Serial Killer Law & Legal Definition


Serial killer is a term describing a type of killer who kills a number of people over a long period of time. They ar generally male and motivated by a variety of psychological urges, primarily power. The United States Bureau of Justice Statistics defines a serial killing as: "[involving] the killing of several victims in three or more separate events." They are distinguished from spree killers in that they have rest periods between killings.

Serial killers have been shown to have certain traits early on that may be warning signs, including:

  • Firestarting, invariably just for the thrill of destroying things
  • Cruelty to Animals. Most children can be cruel to animals, such as pulling the legs off of spiders, but future serial killers often kill larger animals, like dogs and cats, and frequently for their solitary enjoyment rather than to impress peers
  • Bedwetting beyond the age when children normally grow out of such behavior