Figuring Out the Criminal

Malicious Intent, written by Sean Mactire, reads like a textbook, rightfully so, as it is not a work of fiction. Malicious Intent is full of valuable information I would have a) never known and b) never surmised. The main part of the book I focused on was the section on serial killers. I had no idea there were so many serial killers in our country let alone our world. When most Americans think of serial killers, the three names that come to mind are Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and the fictitious character Hannibal Lecter. Upon searching for serial killers, a database on Wikipedia came up with lists of serial killers and their stories categorized by country. After clicking on the United States, I was shocked to find more names than I could easily count.

In the early 1990s, the FBI estimated there were approximately two hundred serial killers walking around American streets at any given time. During the same decade, some at the Justice Department estimated the number to be much higher, nearing two thousand, while still others at the Justice Department felt as though the number was even higher, somewhere near five thousand (Mactire 67). Having been somewhat sheltered in the mostly safe state of Maine for the majority of my life, I find this number unfathomable. But then I remember that each time I go somewhere that is not so safe, the local news changes. I can turn on any local channel, any night of the week in Orlando, and create an extensive list of murders, robberies, and other types of crimes being committed each day.

One thing the news stories do not cover is why killers and serial killers murder. According to Mactire, most serial killers do not kill because they are psychologically ill. They become violent and mentally ill because they have already suffered extreme violence, whether it be witnessing a gruesome murder or being a victim of violent abuse (Mactire 77). This is something I never thought about. The psychosis these killers experience was almost always caused by traumatic events in their own lives. At this point, I started looking at serial killers in a different way. I have to question my own idea about what I consider to be societal scum. They may not be inherently evil. Due to the traumatic events in their own lives, something happened to their brains; their wiring was altered by no choice of their own, and they are now at the mercy of their brain function. At this point do they really have free choice? I don’t know.

After reading the section in Malicious Intent on serial killers, part of me changed. Now, I do look at serial killers differently. I realize their acts are still evil, but part of me feels sorry for them. I wonder who they would have been if it had not been for the predator in their lives. What if they had been removed from an abusive home or given up for adoption rather than suffering at the hands of their own parents? I have to wonder.

When I first met the bagger in “Protecting the Girls”, I did not feel sorry for him. He is evil, kills his mother, a woman he meets at the grocery store, and takes pleasure in murdering a dog and a little girl. How awful is he? Then I read Malicious Intent, and I started thinking about what made Jimmy act the way he did. Something awful had to have happened to him to cause him to inflict so much pain on others, and he was doing it for pleasure. That’s when I wrote “Pops’ Dogwood Song.” Neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse are bad enough, but then you top that off with having to kill your little sister in order to save her from the promise of a life of abusive pain. To me it made sense that Jimmy would become deranged enough to want to kill the beautiful and the innocent. So far, this story connection does not work. Eventually, I want to write a story from the mind of a serial killer. I want people to understand them and not judge as quickly as I did. I don’t want murder to be condoned; I just want to leave the judging up to someone else. One never knows what a little empathy and compassion can do for a person.


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