Serial Killers

October 31, 2003 • Volume 13, Issue 38
Do we know enough to catch them?
By Sarah Glazer

Introduction

Washington-area sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad enters a Manassas, Va., courtroom for a hearing on June 30, 2003. Muhammad, 41, and Lee Boyd Malvo, now 18, are charged with murdering 10 people in October 2002. Muhammad's trial began Oct. 20; Malvo's trial begins in November.  (AFP Photo/Pool/Steve Helber).)
Washington-area sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad enters a Manassas, Va., courtroom for a hearing on June 30, 2003. Muhammad, 41, and Lee Boyd Malvo, now 18, are charged with murdering 10 people in October 2002. Muhammad's trial began Oct. 20; Malvo's trial begins in November. (AFP Photo/Pool/Steve Helber).)

As the trials get under way for the two men accused in the 10 Washington-area sniper deaths last October, questions are being raised about our understanding of serial killers, and how many there are. Most research has focused on those who kill for sexual gratification. Far less is known about “spree killers,” as some have described the Washington snipers. Since the 1970s, the FBI has touted its criminal-profiling method for finding serial killers. But critics say profiles have little science behind them and can lead investigators astray. Modern DNA technology holds out promise for linking serial killers to crime scenes — and even stopping killers before they strike again. But civil rights lawyers are challenging the widespread sharing of suspects' DNA by law enforcement agencies as unconstitutional.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Violence in America
Oct. 09, 2015  Fighting Gangs
Feb. 14, 2014  Media Violence
Nov. 15, 2013  Domestic Violence
Feb. 08, 2013  Preventing Hazing
Jan. 06, 2006  Domestic Violence
Oct. 31, 2003  Serial Killers
Sep. 03, 1993  Suburban Violence
Apr. 27, 1979  Violence in the Family
Jun. 05, 1968  Violence in American Life
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Crime and Law Enforcement
Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence