A serial murder is most often defined as two or more killings committed between an undefined span of time between murders.

The quantitative definition is necessary to distinguish a serial murder from other categories such as single murder and mass murder, while the temporal separation is a common trait among serial murderers because they need emotional cooling-off period before they kill the next victims.

The topic of serial murder almost always attracts great interests from the media, academia, medical experts, mental health professionals, and the general public.

Within the criminal justice community, a serial murder most likely brings serious investigative challenges to law enforcement.

Even people who call themselves professional or expert investigators often conduct independent work to identify or perhaps apprehend potential suspects.

While there is no single identifiable factor that motivates a person to develop into serial killer, early childhood behavior problems and psychological trauma due to neglect and abuse as well as juvenile delinquency have been shown to increase risk of future violence.

“This is not to say that everyone with troubled childhood or upbringing would grow up to be serial killers; however, some serial killers did experience childhood adversity or develop tendency to disregard the law and display the lack of moral compass during their formative years.”

The following list gives a brief overview of some infamous serial killers and the disturbing acts they did when they were or teenagers.

10 Charles Manson, An “Aggressive Antisocial”

An American cult leader and serial killer, Charles Manson and his loyal young disciples are thought to have committed at least 35 murders throughout their lifetime, but most notoriously active during the 1960s. Manson himself died in 2017 after spending more than 40 years in prison.

When he was just a 5-year old boy, his alcoholic mother was arrested and sent to jail along with his older brother for armed robbery.

The mother was paroled three years later, but then she ended up abandoning him at age 12. She gave him away to a children’s home where Manson lived much of his youth. He made attempts to return to his mother, but all he received was rejection.

This was the point when Manson started his criminal career on the street by robbing cars and service stations. Over the next 20 years or so, Manson spent his life in and out of reform schools and prison for various crimes.

He was actually detained at one time during his youth, and the caseworker who apprehended him described young Charles Manson as aggressively antisocial.



9 Aileen Wuornos, A Prostitute By The Age Of 11

When Aileen Wuornos was born, her father had already been jailed for sex crimes against children and diagnosed with schizophrenia. He later committed suicide in prison, so he never had a chance to meet with his daughter.

In many cases, the absence of a bad influence could be a good thing for many young people, but this was not the case with Aileen Wuornos.

At the age of 4, her mother decided to abandon her – and her siblings, too) – leaving them to live with their grandparents. Aileen Wuornos claimed that her grandparent was abusive and would sexually molest her. When she was just 11 years old, she was having sex in exchange for food, drugs, and cigarettes.

She eventually ran away from her grandparents’ home and engaged in prostitution by the age of 15. Within just a span of one year (between 1989 and 1990), Aileen committed seven murders in Florida; all victims were male.

She claimed that all those men either raped or tried to rape her, so she shot them as self-defense. She was eventually found guilty on six first-degree murder charges. In 2002, she was finally put to death by lethal injection.

8 Jeffrey Dahmer, A Disturbed Kid Who Dismembered A Puppy

A convicted sexual offender and serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer was found guilty on 17 murder charges between 1978 and 1991. While serving his time in prison, he was killed by another inmate in 1994.

Over the course 13 years throughout his twisted life, Dahmer often sought out men – mostly African American – at public places such as bus stops, malls, and gay bars.

He lured home his victims with promises of sex and money. He would then intoxicate them using a cocktail of alcohol and drugs before strangling them to death.

Dahmer continued by engaging in sex acts with the corpses before dismembering and disposing of the dead bodies. The victims’ skulls and genitals were often left behind as souvenirs.

As a child, Dahmer lived near the woods and often explored the area alone. He searched for dead animals and dissected them, but soon his method evolved to actually killing the animals.

Dahmer was once found to have killed and dismembered his own puppy. As if it wasn’t enough, he kept the puppy’s dog and displayed it in front of his family home.

7 David Berkowitz, A Pyromaniac Child

Also known as the Son of Sam, David Richard Berkowitz is one of the most notorious serial killer in the United States. Within just a year, between 1976 and 1977, he murdered six people in New York City.

Those murders sent the city into a panic mode and made the law enforcement unleash a large-scale manhunt, probably one of the largest in the city’s history.

He was finally arrested on August 10, 1977 or just 11 days after his last murder. After the arrest, Berkowitz claimed that he had received instruction from a demonic dog to do the killings. He was sentenced to six consecutive 25-years-to-life terms.

Berkowitz had a tough start in life. He was born to an unmarried mother, who then decided to give him away for adoption. The adoptive parents noticed a troubling tendency in him as soon as he lost interest in conventional learning very early in life and became obsessed with fire and larceny instead.

Many relatives reported that Berkowitz was particularly difficult to manage, a bully in the neighborhood, and spoilt child at the same time.

6 Edmund Kemper, A Murderer At 15

Born in Burbank, California on December 19, 1948, Edmund Kemper killed his grandmother when he was 15 years old, apparently just because he wanted to know what it felt like. This teenage boy shot his grandmother in the kitchen after an argument, and when his grandparent returned home, Kemper went outside and shot him too.

