Can A Woman Be A Serial Killer?

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Serial murders are the most common form of multiple murder in the United States. It is characterized by the killing of three or more people over a period of days, week, or even years in between them. Research shows that the increase in the amount of serial murders, that has occurred in the second half of the 20th century, was a trend that was destined to continue. Over the years, murders have increased by 300%. This behavior was linked to lots of different issues. Serial Murders in the 2000’s were more centered around men rather than women. Men killed an average of 260 people and women only killed an average of 35 people. Although serial killers are typically stereotyped as men coming from bad backgrounds, Kristen Gilbert proves this claim wrong due to her family upbringing and her previous life before her killings.

When people think about a serial killer, or even just a killer in general, most people tend to focus more towards the men rather than women. According to Katie Bohn, “[..] these behaviors are reminiscent of sex-specific behaviors or assignments in the ancestral environment” this means that the evolution of family has more of an effect on how people will be brought up into the world. It also says that sex can also make an impact on what a person does. This does not mean that one person is born to commit crimes, but it shows more statistics on how a person’s ancestors can affect them. In the article, it also states that, “Male serial killers tend to ‘hunt’ their victims, who are often strangers to them.” and “ Female serial killers tend to ‘gather’ their victims- targeting people around them who they may already know, often for financial gain”(Bohn). This quote proves that men that kill are more likely to do it randomly and women are more likely to know who they want to kill and have a reason for their killings. This is different from the Kristen Gilbert situation because she killed random people in the hospital she worked at. She had no incentive or reward for taking part in these actions.

Kristen Gilbert grew up in Massachusetts in a small family with just one sister. She grew up in a well taken care of home with both a mom and a dad. For the most part, she was a normal kid and was well liked by everyone. She worked very hard at school and “was even member in the math club” (Milne). Her mother and father talked very highly of her and loved their children. As she got older and began dating, she had a few boyfriends who said she was manipulative and lied about stuff to them. After her pre-teen years, she started becoming a little different and had suicide threats and claims were said she had tried to eat glass to kill herself. Due to these actions, she got sent to a psychiatric ward to get some help.

Shortly after she came back and went to get her nursing degree at Greenfield Community College. She landed a job at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Northampton, Massachusetts. Montaldo states, “Her superiors rated her nursing as ‘highly skillful;’ and noted how well she reacted during medical emergencies. She also would put on gift exchanges at work for disadvantaged families. Nobody around her noticed anything strange and all saw her as a ray of sunshine at work. She then married Glen Gilbert and they had two children.

After she had her first child and returned from maternity leave, she soon switched her shift to the four p.m. to midnight shift. Almost immediately after her change in schedule, strange things began happening. She met an officer that worked at the hospital and according to Milne, “Gilbert began an extramarital affair with a hospital security guard, James G. Perrault, an Army veteran of the Persian Gulf War.” This officer was on duty for most if not all of the killings that she committed and soon nicknamed her “The Angel of Death” which is ironic. This is ironic because Bohn states, “ Women were more likely to be given nicknames that denote their gender- like Jolly Jane or Tiger Women” This nickname that the officer gave her was because of how pretty she was and how she was always somehow around for all the murders that kept happening in the hospital. According to Document shows Past of VA Nurse, “authorities have charged her with the killings of 3 patients at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital and trying to kill two others.” The incentive they showed behind these murders were to try and impress her new boyfriend Perrault. She used epinephrine which is a drug used to overstimulate the heart and call in Perrault after injecting it and watch as the patients struggled for their lives and play “footsie” with him until they died. After one killing, more and more kept happening and “it was later estimate that she was on duty during half of her 350 deaths in a seven- year span, and the odds of that being an accident are one in 100 million”

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Meanwhile after these killings kept happening, her marriage was soon dissolved and according to Milne, “she began to prepare home-cooked meals allegedly laced with a drug to increase her husband’s frequency of peeing.” Her husband told prosecutors that his wife was trying to get him dead and out of the house by the time Thanksgiving came. Soon he got sick and was taken into emergency care by his wife and “she tried to kill him at a different hospital by filling a syringe with a clear liquid and telling him it was saline, but it wasn’t and as soon as it was injected his arm grew cold.” He survived this incident and was soon released from the hospital. By this time their marriage was fully over with and she had left him and her two children for Perrault. The next patient, Stanley J. Jagodowski, was “admitted to the hospital for postoperative bowel obstructions and only required oral medication, but a nurse saw Gilbert enter his room with a syringe and heard the patient crying in pain as she left the room.” He was later found dead after going into cardiac arrest. She was also said to have killed a man who was in intensive care just so she could leave early for a date with Perrault. A man who heard all of the gossip around the hospital refused her treatment after falling ill but was also later injected and found dead. She later quit her job and “was institutionalized for a suicide attempt to the psychiatric ward and called Perrault and declared to him that she was the one who had been killing all of these innocent people by injection.” Perrault called in authorities and told them everything that had happened, and she was put on trial.

