Serial killer white-out

Serial killer white-out

I have seen many more virtues than flaws among the people who have come to this blog over the last 30 months to make themselves or their views known.  I quite picture the typical MR reader as a clear-eyed and iron-willed son-of-a-gun, exactly the kind one would want at one’s side when trouble comes calling.  And the male readers seem pretty tough too.

One of the latter is “GT”.  He is American, and has commented occasionally under more than one handle, and I honestly don’t know which he is using at present – if any.  So I have christened him anew for the purposes of this guest-post.

GT describes himself as a practical man running a pretty physical kind of business.  But I happen to know he is also a creative thinker, and there is an outside chance that some of that thinking might bear interesting fruit in the longer-term.

Meanwhile, GT has found the time to collate some reports on the phenomenon of serial killings.  In part at least, his motivation springs from the words of Philip Jenkins, the writer of a 1994 book, Using Murder: the social construction of serial homicide.  In the section titled African Americans and Serial Homicide (pages 171-172) Jenkins informs us that:-

It is notable that Blacks have not featured as villains in the slasher or psycho films of the last few years.  Presumably, filmmakers do not wish to have their work categorized as exclusively of black interest, while they are also anxious to avoid being accused of depicting crude or controversial racial stereotypes.

This last element may also help to explain why criminal case studies have not included the stories of figures like Jarvis Catoe in the 1940s or Coral Watts in the 1980s.  In the context of the mid-century, it might well have been thought inappropriate or tasteless to focus on the acts of black offenders.  If unduly sensationalized, these events could have given ammunition to racists and segregationists anxious to justify their opinions about black violence and criminality.

Here is GT’s riposte.  It is not a justification.  It is an explanation.

One point to bear in mind, but which GT does not mention: treat usage of the term “white” with some caution.  It doesn’t always mean European Caucasian.


Serial killer white-out

One of the little blessings of civil rights and the fight against evil white racism has been an explosion in serial killings.


Note why Marxists and feminists include in their databases serial murderers from as long ago, in some cases as far back as 1800.  They are interested in inflating the number of white males relative, of course, to Africans.  Real life, however, is not that easy to ignore.

An Anatomy of Serial Murder
Fox 2004

Notwithstanding these cautions, Figure 3.1 displays counts of serial killers, partnerships, and teams each year since the beginning of the 20th century, using the midpoint of a killer’s career as a reference point.  That is, for example, Theodore Bundy, whose murders spanned the years 1974 to 1978, having a career midpoint of 1976, is counted in the 1970s. Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, who was at large from 1978 to 1996, had a career midpoint of 1987 and thus is included among killers of the 1980s, even though he operated both before and after this decade.

The trend is relatively flat for the first half of the century, hovering around 10 serial killers per decade. The pattern emerging in the second half of the century is radically different. In the 1960s, the number of killers or killing teams reached nearly 40.  Remarkably, over the course of the next two decades, the 1970s and 1980s, the number of killers or partnerships quadrupled, surpassing the 150 mark in the 1980s.

Although rapid growth into the 1980s clearly suggests significant shifts in the prevalence of serial murder, these results are vulnerable, at least in part, to alternative explanations related to changes in data accessibility and quality of record keeping.  As interest in serial murder increased, so did the likelihood that case histories would be published in some fashion.  Additionally, as law enforcement became better equipped to identify linkages between victims slain by the same killer or killers, the detection of serial crimes and criminals became more likely.  Notwithstanding these concerns, the trend in serial killings into the 1980s is quite consistent with a more general rise in violent crime, including homicide, as well as in resident population, strongly suggesting that the rise in serial murder is more than just an artifact of increased reporting and improved detection.

Now see why the FBI’s Behavioral Unit in Quantico, VA, falsely profiles serial killers as white males:-

Forensic psychaitrists will address limitations regarding FBI profiles of serial killers

UC Davis Health System
October 27, 2006

When the FBI develops profiles of serial killers, Scott said the bureau is relying on interviews its investigators have conducted with 36 convicted sexual or serial murderers.  Scott said a shortcoming with the database is that it does not include a single female serial killer.  Consequently, its applicability to someone like Wuornos, portrayed in the 2003 movie “Monster” by Charlize Theron, “just isn’t there,” Scott said.

“The database’s relevance to non-Caucasian serial killers is also lacking, Scott said, as 90 percent of the men interviewed were white.  It also doesn’t explain a “very rare subset — children who serially kill,” Scott said.  Probably the most well-known in this category, Scott said, is Jesse Pomeroy, a Massachusetts boy who, in the 1870s, brutalized other boys when he was only 12 and who killed a 10-year-old girl when he was 14.

So, is the false profiling of white males intentional?  Could be!  Editor John E. Ott of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin and D. KIM ROSSMO, Ph.D., author of article Criminal Investigative Failures Avoiding the Pitfalls (Part Two), are clearly aware of the fact that African-Americans are disproportionately represented among serial killers:-

FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
October 2006
Volume 75
Number 10
Editor John E. Ott

A lack of understanding of base rates can lead to misinterpreting research findings and forensic results.4 Consider the oft-quoted fact, “Serial killers are usually white males.” While technically correct, at least for the United States, this statement is incomplete.  To understand it properly, the relevant base rates also must be considered.  Three different studies of serial murderers found black offender proportions of 16, 20, and 20 percent, and female offender proportions of 9, 10, and 16 percent.  According to the 2000 census, the U.S. population is 75 percent white and 49 percent male.  So, while disproportionately male, the only reason most serial killers in the United States are white is because most of the population is white. More important, all else being equal, serial killers are less likely to be white in predominantly black or Hispanic areas.

