A serial killer is traditionally defined as a person who has murdered two or more people over a period of more than a month, with down time (a "cooling off period") between the murders.
The motivation for killing is usually based onpsychological gratification. Some sources, such as the FBI, disregard the "three or more" criteria and define the term as "a series of two or more murders, committed as separate events, usually, but not always, by one offender acting alone" or, including the vital characteristics, a minimum of two murders.
Most of the killings involve sexual contact with the victim, but the FBI states that motives for serial murder include "anger, thrill, financial gain, and attention seeking". The murders may have been attempted or completed in a similar fashion and the victims may have had something in common; for example, occupation, race, appearance, sex, or age group.
Serial killing is not the same as mass murdering, nor is it spree killing, in which murders are committed in two or more locations with virtually no break in between; however, cases of extended bouts of sequential killings over periods of weeks or months with no apparent "cooling off" period or "return to normalcy" have caused some serial killer experts to suggest a hybrid category of "spree-serial killer"
Some people with a pathological interest in the power of life and death tend to be attracted to medical professions or acquiring such a job. These kinds of killers are sometimes referred to as "angels of death" or angels of mercy. Medical professionals will kill their patients for money, for a sense of sadistic pleasure, for a belief that they are "easing" the patient's pain, or simply "because they can". One such killer was nurse Jane Toppan, who admitted during her murder trial that she was sexually aroused by death. She would administer a drug mixture to patients she chose as her victims, lie in bed with them and hold them close to her body
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