Een echte seriemoordenaar: The Cleveland Strangler
Expert: No Surprise Cleveland Victims Strangled
(April 4) -- Newly released autopsy results show that eight of the 11 women found dead in accused serial killer Anthony Sowell's Cleveland house last year had been strangled. Cause of death in the other three cases could not be determined. In an effort to understand the method by which the victims were killed, AOL News asked retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent Mark Safarik for his expert opinion.
"Strangulation is very common with serial killers, both ligature and manual," Safarik said. "There are some who prefer killing from a distance, but, for most of them, there is a sexual component to the killings."
Sowell, 50, is charged with the murder of 11 women, along with several counts of rape and one of attempted murder. On Thursday, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason announced that a grand jury had returned a 10-count indictment against Sowell for allegedly raping another female at his residence on Imperial Avenue. Sowell has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Safarik and his partner, retired FBI agent Robert Ressler, are the founders of Forensic Behavioral Services International, a 16-year-old company that provides expert opinion and analysis to law enforcement agencies, attorneys, Fortune 500 companies and foreign entities.
Strangulation is not an uncommon method of murder, but Safarik says there is a drastic difference between the reasons a serial killer chooses it and someone who, say, commits a single homicide.
"We see it a lot in single sexual homicides, but that is when you start moving into other motives -- robbery, inner personal conflict, etc.," Safarik said. "When you see strangulation in those types of cases, it's generally because there's been an escalation of violence very quickly, such as an argument that led from physical assault to homicide. They don't have access to a weapon and they hadn't planned it out or thought about it until this thing sort of exploded in their face."
The driving force in Sowell's alleged cases remains unclear. Safarik said serial killers who choose strangulation like to be up close and personal with their victims.
"They want to look into the eyes of the victim," he said. "That's really the ultimate control and power they can have over somebody. They essentially play God -- they can take their life or let them live."
That power and control can also lend itself to sexual stimulation, Safarik said. "It oftentimes arouses them. It is a nonsexual behavior [that] serves sexual needs," he said.
"There are a number of them that will strangle [the victim], bring them back, let them go unconscious, bring them back -- essentially torturing them. John Wayne Gacy was pretty famous for that. It goes back to that control of life and death. You'll see that kind of behavior more from sexual sadists than you will from a straight killing. They enjoy that component. That control. It allows them to engage with the victim the way they want, but not kill them, at least not outright."
A killer's M.O. is part of his or her ritualized behavior* and, according to Safarik, he or she seldom varies from it.
"They may, at some point, use another type of weapon -- an up-close, personal [method] such as stabbing or blunt-force injury that they also find to be enjoyable for whatever reason, but they typically don't just give up something," he said. "They don't typically move from strangulation to some other method of killing without a reason. Most of the time, if they strangle, they like strangling. We may, however, see strangulation in addition to other causes of death, [such as] stabbing or other methods."
Many of Sowell's alleged victims had been missing for significant periods of time; most had criminal records and suffered from drug addiction. Nine of the victims were found to have traces of cocaine or depressants in their systems. Prosecutors say Sowell lured the victims to his home under the promise of alcohol or drugs. The types of victims in this case, Safarik says, are common for serial killers.
"They're very high-risk victims. They may be on drugs or need the drugs so badly that they will engage in things that are against their better judgment," Safarik said. "The high risk to them means a low risk to the offender."
Safarik also said there is a misconception that race plays a role in terms of serial killers. Sowell is African-American.
"We find serial killers of all races," Safarik said. "You really have to follow population demographics. We see more white serial killers, but that is because the population is greater. You got black serial killers, Asian serial killers, Hispanic serial killers, etc. We got serial killers that cross all races, creeds and religions."
* teken van (sexuele) fantasie of van een psychologische behoefte