Pacific North West serial killer hotspot?
January 28, 2008 3:52 PM   Subscribe

I've heard several times from different sources how the NorthWest of America, and the Seattle area in particular, is a hotspot for serial killers. Is there any truth to this? Or is it just a reflection of the high profile of the Ted Bundy case? And if it is the case (or even if it isn't) has anyone offered any explanations?
posted by Artw to Law & Government (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm gonna try not to give a patently non-helpful answer here, but I know that in addition to Ted Bundy, the Seattle area also produced the Green River killer, who may have killed as many as forty people (and may have been more than one killer, too). So that's kind of a lot, and within a pretty short timeframe.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:56 PM on January 28, 2008

Well, says: Did you know that people living in the Western region of the United States are more likely to become victims of a serial killer than people living in the Northeast? The February issue of Homicide Studies, published by SAGE, is the first to explore research looking at the considerable interstate and regional differences in serial killer activity.

And you may or may not get (free) access to the referenced article here.

Who knew?
posted by rtha at 3:58 PM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

another discussion
posted by Salvatorparadise at 3:58 PM on January 28, 2008

Although that sciencedaily article I linked to also says: The study also found that cultural factors, such as a high ratio of executions to homicides and classification as a southern state, correlated with a higher rate of serial killers.

So maybe instead of who knew? it should be who knows?
posted by rtha at 4:03 PM on January 28, 2008

Another less than scientific answer here... I live in Adelaide, Australia, and I've heard a heap of times that it's the serial murder capital of the world. I'm pretty sure that it all stems from 1999 when eight bodies (or bits of them) were found in barrels in a place called Snowtown.

So as for your question, it's possible that there was one year where there was an abnormally high rate. If the statistics are taken from a relatively short time period, then this one year would make it seem a lot worse than it actually is.
posted by twirlypen at 4:10 PM on January 28, 2008

This same thing was said about Wisconsin thanks to Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, etc.

Ann Rule, a true-crime writer based in the Seattle area, writes often about Seattle-based crimes, which may make them more obvious to the general public. She's probably the #1 true-crime author writing today, and she favors stories from her home base.
posted by GaelFC at 4:29 PM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't forget Gary Ridgway AKA Green River Killer.

Best explanations I've read is that the dense populations with proximity to wilderness, along with the wet moist atmosphere makes the Pacific Northwest a great spot to dump bodies, as the majority of the body will be gone within a season.
posted by mrzarquon at 4:35 PM on January 28, 2008

A few more from the area:

Jerry Brudos (Shoe Fetish Slayer), Salem, OR.
Westley Allan Dodd, Washington.
Robert Lee Yates (Spokane Serial Killer), Spokane, WA.
posted by smackfu at 4:42 PM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

While a handful of high profile cases does not a true statistical increase make, famous (infamous?) serial killers are not restricted to the US Pacific Northwest. Robert Pickton, an Port Coquitlam, BC pig farmer, was recently convicted of killing six Vancouver prostitutes and is accused of killing over twenty more.

He supposedly fed the bodies to his hogs and/or ground up some of the corpses and mixed them with pork products served to friends and visitors to the farm.
posted by Nelsormensch at 4:53 PM on January 28, 2008

I was actually surprised not to know the Green River Killer*. I thought my family knew everybody in the area (sigh) and knew at least one possible suspect in school. Ridgeway lived just a few miles from where I grew up, and where one of my brothers still lives.

Why all these kooks? Speculations:

1) the weather (have you hear that it rains up here?)
2) northern lattidues providing extra hours of darkness
3) vast expanses of dense vegetation (not to mention limitless numbers of smaller patches) for hiding and dumping

Or maybe too many Californians moved here and went bonkers.

*one of the victims was discovered during my wife's aunt's graveside service.
posted by trinity8-director at 5:42 PM on January 28, 2008

Oh, hell. I was also at Lake Sammamish the weekend Bundy snatched that poor girl using the fake cast trick. For all I know, I might have seen him.

posted by trinity8-director at 5:45 PM on January 28, 2008

Or maybe too many Californians moved here and went bonkers.