For his crimes, Kemper was the sent to California Youth Authority. He was subjected to a variety of tests in this facility, but it was determined that he had very high IQ and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Based on the result, he was handed over to Atascadero State Hospital, a maximum security facility for the criminally insane.

After his parents divorced in 1957, Kemper lived with his mother and two sisters in Montana. His mother was an alcoholic and overly critical of him, and would blame him for everything that went wrong in her life.

She even forced him to live in the basement, away from his sisters. His first victims were two cats; at the age of 10, he buried one of them alive, and another he slaughtered with a knife when he was 12.

5 Ted Bundy, An Enthusiast Of Knives At The Age Of 3

Known to have killed at least 36 women in the 1970s, Ted Bundy took his last breath when he was executed in electric chair in 1989. Not only was he a serial killer, but also a serial rapist and a necrophiliac; a scary package of criminalities in the form of human being.

He was born on November 24, 1946 in Burlington, Vermont. His mother, Eleanor Louise Cowell, was unmarried when she gave birth to him. Bundy was raised as an adopted son of his own grandparents in Philadelphia, mostly to hide the fact that he was an illegitimate son.

Because of this somewhat twisted scheme, he was told that his mother was his sister. A few years later, Eleanor took Bundy to move to Tacoma, Washington.

Bundy grew up in a normal working-class family, but somehow he displayed strange interest in macabre at early age. He even became unusually fascinated by knives at 3-year old.

He was a shy yet bright kid at school, but he did not get along well with fellow students. As teenager, he developed another strange behavior as he often roamed the streets at night to peer at other people’s windows.

4 Rosemary West, An Erratic Teenage Mother

Most victims of Rosemary West’s brutality were dismembered and buried in the cellar of her home. She murdered at least 10 women, and was found guilty on every single murder. She was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Rosemary had a turbulent childhood. Her parents’ marriage was unstable. His father was a paranoid schizophrenic and had tendency to display violent behavior.

Her mother eventually took her to move out of the family home, but Rosemary decided to move back in with her father. It was around the same time that she became intimate with a man named Fred West. His father disproved her relationship to no avail.

Rosemary soon was pregnant with Fred’s child and she found herself looking after his two children (by another woman) when Fred was sent to prison on various charges.

The pressure of caring for three children (when she herself was just a teenager) seemed to be one of the strongest contributing factors to Rosemary’s erratic tendencies. In one of the outbursts in 1971, it is believed that she killed Fred’s eldest child, an 8-year-old girl named Charmaine.

3 Fred West, The Favorite Son Of A Sexually Abusive Mother

Born on September 29, 1941 in Much Marcle, a village in Herefordshire, England, Fred West grew up to be a horrific serial killer in his adult years. Fred and Rosemary were responsible for the murder and dismemberment of young girls and women, including members of their own family. Fred committed suicide on January 1, 1995 while waiting for the trial for twelve murder charges.

During his childhood, Fred was often described as a “nice boy” just like any other kids in the village. He was one of six children and apparently his mother’s favorite.

According to some accounts, Fred was sexually abused by his own mother as a child, and later on he told authorities that his father engaged in sexual activities with his sisters as well. Fred did not do well in school and eventually dropped out to work on a farm.

When he was 17 years old, he had a motorcycle accident and suffered from serious head injuries. A metal plate was placed in his head to save his life; this plate possibly (or partly) caused his impulsive behavior and tendency for violence.

2 Gary Leon Ridgway, A Boy Stabber

Before he was caught in 2001, Gary Leon Ridgway – the Green River Killer – had murdered at least 49 women in the state of Washington. Some of the victims’ bodies were found along the Green River, hence the moniker.

However, he claimed in an interview in 2013 that he had killed anywhere between 75 and 80 women, making him the most prolific American serial killer to date. It remains unclear whether he told the truth or simply wanted more attention from the media.

Gary Ridgway grew up in a seemingly dysfunctional family where his father and mother would engage in many instances of serious fights.

His mother was a dominant figure in his life, while his father couldn’t stop complaining about the presence of prostitutes in the neighborhood. Gary committed his first serious crime at the age of 16 when he stabbed a six-year-old boy. The boy survived, but his other victims were not so lucky.

1 Ottis Toole, A Regular Attendee Of Satanic Rituals

A serial killer and cannibal, Ottis Toole confessed to killing more than 100 people including Adam Walsh, the son of America’s Most Wanted host/creator John Walsh. Born in Jacksonville, Florida on March 5, 1947, Ottis Toole was only 14 years old when he committed his first murder.

In the 1970s, he became involved in a sexual relationship with Henry Lee Lucas who was also his partner in crime. Toole died in prison in 1996.

He was raised by a single mother because his father deserted them when he was very young. His mother was reportedly cruel, and that both his mother and grandmother had extreme religious views. Some say that his grandmother actually was Satanic, and she would take Toole to rituals that involved grave-robbing and mutilation.

As a boy, Toole was classified as developmentally disabled. His first murder happened when he was 14 years old; his victim was a travelling salesman who had picked him up and forced him to have sex. Toole managed to run the man down with his own car.

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