Sociology 4437F/G Final: Mass Murderers 4437 F/G - Final Exam Notes

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Mass Murderers Readings
January 19 Historical and Cultural Understandings
Reading 1: TextbookIntroduction: Mass Murder and its Classifications
First Massacre:
1873, 31-year-old Alfred Packer went with a group of prospectors from Utah to San Juan Mountains to seek wealth from mining
They arrived in January at campsite and were to stay until Spring
But they went in February searching for mines instead
Over 2 months passed and Colorado state wondered where they were
In April, Packer arrived alone with lots of money
o He said he hurt his leg and fell behind so did not know where the other were
o People assumed he was lyingguide walker found strips of human flesh
o When he arrived back he said he was not hungry despite going weeks without food suspected that he killed them and
survived off their remains
Eventually he admitted that they died out of starvation or were killed in self-defence from hunger attacks said they died one by one
He was arrested and jailed on suspicion of murder
o Was not until August that John A. Rudolph, an artist sent out to Colorado for a magazine, where he discovered 5 sets of human
remains in a cluster near Gunnison River
They were identified as the remains of the men clearly not killed one by one
Buried in Dead Man’s Gulch
Trial was planned Parker escaped
o Years later, he was brought back, tried, and found guilty
o Legal oversight gave him new trial legal proceedings indicating that he placed blame on Sebastian Bell
He killed the others and Parker killed Bell in self-defence
In his original story, said others killed because of starvationthis was not mentioned in new proceeding
People divided on issue of his guilt or innocence never fully determined
Packer’s personality and motive is rare
o Did not develop fantasies of revenge, not frustrated at work, did not kill to erase family and start a new life, and was not part of
a larger scheme to wipe out large numbers of people for a religious or political ideal
o He appears to be among those from whom death was an accompaniment to guilt
Definitions
Discrepancies with what constitutes mass killings
Michael Kelleher in Flash point states that mass murderers are also those who go out intending to kill many and only kill one or two
Sometimes mass murder is defined according to extent of fear produced in community, sometimes by killer’s motive, by evidence of
general emotional discord within killer, or by contained series of killing events (the more prolonged they are, more likely to be classified
as spree killings)
Mass murder carried out with firearms, bombs, poison, stabbing and choking (rare)
FBI’s definition: someone who kills four or more people in close succession in a single locale, or closely related locales
Spree killers may have motives, ambitions and spontaneity close to mass murderers, but tend to travel over a series of loosely related or
unrelated locations
MM usually ordinary
o Reclusive, few if any friends, often no criminal history prior to incident
o BUT they do not easily absorb life’s unfairness, and may have suffered major disappointment earlier in life in which they
received psychological wound that impaired ability to take things in their stride
o Tend to build up anger and let frustration fester
o Minor incidents perceived as major ones and impersonal ones as personal
o More of a buildup of triggers/stressors rather than one big incident –“the straw that breaks the camels back more than a
significant cause”
Time period: minutes or days (hours usually in religious homicides)
Disgruntled killers:
o Blame others for failures
o Motive is to strike back, to punish, to annihilate, and exact as much damage as they can
o Some want to make a statement, or self-glorification, or just acting out
The higher the death toll, the more successful some killers believe themselves to be
Choice of targets may be irrational
o Often does not include one against whom they wanted revenge
o BUT some are careful to kill only those on their list
Criminologists Jack Levin and James Fox attribute increase in mass murder to accessibility to weapons
o Could also be influenced by social breakdown and media emphasis on violence
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o Media can play a part in their rehearsal fantasies
Chapter 1: Howard Unruh: America’s First Modern Mass Killer
Early Inklings
Many believed Howard Unruh was first modern mass killer
o BUT several incidents that indicate otherwise
Possible Alfred Packer
Another in 19th century
o James Dunham
After wife gave birth, he wanted to know whether the child of a man who had married into a well-to-do family would
inherit everything if members of the family all died
Received answer he wanted
Used an axe and revolver to slaughter his wife, her mother, brother, stepfather, family maid and farmhand
Dunham never prosecuted
Reading 2: The Patterns and Prevalence of Mass Murder in 20th Century America
Grant Duwe
Though mass murder existed prior to 1965, scholars say that the mid-1960’s marked the onset of unprecedented and ever-growing mass
murder wave
o Based on claim that mass killings were rare prior to 1960’s and that mass murder as grown exponentially
o BUT data does not show alleged mass murder increased
o In fact, existing research has not even examined mass murder before 1965 focused almost entirely on cases that occurred
during last several decades
Familicides also more prevalent before 1970s
In 20th century, mass killers older, more suicidal and less likely to use guns
Some claimed that workplace massacres are a new strain of mass murder, finding show that the only new form is drug-related
Prior Research on Mass Murder
Previous research focused on examining causes and correlates of mass killing
1950’s – 1980’s, research consisted of entirely psychological and psychiatric case studies
Focus on extreme and atypical mass killings
1985 Levin and Fox examined 42 cases of mass killings and serial murder
o Since then, scholars concentrated mainly on developing descriptive typologies of mass murder
Typologies describing: incident, victim and offender patterns
Result from these studies: mass murderers are slightly older, and more likely to be male and white (although blacks overrepresented).
Often experienced long history of frustration and failure both at home and work
o Explanation of older age of mass killers: takes long-term accumulation of failure and disappointment to produce level of
frustration necessary for mass murder **
MM do not take responsibility blame others such as, spouses, relative, co-workers, or society in general
Described as loners could be cause of their discontent