I am going to venture to say that this might not be so far off as one might think. In general, a place where a troubled person who has a few screws loose can make a new start, a place that doesn't have long settled ties of shared culture is a place where, in addition to getting the best and brightest, you get the strangest and scariest, the ones who *had* to leave the old country. They came to the US, they bred, they produced a culture that was high on individualism, which also meant that outsiders or loners were marginalized and forgotten. They could work and live in the shadows. The US then produced more serial killers than the rest of the world. As the east became more settled, the best and brightest AND the worst and weirdest migrated west - to California et voila! California is serial killer central. Now that California is staid and settled and is no longer the wild west, where do you go to get rid of your past? The best and brightest, and the worst and weirdest move to the Pacific Northwest.

Yeah I know Seattle is as gentrified as any other place, but these trends are probably two or three generations in the making.

Why this hasn't happened in say, Canada is more one of population density. But note Canada produced such *luminaries* as Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka and that scary pig farmer in BC that was in the news recently.

This is of course simplistic and there are serial killes everywhere, but I do think that certain migration patterns might tend to slightly, just ever so slightly skew the serial killer probability.
posted by xetere at 6:46 PM on January 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

i think it's just because all of those spooky second-tier crime dramas on tv are filmed in vancouver. :)
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:10 PM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

The FreeRepublic boards seem to think that the reason there's more killers around Seattle is because of all the homosexuals and liberalism...This is my surprised face.

I seem to remember a map on that tracked unsolved prostitute murders in an attempt to ferret out as-of-yet unknown serial killers, but I can't find it now - They might have dumped it as too time-consuming, or a little too 'out there' for Turner networks, which I think owns the site now. I do remember it having clusters in the north, particularly Seattle, Michigan and Maine, but I have nothing current to back that.
posted by Orb2069 at 7:19 PM on January 28, 2008

Having read relatively a lot about serial killers, given that there is no way to determine why people become serial killers, there's no way to determine why a particular area might engender more or less of them. That being said, serial killers tend (as much as they tend to anything) to pick as their victims the vulnerable (i.e. the homeless, hitchhikers, street walkers, etc.) since that way they are more likely to have the missing not be noticed, which means when the murder is discovered, it is harder to link to the killer. It may be that the 'milder' weather allows for street people to be out and about for longer periods of the year, which means more "prey". Then again, if you look at the REALLY rampant killings, such as some cases in Russia (where some serial killers claim to have killed dozens or hundreds), and the huge number of missing in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico - or the English doctor who killed hundreds, it is hard to ascribe one area of the world as generating more of the deviant than another.
posted by birdsquared at 8:50 PM on January 28, 2008

It seems likely that reading/watching/hearing reports of serial killers makes one slightly more likely to act on the desire. Humans are quite social, and learn what is acceptable from others.
posted by theora55 at 6:49 AM on January 29, 2008

twirlypen, the Adelaide thing also comes from the Family murders of the 70s/80s and the Truro murders. Having said that, Adelaide's reputation as murder capital of Australia is grossly exaggerated and undeserved. I reckon the same would go for the Northwest.

Even if the serial murder rate is higher there, there are undoubtedly reasons for it (likely availability of easy victims? relaxed lifestyle where people tend to travel a lot and not be missed? place where runaways, who make easy pickings for killers, tend to congregate? wider more open spaces and easier places to dump bodies unseen and undetected? Or conversely, more travelled spaces, so bodies are discovered earlier, links between victims are made, and therefore it's definitely known that a serial killer is on the loose where other law enforcement might not make the connection between all the missing people/bodies on their patch?) I don't know if any of those are the case with the Pacific North West, but I'm guessing it's a combination of a few high profile cases plus a couple of those factors I've listed above.
posted by andraste at 1:58 PM on January 29, 2008

I always though the same thing about Wisconsin, due to Jeffrey Dahmer and Ed Gein. I only like to mention this to people from Wisconsin to make fun of them though.
posted by deinemutti at 5:51 PM on February 1, 2008

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