Grimming It Up’s Murder Dictionary

What are the different classifications of murder for Law enforcement and corners? As a true crime enthusiast or armchair detective, I have often wondered this. Since I have been interested in this particular topic for a very long time; I have seen some changes in verbiage and numerical values. This does not help my OCD of wanting everything to have its place, but understanding what has changed does. Especially, when you are looking at hundreds of newspaper articles, case files, and other resources.

Let us start with the simplest a single murder is plain murder. This is not to say that there aren’t different types of murder but for classification purposes, it is a one and done.

Multiple Killings

This is where it gets difficult and the confusion begins. So let us see if we can break it down into a more relatable format to define.

Mass Killing

The FBI is currently defining a mass killing as multiple victims killed in a single incident. An example would be our previous post, High Flying Murder in this particular case multiple people were killed in a single act of violence. This could also include mass shootings like the Aurora Theater, Oklahoma City bombing, or the Tylenol tampering case from back in the day. Next part a mass killing can be carried out by a single person or multiple people.

Spree Killing

And this is where we are going to encounter a bit of mud, sorry y’all. The FBI’s generalized definition of a spree killer is a person who commits two or more murders without a cooling-off period. It is the “lack of cooling off” period that is the difference between a spree killer and a serial killer. So here is the mud is, plain and simple the definition of a cooling-off period, there isn’t a specific number of days or any specific time frame that I could find to define this portion. What I can say I relate this, to more like a killer that perhaps goes from one location to another and commits murders at different locations on a single day or that their “spree” can be over multiple days but in a relatively short amount of time. For this second one, we are working on an upcoming post(s) about some spree killings that happened in 1975 in Colorado Springs that there were about seven murders in the course of a month time period. I will link that post to this one once it is published. Spree Killings can be carried out by a single person or by a group of people.

Serial Killings

Serial Killings are defined as three or more murders committed over a period of time, with separate incidents. This type of killing has a cooling-off period between incidents. Usually, serial killings have a specific modus operandi, or MO, such as strangulation, stabbing, or shooting off their victims.

Serial killings are further defined as a stable killer vs. a transient killer and then these are separated into three different categories of serial killers (anger, criminal enterprise, financial gain, ideology, power/thrill, psychosis, and sexually-based). Next, we are going to break each of these down.

Killers Stable who hunts and kills within a local area, live and work in one geographic area for an extended period; they also tend to have a specific area they dispose of bodies. The stable killers often return to visit sites of murders or locations of body dump sites. An example of a stable killer would be, Jeffrey Dahmer, he hunted, killed, and disposed of his victims in a specific geographic area over a long period of time.

Transient killers move from place to place and their murders are spread out over large geographic areas and their disposing of bodies is more random they seldom return to visit crime scenes. An example of a transient killer would be, Ted Bundy, he started out in the Pacific Northwest and moved across the country leaving bodies in his wake in multiple states.

We can further break down serial killings by motive or motivations for murder; this is where the verbiage is going to change greatly, depending on the source of information. FBI lists these as motivations with “categories” of anger, criminal enterprise, financial gain, ideology, power/thrill, psychosis, and sexual-based. Newspapers or other media use “types” and list these as visionary, mission, hedonistic, power/thrill. Yet, other sources break these down as “classifications” of serial killers with lists like organized, disorganized, and mixed. As a blogger or a storyteller, my job is to translate these subcategories in a consistent manner. Hence, the whole reason I felt this post was needed, I will typically follow the law enforcement breakdowns with clarification on the broad-spectrum to individual cases, for me, this works for the logical side of my brain in sorting information. I briefly studied criminal justice in my early college days, before switching to medical. I tend to want to be fact-based in my storytelling with a bit of my own perspective thrown in from time to time. So taking the time to let my Grimms know about some of the verbiage differences I will use should help and make the experience more enjoyable and easy to follow.

FBI categories:

  • Anger – a motivation in which an offender shows rage or hostility towards a certain group/subgroup of the population or with society as a whole.
  • Criminal Enterprise – 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 – a motivation in which the offender benefits monetarily from killing. Examples of these are “black widow” killings, robbery homicides for insurance payouts, retirement benefits, or welfare fraud
  • Ideology – a motivation to commit murders in order to further the goals and ideas of a specific individual or group. Examples  are  terrorist groups or an individual(s) who attack a specific racial, gender or ethnic group
  • Power/Thrill – a motivation in which the offender feels empowered and/or excited when they kill their 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 – 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.

Further sub-categories are organized, disorganized, and mixed.  An organized killer has an average to above-average intelligence, puts effort into appearance and hygiene, can function in society and have long-term relationships, can seem charming and outgoing and their crime scenes tend to be clean and tidy with very little to no evidence.  A disorganized killer will have an average IQ, they do not function well in society, they have issues with relationships, they tend to commit more of their crimes at night and their crime scenes are chaotic and have a good deal of evidence left behind and tend to be opportunistic and not preplanned. A mixed killer is a more debatable subcategory and can be opportunistic in nature with little evidence left behind. More often than not, a mixed crime scene shows a psychological devolvement or is referenced when there is more than one killer involved.

I hope all of you Grimms that took the time to read this will find it helpful and a good reference when confusion arises in future posts on True Crime that we do here on Grimming It Up.  Do let us know if you think we should add to this or might have left something off. If you like what we are doing please like and share we are on Facebook, Instagram, and WordPress. We would love to hear your thoughts and comments, suggestions for future topics. Please be respectful as we want to give everyone a safe place to be. Any disrespect, bullying, or trolling comments will be deleted and authors blocked.

As always thank you for taking the time and allowing us to be a part of your day.

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