chapter  33
4 Pages

Serial/spree/mass Killings

WithJack Levin

Multiple homicide refers to murder committed against three or more victims-mass murders in which three or more victims are killed simultaneously in one or two locations, spree killings in which three or more victims are slain in a few different locations over the course of several days without a cooling-off period, and serial murders in which three or more victims are killed one at a time over a period of weeks, months, years, or decades.1,2

The three major types of multiple homicide-mass, spree, and serial-differ from their single-victim counterparts in a number of important respects: First, multiple homicide is relatively rare, representing no more than 1% or 2% of all cases of murder committed in any given year. Their large body counts assure that they garner much publicity, but their actual prevalence is much smaller than what is suggested by the amount of attention they receive. Second, relatively few cases of multiple homicide occur over arguments. Instead, most of them are premeditated and methodically planned rather than spontaneous or impulsive. Third, the offenders and victims in multiple murder incidents share characteristics not usually found in single-victim homicide. Those who kill one individual tend to be young males-teenagers or young adults. Serial, spree, and mass killers are more often middle-aged men-in their 30s or 40s. Unlike single-victim

killers who typically target other males, multiple homicide perpetrators tend disproportionately to victimize females.2