Anatomy of a Lust Murder

By Vernon J. Geberth, M.S., M.P.S.
Former Commander, Bronx Homicide, NYPD

©1998 Vernon J. Geberth, Practical Homicide Investigation
LAW and ORDER Magazine, Vol. 46, No. 5, May 1998

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"Lust murders are homicides in which the offender stabs, cuts, pierces or mutilates the sexual regions or organs of the victim's body. The sexual mutilation of the victim may include evisceration, piquerism, displacement of the genitalia in both males and females and the removal of the breasts in a female victim (defeminization).

It also includes activities such as "posing" and "propping" of the body, the insertion of objects into the body cavities, anthropophagy (consumption of blood and/or flesh) and necrophilia."

Lust Murders are predicated on the obsessive fantasies of the offender. It is not enough for these type killers just to kill; they have a compulsive need to act out their fantasies with their victims and their victim's bodies. This would be the "Signature" component of the crime. (See Law and Order The Signature Aspect in Criminal Profiling. November, 1995.)

A psychological perspective of the development and effects of deviant fantasies and behaviors can be found in the psychosexual disorders, specifically Sexual Sadism and other Paraphilias as they are listed in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th. ed. (DSM-IV).

Lust murder may be classified as organized or disorganized depending on the psychopathology manifested in the crime scene and the killings. In addition, lust murders may have a homosexual as well as heterosexual orientation. In the case of Jeffrey Dahmer, all of the psychodynamics of lust murder were acted out on his male victims, some of whom he cannibalized.

In the case of an organized lust murderer, there will be penis assault as well as torture inflicted on the live victim consistent with controlled rage. In the case of a disorganized offender the victim will be immediately rendered unconscious or dead by a "blitz-style" of attack and there will be evidence of symbolic and postmortem sexual activities.

In both instances, however, the cutting, mutilation and overkill type wound structures will be directed towards those parts of the body that the offender finds sexually significant to him and serve as a sexual stimulus. This is consistent with sexual sadism, which is a chronic and progressive disorder. Sadism is a compelling element in some lust murders; in others, arousal is not derived from the infliction of pain and suffering of the victim but rather from the act of killing itself.

Lust murderers can also be distinguished from other sex related homicide offenders by their involvement in necrophilia.

In fact, the dynamics of lust murder and necrophilia are intimately connected. The Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy cases are an example of this dynamic.


· The Lust Murderer, who engages in necrophilia, may not witness any prolonged degree of suffering on the part of the victim. However, he is likely to call upon his imagination and fantasy to supply him with the necessary engrams to satisfy his craving for his depravity.

· The lust murderer may also torture victims before killing them, and then recall an after-image engram of the sensation produced by the physical torture and mutilation. This sadistic scenario is thus conjured in the imagination, be it a re-creation of the actual crime scene, or the product of fantasy.

· Most lust murders are viewed as behaviors of sadistic sexual psychopaths. This is the type of offender who tortures and kills for sexual gratification and characterizes the prototypical serial killer, which is an Organized offender.

However, it should be understood that Disorganized Offenders are also capable of similar behavior and engage in related sadistic activities with their victims as well.

The primary difference between the Organized and Disorganized lust murderer is the inability of the Disorganized Offender to repeatedly escape apprehension. In fact, most Disorganized Lust Murderers are apprehended at the time of the event or shortly thereafter.


The organized offender is usually above average in intelligence. He is methodical and cunning. His crime is well thought out and carefully planned. He is likely to own a car, which is in good condition. The crime is usually committed out of his area of residence or work. He is mobile and travels many more miles than the average person. Fantasy and ritual are important to the Organized type personality. He selects a victim, which he considers the "right" type, someone he can control (either through manipulation or strength), usually a stranger. Most of his victims will share some common traits.

He is considered socially adept. He uses his verbal skills to manipulate his victims and gain control over them until he has them within his "comfort zone." He is fully cognizant of the criminality of his act and takes pride in his ability to thwart the police investigation. He is likely to follow news reports of the event and will oftentimes take a "souvenir" from his victim as a reminder, which is sometimes used to relive the event or continue with the fantasy. (The souvenir is referred to as a "trophy" when describing this particular action by the organized offender.)

He is excited by the cruelty of the act and may engage in torturing the victim. Sexual control of the victim plays an important part in this scenario. He avoids leaving evidence behind and usually brings his own weapon. He is aware of police procedures. The body is often removed from the crime scene. He may do this to "taunt" the police or to prevent its discovery by transporting it to a location where it will be well hidden.


The disorganized offender is usually below average intelligence. He is generally a loner type, who usually is not married, lives either alone, or with a relative in close proximity to the crime scene. He experiences difficulty in negotiating interpersonal relationships and is described as socially inadequate. He acts impulsively under stress and will usually select a victim from his own geographic area. In most instances this type of offender will not own a vehicle, but will have access to a vehicle. Generally, he will avoid people.

He is described as sexually incompetent without any meaningful sexual relationships. He uses a "blitz" style of attack, which catches the victim off guard. This spontaneous action in which the offender suddenly "acts out" his fantasy does not allow for a conscious plan or even a thought of being detected. This is why the crime scene will be disorganized.

In homicide investigation we call these events a clustered crime scene. "A clustered crime scene involves a situation where most of the activities take place at one location; the confrontation, the attack, the assault and sexual activity, etc."

The disorganized offender usually depersonalizes his victim by facial destruction or overkill type of wounds. Any sexually sadistic acts are performed postmortem. Mutilation to the genitalia, rectum, breasts of females, neck, throat and buttocks are performed because these parts of the body contain a strong sexual significance to him.

