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When Silenced Voices Speak: An Exploratory Study of Prostitute Homicide

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2001
499 pages
This study investigated the differences between samples of serial and single prostitute homicide victims.
The question is posed of whether such variables as work location and body disposal method could classify a deceased prostitute case as being either single (the only victim of a murderer) or serial (one of several victims of a murderer) in nature. Anecdotal data and variables excerpted from relevant research literatures were included in an instrument designed for the study, the Prostitute Homicide Questionnaire. Psychopathy was measured retrospectively with the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised. One hundred twenty-three closed homicide files (49 single and 74 serial victims) submitted from law enforcement agencies were examined, completing both instruments. Results show that, although most prostitute victims were crack cocaine addicts, serial victims showed a more chronic pattern of abuse and risk behaviors, while single victims resembled traditional street prostitutes. The perpetrators resembled each other superficially, having lengthy criminal histories and elevated psychopathy levels. But the serial killers differed markedly “under the surface,” showing sexual motivations, deviant interests, and a high likelihood for sexual aggression. Serial offender subgroups were identified, differing in socioeconomic status, criminal sophistication, and exhibition of sadistic and idiosyncratic crime scene behaviors. Single offenders were non-sexually motivated, murdering victims spontaneously during interpersonal disputes involving substances. It is recommended that this study be replicated with a larger, more representative sample of prostitute victims. 1 table, 2 appendices, 163 references

Date Published: August 1, 2001