Serial Killers are Not Always as Smart as People Think

Forensic psychology professor Dr. Katherine Ramsland remembers a number of exceptions when someone tells her that serial killers are bright.

In an article in Psychology Today, she stated that the concept that serial killers are smarter than most people came from an unscientific study with a small, unrepresentative sample.

Dr. Ramsland said that serial killers can range from “downright moronic” to “Ivy League caliber.” However even the best and brightest made mistakes at the wrong times. She provided a large number of samples to buttress her case.

Caught When Committing Minor Crimes

Authorities captured a number of serial killers when they made a traffic violation or stole a car. Perhaps the most famous is Ted Bundy who was driving erratically in a stolen car.

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And in the “You’d think if you had a corpse with you, you’d at least try to be inconspicuous” category are two amazing examples:

  • When state troopers thought that Randy Kraft was driving drunk and stopped him, he had a body in his passenger seat.
  • Joel Rifkin drove with a dead body in a car with no license plate.

Basic police work caught David Berkowitz. He had been issued a parking ticket near the scene of one of his crimes.

Keeping Items From Victims

Many killers keep tokens, have a picture of the victim, or keep a journal of their deeds. Some keep the actual victims. Jeffrey Dahmer, Reginald Christie, and John Wayne Gacy all made this key mistake.

Overlooking a Detail

Henri Landra lured wealthy women to his “estate” and then murdered them. While he took pains to incinerate their remains, he bought round-trip tickets for his visit and only one-way ones for his victims.

Maury Travis obtained a map from a website to send to reporters. Computer logs subsequently provided his address.

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Dr. Ramsland concluded her summary by stating that killers who do succeed for a while are not necessarily that smart. They are often lucky and “have a predatory advantage.”