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3 Famous Sociopathic Serial Killers

Sociopaths are often a product of their environment rather than being born with the innate qualities that make them cold and calculating. Unlike their psychopath counterparts, sociopaths do not typically have an extensive education and often struggle maintaining employment. Their behaviors are usually responsive and erratic, following no real trend or pattern.  They can become attached to a person or group to the point of obsession where psychopaths lack the ability to form any real attachments.

When divulging into the world of famous serial killers, sociopaths are most often the individuals who are discovered for their crimes. Their inability to plan properly and their common trait of acting on impulse often leaves behind clues and evidence leading authorities straight to them. Here are 3 Famous Serial killers who exhibited sociopathic characteristics.

John Wayne Gacy

John Wayne Gacy.

A product of a vicious alcoholic father who often physically abused Gacy and his mother, the boy never showed measurable success throughout his school years. His toxic home environment combined with his early health problems are just some of the factors which led to the development of his sociopathic tendencies.

To the outside world, Gacy appeared to be an upstanding citizen for many years. Despite rumors and accusations of sexual assault early in his life, Gacy married and ran a business in the construction industry for many years. However, after announcing to his wife in 1975 that he was bisexual, the couple eventually divorced.

Gacy later reported to police that his murderous activities began in 1972 with Timothy McCoy, a young man who Gacy had picked up from the bus station. It was McCoy’s murder that led Gacy to the conclusion that he could achieve immense satisfaction through the taking of a life. Gacy buried McCoy’s body under the crawl space of his home. Two years later, another teenage boy joined McCoy’s body as a result of strangulation.

Following Gacy’s divorce and his booming construction company, Gacy began increasing the frequency of murders, burying many of the bodies under his home in Illinois. Between the years of 1976 and 1978, Gacy abducted and murdered over 30 teenage boys. It was his final attempt in 1978, where his victim managed to escape, that led authorities to his door with an arrest warrant.

During his trial, Gacy’s attorneys claimed non-guilty by reason of insanity stating that he could commit heinous crimes without any feelings of guilt or remorse. Gacy was executed in 1994.

Ed Gein

Ed Gein

Gein grew up on a 155-acre farm in Wisconsin. Gein’s mother was an extremely religious woman, often preaching to her children the evils of alcohol and women, claiming that all women were essentially prostitutes without grace. Gein’s father was an alcoholic who struggled to maintain a job and eventually succumbed to heart failure at the age of 66. A series of unfortunate events left Gein to care for an ailing mother who eventually died at age 67.

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Gein was said to have had an unnatural attachment to his mother and her death was the initiating force which led him to his criminal activity. He is only credited for two murders but was found to have been interested in abducting bodies and using their parts for creating elaborate trophies of bones and skin. It is rumored that Gein was seeking the bodies of women who resembled his mother to make a suit of skin to become her.

Gein was arrested after reports to police of shrunken skulls were in his home. Gein showed no real remorse for his crimes, claiming that his visits to graveyards were done in a haze. His attorneys sought a diagnosis of schizophrenia, although Gein was most likely a true sociopath.  He was found guilty of his crimes, including the murder of a store attendant, and later died in the Mendota Mental Health Institute of lung cancer.

Andrei Chikatilo

Andrei Chikatilo

Chikatilo was born in 1936 in the Soviet Union. He was a child of poverty, often sharing a bed with his parents. His childhood was littered with abuse from his mother and rumors of his brother’s death due to cannibalism provided the necessary components for developing sociopathic tendencies.

Chikatilo is credited for having committed a total of 53 murders from 1978 to 1990, although he confessed to killing at least 56. His victims consisted of males and females, ranging in ages from 9 to 25 years of age.

It was discovered that many of the victim’s bodies showed signs of mutilation to the eye sockets as well as signs of other forms of torture, both pre and post-mortem. During the investigation and trial, it was said that Chikatilo lured his victims with the promise of money and alcohol and would attempt to engage in sexual activities. However, his impotence fueled his rage and resulted in their torture and murder. Chikatilo was said to have used a knife in his killings, often slashing and slicing his victims until he was able to reach climax through the act of violence.

Chikatilo was initially arrested in 1984, following reports of a man meeting his description being the last person seen with a 10-year-old boy whose body was later found. Authorities believed that the boy’s murderer was also connected to several other counts. However, DNA evidence collected from semen samples showed a blood type of AB. When tested, Chikatilo’s blood type showed type A, eliminating him as a suspect in the crimes. He served a year for petty theft but was later released.

Chikatilo was arrested a second time for his crimes in 1990 after a chance encounter with an undercover officer who stated that he seemed suspicious and had a red smear on his cheek as well as grass and dirt on his clothing. Chikatilo denied having committed any murders for many months before confessing to 34 of 36 murders which authorities had linked to him. A few days following his first confession, Chikatilo also confessed to an additional 22 murders, bringing his count to 56. He was executed by gunshot in February of 1994.

Each of these famous serial killers exhibited characteristics of a sociopath. Each had some traumatic childhood experience or experiences, an interest in violent and heinous activities, and showed no remorse for their crimes. Their disrespect for the rules and laws allowed them the freedom to enact their murderous sprees. However, lack of proper planning left a trail of evidence behind them leading to their arrest and deaths.

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Angela Sartain, PhD Psychology
Angela Sartain, PhD Psychology

Angela is currently finishing up her doctoral degree program in General Psychology. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and crafting crochet dolls for her small business.

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