Legal News
`Special Chemistry' Forges Bond Between Killing Teams
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 23 page 13-13

Behind the monikers—the D.C. Snipers, the Hillside Stranglers, the Sunset Strip Killers—are two people who meet and develop a" special chemistry" that moves them to rape, torture, or kill together.

This chemistry "seems to ignite the team's willingness to engage in the most despicable behavior, which they might never have engaged in separately before they met and established a bond of loyalty," noted Jack Levin, Ph.D., who is the Irving and Betty Brudnick Professor of Sociology and Criminology and director of the Brudnick Center on Conflict and Violence at Northeastern University in Boston.

Levin, who is also an expert on serial killers, spoke at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law in Scottsdale, Ariz., in October about the dynamics between two people who kill.

As it was with John Muhammad and Lee Malvo (see story above), there is usually a dominant partner who persuades the other person to kill and who is somewhat older then the other person.

This was also the case with Angelo Buono, who was in his 40s when his younger cousin, Kenneth Bianchi, came to Los Angeles from Rochester, N.Y., to live with him in 1975.

Buono convinced his 27-year-old cousin they should get teenage girls to prostitute for them, which they did. Their first victim was Yolanda Washington, one of these prostitutes.

Ultimately, the cousins would go on to torture, rape, and kill 14 girls in the Los Angeles area.

Levin noted that with each victim, the level of sadism increased to the point where the cousins electrocuted their victims or injected them with cleaning fluid. "They got high on sadism and needed larger and larger doses to keep that high," he said.

Doug Clark and Carol Bundy met and fell in love in Los Angeles in 1979, and Clark convinced Bundy to lure an 11-year-old neighbor to Clark's apartment so he could photograph her nude. Bundy said later that the child was her" gift" to Clark. Together, the pair killed and mutilated at least seven women along the Sunset Strip.

In a later case, 23-year-old Paul Bernardo convinced his 17-year-old girlfriend, Karla Homolka, to help him rape, torture, and kill three young girls—one of them being Homolka's younger sister—in Toronto in the late 1980s.

"I would argue that the insanity in these cases lies in these relationships more so than it does in the killers' individual minds," Levin said. ▪

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