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An Examination of the Consistency and Uniqueness of the Ritual and Signature Serial Sexual Homicide

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An Examination of the Consistency and Uniqueness of the Ritual and Signature Serial Sexual Homicide

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Violence is such an appealing topic that it is embedded in some of the greatest paintings, music, dramas and movies. Not only being presented in art works, throughout human history, violence also serves as a means of entertainment to a certain group of people. Actually, among all species, human beings might be the only one that kills for fun. Mark Twain once wrote, “Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.” Certainly, we do not want to be around the sadists without knowing it; however, unlike the fairy tales, serial killers do not always look like devils; instead, they might be the most charming person one could ever encounter. Therefore, in order to track down the criminals hidden in the crowds, people need to know more about their motives and reasons behind the conduct. Despite that there is some randomness in killings, the study of the consistency and uniqueness of ritual (fantasy-driven but unnecessary for the perpetration of the homicide) and signature (distinct or unique ritualistic behavior) can help the police allocate the perpetrator much faster, because such demeanor makes the violence personal to the killers.
The research done by Louis B. Schlesinger, Martin Kassen, V. Blair Mesa and Anthony J.
Pinizzotto in 2010 was one of the first examinations of the ritual and signature in serial sexual homicide in which they tried to find out “how ritual and signature occur across crimes, how unique they are and how they might serve as an investigation aid” (Schlesinger, Kassen, Mesa &
Pinizzotto, 2010, p.239). This conducted research is a case study of non-random national sample of 38 sexually motivated serial homicide offenders and their 162 victims to explore the possible similarity in 6 aspects of engagement, consistency and uniqueness of the ritualistic and signature behavior of serial sexual homicide perpetrators. Since it is not an experiment, there is no

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variables in this research and the 38 offenders and 162 homicide victims are the subjects of the research. Although such a large amount of crimes were committed by the sampling group, only
19 (50%) of them have documented indications of psychopathology but 30 (78.9%) of them have criminal history of theft, burglary, assault, or attempted murder. Such background suggests that even the evilest people do not transform to what they are in a day, it is rather an escalation of many criminal conducts gradually lead to what they eventually become.
The six questions about serial sexual killers’ engagement, consistency and uniqueness of the ritualistic and signature raised prior to the research were all answered by the research. 37
(97.4%) of 38 offenders engaged in ritualistic behavior with at least two victims in their serial sexual homicide, and of the 162 cases, 147 (90.7%) of them involved ritualistic acts
(Schlesinger, Kassen, Mesa & Pinizzotto, 2010). Although only 5 (13.5%) out of the 37 perpetrators used the same ritual with every victim, 31(83.8%) of them used similar ritual for at least two of the victims. If themes of the rituals are divided into four dominant categories:
“power, control and domination; rage and revenge; degradation and humiliation; sexual fixation”, 31 (83.8%) criminals fall into one theme (Schlesinger, Kassen, Mesa & Pinizzotto,
2010, p.243). Six out of the 37 offenders involved performed two themed ritual in all of their killings and none of them ever revealed more than two themes. 17 (45.9%) of the offenders involved in ritual showed evolution and elaboration in their fantasy-driven operations across victims. 17 (44.7%) over all 38 offenders displayed a pattern of signature (unique behavior) in at least two and at most five victims. Signature behavior evidenced in 18% to 100% cases associated with one offender, which suggests that a signature pattern at least shows a 18% chance

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of a certain person’s homicide. 26 (70.3%) out of the 37 offenders display a similar ritualistic pattern in one to six homicides in a series.
The research result is phenomenal, but if someone would nitpick, the only flaw is that due to the small size of the sample and the lack of other empirical researches done in the same topic, the writers failed to find any correlation between the victims & circumstances of the murder and the slightly changing ritualistic operations across victims in a series , which if were found could provide further explanation for offenders’ internal fantasy. The strength of the research displays in the carefully designed questions and objective research methods. In addition, the discussion puts forwards many suggestions for further research and investigators for not to mistakenly believe that “the notion that offenders leave unique signature at every scene” thus resulting in fault during evidence processing (Schlesinger, Kassen, Mesa & Pinizzotto, 2010, p.
244).
This article is clear in explaining the operation definition of different terms and careful in leaving the data that could cause skew distribution out of statistical analysis. It has a great value as an investigative aid and a pioneer analysis of the consistency and uniqueness of certain behavior displayed in serial sexual homicide. It is reasonable to believe that more research should be done to find out the reason and explanation of the sadistic behaviors and also the difference of the ritual and signature between serial nonsexual and sexual offenders.

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References
Schlesinger, L. B., Kassen, M., Mesa, V. B., & Pinizzotto, A. J. (2010). Ritual and
Signature in Serial Sexual Homicide [PDF]. Journal of the American Academy of
Psychiatry and the Law, 38, 239-246. Retrieved from http://www.jaapl.org/content/
38/2/239.full.pdf+html

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