Charles Manson Is Not A Serial Killer, Experts Say
By David Lohr - 04/13/2012Charles Manson is a notorious inmate and arguably an American icon of evil but, according to experts, the aging convict is not a serial killer or a mass murderer, as he is typically described.
While the terms "serial killer" and "mass murderer" are often used synonymously, experts distinguish between the two. Scott A. Bonn, a serial killer expert and assistant professor of sociology at Drew University, said it is time to set the record straight.
"Manson is a fascinating, infamous individual, but he was not a serial killer or a mass murderer," Bonn told The Huffington Post.
The misconceptions about Manson began decades ago and continue today, according to the technical definitions. Media outlets around the world mischaracterized him this week in covering the 77-year-old's 12th -- and likely final -- parole hearing, when his parole was denied again.
Manson was leader of the Manson Family, a quasi-commune that he formed in California in the late 1960s. Manson believed in an impending apocalyptic race war, which he termed "Helter Skelter," after the song of the same name. He orchestrated a series of gruesome murders on consecutive nights in an effort to help precipitate the race war. In 1969, Manson and his followers were convicted in the slaying of actress Sharon Tate and several others. Initially sentenced to death, Manson's sentence was later commuted to life in prison.
According to the FBI, serial murder is "the unlawful killing of two or more victims by the same offender(s), in separate events," with a cooling-off period between the murders. The FBI previously set the number of victims at three, but its Behavioral Analysis Unit lowered that number to two in 2005.
"The emotional cooling-off period is the most important factor in determining a serial killer," Bonn said. "Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy are good examples. They both slipped back into their seemingly normal lives in between their murders. That's where the cooling-off period comes into play -- their ability to maintain this outward appearance of being completely normal and functioning in society and then, when the urge to kill becomes overwhelming, they strike again."
Retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent Mark Safarik agrees that Manson does not meet the criteria of a serial killer.
"The question of whether Manson was a serial killer comes up a lot, but was he a serial killer? Based on the definition, no," Safarik, now a partner in Forensic Behavioral Services International, told HuffPost.
Manson also fails to meet the definition of a mass murderer. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics defines a mass murder as "the murder of four or more victims at one location, within one event."
According to Bonn, incidents of mass murder are often triggered by a psychotic break from reality. "Those individuals are often likely to take their own life by turning the gun on themselves or being shot at the scene of the crime, whereas serial killers are often very cold and calculating," Bonn explained.
So what category does Manson fall into? Some may say the murders were cult killings, but Bonn said they could loosely be described as spree killings.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics defines a spree killing as "killings at two or more locations with almost no time-break between murders." The FBI’s general definition of spree killing is two or more murders committed by an offender or offenders without a cooling-off period.
"The Manson killings would come closest to a killing spree," Bonn explained. "They were multiple killings that took place in a short period of time, so there was no emotional cooling-off period. They were cold, calculated and planned murders."
"In some ways they were mission killers. They had a mission, a purpose, and yet this purpose led to a killing spree."
The argument that Manson never killed anyone himself persists, but he was convicted on seven counts of first-degree murder for his role in the killings.
Safarik simplified the distinction.
"Technically, he never murdered anybody, but the way people look at Manson is that he is such a charismatic individual that had the ability to control people. Essentially, all of his followers were doing his bidding. They were doing what he wanted them to do, when he wanted them to do it, how he wanted to do it. His followers were an extension of him."
Submitted by Mary! Thanks Mary!
One of the better articles written on this subject by the mass media.
And of course most serial killers are driven by sex..
I think this guy is right. They weren't serial killings, they were "spree killings".
But if we differentiate between Charlie & Ted Bundy....what difference is there?
Except of course that Ted actually killed folks...but Charlie just ordered most of it.
BTW...I've said it many times...Charlie DID participate in the killing of Shorty Shea. Bruce and Clem both testified to that.
So please don't say that Charlie didn't actually kill someone. He did.
Shorty Shea was killed a couple of weeks after Labianca. Is that not a cooling off period?
ted bundy killed dozens of women over a long period of time in many different states.
bundys a thousand times more evil than charles manson in my opinion.
so is gacy,the night stalker,the green river killer and tex watson while we're at it
the only reason manson is considered on a level with bundy,gacy and the others is because he became a symbol of the sixties and the death of the hippie which will be a footnote in the history of our culture for many years to come.
when you read up on the actual crimes that bundy, gacy and the other mass killers of our time committed charles mansons crimes pale in comparison and i'm not trying to devalue anyones life or their families suffering i'm just saying that its our culture(you and i play into it on some level as well) that puts mansons name on a par with the others.
and mansons ego (unlike most other notorious killers) plays into that because without that recognition as a famous scary criminal...mass murderer or whatever label you want to put on him... hes nothing.
just another nameless scumbag floating through the system
Well, Bundy had a lot more time to kill. I don't see any reason to believe that the death-toll of Manson's evil would have stopped after August of 1969 had he not been caught.
But I have to agree that the bizarre nature of this case and and the publicity it got has contributed to making the name Charles Manson evil.
