Over the past forty years, general knowledge of serial killers has been derived from self-selected sources; offender interviews and case studies. A varied group of individuals gathered this data but operated in information silos due to competing interests. This lack of collaboration led to the influence of anecdotal evidence on public statements made about serial killers. Today, a burgeoning “serial murder industry” amplifies these myths and stereotypes, packaging them as entertainment. The ‘true crime’ genre has fostered a new generation of researchers that promulgate similar falsehoods. In response to this misinformation, Enzo Yaksic ushered a subset of the criminal justice community into the digital workspace to synchronize and standardize serial homicide data collection efforts. This unprecedented initiative, named the Serial Homicide Expertise and Information Sharing Collaborative (SHEISC), was formed in August 2010.
The baseline data was compiled by Enzo Yaksic for James Alan Fox's Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder. This initial dataset contained records on approximately two thousand US based serial killers and was built over the course of the past ten years. Seven other datasets from the following contributors were combined with Enzo's initial data to form the 'SHEISC Joint Serial Killer Database':
Mike Aamodt is professor emeritus of psychology at Radford University in Radford, Virginia. Mike is the founder of the Serial Killer Information Center. Mike contributed his entire dataset to this effort.
Eric Hickey is the Dean of Alliant International University’s California School of Forensic Studies. Eric has authored numerous scholarly works including Serial Murderers and Their Victims. Eric contributed his entire dataset to this effort.
John White is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Richard Stockton College. John recently authored The Utilization of Forensic Science and Criminal Profiling for Capturing Serial Killers. John contributed his entire dataset to this effort.
Kenna Quinet is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, Law and Public Safety at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Kenna's research focuses on various aspects of homicide including serial and mass homicides, missing persons, unidentified dead and prostitutes as serial homicide victims. Most recently, she is a co-author of The Will To Kill: Making Sense of Senseless Murder with Jamie Fox and Jack Levin. Kenna authored Prostitutes as Victims of Serial Homicide: Trends and Case Characteristics from 1970-2009 and The Missing Missing: Towards a Quantification of Serial Murder Victimization in the United States. Kenna was the first to contribute her entire dataset to this effort.
Ronald Hinch is a Professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Ron wrote the seminal work Researching Serial Murder in 1998. Prior to joining UOIT he was a faculty member at the University of Guelph in Ontario, where he served as Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Ron contributed his entire dataset to this effort.
Janet McClellan is the Chair of the Masters in Criminal Justice and Homeland Security & Disaster Management in the School of Public Services with Kaplan University. Janet recently authored Erontophontophilia: Investigating Violent Sexualized Homicides and Delivery Drivers and Long-Haul Truckers: Traveling Serial Murderers. Janet contributed her entire dataset of African American serial killers to this effort.
Bryan Nelson is a Forensic Mental Health Specialist with the Forensic Conditional Release Program (CONREP) in California. Bryan is a treatment provider for individuals who have been found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity or deemed a Mentally Disordered Offender with specialization working with sexual offenders. The role of fantasy in the development of serial murder offenders has been a research interest for Bryan for many years. Bryan contributed his entire dataset to this effort.
Michael Newton is the author of the first and second editions of The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. Michael contributed his entire dataset, in paper form, to this effort. Enzo copied the dataset to an Excel file so it could be merged with the others.
Wade C. Myers is a professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Director of Forensic Psychiatry at Rhode Island Hospital. Wade has written extensively on the issue of juvenile killers, including the book, Juvenile Sexual Homicide. Wade provided information on one case to this effort.
Tom Hargrove is a Database Research Consultant with E.W. Scripps Co. and recipient of the national Philip Meyer Prize for journalism for creating a computer algorithm that identifies homicide clusters with a high probability of serial murder. Information on the project can be found here: www.scrippsnews.com/projects/serial-killers Tom was instrumental in securing the release of summary unsolved homicides data from the ViCAP system. Tom provided information on one case to this effort.
Kenneth Morris is a Criminal Profiler with the Virginia State Police. Ken is a graduate of the International Criminal Investigative Analysis Fellowship. Ken provided 10 cases to this effort.
Enzo also copied the dataset from Justin Cottrell's book The Rise of the Black Serial Killer into an Excel file so it could be merged with the others.
Although this dataset only encompasses serial murders committed within the US, two researchers contributed their data to this effort:
Brigadier Gérard Labuschagne contributed 115 cases of South African serial killers to this effort.
The data from Lee Mellor's Cold North Killers: Canadian Serial Murder was copied for this effort.
It should be noted that others were approached during the planning stages of the collaborative.
Dr. Steve Egger has graciously offered to contribute his dataset of 3,000 serial killers to the effort. Dr. Charisse T.M. Coston maintains a dataset and has committed to sharing it with the SHEISC.
In October 2010, Enzo contacted Vernon Geberth, author of Antisocial Personality Disorder, Sexual Sadism, Malignant Narcissism and Serial Murder, in an effort to request the data used in the article. Geberth stated that the original data exists only in hard copy form due to a complication with the computer where the "thesis materials" were stored. Further requests for the paper copies were ignored. When asked for his database, Elliot Leyton stated that he did not have a dataset that he could provide towards the effort. In September 2010, Louis Schlesinger simply stated, "Sorry, can't share data, good luck."
In April 2011, Dr. David Canter stated that since the 'Missen Corpus of Serial Killer Data' was purchased for 20,000 dollars, it can "only be made available to bona fide researchers at considerable cost." In September 2012, Dr. Maurice Godwin, who received his PhD from Dr. Canter's program, attached a 2,500 dollar price tag to a different dataset that he maintains. Dr. Godwin's justification for the cost arose from the fact that, unlike the data in the Radford/FGCU Serial Killer Database, his information was gathered directly from police files (care of Robert Keppel/HITS). Dr. Godwin also added that the 'Missen Corpus of Serial Killer Data' was compiled from "anecdotal" sources, mostly detective magazines and true crime books. Given the open-source nature of our serial homicide data sharing effort, we neglected to pursue the avenue of purchasing other datasets.
Dr. Gabrielle Salfati noted that legal and ethical issues as well as Institutional Review Board and police restrictions can limit a researcher's access to raw data. Affiliation with a university or other recognized agency was also suggested to increase the likelihood that agencies will provide data.
Dr. Matt DeLisi provided the data used in his Multiple Homicide Offenders: Offense Characteristics, Social Correlates, and Criminal Careers paper but the IRB at Iowa State University required that the data be de-identified so all names were removed after the dataset was created.
In July 2011, Enzo partnered with Scripps Howard News Service investigative reporter Thomas Hargrove to file a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the names and demographics of all serial killers known to the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. Even though Drs. Schlesinger, Warren and Salfati consistently reference data gathered from FBI files and agents of the NCAVC write academic papers based on said information, the FBI claimed to “not maintain a running list of serial killers.” As an example of the pitfalls and pratfalls endemic to this data gathering venture, when Enzo asked Dr. Kirk Heilbrun for the data used in Comparing Single and Serial Homicide Offenses, he stated that "the database in question actually belongs to the FBI, so it's not mine to contribute."