The image of the sexual murderer-especially the murderer with multiple victims-has always aroused concomitant feelings of horror and fascination in the general public. Today, his exploits are graphically reported in the press and on television, in “psycho-thriller” films, and in various “true-crime” books (e.g., Rule, 1983, 1988; Ryzuk, 1994; Schechter, 1989,1990). As a result of all this attention, some sexual killers such as Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and the Boston Strangler, have almost become household names. Of course, sexual homicide-homicide motivated primarily by a breakthrough of underlying sexual conflicts or where the killing itself is sexually gratifying-has also been studied by behavioral scientists, sociologists, forensic specialists, and the like. Yet, in contrast to the voluminous research literature on (non-sexual) homicide from psychiatric, psychological, sociological, legal, and investigative perspectives, a solid body of scientific literature on sexual murder has not yet been accumulated.
The paucity of scientific studies is largely attributable to a number of problems that make research in the area of sexual murder very difficult. (1) There is no generally agreed upon definition of sexual homicide; instead, a number of different definitions have been offered, and different terms are used for what seems to be similar criminal behavior. (2) Many murders that appear to be sexually motivated are actually not sexually motivated. (3) Many murders that are not overtly sexual are sexually motivated. (4) The distinction between a sexual homicide and a homicide associated with sexual behavior is often blurred. (5) National or state crime statistics on the number of sexual homicides have not been kept. (6) There