1. muckzulo
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    muckzulo Member

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    How to catch a Serial Killer?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by muckzulo, Nov 29, 2015.

    How would a amateur detective catch a serial killer like "Michael Myers" or "Jason"?

    Since neither victims of the killers are related to them its kinda hard to get suspects and have evidence that would lead towards them.

    I want to have a serial killer who by night feeds his hunger for killing (due to mental reasons) by dressing up in his signature costume (michael myers/Jason) and stalks and kills random men and women.

    How could I have evidence and leads that could point to him?

    Any suggestions
     
  2. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    Based on extensive viewing of Forensic Files on HLN and other shows, these cases will usually have a geographic element, in which the m.o., similarities, or signatures differentiate the killer from other criminals. This data is used to triangulate the location where he may live or operate, in a radius. Also, time, whether he has disregard for others around, well-lit areas, etc. Criminal profilers can be exceptionally skillful, especially at the FBI, but the amateur should have at least some knowledge of it that you can look up. An interesting case is the I-5 Killer. It does get tricky, though, if there isn't a media blitz, known description, or one witness/survivor.

    Also, this guy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Ridgway
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2015
  3. muckzulo
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    muckzulo Member

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    Yes, the detective is a excellent criminal profiler. But how would he get his suspects?
     
  4. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    You have to decide how many murders it takes before a known serial killer is at large, whether that be two or twenty. But since it sounds like it takes place in a smaller community (hence, the amateur), two should make things solid enough even without linkage. So, a sweep of the scene, interviews, and he'll have to waste time investigating if there's anything about the murders that made them happen before its apparent they were only random. From there he'll start theorizing on the profile, motive, possible leads, a clue that could lead to something bigger. The avenues to apprehension are more than can be listed.
     
  5. muckzulo
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    muckzulo Member

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    Thanks so much! You giving me alot to work on now. Actually you given me more than enough lol....
     
  6. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Well if couples having sex keep getting skewered to death, than I think that would be a definite MO for the detective to look at.
     
  7. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    Ha! With his surveillance equipment on a stakeout. :D
     
  8. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    As Brian said, the issue with catching serial killers is that unlike most other killers they usually have no connection to their victims. It means that the pool of potential suspects is enormous. It isn't the spouse that did it as in over half(?) of all murders.

    Typically to catch a serial the police would begin with the crimes and the victims. They would look for commonalities between victims and crime scenes / times and locations. It's about looking for things that are common between crimes which can tell you something about the criminal. Does he strike on weekends, suggesting that during the week he's busy, perhaps working? Are the crimes carried out in carparks indicating that he has transport? Is he using a gun? If so see what you can find out about the make and manufacture of the gun and hope it's licensed.

    Also these days locations often have cameras. Look for vehicles caught perhaps speeding, faces in a crowd which recur at the right times and places.

    I suggest you come up with a scenario and post it and we'll give you our thoughts.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  9. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    One word of caution, even though I know next to nothing about the genre. I'm sure I'm not alone watching endless hours of FF like I'm in a trance on sleepless nights. This is the textbook, general idea of an investigation presented. Depending on your audience or aims, it's great to aim for a unique angle that leads to the capture of suspect -- something intriguing. I worry that you may be creating a cookie-cutter story based on what I've shared, but maybe I'm wrong. To mention the procedures, but have the protagonist see beyond them to something more subtle would be impressive and totally doable.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2015
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  10. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    Serial killers have lives outside of their murders It could be that your MC knows the killer in real life, and from their observation of their colleague, friend, relative, starts putting two and two together.
     
  11. muckzulo
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    muckzulo Member

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    Brian.....Kinda like the movie "S7ven".... where John Doe killed to send a message to the world about morally sins and how they can be the death of us? Is that what you mean?
     
  12. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    No, for the investigation, like how they find him. I wasn't crazy about how they found him in Se7en. They paid someone with links to the intelligence community to give them some kind of list of people reading Sade, Canterbury Tales, etc., and they ended up at the right door before they were shot at as far as I remember. Kinda deus ex machina if you ask me, even though it's a fave movie of mine.

