Why Do Serial Killers Target Prostitutes?

Police search in the brush by the side of the road on Cedar Beach, near Babylon, N.Y. , on Dec. 14, 2010 (AP).

Three additional bodies were discovered along a Long Island shoreline yesterday.  A total of eight bodies have been found in the area since December; all of the 20-something women are thought to have been prostitutes.

Why prostitutes?  Northeastern University professor James Fox explains that prostitutes “Are the most likely victims, the No. 1 victims.  They are the easiest targets. After all, they get into cars and put their lives in the hands of strangers.”

Robert Yates killed seventeen prostitutes in the Spokane, Washington area during the 1990s.  Similarly, The Green River Killer Gary Ridgeway confessed to killing 48 women, all of them prostitutes and runaways that he picked up along Pacific Highway South in the Seattle, Washington area.

However, expediency is an insufficient explanation for why serial killers tend to “specialize.”  Serial killers have long been known to target a specific victim type, often referred to as a prototype. Desirable qualities include gender, occupation, appearance, and race.

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Notorious serial murderer David Berkowitz, or “The Son of Sam,” specifically targeted young women in parked cars.  In a letter addressed to Captain Joe Borelli, he wrote, “Prowling the streets looking for fair game – tasty meat.  The women of Queens are prettiest of all.”  When Berkowitz’s reign of terror finally ended, he claimed his attacks had been born of his continuous failed relationships with women.

Theodore Robert “Ted” Bundy enjoyed overpowering, sexually assaulting, and strangling attractive young woman with long hair parted down the middle.

Convicted serial killer and sniper Klansman Joseph P. Franklin specifically targeted black and interracial couples.  Franklin explained, “Race-mixing is a sin against God and nature… I feel it is my duty as a servant of God to protect white womanhood from injury or degradation.”  Similarly, “The Zebra Killers,” a highly organized group of young black men, murdered 15 white individuals of various ages.

Similarly, serial killers themselves can be classified into four autonomous categories: the visionary serial killer, the missionary serial killer, the hedonistic serial killer, and the power/control serial killer.

The visionary suffers from a diagnosable psychotic disorder, which manifests as visions and/or hallucinations which instruct him to kill for the sake of God or some other higher power.  The missionary kills individuals that he finds unacceptable and, by extension, unworthy of existence; he is performing a public service.  He filters victims based on religious background, race, or certain professions such prostitution or pornography.  The hedonistic serial killer seeks a cheap thrill through torture and degradation and sees sex and violence as intrinsically related.  The power/control serial killer obtains a synonymous sexual satisfaction from attacking his prey but achieves this through a sense of complete control over his victim.

Whatever the motive, serial murderer victims usually possess a highly specific commonality although it is painstakingly difficult to decipher because the commonality is often obvious only to the killer.

Photo source: AP

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Comments: 1

  • Georgie Hollenbeck says:

    Prostitutes have been targets of serial killers for years. I have several friends who were killed by serial killers and yes they were all prostitutes. These women put them selves in dangers way voluntarily on a daily basis and are the easiest targets to obtain. They willingly get in a strangers car and put their lives literally in the hands of a complete stranger. For some it is the high of the unknown danger and not knowing “will I get out of this car alive” for others its drug addiction, for yet others its an easy means of coming up with easy money fast. For some its all of the above and yet others its a form of suicide.

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