murdered two 12-year-old girls.
- In May of 1975, Bundy abducted and killed 12-year-old Lynette Dawn Culver in Pocatello, Idaho.
- Then, nearly three years later, in February of 1978, he also abducted 12-year-old Kimberly Dianne Leach from her school in Lake City, Florida.
Age wasn’t the only thing that Bundy was willing to “bend” on. In April of 1974, he murdered 18-year-old Susan Elaine Rancourt, who had blonde hair.
Ted Bundy was a notorious serial killer who is well known for having a pretty specific victim type. Yet we know that he was willing to change from this victim type on a number of occasions.
The most likely explanation here is that Bundy simply saw an opportunity and went with it. He saw that the girls in question were vulnerable and accessible and his urges took over.
Furthermore, we also know that he was drinking heavily at the time. This would have undoubtedly impacted his decisions and lowered his inhibitions.
Another example is the Genesee River Killer, Arthur Shawcross.
Shawcross typically targeted white female sex workers in their 20s and early 30s. However, he did not stick to this type at all times.
He also murdered:
- A 10-year-old boy called Jack Blake.
- An 8-year-old girl called Karen Ann Hill.
- A 59-year-old homeless woman called Dorothy Keeler, whom he had a sexual relationship with.
- A black sex worker called Felicia Stephens.
If we were to try and group Shawcross’ murders by “target type” alone, then we would almost certainly omit the four victims above.
We should never over-rely on the victim target type when connecting murders.
TV shows and movies will sometimes portray serial killers as smart and disciplined men who will rigidly stick to a certain type of victim. However, we know that this isn’t always the case.
There are numerous examples of killers who targeted a wide range of victims. For many of them, things such as hair color, age and race simply did not matter.
And even in the case of Ted Bundy, who did have a very obvious type, he was more than willing to stray outside of his preference whenever it suited him.
Consequently, we should never over-rely on the victim target type when connecting murders.
Other articles about serial killers.
- Serial killers and their star signs.
- Myths about serial killers.
- The comfort zone of a serial killer.