Now, let’s take a look some studies.  Pay particular attention to the dates of the data included in each study’s database and its affect on the percentage of African-American serial killers:-

Serial Murderers and Their Victims
Eric Hickey
Wadsworth Publishing 1996

With a database of serial killers from the 1790s to the 1980s compiled in 1991, Hickey found 13% of known cases were African-American.

In another study Hickey was a very, very, very naughty boy.  With the decade of the 1790s removed and data from the entire 1980s through 1995 included, please note the sharp upsurge in black serial killers:-

With a database of 399 serial killers from 1800 to 1995, Hickey found:

(1) 20% of the killers were black.
(2) 17% were women.

And here’s more:-

Century of Slaughter 1992
Michael Newton

With a database of 800 serial killers from the 20th century, Newton found 16% of cases were African-American

And more:-

Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder
James Alan Fox and Jack Levin
Crime and Justice, Vol. 23, 1998 (1998), pp. 407-455
Sage Publications 2005

With a database of 558 offenders operating in the United States since 1900, Fox and Levin found:

(1) 86% of the killers are male.
(2) 82% are white.
(3) 15% are black.
(4) 4% are Hispanic.

Nowhere’s the study that more or less proves my point.  Introducing Anthony Walsh, whose research covers a 58-year period from 1945 to 2004:-

African Americans and Serial Killing in the Media: The Myth and the Reality
Anthony Walsh
Boise State University
Homicide Studies, Vol. 9, No. 4, 271-291 (2005)
DOI: 10.1177/1088767905280080
© 2005 SAGE Publications

There were many expressions of shock and surprise voiced in the media in 2002 when the “D.C. Sniper” turned out to be two Black males.  Two of the stereotypes surrounding serial killers are that they are almost always White males and that African American males are barely represented in their ranks.  In a sample of 413 serial killers operating in the United States from 1945 to mid-2004, it was found that 90 were African American. Relative to the African American proportion of the population across that time period, African Americans were overrepresented in the ranks of serial killers by a factor of about 2. Possible reasons why so few African American serial killers are known to the public are explored.

In another abstract referring to Walsh’s work the same database from the past 58-years suggests that the breakdown of African-American serial killers is 21-22% and provides safe, conservative-lite reasons for the continuation of the White male stereotype as well as detrimental societal effects:-

The major source of information on serial killers was the encyclopedias of serial killers written by Newton (1990, 1992, and 2000) and by Wilson and Seaman (1983, 1990), as well as the works of other authors. Newspaper and Internet sources were used for cases that occurred after 1999.  The study identified 90 African-American serial killers and 323 White-American serial killers within the time frame of the study. African-Americans were represented among serial killers at a rate approximately twice their average percentage in the population (approximately 10.5 percent) across the 58-year time frame.  Why, then, does the media limit its coverage of African-American serial killers?

In answering this question, this study suggests that the media’s fear of racism accusations constrains its coverage of heinous crimes committed by Africa-Americans, compared with the zealousness of its coverage of such crimes committed by Whites. Also, African-American serial killers may have been more hidden from the mainstream culture when their victims were other African-Americans, particularly in the early 20th century. Criminological studies of serial killers also neglect to point out Black overrepresentation in crimes generally considered a White domain. The myth that serial killers are rarely African-Americans has had two detrimental effects. First, Whites tend to argue that Blacks are not sufficiently psychologically complex or intelligent to commit a series of murders without being caught. Second, police tend to neglect the protection of potential victims of serial killers in African-American communities.

Last we have Philip Jenkins of Pennsylvania State University, who quickly puts to rest the myth that serial killers are white males and provides a list Black killers you may not have known anything about:-

African-Americans and Serial Homicide
Philip Jenkins
Pennsylvania State University
“[…] in the mid twentieth century, black offenders were among those claiming the largest number of victims. During the 1930’s and 1940’s, there was a group of such cases including Jarvis Catoe, Jake Bird, and Clarence Hill, all of which can be described as fitting the classic stereotypes of serial murder {Jenkins 1989, 1994}.”

Cases of Extreme Serial Homicide (8 or more victims) by African-Americans:-

Nathaniel R. Code Louisiana 1984-1987
Alton Coleman and Debra Brown Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois 1984
Carlton Gary Georgia 1970-1978
Kevin Haley and Reginald Haley Southern California 1979-1984
Calvin Jackson New York 1973-1974
Milton Johnson Illinois 1983
Devernon LeGrand New York 1968-1975
Michael Player (Marcus Nisby) Southern California 1986
Freeway Phantom? Washington D.C. 1971-1972
Southside Slayer Southern California 1983-198

Important points to remember

1. Marxist and feminist professors continually pick at the FBI’s definition of “serial killer.” They are uncomfortable with the fact that no matter how it’s defined African-Americans are disproportionately represented among offenders. These slightly different definitions could explain the variance of 13-22% in African offenders found in my survey.

2. Here’s another reason for the variance. Many databases from which the racial breakdowns are derived contain data from 1800 to the present. Others go back to 1900. In either case Africans were segregated from American society and among them serial killings – if any – were not reported.  Depending on how far back a researcher goes, this would lower the African-American percentage of known offenders.

3. With the exception of Fox and Levin’s findings of Hispanic offenders at 4%, all studies in my limited survey seemed to include Jews, Arabs, Mestizos, Mexican Indians, and other forms of mystery meat in the ‘white’ category.

4. The FBI is fully aware of the disproportionate representation of African offenders among serial killers.

Thank you and enjoy!

One thought on “Serial killer white-out

  1. Pingback: Looking Glass - Good Books To Read Reviews

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