COLD CASE – there is no time limit for assigning cases as cold. Typically agencies make that designation after determining all avenues of investigation are exhausted.

Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) – IAFIS, an FBI computer system, is a repository of criminal history information, fingerprints, criminal subject photographs, as well as information regarding military and civilian federal employees and other individuals as authorized by Congress. It provides positive identification of individuals based on fingerprint submissions (both through ten‑print fingerprints and latent fingerprints). And, it provides tentative identification of individuals based on descriptive information such as a name, date of birth, distinctive body markings, and identification numbers.1

Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) – CODIS, an FBI computer system, blends forensic science and computer technology into a tool for linking violent crimes. It enables federal, state, and local forensic laboratories to exchange and compare DNA profiles electronically, thereby linking serial violent crimes to each other and to known offenders. Using the National DNA Index System of CODIS, the National Missing Persons DNA Database also helps identify missing and unidentified individuals.2 Samples include profiles obtained from:

  • persons convicted of designated crimes
  • crime scenes
  • unidentified human remains
  • samples given by families of missing persons

National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) – NBIN, and ATF computer system, is the only national network that allows for the capture and comparison of ballistic evidence to aid in solving and preventing violent crimes involving firearms.3

KIDNAPPING – Whoever unlawfully seizes, confines, inveigles, decoys, kidnaps, abducts, or carries away and holds for ransom or reward or otherwise any person, except in the case of a minor by the parent, shall be punished by imprisonment for any term of years or for life and, if the death of any person results, shall be punished by death or life imprisonment.4

MANSLAUGHTER – Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. It is of two kinds:

  • Voluntary—Upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.
  • Involuntary—In the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony, or in the commission in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection, of a lawful act which might produce death.

Whoever is guilty of voluntary manslaughter, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both.

Whoever is guilty of involuntary manslaughter, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.5

MASS MURDER – Mass murder is a number of murders (four or more) occurring during the same incident, with no distinctive time period between the murders.6

MOTIVATION – Amongst serial offender motivation:6

  • Anger is a motivation in which an offender displays rage or hostility towards a certain subgroup of the population or with society as a whole.
  • Criminal Enterprise is a motivation in which the offender benefits in status or monetary compensation by committing murder that is drug, gang, or organized crime related.
  • Financial gain is a motivation in which the offender benefits monetarily from killing. Examples of these types of crimes are “black widow” killings, robbery homicides, or multiple killings involving insurance or welfare fraud.
  • Ideology is a motivation to commit murders in order to further the goals and ideas of a specific individual or group. Examples of these include terrorist groups or an individual(s) who attacks a specific racial, gender, or ethnic group.
  • Power/thrill is a motivation in which the offender feels empowered and/or excited when he kills his victims.
  • Psychosis is a situation in which the offender is suffering from a severe mental illness and is killing because of that illness. This may include auditory and/or visual hallucinations and paranoid, grandiose, or bizarre delusions.
  • Sexually-based is a motivation driven by the sexual needs/desires of the offender. There may or may not be overt sexual contact reflected in the crime scene.

VICTIM-FAMILY LIAISON – In high profile serial murder cases, the media may attempt to interact with members of the victims’ families. Victims’ families suffer emotionally from their loss and may interact with the media in ways that could negatively impact the case. A victim’s family’s goals and objectives may not correspond with those of law enforcement. This can be exacerbated when the investigation continues for a long period of time without conclusion. Establishing liaison with each of the victims’ families is the simplest way to counteract this.

MURDER – Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Every murder perpetrated by poison, lying in wait, or any other kind of willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated killing; or committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, any arson, escape, murder, kidnapping, treason, espionage, sabotage, aggravated sexual abuse or sexual abuse, child abuse, burglary, or robbery; or perpetrated as part of a pattern or practice of assault or torture against a child or children; or perpetrated from a premeditated design unlawfully and maliciously to effect the death of any human being other than him who is killed, is murder in the first degree.

