Dennis J. Stevens, PhD
Serial Killers

Are You Smarter than a Fifth GraderNo single model fits every serial murderer, but a serial murderer can be defined as someone who has killed three or more people over a period of more than thirty days, with a significant cooling-off period between the killings. Or you can watch my favorite TV drama, Criminal Minds, and learn all about it. For instance, in season 6, episode 24, Supply and Demand, the expose the entire Criminal Mindsinternational human trafficing experience. It would be awesome if it were that easy!   

  • Some known facts are that there were almost 600,000 reported homicides in the US from 1976 to 2005, and almost 14 percent were committed by strangers, explains the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Could some of those strangers represent a single predator? Department of Justice
  • What we've learned the hard way is that a few criminally violent offenders commit most of the heinous crimes in this country. 
  • A little over a third of the homicide reports say that the relationship between victim and killer was undetermined.
  • Approximately 16,000 murders are reported each year.
  • Six of every ten known murders result in an arrest, and an estimated 40 percent of known murders end in a conviction.
  • As a matter of concern, sexual assault convictions are estimated at 5 percent, explains FBI statistics. FBI 
  • Then there's that nasty number of 2.4 million 'alleged' natural deaths, including accidents reported each year.
  • Don't forget the ninety-one suicides a day across America. All of these statistics represent observable corpses.
  • What about unobserved corpses? Disposing of a body or altering the circumstances of death so that it appears to be accidental can't be that difficult.
  • Wetlands of South Carolina


  • In a final analysis, any rationale about a killer's motive is at best ambiguous, particularly when we add the thought that theoretically, anybody could have hidden twenty more bodies under John Wayne Gacy's house when he was alive, or added hundreds of bodies in the Florence, South Carolina wetlands conforming to Pee Wee Gaskins' descriptions or a few hundred bodies in the wetlands after Hurricane Katrina or where ev.... after any natural disaster. There's still over 450 individuals missing and 80 remains unidentified after 2005's Hurricane Katrina.   
  • Gee, BJS reveals that the huge backlog (unsolved crimes) of criminal cases of homicide and rape investigations includes approximately 52,000 homicides and 169,000 rape cases in 2003 (over 10 years). That's of what we know! So, are you smarter than a fifth grader?