    But if you want something unique about the killer to be how they find him, that's a possibility. In Silence of the Lambs, wasn't it a combo of the rare butterflies and his rejection from sex reassignment? (might be off on that -- memory).

    Main point I wanted to say in previous post was not to go down the road of the expected with investigational techniques that are too common. You want to shake things up for people who have seen that before and give them reason to not just watch CSI instead. I'm not sure if you're doing a "detective" novel or a horror. That would clear things up I think.
     
  13. muckzulo
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    muckzulo Member

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    Oooh ok I see what you saying. Find a unique way for the killer to get caught instead of the traditional way of how the tv shows usually do it. And yeah in Silence of the lambs it was the moth that kinda gave him up.

    My idea was to keep the killers identity a secret to the MC and readers but have him show up numerous times in the story (No pov of his own), so when his identity is revealed, it can have that shock factor.

    However i see authors/movies show the killers identity to the readers/viewers but not the MC. I find that less suspenseful. But i see people comfortable with that format.

    Do you think readers would appreciate the killer identity hidden till the end or have his identity revealed in his own POV and just rely on HOW the MC catches him to create suspense?
     
  14. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    That question is outside my familiarity with the detective-mystery genre, but either way seems workable -- your approach can go a long way. Somebody here might be able to comment on what is more suitable, especially for recent novels out there. Having his POV in sections could add a more frightening element, like a thriller, if it's suspense you're after. It might come down to your own judgment call. No one knows what you want to do as well as you. But can it work? Of course.
     
  15. Mordred85
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    Mordred85 Active Member

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    It depends on what exactly is psychologically wrong with that serial killer. I would focus on his/her motive and then go from there. Perhaps have some kind of sting operation that goes wrong. In the movie Maniac, the serial killer has some serious hate for his mother. We don't know if she used to be a prostitute, but it hints towards something along those lines. Why? He's pretending to be some shy, introverted photographer, but he goes out at night, prowling for prostitutes. He gets a room with them and before you know it, he's scalping them and using their hair as wigs for his mannequins in his creepy apartment.

    I kind of had a similar idea, but more along the lines of a modern 'Jack The Ripper' figure. With today's technology, unless this guy is educated in forensics; he will get caught rather quickly.
     
  16. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    What if the cops use the media to get the killer to make a move and do something that will cause him to reveal himself. I have seen this one in a couple of movies off the top of my head.

    In Confession of Murder, a serial killer gets away with all his murders, because his statute of limitations has expired. In the movie, set in South Korea, it's established that in that country they have a statute of limitations, where if you are not caught for your murder within 15 years, you cannot be charged after. The main character is bent on finding out who the serial killer is and getting revenge, since the serial killer killed his mother.

    So the MC creates a whole new fake identity and gets plastic surgery to become a new person with a different look. He also creates a false birth certificate and the works to become a made up identity. He then pretends to be the serial killer and writes a book on all his murders, and how he got away with it because of the statute of limitations expiring. He then sells the book with great success and becomes a nation wide celebrity and millionaire. This causes the real serial killer to become enraged with jealousy over the MC taking credit for his work, and getting a lot of national publicity over it.

    So the villain then comes forth and tells the media and the world, that the MC is a fraud taking credit for his work and that he is the real killer. He also offers the public proof, so they will believe him. This is what the MC's plan was. To get the real killer jealous to get him to come forth and flush him out, so he can find out who he is, and can then get his revenge on him. It's more of a revenge plot then a police plan, but the police could do something similar maybe.

    The movie High and Low, also had the police get the media to publish an article in the news, saying that a piece of evidence is found. They do this because they know that the killer will return to the crime scene to get rid of a certain piece of evidence that will soon to be found as a result of the first piece found.

    The cops are waiting and catch the killer there though, and catch him incriminating himself by trying to destroy the evidence they set up for him, so it's like a sting operation, really.

    Using the media to trick the villain into flushing himself out, is just one suggestion though. Not sure if it would work for your story or not.
     
