Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Hollow Men: Why Serial Murderers Must Kill To Feel

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All sexual crime is driven by fantasy Stayner, the accused Yosemite killer, told a reporter he'd been dreaming of killing women for 30 years, since he was 7 and because no two serial killers share exactly the same murder fantasy, possession means something different to each of them, too.

Bundy, for example, desired a lifeless female form comatose or dead. Just before his 1989 execution, he admitted to police detectives that he kept some of his victims in such a state for hours or days before disposing of them. Various of his 30 or so victims were buried in shallow woodland graves, where he sometimes revisited them. One who was found frozen in the mountains of Utah appeared to have received a post-mortem shampoo. Another was given a fresh application of make-up before Bundy discarded her body. "If you've got time, they can be anyone you want them to be," he later told FBI agent Bill Hagmaier, who came to know Bundy intimately while interviewing him in the 1980s.

Bundy explained to the agent that "murder isn't just a crime of lust or violence. It becomes possession. They are part of you ... You feel the last bit of breath leaving their bodies ... You're looking into their eyes ... A person in that situation is God!"

Bundy even photographed his victims and kept a stash of their skulls in his Seattle apartment. "When you work hard to do something right," he said, "you don't want to forget it."

For Mike DeBardeleben, a sexual sadist who is spending the balance of his days in federal prison for crimes as various as counterfeiting and rape-abduction, possession meant a live victim, suffering under his control. "There is no greater power over another person than that of inflicting pain on her," DeBardeleben wrote in his private journal. "To force her to undergo suffering without her being able to defend herself. The pleasure in the constant domination over another person is the very essence of the sadistic drive."

John Wayne Gacy asserted total command of his young male victims by burying most of them directly under his house. They literally were arrayed beneath his feet.

Jeffrey Dahmer went so far as to physically consume his victims complete possession, total annihilation as did California serial killer Edmund Kemper, who sliced a bit of one girl's leg into a macaroni casserole.

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