Graduate Program

Clinical Psychology

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Steven J. Scher


The worldview that portrays a serial killer as being a white male, an evil monster with unusual appearance, having dysfunctional relationships (Yaksic, 2015), engaging in animal torture or being sexually or physical abused in childhood, and therefore, sadistically killing for sexual gratification should be challenged (Beasley, 2004). Leyton (1996) and Skrapec (2001) suggested researchers should approach with open minds while searching for knowledge relating to this phenomenon without preconceived assumptions or hypotheses. Furthermore, every serial killers' drive to kill multiple victims may be unique, dependent on his/her history and experiences, and is therefore difficult to quantify (Yaksic, 2015). The current study set out to compare detailed and descriptive accounts from the lives of 3 serial killers (Gary Ridgway, Ted Bundy, and Richard Ramirez) without keeping in mind assumptions and hypotheses, in order to find possible commonalities or differences between them as a route to identifying possible life events and factors leading to serial killing. For this purpose, the grounded theory method was utilized. Majority of the data has been taken from books written about each serial killer. The following factors were identified: stress/trauma, power/control, need for belonging, loneliness, low self-esteem, sexually sadistic and violent pornography, the American culture, peer influences, Satanism, parent relationship patterns, and neurodevelopmental complications. Explanation of factors and the interrelationship between them are discussed. Factors such as need for belonging, loneliness, power/control, stress/trauma, and low self-esteem seem to be inter-related in a process. Unable to control and deal with their life situations including stress and loneliness; sexual violence and serial murders were the solution and coping skills used by the three serial killers.

Included in

Psychology Commons