The criminal homicide rate for the United States is currently at its lowest rate during the last forty years (6.3 per 100,000 people in 1998: Bureau of Justice Statistics); yet according to the media and entertainment fields, homicide is reaching epidemic proportions. Unfortunately these fields tend to exploit the concept of homicide in American society, rather than attempting to understand and control it. No where is this more prevalent than in the study of a small subset of criminal homicide referred to as serial murder. This area of serial homicide specifically refers to the murder of several victims by a single person, generally unknown to the victim, over a designated period of time. Serial murder and those who commit it have always been around but have only really come to national attention in the last thirty years. Since the 1970's people have been fascinated with and horrified by serial murderers. Despite the enormous amount of coverage of serial killers by video and print media, television, and movies, relatively few sources of information about them exist and even less is known. The details of ones crimes tend to be sensationalized, making rationalization very difficult, but what is lost among the horror and gore are the motives and reasons that lead a person to do this. What causes a person to kill again and again? .
An attempt to explain, rationalize and predict has plagued law enforcement and medical personnel for a considerable amount of time. If law enforcement is to create proactive, rather than reactive, strategies to this type of criminal behavior then they must be able to understand why it happens. Unfortunately we still do not have a clear understanding for the motives of murder, thus making understanding serial murder that much more difficult. Coming to any definite conclusions or making any definitive statements is not currently possible, the best that experts can do is make broad generalizations and educated guesses.