Date: Wed, 16 Jul 1997 11:49:46 -0400

From: Gregory {Greg} Downing downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]IS2.NYU.EDU

Subject: Re: serial killer

At 11:02 AM 7/16/97 +0000, you (Duane Campbell dcamp[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]EPIX.NET ) wrote:


Was anyone else struck by the use of "serial killer" as the label

for the person suspected of murdering Versace?

I have heard at least two criminal professionals (which is different from

professional criminals - usually) object to this label, saying that he does

not fit the definition. He is, according to the lingo, a spree killer. Not

that it makes a lot of difference to the victims.

I heard "spree killer" used on at least one of the oldline networks (CBS,

NBC, ABC) last night, but it's true that most are using "serial killer."

Maybe this is because the latter term is simply much more familiar to

people. Perhaps the copywriters are just trying to express the basic idea

that this is a string of murders by one person, and feel that "serial

killer" (though it usually means a killer of strangers) is the only term for

a series-murderer (n.b., series/serial) that is in wide circulation. I don't

recall hearing "spree killer" as a technical term till yesterday, and a

general audience might feel it has inappropriately positive connotations

(partying, etc.), though of course "spree killer" is based on "robbery

spree" and the like.

Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]