There are significant differences between the organized and disorganized offender. However, there are no situations where the organized and disorganized offenders are mutually exclusive.

Both types of murderers are capable of all types of behavior.


The two victims were a mother and her fourteen-year-old daughter. The actual intended victim was the fourteen-year-old. The mother was killed as she attempted to defend herself and her daughter. The killer had waited until the victims were ready for bed. He struck the fourteen-year-old in the head with a baseball bat, which resulted in her instant death. He then confronted the mother with a knife, as she became aware of his presence in the home. The mother suffered several defense wounds to her arms and hands before succumbing to some 31 stab wounds of her body. There was evidence that she was tortured as well. Once his victims were unconscious and dead he engaged in hours of sexual deviance with their bodies. His intention was to knockout the fourteen-year-old and then torture her to death. However, he had hit her with such force that she died. He eviscerated both of his victims. He had sex with their corpses and drank their blood before posing and propping them with their body parts and inserting a baseball bat into the daughter's vagina.

He removed the breasts from the mother and placed them in the bedroom on end tables on either side of the bed where the daughter's body was found. He incised the skin of the pubis from the mother and placed the tissue into her mouth. He incised the skin of the pubis from the daughter's body and placed it upon the right side of her face. He then engaged in postmortem piquerism by stabbing into the daughter's throat a total of sixteen times.


This is a classic case of an organized offender, who is a lust murderer and a serial killer. This was his second and third murder. His first victim was the ten-year-old daughter of his live-in girlfriend. He had eviscerated her body and engaged in necrophilia in his post-offense phase. Although he was a suspect the authorities did not have sufficient evidence to charge him and he left the jurisdiction. In the above case, we see an offender, who has pre-planned the event, stalked his victims, brings his own weapon and leaves very little evidence at the scene. He had stalked the family over a period of two months in an attempt to gain access to the daughter. He already had decided to kill the mother first and then "enjoy" himself with the girl.

His admitted fantasy was to torture and kill young girls as another male anally sodomized him. All of the cutting, mutilation and overkill type wound structures were directed towards those parts of the body that the offender found sexually significant to him and these activities served as his sexual stimulus.

The piquerism inflicted on the body of the sixteen-year-old was substitutive for his "torture" fantasy. The Offender, who was deprived of any prolonged degree of suffering on the part of the victim because she had died so quickly, called upon his imagination and fantasy to supply him with the necessary engrams to satisfy his craving for his depravity. This is consistent with lust murderers who torture victims before killing them and then recall an after-image engram of the sensation produced by the physical torture and mutilation. It should be noted that his first victim's injuries were very similar to those inflicted on the sixteen-year-old. Although fantasy and ritual were extremely important to him he remained in complete control and was fully aware of his actions and his need to avoid detection.


The female victim, who lived alone in a rural area, was found murdered in her home. Two weeks earlier, she had confronted a burglar in her home who was stealing her panties. She had chased-off him off with a fire poker and reported the crime to police. The suspect was a known fetish burglar in the area. The suspect hid in a wood closet on the porch of the victim's home waiting for her to return from work. She was attacked "Blitz-style" as she unlocked the door with her key. She was repeatedly stabbed in the breast and chest area and suffered a number of defense wounds.

The suspect then carried the victim's body into the house where he began a bizarre eighteen-hour sexual ritual. The suspect cut out the crotch area of the victim's pants and then began disrobing her by cutting all of the garments from her person. He then dressed in the victim's undergarments complete with make-up, water balloons for breasts and padding from a pillow he cut open. He also took a pair of the victim's high heel shoes and cut the heal portion out so that he could wear them as well. He glued false fingernails on and then polished his "new nails" with red nail polish. He inserted objects into her vagina and masturbated on the victim's body. While in the victim's residence he made a number of phone calls to a 900 service, which totaled $643.00. The suspect managed to escape out a rear door when police arrived at the victim's home.

However, he was quickly located and taken into custody by officers, who found him hiding in a closet in another home in the area.


This is a classic case of a disorganized offender who is a lust murderer. The subject had started his fetish burglaries as a youngster. He progressed from panty theft, which was substitutive sexual behavior, to physically confronting some of his victims.

The police retrieved magazines and articles on gender change as well as cross-dressing and a large collection of pornography in the suspect's home. Police interviews revealed that he had previously molested his own sister and had stolen her panties. The sister was forced to sleep with her door locked because she was in fear from her own brother.

The suspect was a classic sexual deviant whose past behavior as well as his activities with the victim in the crime scene clearly demonstrated his sadistic progression and potential dangerousness. He interacted with the victim's corpse as if she were alive as he called upon his imagination and fantasy to supply him with the necessary engrams to satisfy his craving for his depravity. The Necrophilia and interaction with the victim's body were clearly enhanced by the 900 calls.

In fact, he was so engrossed with his fantasy; he was almost caught in the house. He manifested the Paraphilias of Sexual Sadism, which was the driving force, and Necrophilia coupled with the substitutive Paraphilias of Voyeurism, Fetishism, Transvestic Fetishism with apparent Gender Dysphoria, and Telephone Scatologia.


Lust murders can be classified as organized or disorganized depending on the psychopathology manifested in the crime scene as well as the ability of the offender to repeatedly elude apprehension. The common denominator is sexual sadism, which is a chronic and progressive disorder. Lust Murders are carried out in an obsessive manner as the offenders attempt to translate their perverse sexual fantasies into reality by inflicting sadistic sexual violence upon the bodies of their victims.


This material is excerpted from PRACTICAL HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques. THIRD EDITION. 1996. Author, Vernon J. Geberth; Publisher, CRC PRESS, INC. Boca Raton, Florida

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