I’m pulling all the goodness from Sean Mactire’s book, Malicious Intent: A Writer’s Guide to How Murderers, Robbers, Rapists, and Other Criminal Think, in an effort to help other writers create believable bad guys. Today’s post might not be very helpful in that arena, but it’s sure interesting. I’m talking about the numbers, the stats, the social structure of your basic serial killer.
The media stereotype serial killers as obsessed loners. It’s true. Eighty-seven percent of serial killers are loners. Just think of Ted Bundy or Son of Sam. Ten percent hunt in pairs or packs. The media calls them “social killers.” Three percent are unknown and may vary their pattern, making them hard to stuff into a category. When you look at these numbers, you can see that it’s more likely for your fictional killer to be a loner, but he doesn’t have to be. You can create a believable “team” of killers. Check out these numbers:
Of the social killers, fifty-nine percent are composed of men acting in groups that range from two-man pairs to gangs of dozens or more. This includes Dean Corll, who hired other people to procure victims for him. The Hillside Stranglers were a two-man team. Charles Manson had a whole cult to himself. You can go wild with your antagonists, having as many as you want. Just keep in mind that there’s always a leader, the one who dominates the team/group, and the more bad guys you put in the group, the higher the likelihood of them turning on each other. After all, they are immature sociopaths with impulse control problems.
Twenty-three percent of social killers are male/female couples, and eighteen percent are mixed groupings of various sizes. Douglas Clark and Carol Bundy killed several prostitutes together. Alton Coleman and Debra Brown murdered, raped, and robbed over a five-state area in 1984. The thing that makes these male/female groups so horrifying is that many people think women are incapable of these heinous crimes. Sorry to burst your bubble: women can be just as sinful and twisted as men. But readers still picture a male in the role of bad guy, so you can insert some serious twists by having your bad guy end up being a bad girl.
Only two percent of the loner killers are female. They seem to be harder to catch, as the sexual bias that blinds most people to the idea that women are capable of these crimes also extends to law enforcement professionals. Keep this number in mind. If you go crazy and put two female killers in your book, and they’re not working together, that’d be an extremely rare case and might not be believable.
Those are the stats, according to Mactire. Hopefully you can find a use for them.
For what it’s worth,