Thursday, July 09, 2009

Patrick Burris: the South Carolina spree killer

Patrick Burris, suspected as the killer who had been terrorizing a South Carolina community for the last couple weeks after being killed by police during a burglary investigation, has been linked by ballistics to the shooting deaths of victims in five different murders.
The article doesn't reveal much about Burris' motives or background, but neighbors recall him as "scary" and "someone you didn't want to cross," unlike the "nice, ordinary" men who later end up in handcuffs after opening fire at their workplaces or with bodies in their basements. Burris had been in and out of prison for burglary-related offenses for much of his adult life, and he reportedly intimidated a victim he tried to extort money from to the point where the victim wouldn't testify, and the case was thrown out.
A former FBI profiler commented on the case, saying that Burris didn't have the "mentality" of a serial killer, noting the random victims and shooting method. Most serial killers have at the very least a gender or age preference for their victims while others, like Ted Bundy, had specific physical characteristics in mind. But Burris' victims, like those of the Zodiac or the Night Stalker, were random, victims of opportunity. The relatively short span of time between Burris' crimes indicates that he was a spree killer, not a serial killer. Serial killers usually kill one victim, have a cooling-off period, then get the urge to kill again, sometimes with an "escalation period," where they kill in quicker succession. But Burris often claimed more than one victim at one crime scene, and killed in rapid succession, suggesting a man on a rampage, not a calculating murderer, as does his method of shooting. Serial killers usually prefer the more personal methods of strangulation or stabbing, where spree and mass murderers, who want to get their rage out fast, are inclined to use firearms. With Burris dead, we may never know the motives for his rampage.

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