She was first put on trial in October 2000 in Springfield, Massachusetts for murder and attempted murder. Typically, if someone committed all of these murders, they would diffidently be on death penalty. But for Kristen Gilbert, this was not the case. According to Goldberg, “Massachusetts is one of the 12 states without the death penalty, but in a rare jurisdictional twist, Ms. Gilbert’s is a capital case nonetheless, the first since the states death penalty was overturned in 1984.” So, with that being said the jury was indeed seeking the death penalty, and if they were to succeed then she would be the first women executed by the government since 1953. This made it very hard for the jury because they had just turned over the death penalty and she was a very rare case of capital murder and hadn’t been quite proven that she had actually committed these crimes. They then started using science to depict what she was injecting into her patients that was killing them and said that this case was “largely going to come down to a battle of scientific experts.” The case took an unexpected turn in January after the government admitted that the results of the tests from a toxicology laboratory, which had analyzed the amounts of epinephrine in the alleged victims were in error. This means that they couldn’t base the entire case off what they found in the labs, because it didn’t show the high levels that were injected into the hearts and so now they needed witnesses and families to come forward with testimony’s on what they knew happened in order to help the trial go smoothly.

This case was going to be a marathon and not a sprint. It was also going to consist of lots and lots of witnesses getting called to the stand to give them more and more information on Kristen Gilbert and what her punishment will be. One testimony was a nurse that Gilbert had worked with and she said “one day she had counted the 3 containers filled with epinephrine in the cabinet around 4 p.m. and about an hour later after an emergency call involving Gilbert she counted them again and found nothing but 3 containers in the needle disposable bucket.” More and more nurses started coming forward after Ms. Rix gave her testimony to say how they started noticing suspicions things during the killings while they were on the job with Gilbert. Most of the testimony’s came from technical issues, but some came from relatives of the veterans she had killed and the loved ones of those who had also been killed. Her boyfriend, Perrault, and Ex- Husband were also called to the stand and they both confessed a similar story that she had told both of them on two different occasions. She had confessed to the murders that happened.

The judge had told the jury to not limit themselves to only 1st degree murder, but to 2nd degree murder as well which meant life in prison, but not the death penalty. “so, after 83 hours of deliberation during the 12 days, the jury had returned to the court and had their verdict ready to present. According to Kristen Gilbert Trial, “on March 14th Gilbert was guilty of first-degree murder in three cases, and second-degree murder in the other; she was also found guilty of assault with intent to kill in two of the three other cases.” With all that being said the jury could not come to a consensus of her punishment and would return in a week to determine what she would get. “On March 26th they announced that they couldn’t reach a unanimous decision and required for the death penalty, so the judge then sentenced her to 3 consecutive terms for life imprisonment with no chance of parole. One quote that stood out while researching said, “women are rarely sentenced to death in the United States and executions of women are even rarer. Researchers have suggested that women who are sentenced to death are often perceived as breaking gender norms” (Death Penalty Information Center). This quote says a lot about society today because as mentioned earlier, men are usually seen as the bad guys in society and are the ones getting caught up in the horrendous crimes that are committed. When a woman commits those crimes, society tends to brush them under the rug and not give them much attention. Women with families that are committing these crimes are often more humanized because they have children and husbands and people just don’t see women doing those things and when it happens everyone is in shock.

During the 2000’s most women weren’t committing crimes involving murder. Typically, men were responsible for this type of crime. Although research has shown that men are more likely to hunt and kill their victims, Kristen Gilbert proves that a woman is just as capable of killing someone as a man is. Kristen Gilbert had a normal childhood and was an average American. Nothing serious in her pervious life lead people to think she would be a murderer. Everyone thought she was normal. Her case shows that even if people grow up in a normal family and have a normal lifestyle, they still can commit murder.

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Can A Woman Be A Serial Killer? (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/can-a-woman-be-a-serial-killer/
“Can A Woman Be A Serial Killer?” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/can-a-woman-be-a-serial-killer/
Can A Woman Be A Serial Killer? [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/can-a-woman-be-a-serial-killer/> [Accessed 20 Apr. 2024].
Can A Woman Be A Serial Killer? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 09 [cited 2024 Apr 20]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/can-a-woman-be-a-serial-killer/
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