Serial murder: Definition and typology

John H. White, David Lester, Matthew Gentile, Scott Jespersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Serial murderers invariably capture the public's attention, perhaps because this form of murder is the least understood of all types of killing. There are many types of serial murderers, differing in motivation or crime scene behaviors, and various typologies have been offered in the literature to better understand the serial murderer. From the present study of 200 worldwide serial murderers from 1900 to the present, distinct behaviors at crime scenes emerged that appear to fit nine specific categories. These categories are: 1) sexual, non-paraphilic and non-sadistic; 2) paraphilic, non-sadistic; 3) sexually sadistic; 4) delusional; 5) hate-oriented; 6) thrill; 7) caretakers (attention seekers and altruistic); 8) cult-oriented; and 9) instrumental. This new typology is more comprehensive than those previously proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-37
Number of pages21
JournalAmerican Journal of Forensic Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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