One question that has always puzzled us about murderers, spree and serial killers is the source of their motivation: what prompted them to do it?
There are several hypothesis to this but there is no definite conclusion. Even the killers themselves usually have no tangible reason for killing.
However, there are some killers who although might or might not have tangible reasons for killing, took their motivations from other killers and modeled their operations after those killers.
10 The Zodiac (of New York)
Copied: The Zodiac (of North Carolina)
The Zodiac was an unknown shooter who sniped at people in the streets of North California in the late 1960’s. He killed five people and injured two others before suddenly disappearing.
During his serial killing spree, he contacted the police to inform them of his crimes and sent three letters written in ciphers to Californian newspapers.
Few decades later, in the 1990’s, New York faced similar attacks when a sniper started shooting at people in the streets.
This sniper was not the real Zodiac but a copycat who also called himself The Zodiac. Unlike the real Zodiac, he was arrested and revealed to be Heriberto Seda.
Like the real Zodiac, Seda sent letters to the New York Police Department, promising to kill at least twelve people, one for each zodiac sign.
However, he only killed three and injured five others before he was arrested in 1996 for shooting his sister.
Heriberto Seda was sentenced to 235 years in prison for the shootings.
While Seda still remains behind bars, he claims he is unfairly treated in prison when compared to another New York serial killer, the Son of Sam, who killed six people and murderer, Mark Chapman, who shot John Lennon.
9 Ralf Meyer
Copied: Armin Meiwes
Ralf Meyer is a German cannibal wannabe who modeled his actions after Armin Meiwes, a German cannibal that gained notoriety for killing and eating a man in 2001.
Meiwes’s victim was 41-year-old Benard Juergen Brandes, who responded to his online advertisement requesting for someone to cannibalize.
Meyer used Meiwes’s mode of operation. He posted an online advertisement seeking for someone to cannibalize.
His unnamed victim responded and they met at Meyer’s house where they first had sex before Meyer killed him.
Meyer cut off chunks of his victim’s body and salted them but never ate them before turning himself in to the police.
Meyer was tried for “murder out of base motive, driven by sexual desire” because cannibalism and attempted cannibalism are not punishable offences in Germany.
8 Welch and McCluskey
Copied: Bonnie and Clyde
John McCluskey and Casslyn Welch modeled themselves after the infamous robber, murderer and lover duo, Bonnie and Clyde.
In 2010, McCluskey’s girlfriend, Welch helped him and two others escape from an Arizona prison. While the two other men were soon rearrested, Welch and McCluskey remained on the run, journeying through six states and kick-starting a nationwide manhunt.
During the manhunt, they robbed and killed a couple before burning their corpses and stealing their car, which they drove into a hideout in the forest.
A forest ranger found them in the forest and asked McCluskey some questions, which he could not answer convincingly. The ranger got suspicious and called the police.
Welch tried engaging the police in a gunfight but backed down when she realized she was surrounded.
McCluskey was napping during the raid but agreed he would have engaged the police in a shootout if he were awake. He also expressed his regret at not killing the forest ranger when he had the chance.
7 The London Burkers
Copied: The Burkers
In the 1820’s, two Scottish friends, William Hare and William Burke murdered several customers that lodged in Hare’s boarding house and sold their corpses to anatomy schools.
Both men murdered 16 people before they were busted when a lodger found a body and reported it to the police.
Hare testified against Burke in exchange for his freedom while Burke was hanged and dissected.
William Hare and William Burke inspired similar murders in London where Thomas Williams and John Bishop killed people and sold their corpses to anatomy schools.
The men were known as The London Burkers.
WIlliams and Bishop initially dug up bodies from graves and sold them to anatomy schools before switching to murder.
They killed at least two people (a woman and a boy) who they first drugged before drowning their unconscious bodies in a well.
Williams and Bishop were hung in front of a 30,000 crowd on 5 December, 1831. Their bodies were later sent to anatomy schools for dissection.
6 Derek Brown
Copied: Jack the Ripper
Derek Brown was a murderer who wanted to become a serial killer like the infamous Jack the Ripper, who terrorized the London in the 1880’s.
Derek’s location of choice was the Whitechapel area of London, which is the same area Jack the Ripper murdered his victims.
However, Brown never achieved his serial killer dream and was arrested after his second murder.
Again, like Jack the Ripper, Derek’s victims were women. The first was a Chinese immigrant, Mrs Guo, who sold DVD in the Whitechapel area.
The second was a prostitute who he picked up from the same area. He killed both women in 2007 after he lured them to his house for sex.
Their bodies remain missing although police found blood traces of both women in Brown’s home.
5 Mathew Milat
Copied: Ivan Milat
Ivan Milat is an Australian serial killer who became infamous for murdering seven hikers in the 1990’s.