Any other murder is murder in the second degree.7

Most homicides are committed by someone known to the victim, police focus on the relationships closest to the victim. This is a successful strategy for most murder investigations. The majority of serial murderers, however, are not acquainted with or involved in a consensual relationship with their victims. Since the investigations generally lack an obvious connection between the offender and the victim, investigators instead attempt to discern the motivations behind the murders, as a way to narrow their investigative focus.

Aerial photographs of every murder crime scene, as well as the accompanying ancillary scenes, should be taken. Aerial photographs clearly depict the geography of the area and demonstrate the physical relationships and the distances between the crime scenes. They also identify potential routes of ingress and egress to the area.6

PSYCHOPATHY – Psychopathy is a personality disorder manifested in people who use a mixture of charm, manipulation, intimidation, and occasionally violence to control others, in order to satisfy their own selfish needs.6

SERIAL MURDER – Serial murder is the unlawful killing of two or more victims by the same offender(s), in separate events.6

SPREE MURDER – Spree murder is two or more murders committed by an offender or offenders, without a cooling-off period.6

PSYCHOPATH – A psychopath is a person who is likely to commit violent criminal acts because of a mental illness that causes the person to lack any feelings of guilt; a person who has no feeling for other people, does not think about the future, and does not feel bad about anything they have done in the past.8

All psychopaths do not become serial murderers. Psychopaths who commit serial murder do not value human life and are extremely callous in their interactions with their victims. The crime scene behavior is likely to be distinct from other offenders. This distinct behavior can assist law enforcement in linking serial cases. Psychopaths are not sensitive to altruistic interview themes, such as sympathy for their victims or remorse/guilt over their crimes. They do possess certain personality traits that can be exploited, particularly their inherent narcissism, selfishness, and vanity. Specific themes in past successful interviews of psychopathic serial killers focused on praising their intelligence, cleverness, and skill in evading capture.6

SERIAL KILLER – There are no specific combinations of traits or characteristics shown to differentiate serial killers from other violent offenders.

The majority of serial killers are not reclusive, social misfits who live alone. They are not monsters and may not appear strange. Many hide in plain sight within their communities. They often have families and homes, are gainfully employed, and appear to be normal members of the community. Because many can blend in so effortlessly, they are oftentimes overlooked by law enforcement and the public. Contrary to popular belief, serial killers span all racial groups. Serial killers are not limited to any specific demographic group, such as their sex, age, race, or religion.

All serial murders are not sexually-based. There are many other motivations for serial murders including anger, thrill, financial gain, and attention seeking. The majority of serial killers who are sexually motivated erotized violence during development. For them, violence and sexual gratification are inexplicably intertwined In their psyche.

Most serial killers have very defined geographic areas of operation. They conduct their killings within comfort zones that are often defined by an anchor point (e.g. place of residence, employment, or residence of a relative). Serial murderers will, at times, spiral their activities outside of their comfort zone, when their confidence has grown through experience or to avoid detection. Very few serial murderers travel interstate to kill; however, those that do are typically:

  • Itinerant individuals who move from place to place.
  • Homeless individuals who are transients.
  • Individuals whose employment lends itself to interstate or transnational travel, such as truck drivers or those in military service.

It has been widely believed that once serial killers start killing, they cannot stop. There are, however, some serial killers who stop murdering altogether before being caught. In these instances, there are events or circumstances in offenders’ lives that inhibit them from pursuing more victims. These can include increased participation in family activities, sexual substitution, and other diversions.

As a group, serial killers suffer from a variety of personality disorders, including psychopathy, anti-social personality, and others. Most, however, are not adjudicated as insane under the law. Serial killers range in intelligence from borderline to above average levels.

While most serial killers plan their offenses more thoroughly than other criminals, the learning curve is still very steep. They must select, target, approach, control, and dispose of their victims. The logistics involved in committing a murder and disposing of the body can become very complex, especially when there are multiple sites involved.

As serial killers continue to offend without being captured, they can become empowered, feeling they will never be identified. As the series continues, the killers may begin to take shortcuts when committing their crimes. This often causes the killers to take more chances, leading to identification by law enforcement. It is not that serial killers want to get caught; they feel that they can’t get caught.6

SOCIOPATH – A sociopath is a person who is completely unable or unwilling to behave in a way that is acceptable to society. Sociopaths create a reality that fits the event.9


  1. Actus reus – the act (or failure to act) that makes up the physical aspects of a crime.
  2. Mens rea – the intent or state of mind required to convict the individual of a certain crime.


