Serial Killer vs Mass Murderer: What is the Difference Between the Two

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We all have a little bit of morbid curiosity about serial killers or murders in general, otherwise the I.D or Investigation Discovery channel wouldn’t be a thing and some of the most watched television wouldn’t be famous murder trials.

Most people want to know what makes someone do something like be a serial killer or mass murderer.

What happened that turns one person to commit unspeakable crimes?

What makes them tick? Are they mentally ill and how can they commit these horrific crimes and tend to lead a normal life until they are caught?

There are many famous serial killers. Ironically there are very few mass murderers that are as famous as serial killers yet the crimes are just as bad. Let’s take a look at the difference between serial killers and mass murderers.

The Definition of a Serial Killer

Serial killers are defined as a person who murders three or more persons over more than a month and including a significant period of time between murders.

Psychological gratification is the usual motive for serial killing, and many murders involve sexual contact with the victim.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation states that the motive of serial killers can include anger, thrill-seeking, financial gain, and attention seeking, and the killings may be executed as such.

The victims will have something in common such as the demographic profile, appearance, gender or race.

Serial killers usually have a pattern of behavior that law enforcement focuses on catching them.

Some people believe that serial killers, mass murderers, spree killers or contract killers have some characteristics that they all have.

Some famous serial killers in history have been Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer just to name a few. Because of how famous they are, TV shows and documentaries have been made about them.

The Definition of a Mass Murderer

Mass murderers are defined as the act of murdering a number of people typically simultaneously or over a relatively short period of time and in close geographic locations.

The United States Congress defines mass murder as the killings of three or more people during an event with no cooling off period between homicides.

A mass murder often occurs in a single location where one or more persons kill many.

The Route 91 concert killings by Stephen Paddock on October 1st, 2017 killing 61 people is considered one the largest single mass shootings in the U.S.

9/11 is also considered a mass murder of 2,977 people by the Al-Qaeda terrorist organizations.

Jim Jones of the Peoples temple is also guilty of mass murder where 919 people died in 1978 from cyanide poisoning in Guiana.

Murder in Nevada

Serial killers and mass murderers commit more than one murder to be given the name serial killer or mass murderer. They must murder at least three people either at one time for a mass murderer or at three separate occasions for a serial killer.

In Nevada, murderers of any kind will be charged with murder or felony murder. Charges can be for as many victims that the court can prove the killer or killers had killed.

So a defendant may be charged with 5 murders if the court can prove they had five victims.

Nevada defines murder as an unlawful killing of a human being done with malice.

First degree murder is defined by:

  • A premeditated killing, and
  • Felony murder, are killings done while the defendant is committing a serious felony such as robbery.

Second degree murder is defined as:

  • Unintentional killing and
  • The suspect acted so recklessly that the death was a foreseeable consequence

In Nevada, when a murder case is prosecuted they typically bring what is called “Open Murder” indictment. This is a general homicide allegation that includes charges of first and second degree murder but also voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

Penalties for Murder

In some cases, murder charges can be plea bargained down to a manslaughter charge. However, serial killers or mass murderers will face murder charges and face the possibility of life in prison.

First degree murder charges, which is what most serial killers or mass murderers face, the court may impose the death penalty.

Defense Against Murder Charges

Serial killers and mass murderer defendants are afforded the same defense as anyone else.

The strongest defense against felony murder or murder charges in Nevada is that the defendant did not commit or attempt to commit the crime.

In some cases, the suspect may have been falsely accused by someone motivated to get that person in trouble. Maybe the defendant was wrongly identified by a witness. Perhaps the defendant was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was identified by the police as the person involved.

A criminal defense attorney would use all the available evidence possible to raise reasonable doubt of the suspect’s guilt.

Some evidence that might be able to clear a suspect of murder are:

  • DNA evidence
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • GPS data from the defendant’s cell phone

FBI Profiling of Serial Killers and Mass Murders

Profiling is a system created by The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) used to detect and classify the major personality and behavioral characteristics of an individual based on the analysis of the crime or crimes the person committed

John E. Douglas, was one of the first criminal profilers and was instrumental in developing the behavioral science method of law enforcement. Many convicted serial killers and mass murderers have been interviewed and studied by the FBI’s behavioral sciences unit to create profiles to help catch future serial killers and mass murderers.

Bail for Murder Defendants

People arrested for murder or felony murder may not be given bail and may have to wait until trial in jail.

People charged with any crime other than first degree murder will be admitted bail unless the person was arrested for a felony who has been released on probation or parole for a different offense must not be admitted bail unless:

  1. The court issues an order directing that the person be admitted bail,
  2. The State Board of Parole Commissioners directs the detention facility to admit the person bail

There are some circumstances where a person can get bail when charged with murder or felony murder.

The Defenders can assist you with Nevada bail and inmate release information, locating a Las Vegas bail bonds agent and working on a strategy to get the person released as quickly as possible.

We can assist with release from the Clark County Detention Center, Las Vegas City Jail, City of Henderson Jail, City of Mesquite Jail or any other jails within the state of Nevada.

What Can The Defenders Do For You

  • Investigate your case to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged crimes
  • Determine whether there was police error or misconduct, or your being falsely accused
  • Go over the strengths and weaknesses of your case with you to give you an idea of how your case will stand up in court
  • Inform you of all the legal options available to you
  • Offer guidance, support and sound legal advice to you and your family

Prosecutors have a vast number of resources including the police to find the necessary evidence to convict a suspect. The Defenders are well versed in the prosecution’s tactics and can help you fight them.

The Defenders will use all creative options available to us to the court to dismiss or reduce the charges against you. Even suspected serial killers and mass murderers have the right to a good defense.

How Can We Help

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, even a serious crime you’ll need someone to help you fight the charges against you?

The Defenders are an experienced criminal defense team who understand that each alleged crime has a specific set of circumstances surrounding it, and we are committed to thoroughly investigating each piece of evidence to build the defense possible.

Whether you’ve been charged with drug crimes, DUI’s, assault, a misdemeanor, or a felony.

The Defenders will work hard to vigorously defend you throughout every single stage of your case. Contact our office for a free case evaluation today.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes a serial killer?

A serial killer is defined as someone who has killed three or more people in separate incidents with a cooling off period between each murder. The killer may use the same method to kill their victims, but can also use different methods for different victims.

What defines a mass murderer?

A mass murderer is someone who kills multiple people in a single incident with no cooling off period. This type of criminal often kills their victims in the same location and generally uses the same method for all the victims.

What is the difference between a mass murderer and a serial killer?

The main difference between a serial killer and a mass murderer is the number of victims killed in each incident. Serial killers typically kill three or more people in separate incidents with a cooling off period between each murder, while mass murderers can kill multiple victims at once with no cooling off period. Additionally, serial killers may use different methods to kill their victims whereas mass murderers usually use the same method for all victims.

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