Serial killers frequently follow a pattern. That pattern may just be the ways in which they harm their victims, but frequently, their pattern extends to the manner in which they choose their victims. Some killers target people who look similar, or have the same jobs, or have the same interests. These nine killers all had specific profiles they bore in mind while choosing their next victims.
1. Adam Leroy Lane
Lane reportedly hated women, saying they were “below him.” He is known to have killed two women and was caught while trying to kill a third, a 15-year-old girl. Police believe he may have killed many more as he traveled for his job as a trucker. He put little planning into his attacks. His first known victim was killed while she was outside in her yard talking on the phone. He chose his second victim by trying doors. Monica Massaro was stabbed to death in her New Jersey home because her door was unlocked. Lane’s only goal was to kill women – he didn’t particularly care what they did or looked like.
2. Robert Hansen
Richard Hansen was an experienced tracker and hunter. He literally hunted his female victims. He either drove or flew them in his private plane to remote sections of Alaska, then pursued them through the woods. He kidnapped, raped, and murdered at least 17 women around Anchorage and possibly more than 30. Hansen had a stutter and bad acne growing up. He reportedly felt shunned by attractive girls in his school and turned his revenge fantasies into reality. Hansen primarily targeted good-looking women who worked in the sex trade.
3. Dennis Rader
Rader, the BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) Killer, chose his victims carefully. He identified women who fit his specific sexual fantasies then stalked them over a period of time. He left a frightening note for one intended victim who didn’t come home the night he planned to kill her. It read, “Be glad you weren’t here. Because I was.” Dennis Rader prioritized targets who lived alone or didn’t lock their doors regularly.
4. Anders Breivik
The Norwegian mass murderer killed 77 people, first detonating a bomb at a government building, then shooting dozens of young people trapped on an island summer camp. Most were the children of liberal Norwegian politicians. Breivik, a neo-Nazi, says he planned the terrorist attack for nine years. His manifesto, published the day of the attack, declared his enemies were feminism, Islam, and “cultural Marxism.”
5. Richard Chase
Chase, sometimes called ‘The Vampire of Sacramento’, told police he chose only victims whose doors were unlocked. He said he considered an unlocked door a sign that his victim wanted him to enter. Chase killed at least six people, drank their blood, and sometimes ate their flesh.
6. Ashley Mervyn Coultson
Australian killer Coultson picked two victims after they put an ad in the paper. Two students were looking for a third person to share their house. Coulton answered the ad and forced the two women into separate rooms. The brother-in-law of one of the women was there at the time and Coultson forced him into a third room. All three were hogtied and shot. No motive has ever been established. Coultson went on to attempt to abduct another couple about a month later but was stopped by nearby security guards.
7. Colin Ireland
Ireland stalked his victims in gay bars, choosing men who were willing to be tied up as part of a sexual game. Ireland claimed he was not gay and his motivation was not sexual. Rather, he said, it was easier to kill someone when they willingly allowed themselves to be restrained. Ireland killed at least five men and died in prison.
8. Gary Ridgway
The so-called Green River Killer targeted vulnerable women - prostitutes and runaways. That may have been why he was able to kill so many before being caught. He was convicted of 49 murders but is believed to have killed twice that number. He himself said he killed so many women that he has trouble keeping them straight.
Read More: Gary Ridgway: The Green River Killer
9. Anthony Sowell
When he was arrested, police found eleven bodies in Sowell’s Cleveland, Ohio duplex. Sowell, too, chose victims he believed were less likely to be missed. In this case, the killer chose African-American women, typically ones who were not close with their family, or struggled with drug use, thinking that police and the community would not be able to come together to find his victims. He was right. Many of his victims had not even been reported missing by their families.
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