And you're right Matt, if it wasn't for all the publicity Manson has gotten all these years, he'd just be another number sitting around in prison for life.
part of the evilness(is that a word?)of a ted bundy was that he fit into society so well that he was able to do what he did for years without anyone suspecting him.
he hid so well behind what they call 'a mask of sanity'that he seemed to be an all american normal guy that women trusted and did'nt realize what he truly was until it was too late.
think about it this way- you're at a bar and two guys offer you a ride home,one is charles manson and one is ted bundy.just based on outward appearences who are you getting in the car with?
my point is that manson did'nt have the brains to pull off what bundy did.
some might even say he was trying to get caught by being stupid and/or crazy.
i don't think he was capable of being anything other than a 'spree killer' which i don't really buy into but its the only term in the article that comes close to describing him
Matt, that's right. Ted Bundy was an intelligent, well spoken, good looking guy with boyish charm. He was able to lure women into his car with any story about needing help because of a broken bone with more ease than an old man settling back into a hot bath.
Charlie, on the other hand, was a short, wild eyed, nonsense-speaking hippy cult leader. He was just looking for young girls that couldn't get dates. LOL.
I don't know if Charlie was trying to get caught, but he sure seems more at home in a jail cell.
I don't know where he'd even go if he got out. More "women friends" to pay his way?
Bobby!! You're exactly right. I forgot about that.
Ted WAS his own lawyer, and look what happened. He got death.
And Ted was a law student.
>>>The point is they both had the same need to be the center of attention and that they felt they were smarter than everyon else.>>>
Yes they both needed to be the center of attention, that's for sure.
As far as being smarter than everyone else, I think Ted Bundy thought he was, but I think that Charlie thought he could just talk anybody into anything. I think that's why he got so mad at the trials because people weren't caving into his thought patterns at the trial.
I think by that time, Charlie thought he could just do his mumbo jumbo on anyone and turn everything his way, since that was the way it had gone since 1967.
But what he didn't realize was that the jurors, lawyers and judge weren't little girls looking for a "Daddy".
I'm not defending Ted Bundy by any means.
He definitely had mental problems. He was extremely intelligent and one minute could be quite charming, and the next he was a murderous animal.
He DID get the death penalty and was finally put to death, and he deserved it.
Having said that, Ted Bundy was just a nutjob that killed women. He didn't control others to kill for him. Which to me is even creepier.
So in light of that, who is really "more evil"?
And after Charlie ordered his minions to kill for him, when they were all caught, Charlie ordered them to take the blame and let him off the hook.
And they were more than willing to do that. Except it didn't work. The jury didn't buy it.
I think that's VERY evil to order young people to kill for no reason at all, and then when it comes down to brass tacks, having them take the blame.
That's just lilly-livered yellow-bellied sad sack.....
No two ways about that.
Allright, I'm watching boxing on Showtime. Hoo hoo!
The boxing shorts those guys wear look WAY too big for them.
What's up with that??? HA HA.
i think we need to view manson as a cult leader, not just a mass murderer. these people are more interesting than serial killers because they can get people to do things they would never do in a regular situation. jim jones had over 160 children in jonestown, most with parents. none of these children survived, their parents either watched them die or actually gave them the cyanide. same with koresh. his followers allowed their children to die with them. it is unfathomable to me that certain types of people can actually get rational people to do these things. as much as we all hate watson he would have just been a drug dealing conman without manson.
Beauders you're right. Charlie is more of a Svengali hippy cult leader than a mass murderer. Talking someone into killing is more chilling than actually killing....in my opinion.
Anyone in a cult suffers a lack of identity. the cult leader gives them an identity. The cult leader gives them meaning in their life. Remember how Squeaky and Patricia described the transformation when they met Manson.
as much as we all hate watson he would have just been a drug dealing conman without manson.
Manson puts blamed on Watson for the disaster that the Family became. Manson said Tex started all the trouble by burning everyone in his drug deals. At the time of the TLB murders Manson believed he had killed Lotsapoppa to get Tex out of a jam in that drug burn.
>>>Mr. P said: Anyone in a cult suffers a lack of identity. the cult leader gives them an identity. The cult leader gives them meaning in their life. Remember how Squeaky and Patricia described the transformation when they met Manson.>>>
Agreed. I can understand fully why Sadie, Patricia, Squeaky, Gypsy & Sandy joined up with Charlie. They needed attention.
But I can't understand why any of the rest would. Mary had a degree and was working at a library. I would think she would be more cerebral than to join up with this kinda of crap. But maybe she was just lonely too.
Based on the evidence, if Charlie were tried today on the same charges, do you think he would be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?
In my opinion, if Manson had played his cards correctly in the original trial... he may have stood a pretty good chance of skating to begin with.
He certainly would have stood a "better" chance anyway...
Manson's behavior... and the behavior of "the family" collectively... basically cemented Bugliosi's case against him.
Manson should have done everything in his power to convince the jury, that he was NOT in-charge of these people.
As we know... they demonstrated the opposite for the jury.
Well for starters...
Without "the family" present... Bugliosi would have a more difficult time... no doubt.
There would be no kids on the corner, carved "X"'s, shaved heads... folks crawling, and the like... which of course would help any defendant.
That's about as far as I'd be willing to speculate.
One has to wonder what Leslie, Tex and Pat would testify to (if anything) at this point... and of course what Kasabian (the "star witness") would have to say now... again... if anything...
It would probably be harder to convict Manson "now", as opposed to "then".
All things being equal (which they wouldn't be of course)... I'd say that's a safe assumption.
Manson would probably stand a much better chance of being found outright insane at this point... to be quite frank with you.
Although (unbelievably) THAT'S not even a "given".
It seems the prison psychiatrists find him competent for the most part.
Hard to say Brother...
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