His teenage relative, Mathew Milat, maintained his legacy when in November 2010, he murdered a friend with an ax while another friend recorded it on his phone.
Thereafter, he bragged about the murder, saying he was doing what the Milats do.
Worse, Mathew Milat committed the murder inside the same bush Ivan committed his own murders less than two decades earlier.
After his arrest, Mathew spent his time writing poems to reminiscence the murder.
One contained a verse that went “I am not fazed by blood or screams, nothing I do will haunt my dreams”. Another was titled Killer Looks and on Evil Side and a third was titled Your Last Day.
Your last day ended with the lines:
“Are ya gunna get away,
No hope kid this is your day,
The day that you wont be found,
Six feet under Neath the ground.”
Milat was sentenced to 42 years imprisonment.
4 James Daveggio and Michelle Michaud
Copied: Gerald and Charlene Gallego
Daveggio and Michaud were a murderous lover team who modeled their actions after Gerald and Charlene Gallego, a serial killer couple that murdered nine women between 1978 and 1980.
Both were so obsessed with Gerald and Charlene that they even wanted to be featured on serial killer trading cards like them.
In fact, authorities found them with serial killer trading cards featuring Gerald and Charlene during their arrest.
Gerald and Charlene drove their van to shopping malls where Charlene lured girls with offers of giving them marijuana.
The girls were then taken to a mountainous area where they were raped and killed.
James and Michelle used this exact method in December 1997 when they lured a woman into their modified van, which authorities called a “murder and abduction chamber”, at a shopping mall.
Their victim was 22-year-old Vanessa Lei Samson, who was bound, tortured and raped before she was killed. Besides the murder, the duo also assaulted six other women.
Going through their diaries, police discovered Michelle referred to the assaults and murder as adventures while James called them huntings.
3 Michael Madison
Copied: Anthony Sowell (The Cleveland Strangler)
Between October 2012 and July 2013, serial killer, Michael Madison murdered three women in his eastern Cleveland, Ohio apartment.
Thereafter, he hid their bodies inside three separate garbage bags, which he hid in separate locations in his garage, the bushes just outside his house and in the basement of a nearby home.
For some reasons, he hid the bags such that he could see all three from his balcony.
Madison’s inspiration was fellow serial killer, Anthony Sowell aka the Cleveland Strangler.
Sowell killed at least eleven women in eastern Cleveland in 2009 and just like Madison, he scattered the women’s bodies around his home.
Madison was sentenced to death.
2 Benjamin James Darras and Sarah Edmondson
Copied: Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate, and Natural Born Killers Movie
The 1995 movie, Natural Born Killers detailed series of murders committed by two lovers.
The film was written after the real life murderer-lovers: 19-year-old Charles Raymond Starkweather and his 14-year-old girlfriend, Mary Ann Fugate. Both went on a killing spree between 1957 and 1958.
Starkweather started the spree when he killed a gas station attendant for refusing to sell him an item on credit.
Then he killed Fugate’s parents and her sister after they refused him entry into their home.
Thereafter, he and Fugate skipped town and started a reckless adventure of serial murders and thefts that ended when they were arrested in 1958.
Starkweather was executed while Fugate was imprisoned and released on parole in 1976.
The movie and the murders inspired 18-year-old Benjamin James Darras and his girlfriend, 19-year-old Sarah Edmondson, who went on a killing spree soon after the release of Natural Born Killers.
However, their crime stint was cut short and they only managed to kill a cotton machine manager and paralyzing a store clerk before they were arrested.
Yet, their adventure is just one of the fifteen spree killings that were motivated by the movie.
Others include the infamous Columbine Killers: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who codenamed their operation NBK, and Jeremy Steinke who helped his 12-year-old teenage girlfriend kill her parents and younger brother.
Steinke and his girlfriend watched Natural Born Killers the night before the murders when the unnamed girlfriend promised to repeat what happened in the movie on her family.
1 Robert Smith
Copied: Richard Speck and Charles Whitman
Spree killer, Robert Smith was motivated by the wide media coverage and supposed fame that followed two previous spree killings by Richard Speck and Charles Whitman.
The trio committed their crimes at different times in 1966.
Smith’s victims were five women, children and a baby he met inside the Rose-Mar College of Beauty, a beauty salon that also doubled as a cosmetology school.
Smith actually considered attacking his high school and killing his teachers before settling for the beauty school to satisfy his fantasy of shooting and stabbing women.
On November 12, 1966, he walked into the salon and ordered the women and children inside to lie down before proceeding to shoot them while laughing.
One woman did not die immediately after she was shot and Smith stabbed her repeatedly with a knife.
When questioned about how he felt for shooting a baby, Smith sounded indifferent and said the baby would have still become an adult anyway.
Smith later expressed his disappointment at his low body count and confessed he originally intended to kill about forty people.