Thrill Killers

T is for (Hedonistic) Thrill Killers

The Hedonistic Thrill Killer is one who derives excitement from committing the crime, and eluding detection. They will often send notes to investigators, boasting and taunting the detective teams with their crimes.

The Problem with Thrill Killers

For most murders, it is a reasonable assumption that the murder victim will have known their killer. Police investigations will tend to look at family and close friends to firstly find suspects. Other types of murders give something away towards the profile, typology and motivation of the killer from the crime scene – it may be a sexually sadistic murder, or perhaps one showing a lot of forward planning, restraint and control over the victim for a prolonged period (power/control motive).

For the thrill killer, however, the motive sits simply in selecting the victim, and the process of the planning and act of the crime. Victims may very well be random, and selected solely because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

In a Guardian UK report of 2003, the author profiles the at-the-time unresolved case of one woman who became the victim of such a thrill killing. The report is entitled ‘The ‘thrill killers’ who murder without motive’. At the end of it, the report talks of some U.S. cases of thrill killing at the time also –

For the past four weeks New Yorkers have been living in the shadow of a ‘thrill killer’ who has been linked to four random shootings. The most recent took place last week in a launderette. CCTV footage showed the killer sitting on a bench and watching television while other customers used the laundry. Then, without warning, he stood up and shot the owner in the face. He then walked out, leaving behind £600 worth of takings in the till. The same gun has been linked to three other murders.

In the same year, reported on another thrill killing case – Cops Say Erika and Benjamin Sifrit Befriended Another Couple—and Murdered Them Just for Kicks

Typology of the Thrill Killer

Hedonistic Thrill killers sit under the Holmes and Holmes Typology for Serial Murderers, as a process-focused killer.

The lust killer can display the following characteristics and behaviours –

  • Motive – The primary motive of a thrill killer is to induce pain or create terror in their victims, which provides stimulation and excitement for the killer. They seek the adrenaline rush provided by hunting and killing victims.
  • M.O. – Thrill killers murder only for the kill; usually the attack is not prolonged, and there is no sexual aspect.
  • Victimology – Usually the victims are strangers, although the killer may have followed them for a period of time.
  • Thrill killers can abstain from killing for long periods of time and become more successful at killing as they refine their murder methods. Many attempt to commit the perfect crime and believe they will not be caught.
  • Signature – often thrill killers may leave behind calling cards, notes or send letters to investigators, as they derive pleasure from deluding detection.


Examples of the Thrill Killer

Henry Lee Lucas

A murderer that roamed the United States with Otis Elwood Toole his somewhat- lover. In June 1983, Lucas was taken into custody for illegal possession of a firearm. He then began bragging about a cross country murder spree spanning several decades. Lucas took police to the crime scenes and burial sites of 246 people and was charged with 189 of the crimes.

His habit of confessing and recanting many murders means he was eventually convicted of only 11 killings.His death sentence was eventually moved to life imprisonment, and he died in prison aged 64.

The Zodiac Killer

Zodiac Killer – killed at least seven people in the San Francisco area in the 1960’s. He sent taunting letters to the police via the local newspapers.  These letters included four cryptograms (or ciphers). Of the four cryptograms sent, only one has been definitively solved. In one, he wrote –
 “[killing] gives me the most thrilling experience it is even better than getting your rocks off with a girl”.

The Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs

The Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs is the media epithet for the killers responsible for a string of brutal murders in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine in June and July 2007. The case gained additional notoriety because the killers made video recordings of some of the murders, with one of the videos leaking to the Internet. Two 19-year-old locals, Viktor Sayenko  and Igor Suprunyuck were arrested and charged with 21 murders.

A third conspirator, Alexander Hanzha was charged with two armed robberies that took place before the murder spree.


  • Christopher Wilder, AKA “The Beauty Queen Killer”, multi-millionaire. In 1984, Christopher Wilder killed eight females by rape, binding, strangulation, and stabbing. When asked why he acted so sadistically, he replied that it was a way for satisfying his craving for “kicks” or “thrills” (Holmes 77). Before this he had a history of sexual offences, rapes and violence. He made his money in Real Estate. His killing spree took him from Florida through five more states before committing suicide whilst held up by cops in New Hampshire.
  • Gerald Eugene Stano, a killer active in Florida that murdered 32 victims, although also suspected to be a serial confessor spoonfed details of murders by a corrupt police officer. Gerald Stano was actually celled with Ted Bundy before Bundy’s death.
  • Leopold and Loeb Nathan Leopold, Jr. and Richard Albert Loeb, more commonly known as “Leopold and Loeb“, were two wealthy University of Michigan alumni and University of Chicago students who murdered 14-year-old Robert “Bobby” Franks in 1924 and were sentenced to life imprisonment.The duo were motivated to murder Franks by their desire to commit a perfect crime.
  • Robert Thompson and John Venables – James Bulger was a boy from Kirkby, England, who was murdered on 12 February 1993, when aged two. He was abducted, tortured and murdered by two ten-year-old boys, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. They enticed him away from a shopping mall and onto some railway tracks.



Citations and References


MoreA to Z of Serious Crime INDEX

  • For more on the Holmes Typology for killers see H for Holmes and Holmes Typology (Serial and Mass Murderers)
  • Index to A to Z of Serious Crime posts (April 2012)


This post participated in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. Find other worthwhile blogs to read, comment on and follow through the A to Z Challenge blog.



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Hunter Emkay writes psychological thrillers set in our contemporary domestic world. Hunter Emkay grew up and moved between small town surburbia to corporate geekiness – and back. Maybe all that surburban excitement has led to a little too much murder on her mind.