In the United States Model Penal Code (MPC) there are four distinct levels of culpability: purposefully, knowingly, recklessly, and negligently. However, in Louisiana there are only three different levels: specific intent, general intent, and criminal negligence. Depending on the offense, the government must prove a specific level of intent to support a conviction based upon the act, or in the case of negligence, no intent at all.10

  • Specific intent – The government must prove a person had some sort of subjective intent to do the act itself (e.g. second degree murder is a specific intent crime). It requires proof of (1) the killing of another human being (the act), and (2) the individual had intent to kill or cause great bodily harm to that person (the state of mind). The intent can be inferred. (e.g. use of a weapon involved or types of injuries sustained can show the individual had intent to kill or cause great bodily harm).
  • General intent – When there is specific intent, and also when circumstances indicate the offender, in the ordinary course of human experience, must have adverted to the prescribed criminal consequences as reasonably certain to result from his act or failure to act. This can be proven by an objective reasonableness standard (similar to civil or criminal negligence) or sometimes by merely doing the act itself.

Louisiana: La. R.S. 14:30

(1) When the offender has specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm and is engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of aggravated kidnapping, second degree kidnapping, aggravated escape, aggravated arson, aggravated rape, forcible rape, aggravated burglary, armed robbery, assault by drive-by shooting, first degree robbery, second degree robbery, simple robbery, terrorism, cruelty to juveniles, or second degree cruelty to juveniles.
(2) When the offender has a specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm upon a fireman, peace officer, or civilian employee of the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory or any other forensic laboratory engaged in the performance of his lawful duties, or when the specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm is directly related to the victim’s status as a fireman, peace officer, or civilian employee.
(3) When the offender has a specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm upon more than one person.
(4) When the offender has specific intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm and has offered, has been offered, has given, or has received anything of value for the killing.
(5) When the offender has the specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm upon a victim who is under the age of twelve or sixty-five years of age or older.
(6) When the offender has the specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm while engaged in the distribution, exchange, sale, or purchase, or any attempt thereof, of a controlled dangerous substance listed in Schedules I, II, III, IV, or V of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law.
(7) When the offender has specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm and is engaged in the activities prohibited by R.S. 14:107.1(C)(1).
(8) When the offender has specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm and there has been issued by a judge or magistrate any lawful order prohibiting contact between the offender and the victim in response to threats of physical violence or harm which was served on the offender and is in effect at the time of the homicide.
(9) When the offender has specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm upon a victim who was a witness to a crime or was a member of the immediate family of a witness to a crime committed on a prior occasion and:

(a) The killing was committed for the purpose of preventing or influencing the victim’s testimony in any criminal action or proceeding whether or not such action or proceeding had been commenced; or
(b) The killing was committed for the purpose of exacting retribution for the victim’s prior testimony.

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  1.  US Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services: Privacy Impact Assessment, accessed 09/29/20. []
  2. US Federal Bureau of Investigation: Biometric Analysis, accessed 09/29/20. []
  3. US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms: NIBIN, accessed 09/29/20. []
  4. Title 18, United States Code, Chapter 55, and Section 1201: Kidnapping, accessed 09/29/20. []
  5. Title 18, United States Code, Chapter 51, and Section 1112: Homicide, accessed 09/29/20. []
  6. FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit-2, Critical Incident Response Group: Serial Murder, Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives for Investigators, accessed 09/29/20. [][][][][][][][]
  7. Title 18, United States Code, Chapter 51, and Section 1111: Homicide, accessed 09/29/20. []
  8. Cambridge Dictionary, accessed 09/29/20. []
  9. Cambridge Dictionary, accessed 09/29/20. []
  10. Pelican Institute for Public Policy: Mens Rea in Louisiana, accessed 10/08/20. []
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