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Here are the terrifying ways serial killers avoid getting caught

Seven horrifying tactics serial killers employ to avoid capture.



Credit: Getty Images

For most of us, the idea of death is terrifying. Still, we read up on murder like crazy, eagerly devouring documentaries like Making A Murderer and Forensic Files.

And of course, we look up news on serial killers, fascinated by how they kill over and over. We’re shocked that it’s possible to commit such horrific crimes without anyone suspecting.

Chances are, you’ve done plenty of research on serial killers. One of the fascinating things you’ll learn about these murderers is how they avoid capture for so long.

The Mind of A Serial Killer

Before we begin, let’s breakdown, just for a moment, the four types of serial killers: visionary, missionary, hedonistic, and power or control.

The first type, visionary is associated with psychotic disorders. Meanwhile, the power/control killers are usually motivated by hypersexuality or narcissistic fantasies. The other two: hedonistic is linked to abnormal levels of sadism, fearlessness, lust, and thrill; missionary killers have a passive-aggressiveness for social or religious incentives.

Serial killers have long been synonymous with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), in addition to sociopathy or psychopathy — with psychopaths falling into either four dimensions: F1 – interpersonal, F2 – impulsive lifestyle, F3 – affective or F4 – antisocial tendencies.

Although the exact cause of psychopathy is unknown, environmental, genetic and neuroanatomy factors may play a responsibility for the development of the illness. Additionally, reductions in the prefrontal cortex grey matter are also perceived by researchers to be of particular interest. The MacDonald Triad (or homicidal triad) has also been utilized to predict anti-social behavior initiated by repeat offenders.

When examining forensic evidence, serial killers are dubbed as either “organized” or “disorganized” — depending on the evidence, if any, left behind at the scene. Offenders may receive the label following psychological profiling, specifically after spotting traits like level of intellectuality, social or sexual competence, and if the offender is a skilled worker or not. Organized offenders have high levels of these traits, while disorganized offenders do not.

There are also other factors that tie to the criminal and psychological profiling of serial offenders, such as metacognition, metacognitive dissonance, and logical fallacies; also, the examination of physical elements and identifiers related to the offender’s personality.

Now that you know a bit about the mind of a serial killer, here are seven hallmark tactics they employ to cover up their tracks (and I’m sharing just for the purpose of feeding our mutual obsession with understanding these twisted individuals — not for any, uh, practical purposes):

1. They get supplies in cash.

man holding rolled up wads of cash between his hands

They purchase everything related to their murder in cash, such as motel stays, prepaid phones, and other supplies. That way, if a getaway needs to occur, it’s harder for law enforcement to trace them down.

On the day of the murder, a place killers avoid is the gas station, as there are cameras everywhere. It’s the place where investigators often identify murderers and their getaway vehicle.

2. They almost never kill romantic partners.

Well, if they’re male anyway. The first person the police will question is a romantic partner. Instead, organized killers often choose to murder strangers, very far away from their residence, for geographical profiling purposes.

This way, they avoid immediate detection.

3. They use a vacuum cleaner.

To organized offenders, a vacuum is a gift.

Why? Well, any strains of hair or clothing fibers left behind can quickly identify the murderer. After killing their victim, they vigorously clean every inch of the scene.

Woman walking in garden covered in blood

When the perpetrators are finished polishing every spot, they usually take the vacuum with them and dispose of it somewhere far away.

In a crime scene, when the body, murder weapon, fingerprints, hair fibers, and physical evidence is not moved or tampered with, then it may be classified as the work of an unorganized killer.

4. They clean up with oxygen bleach.

An investigator’s worst enemy and an organized killer’s best friend is oxygen bleach.

Unlike other cleaning products, oxygen bleach is a potent substance. Once used to clean up blood stains, it will prevent traces of hemoglobin cells from being spotted.

So when it’s time to whip out the luminol to probe for forensic evidence, investigators will have a difficult time finding anything.

5. They cut off the victim’s body parts.

Organized killers often get dirty, but they do so while wearing latex gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints and skin cells. They butcher hands, legs, and their victim’s head to distribute those parts around remote areas in town.

Essentially, the more parts that are cut off and scattered, the longer it will take law enforcement to survey and piece together the vast crime scene.

When disposing of the body in a lake, organized killers are careful to use suitcases instead of plastic bags, as suitcases don’t float and sink faster.

When it comes to a crime scene that is suspected of being the work of an organized killer, no body or murder weapon should be left behind. The idea of a weapon or body left behind would influence the crime scene reconstruction process.

Suitcase of the Future

6. They stick to the original story.

Organized killers are often cunning liars and manipulators when the time arises. If they are called in for questioning, these culprits stand their ground and never allow a slip to occur while telling their story.

They know that any modification to their story will immediately put them at high risk of being suspected as the killer.

The overall psychological state of mind during the crime of an organized offender is a controlled mood.

7. They never read about murder tips.

Oh yeah, and lastly, organized killers don’t research online about ways to kill because obviously it’s pretty much asking to get caught. Just think of all the crime stories you’ve heard where a killer’s search history revealed the truth.

So, yeah. Effective serial killers are terrifying. Good luck avoiding spiraling into an internet crime research spiral now.

Jose Florez is the founder and editor of Mental Daily. His work has appeared in Psychology Today, Glamour, HuffPost, among others. He is a mental health advocate, and currently studying psychology.

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