Femme Fatales – The Fifteen Percent

Bridget Higgins, Technology Page Editor

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As reported by Psychology Today, fifteen percent of all serial killers are female. An occurrence so uncommon that many in the past simply chose to believe that women were not capable of such horrors. In 1998 an FBI agent Roy Hazelwood was quoted claiming, “ There are no female serial killers”. A mere thirteen percent compared to the other eighty seven percent, female serial killers are rare and unusual. So much in fact that they have not been studied to the extent that male serial killers have. In a more recent effort to understand these phenomenons. Many have began more studies in hopes to gain further knowledge of the mystery behind these lady killers.

In a study by Penn State, psychology professor and evolutionary psychologist  Marissa Harrison and her team studied documented female serial killers in the United States all the way back to the revolutionary war. They were able to construct a profile of the average female serial killer. Dr. Harrison stated in an article with the Washington  Post that, “It is shocking… the profile we put together sounds just like your average person. There is no way to tell.” Katie Ann King, a sophomore, commented “ That’s terrifying to know. Not having a clue who might be a serial killer, knowing that someone could appear like an average person and then suddenly might snap one day”. Many of the subjects in the study came from mundane backgrounds and were seemingly average, everyday women. Employed in stereotypical jobs such as  teaching, caregiving and nursing they fly under the radar making them very elusive.

When people think of serial killers the usual names that come to mind are ones such as, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Milwaukee cannibal, John Wayne Gacy, the killer clown, or Ted Bundy. Dorothea Puente, Aileen Wuornos, Nannie Doss are some of the most infamous female serial killers, but rarely would a female serial killer come to mind. But what makes male serial killers more notorious? Of course due to the sheer difference in numbers this isn’t entirely strange, however male and female serial killers more often than not have very definable differences and some of these could possibly play into how well they are remembered.

Alieen Wuornos


Compared to their male counterparts, female serial killers, commonly shortened to FSK, differ in many ways.. The motive or drive for the different genders is very distinct. According to Dr. Joni E. Johnston, from Psychology Today, females are usually driven by power and money compared to men who are more likely to kill for control, humiliation and pleasure. Females are also less likely to have a criminal record which plays into their ability to not attract too much attention. Their power to go undetected equivalates in them having a longer killing career than most men. Women are also known to be less gruesome in their killings. For example, Dorothea Puente a caregiver for the elderly and disabled, was charged with nine murders in the course of six years. Killing the very people she took care of for one reason, their social security checks with her weapon of choice; poison.  However, of course, there are always exceptions such as Aileen Wuornos, aka the Florida Highway Killer.  Wuornos worked as a prostitute and between 1989 and 1990 she murdered seven men by shooting them at point blank range. In a study done at Penn State Harrisburg the victims of women serial killers have a ninety two  percent chance of knowing or being related to their killer. While most male’s stalk and kill strangers which instills more public paranoia. Marissa Harrison (mentioned earlier) is an evolutionary psychologist at Penn State who voiced that,” Female serial killers gather while male serial killers hunt…….it reflects kind of ancestral tendencies”.  Juliet Hennessy, a sophomore, expressed that, “ It shows how different the male and female minds are, how they think differently and what their instincts are. I think that is really interesting.”

Dorothea Puente


Everyday more studies and research is being conducted in an effort to understand this thirteen percent. The elusive, secretive women who commit the most horrible of crimes will live long in the countless documentaries trying to understand them. While the public is centered on their more well known male counterparts they will continue to fly under the radar, out of the public eye, unbeknown to many close to them.

Nannie Doss


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Femme Fatales – The Fifteen Percent