Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Obscure Streetwalker Strangler

Murderers Anonymous

One Kansas City newsman suggested to the Crime Library that the Gilyard case was doomed to obscurity elsewhere in America because the national press is overly attentive to events on either coast, to the detriment of news from Middle America. Ray Surette, a professor of criminology at the University of Central Florida, agreed that the Midwest location of the murder spree and the low social status of the prostitutes were factors in the story's low profile.

Lorenzo Gilyard, 2001
Lorenzo Gilyard, 2001

But Surette also agreed with retired professor Carroll's assertion that the country is verging on serial killer overload.

Ray Surette
Ray Surette

"A serial killer who murders five people today is competing with all the serial killers paraded across the media over the past generation," he told the Crime Library. "Unless there's an additional newsworthy factor—a celebrity connection, a particular gruesomeness, an unusual occupation of the killer, an ideal victim—they are not going to generate the coverage that they might have a generation ago when there was less serial-killer competition."

He said real-world killers also compete for the media and public attention foisted upon cinematic homicidal maniacs.

Said Surette, "Unless you happen to be on the menu, doesn't Hannibal Lecter  seem like a more witty and urbane person to have dinner with than a run-of-the-mill killer from Kansas City?"

Surette scrutinized murder coverage for his book Media, Crime and Criminal Justice: Images, Realities and Policies.

Book Cover: Media, Crime and Criminal Justice: Images, Realities and Policies
Book Cover: Media, Crime and Criminal Justice: Images, Realities and Policies

"There used to be a clear correlation between the number of victims and the amount of coverage," he said. "But it takes more than just a head count these days to get into the news. It's no longer as simple as weighing five victims vs. 15 victims...You have to do something more dramatic and violent than some other guy did last year to get the equivalent amount of coverage."

And what, Surette was asked, would be the perfect murder to attract optimal attention?

"If Madonna kills someone and the whole thing is captured on videotape so we can put in on TV and post it on the Internet," said Surette.

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