o Often lack strong social support system, which inhibits ability to cope with the difficulties they face
For those already angry, termination of employment or divorce could be final straw
o Research indicates MM usually triggered by these 2 things
o Prevalence of these events could suggest why more MM are men
More likely to suffer from employment or relationship problem more likely to be pushed out of the house and
define their self-worth by occupation
Modal mass murder: male head of house who murders wife and children
o Shows why family members most frequent victims, followed by acquaintances
Mass murder usually interracial offence
Victims usually younger, and more likely to be white and female than victims of ordinary homicide
Murders don’t usually occur in public locations usually residential explains why familicides is prominent
MM prefer guns but not more prominent than ordinary homicides
Assault weapons preferred “weapons of choice” but only 4% of gun-related mass killings are assault weapons
Workplace massacres are rare
Despite no evidence, common assertions that killer died at scene by self or police gunfire
o BUT Duwe found that most are not suicidal
o But they are also 5x more likely to commit suicide than ordinary homicide offenders
Defining Mass Murder
Mass murder generally depends on total amount of time over which murders take place and number of persons killed
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Other criteria: location, geographical distance b/w murder sites, motive, offender age, number of wounded victims, type of weapon used,
number of offenders
o Author does not use this criteria since believes it is arbitrary or problematic from operational standpoint
Mass Murder 24 hours makes it different from serial and spree killing
4 victim criterion minimizes potential for measurement error in identification of mass killings
Data and Search Methodology
SHR source of data that contains incident, victim, and offender information on most homicides
But it was not a major source until revision in 1976
Until then, New York Times was used due to accessibility and reputation for offering readers national coverage
o 2 main problems:
likely that Times underreported incidence of mass murder b/w 1900 to 1975 due to limitations on time and space
likely that they provided a somewhat distorted image of mass murder because news media prefer to report crimes
that are sensational and out of ordinary
Other problems found with SHR:
o Since SHR is a voluntary program involving law enforcement agencies, about 8% of homicides not reported
o SHR also has number of reporting errors
Estimating Prevalence of Mass Murder
Times likely to underreport yet fairly high correlation b/w annual number of Times reported cases and number of mass killings in 24-year
period.
Results
The Prevalence of Mass Murder
Low mass murder rates in early 1920’s
Mid-1920’s, it began to skyrocket then fall in 1930’s
Aside from brief spike in the 1960’s, there was a trough in mass murder rate until mid 1960’s when it climbed again and stayed high for
rest of century
o These findings consistent with serial and spree murder
Fairly high correlation between mass murder and U.S homicide rates few factors that affect trends may not be much different for mass
murderer vs. homicide
o Also suggest that pre-1976 estimate may be fairly accurate representation of actual prevalence of mass murder
Before 1970’s, Times reported less on massacres could have been because of what they felt noteworthy
Patterns in Mass Murder
Times biased in what they showed
o More likely to report mass killing involving larger body counts, public locations, stranger victims, workplace violence, interracial
victim-offender relationships, suicidal offenders, white victims and incidents that took place in East
o Death toll and wounded count strong positive predictors of whether mas skilling presented
1900-1970 offenders older, victims younger
o also more suicidal more likely to kill families and then selves
first mass murder wave in 20’s was comprised of familicides
o farmers suffered greatly due to Great Depression caused by overproduction and inability to export food
Familicides correlates with divorce rating in 20’s
o Motive is usually threat of divorce or revenge
Gun availability did not increase during period when mass murder rates increased
Fox and Levin - Gun have made mass murders more deadly but results have shown that that mass murder not more lethal than in last few
decades
o But Fox and Levin correct on one point regarding trends in lethality in mass murders however, not necessarily due to gun use
bombs and fires produce more fatalities
If there was a new type of mass murder that emerged it was drug-related not workplace
Emergence of drug-related massacres part of larger trend in mass murder increase in mass killings committed in connect with criminal
activities like burglary and robbery linked to increase in unemployment in Great Depression
Best-known felony related massacre committed by Richard Hickock and Perry Smith
Felony-related massacres usually committed by small group of young black males who gun down slightly older acquaintance or stranger
victims
Violence in mass killings is expressive b/c offenders usually kill for the sake of revenge, or in cases of familicide, out of a form of love- e.g.
wife and children “better off dead”
With felony-related massacres, the violence is instrumental in that it is a means to an end, i.e. killing eyewitnesses to a robbery seemingly
offers greater chance of evading detection
o Felony-related massacres less likely to engage in suicidal behaviour -
o Perhaps as consequence of relative absence of emotion, those who commit felony-related massacres much less likely to engage
in suicidal
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Document Summary

Reading 1: textbook introduction: mass murder and its classifications. 1873, 31-year-old alfred packer went with a group of prospectors from utah to san juan mountains to seek wealth from mining. They arrived in january at campsite and were to stay until spring. But they went in february searching for mines instead. Over 2 months passed and colorado state wondered where they were. In april, packer arrived alone with lots of money: he said he hurt his leg and fell behind so did not know where the other were. People assumed he was lying guide walker found strips of human flesh: when he arrived back he said he was not hungry despite going weeks without food suspected that he killed them and survived off their remains. Eventually he admitted that they died out of starvation or were killed in self-defence from hunger attacks said they died one by one.

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