Over the years serial killers have become popular subject matter in the news media as well as being regularly depicted in a variety of pop culture and entertainment forums. Fictional murderers such as Hannnibal Lecter take center stage in best-selling novels as well mainstream movies. On a weekly basis, small screen dramas such as Criminal Minds focus on the gruesome acts committed by an array of murderous psychopaths. True stories about serial killers like Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Robert Pickton have also proved to be popular subject matter in the mass media and entertainment industry. Many people seem to find themselves both terrified as well as intrigued by serial killers and their capacity for committing acts of sadistic violence. As a society, we have become both fascinated and repelled by the lives of serial killers and their brutality, cunning, and lack of remorse.
The Most Serial Killings Per State
According to a 2015 article in The Huffington Post, the US leads the world in serial killing cases with approximately 2,625 documented serial murderers. Despite all the press attention garnered by serial killers the FBI reports that less than one percent of murders in the country are committed by so-called serial killers who’ve committed at least two killings on multiple occasions. Data suggests that the majority of the victims targeted by serial killers are members of vulnerable populations such as prostitutes and hitchhikers.
The Serial Killer Database which chronicles crimes committed between 1900 and 2014 reveals that Alaska leads the US in the most serial killings. The northern state also holds the unfortunate distinction of having the nation’s highest rate of violent crime. One of Alaska’s most notorious serial killers was Robert Hansen who confessed to the murders of 17 women.
Florida has been the location for several high-profile serial killings perpetrated by criminals such as Ted Bundy and Aileen Wuornos. Although Bundy was found guilty of kidnapping, raping, and murdering over thirty victims in several states including Colorado, California, Utah, and Washington, it was his 1978 homicides of several women in Florida that resulted in Bundy receiving the death penalty in 1989. Aileen Wuornos gained notoriety after being found guilty of killing seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990. Wuornos received the death penalty and died by lethal injection in 2002.
Throughout the years the state of California has also been the location for many of the most publicized serial killings in the recent history. Among the most well-known serial murderers who terrorized California's citizens include cult leader Charles Manson, the so-called “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez, “Freeway Killer” William Bonin, Charles Ng, and the still unidentified “Zodiac Killer”.
Washington state also rates high in serial killings. One of the most prolific murderers in US history was Gary Ridgway who became known as the Green River Killer. His killing spree began in 1982 and although Ridgway confessed to the murders of 48 victims ranging in age from about 12 to 38, officials suspect that the ruthless killer is responsible for a total of 90 deaths. Ridgway is currently incarcerated and serving a life sentence.
Punishment For These Notorious Criminals
Perhaps one of the key elements in dealing with the public fascination surrounding serial killers is to place more emphasis on their victims rather than focusing on the gruesome details of the crimes. Whether due to childhood abuse, mental health issues, or a need for power and control it’s important to remember that serial murderers aren’t anti-heroes. They enjoy causing pain, lack remorse, and empathy and are compelled to repeat their murderous acts again and again. Whether the appropriate punishment is deemed to be life imprisonment or the death sentence, these violent offenders pose an ongoing threat to the public and must never be released back into general society.