Despite people being generally intrigued by them, there remains some controversy on what criteria is considered of a serial killer. In their article “Paths to Destruction: The Lives and Crimes of Two Serial Killers” Doctors Barbara C. Wolf and Wendy A. Lavezzi appeal to the readers to consider what a serial killer looks and acts like. They discuss the media representation and how that affects people’s views on serial murderers. Also, Wolf and Lavezzi use ethos, logos, and facts to prove that no one should rely on what the entertainment industry has created as the main image of serial killers.
The ethos is applied indirectly in this article. Because both authors are doctors and have many years of experience in a medical examiner’s office, they are qualified to write it. Also, the article is considered scholarly on Academic Search Complete which means that other credible authors have reviewed the paper and approved it as quality material on the topic. It was also presented at a meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Wolf and Lavezzi wrote the article for people who work in the field, but it can also gain attention from people who simply have an interest in learning about serial murderers. The persuasive impact of ethos is further reinforced in this rhetoric essay, as the authors' expertise as doctors and their extensive experience in a medical examiner's office lends credibility.
Today the entertainment industry paints a picture of how serial killers are all supposed to look, act, and what events led them to kill people. An increasing interest in learning about serial killers, cases, and the reasoning behind such horrible acts has arisen due to this. The doctors reference other well-respected people in the field, such as Dr. Robert Hare (Wolf and Lavezzi 202), that have put out work that carries a similar message to theirs. This works as an appeal because although they also give facts to support their theory, it strengthens the argument so that the reader knows that they are not the only ones who think this. They also use logos to prove to their audience that it’s impossible to give one clear representation of all serial killers because they come from all different walks of life and various backgrounds. They do this in the form of examining the cases of Gary Evans and Kendall Francois, both serial killers that do not fit the media’s portrayal. Serial killers are often shown as a “white male in his late 20s or 30s of middle-class origins who suffered abuse as a child” (Wolf and Lavezzi 199) in the entertainment industry, which is not consistent with Evans or Francois. By detailing the cases of each, Wolf and Lavezzi support their own theory that no one can, “further characterize and classify serial murderers” (Wolf and Lavezzi 202) because Evans and Francois belong on completely opposite ends of the spectrum.
Because of this factual evidence, the readers will acknowledge that although there may be similarities in the life stories of serial killers, not all of them will fall perfectly into line with the media portrayal presented. By analyzing Evans and Francois, they validate that every case approached by the Federal Bureau of Investigation brings unique details. There may be some similarities, but each case needs to be approached independently from the others. If the article had not used facts, the readers would not have been tempted to change their opinion. The audience, who may have begun reading the article with a generalized view of serial killers, are pushed to reconsider their beliefs because the doctors explain in the article that there is no simple explanation regarding serial murderers. The reader would acknowledge that, like in both cases discussed, all serial killers have different life experiences and motives that led them all to similar circumstances.
In the article, both doctors effectively argue and provide proof that the media’s mold of a serial killer cannot be used to determine a profile of those types of people. No one can offer a valid explanation of how year by year a serial killer is led to murder people because of the variety in the cases. Not all serial killers use the same methods, or even have the same motive. Although they might follow some of the “classic characteristics” (Wolf and Lavezzi 203), no one, not even professionals, can determine a profile of a serial killer that would accurately describe this diverse group.
- Wolf, Barbara C., and Lavezzi, Wendy A. “Paths to Destruction: The Lives and Crimes of Two Serial Killers.” Journal of Forensic Sciences, vol. 52, no. 1, Jan. 2007, pp. 199–203. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/j.1556-4029.2006.00319.x.