Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2021

Document Type

Honors Thesis


Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Dr. Thomas Mrozla

Second Advisor

Dr. Julia Hellwege

Third Advisor

Dr. Sara Lowmaster


serial killers, serial murder, psychopathy, criminology, Ted Bundy, Dennis Rader, Aileen Wuornos, United States

Subject Categories

Criminology | Psychology | Sociology


Serial killing is a phenomenon that both fascinates and scares people. The United States has experienced several notorious serial killers that remain well-known, even years after their crimes. Serial killers are known for having many similar, but also many different traits. Ted Bundy, Dennis Rader, and Aileen Wuornos are some of America's deadliest serial killers, but each has backgrounds and traits that make them unique. This paper will provide an analysis of their psychopathic traits, and a model showing the significance of biological and environmental factors in their lives. Analyzing individual case studies for each killer will explain how their childhoods, behavior patterns, and whether they had certain disorders or traumas advance the general knowledge on serial killers from a criminological perspective. By looking at the characteristics and lifestyles of these offenders and analyzing their behavior through the Psychopath Checklist-Revised, results will illuminate if they meet the criteria of a “psychopath.” These results will help explain how both nature and nurture play a role in creating a serial killer.



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