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Motivations for serial killers are wide-ranging: criminal profiler

Last Updated Jan 22, 2018 at 7:54 pm EDT

Murder charges laid against 66-year-old landscaper Bruce McArthur have dominated headlines over the past week.

As police continue their investigation across multiple locations in southern Ontario, CityNews spoke to University of Toronto sociology professor Dr. JooYoung Lee, currently working on a book on serial killers, about what may motivate an individual to commit multiple murders.

While Lee can’t speak to the allegations against McArthur directly, generally speaking he says there is a wide range of possibilities for why someone would commit such crimes.

“One thing that we know about people who are serial killers is that they are extraordinarily good at deceiving people around them,” says Lee.

“They have, what we call, a glib charm, and they’re able to sort of come across as a ‘normal person.’ They often have a family, they’re involved in churches, in community organizations, they have friends, people usually like them — but that is all a mask for a very secretive life.”

Lee also says serial killers have a rich fantasy life, and become very good at planning crimes. “They begin to … devise ways that they can trick people into not suspecting that they are the one behind a series of murders,” he says.

“One of the more prominent themes in the literature on serial killers is that there is a class [of people] that are driven by violent sexual fantasies, that they want to dominate and control another person and when they can’t do that they lash out in violence.”

In addition, Lee says there are others who are more “mission oriented.”

“[They] want to rid the world of a certain kind of a population and often these serial killers are a schizophrenic,” — populations like prostitutes or people of certain faiths or even members of the LGBTQ community, says Lee.

Bruce McArthur’s next court appearance, by video, is set for Feb. 14.