  17. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Mordred,

    Actually people watch too much CSI. Forensics is not the be all and end all of catching people. Fingerprints won't help you if the killer hasn't had his / her fingerprints filed somewhere - and most people haven't. Same with DNA. Ballistics only tell you about a gun, not who fired it - for that you need a suspect and some powder swabs etc.

    A lot of forensics are only of any use after you've got a suspect.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  18. Shbooblie
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    Shbooblie Contributing Member

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    In one of our case studies in uni we heard about a serial killer who had killed 5 prostitutes. They had their suspect, a guy who had associated with all 5 of them before their deaths.
    They ran his DNA alongside swabbed DNA from the bodies and no match,however each sample from each victim matched each other. When they put it on the database it actually matched a profile already on there giving them a new lead. He had one previous conviction for theft. When they tracked him down they found blood flakes in his car, and a pair of gloves with his semen and cellular material from 2 of the girls. You can get caught from literally one stray cell that's the level of detection on these things. They found fibers on the girls matching the new suspects clothes as well.

    That's just for a bit of inspiration, obviously I don't know how you're setting up the events or the minute details of your story. All I can say is try to think of the tiny, little details of your scene.

    -A blood spatter? - can link to weapon type, even narrow it down to weapon
    -Hairs/Fibres/paints - if your perp is wearing a mask could a tiny fleck of paint fall off and be deposited at the crime scene/on victim? This could be the same for hairs/fibers as well. Think of the shed-ability of what he's wearing. Will things from the crime scene stick to him? Has he broken any windows?

    An amateur detective looking for clues is going to be limited by what methods are available to him. He won't have a mass spectrometer or thermal cycler in his basement for sure but the police may have already done the lab work and passed it on to him? I don't know what details you are wanting to include.

    I found this article:
    http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140501-meet-the-bedroom-detectives

    Might be of some use to you :)
     
  19. Mordred85
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    Mordred85 Active Member

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    That's not always true, people who aren't filed get caught all the time. Also, someone like Jason or Michael Myers isn't going to sit around cleaning up the crime scene so I'm picturing someone leaving a crazy mess for even an amateur to hunt down rather easily.
     
  20. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    Would it create complexity and drama if a police officer had been taken off the case, become disgruntled at this, and was passing on information to the MC? Could it mean that there may be difficulties if the MC knows things that she/he isn't supposed to know?

    BTW: I'm now wondering what @Shbooblie is studying :eek: And I'm impressed by the plot of the Korean revenge flick.
     
  21. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    First i would ask are you going for the supernatural genre.. by stating mike and jason... or do you want the more realistic ted bundy... green river killer. Because jason and mike were never really caught or investigated. If you going down the more real path. Research research - research .. look at old cases and see how they really were caught. Most more by luck or judgment if honest... then work backwards. What caught them and make a trail to the first clue.. map it out etc.
     
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  22. Shbooblie
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    Shbooblie Contributing Member

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    Good suggestion @SuperVenom

    @DefinitelyMaybe, its Criminology and Forensics. In my final year now, can't wait to finish it haha :supersmile:
     
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  23. muckzulo
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    muckzulo Member

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    Its a mixture of supernatural and realistic... as the killings being committed are with real weapons like knives etc...but the detective is a witch. There is no technology nor computers. So the detectie would really have to get his hands dirty to solve the crime and with the use of witchcraft but witchcraft has rules and consequences as well.
     
  24. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Mordred,

    Yes they do get caught. But they don't get caught through forensics. They get made suspects first through detective work, then someone does a few tests to confirm things. But you can't test someone who isn't a suspect and who you don't have.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  25. Mordred85
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    Mordred85 Active Member

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    Detectives follow every lead and persevere. Anything can be considered evidence and the slightest mistake can be just as useful. What if a victim survives an attack or escapes a crime-scene? Many loopholes can be created and that's where I was going with my original comment. It depends on the author if he wants to have policemen who don't know what they're doing. Is this mask-wearing boogeyman outsmarting everyone or is he just a messy, psycho-sexual killer? This is something the author should probably decide before wondering how the killer is going to be caught.
     

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