Compulsive murderers can be envisioned as falling on a hypothetical continuum. On one end are those who plan their crimes in exceptional detail and discharge their compulsion with such care that they often go undetected for long periods of time. On the other end are those individuals who also harbor an internal compulsion to kill but who act out in an unplanned, impulsive, spontaneous fashion, leaving a great deal of evidence at the crime scene; they are often apprehended after the first or second offense. In between these extremes, however, lie most compulsive offenders, who exhibit a mixture of both planning and spontaneity in their criminal acts.
Despite the diverse clinical pictures of compulsive murderers-different MOs, different personalities, different types of victims, different crime-scene behaviors-Schlesinger (2000a), elaborating on Krafft-Ebing (1886), maintains that all these offenders have as part of their psychological makeup three interconnected components: sadism, fantasy, and a compulsion to kill (see Table 8.1). All three factors are present in each offender, but one element sometimes plays a dominant role. Thus, sadism is often pronounced in offenders who engage in torturous behavior, which masks both their inner drive to kill and their fantasies. In other cases, offenders' detailed and graphic writings depicting disturbed fantasies become the distinguishing feature. And, in yet other cases, offenders may not engage in excessive amounts of overtly sadistic behavior, nor is there evidence of elaborate and intricate fantasy; however, they may reveal or demonstrate an overpowering compulsion to act. In most cases, however, none of the three components is particularly dominant.