I’m a murderer, not a rapist.

— Gary Ridgeway
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Female Serial Killers – Introduction

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Female serial killers have always been something of an anomaly in criminology and a puzzle for law enforcement. As Eric Hickey (1991) describes them, “These are the quiet killers, every bit as lethal as male serial murderers, but we are seldom aware of one in our midst because of their low visibility.” One of the first writers on female criminality, Otto Pollak, also said that most female crime is hidden. Kelleher & Kelleher (1998) argue that female serial killers are more successful, careful, precise, methodical, and quiet in committing their crimes.

They examined 100 cases since 1900 and found an average duration of 8 years before being caught — double that of the male serial killer. On the other hand, Alarid, Marquart, Burton, Cullen et. al. (1996) conducted interviews with convicted female offenders and found 86% of them assumed a secondary follower role during criminal events by either working with a male or female accomplice. In all fairness, feminists and people of conscience maintain that the academic literature on female crime is fraught with misconception and that popular mythology detracts from the real reality of women as victims of crime.

Female serial killers account for only 8% of all American serial killers, but American females account for 76% of all female serial killers worldwide. Hickey’s (2002) subsample of 62 females out of 399 serial killers used the following methods and motives.

Methods and Motives
Methods

  1. Poison (80%)
  2. Shooting (20%)
  3. Bludgeoning (16%)
  4. Suffocation (16%)
  5. Stabbing (11%)
  6. Drowning (5%)
Motives

  1. Money (74%)
  2. Control (13%)
  3. Enjoyment (11%)
  4. Sex (10%)
  5. Drugs, Cult involvement, cover up, or feelings of inadequacy (24%)