Serial killers who rape, torment and kill women--often runaways, prostitutes and others who live transient lives--are called lust killers. (In England they call them "recreational killers.") These men are primarily motivated by sex and sadism, and have nothing but disdain for their victims. Before they actually kill anyone, most of these sociopaths fantasize about violent sex. At some point, these fantasies turn into reality. Serial killers prey on prostitutes because they are easy targets. A street walker will go missing, and no one will report it for days or weeks, if at all. Moreover, the police are not likely to give such cases much attention. As criminal homicides, these cases are difficult to solve because many of the bodies cannot be identified, and there is no substantial relationship between the victims and their killers.
What follows are the broad profiles of nine lust killers. Two are black, and all of them murdered prostitutes. In no particular order, they are:
white male; born 1949; 90 victims (1982-2000)
Ridgway, known as the Green River Killer, is America's most prolific lust killer. This childhood bed-wetter with a low IQ grew into a religious fanatic fixated on prostitutes. A loner and an outdoorsman, Ridgway, divorced three times, had a son by his second wife. He targeted street walkers who worked in Seattle and dumped their bodies on the banks of the Green River. He painted trucks for a living. Ridgway is serving a life sentence at the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla, Washington.
Rochester, New York
white male; born 1945; 12 victims (1988-1989)
In 1972, before Shawcross started killing prostitutes, he raped and murdered two children in Watertown, New York. After serving fourteen years in prison, he began targeting street walkers in Rochester, dumping their bodies in the Genesse River. Although he had a low IQ, he had served in the U.S. Army. He confessed to his murders before dying in 2008.
Bobby Joe Long
Tampa Bay, Florid
white male; born 1953; 10 victims (1984)
As a child growing up in Kenova, West Virginia, kids teased Long because he had an extra X chromosome that caused him to grow breasts. As a child he suffered several head injuries, and slept in his mother's bed until he was a teenager. Prior to killing women in the Tampa Bay area, Long raped at least fifty women in Fort Lauderdale, Ocala and Miami where he was known in the press as the "Classified Ad Rapist." In 1974, he married his high school girlfriend with whom he fathered two children. They divorced in 1980. Three years later, Long moved to Tampa Bay and in 1984 began abducting, raping and murdering women, most of whom were prostitutes. He took his victims to his apartment where he either strangled or bludgeoned them, or cut their throats. One of his victims escaped which led to his arrest and conviction. Long confessed to deriving sadistic pleasure from his crimes. He is on death row.
St. Louis, Missouri
black male; born 1965; 12-20 victims (2000-2002)
This hotel worker from Ferguson, Missouri outside of St. Louis, took prostitutes to his home where, in a basement torture chamber, he raped, tortured, and strangled his victims. He video-taped many of his atrocities. When investigators searched Travis' house, they found bondage equipment, a stun gun, and newspaper clippings featuring news of his murders. In 2002, he committed suicide in his St. Louis jail cell. In a letter to the "St. Louis Post-Dispatch," Travis boasted that he had killed seventeen prostitutes.
Poughkeepsie, New York
black male; born 1971; 8 victims (1996-1998)
This necrophiliac high school hall monitor took prostitutes to his home where he killed them by strangulation. His hatred of street walkers stemmed from the fact one of them had infected him with HIV. When the police searched his home, they found the decomposing bodies of several victims. He is serving a life sentence at the Attica Correctional Facility.
Robert Lee Yates
white male; born 1952; 16 victims (1986-1988)
After working as a prison guard, Yates embarked on a medal-winning, nineteen year career in the U.S. Army where he flew cargo planes and helicopters. All of his victims worked the streets in the skid row section of Spokane. He's on death row at the Washington State Prison.
white male; born 1939; 21 victims (1980-1983)
This bipolar baker and police academy drill instructor came from a dysfunctional family and was bullied at school. Before he began killing prostitutes, he burned down a school bus garage in Pocahontas, Iowa. Known as a quiet loner, Hansen fathered two children. He kidnapped his victims in Anchorage then released them into the Alaskan wilderness where he hunted them down like animals. Hansen died in 2014 while serving a life sentence in the state prison at Seward, Alaska.
Los Angeles, California
white male; born 1948; 8 victims (1980)
Along with his accomplice Carol M. Bundy, Clark became known as one of the "Sunset Strip Killers." The boiler operator at a Jergens Soap Factory fantasized about killing women during sex then, with the help of Bundy, graduated to the real thing. He shot his victims in the back of the head. At his trial he represented himself. He's now on death row. Carol Bundy, pursuant to a plea bargain, is doing life.
Dayton Leroy Rogers
white male; born 1953; 6 victims (1983-1987)
A mechanic who fixed small engines and was deeply in debt, Rogers took his victims into the woods where he raped and stabbed them to death. All of his victims were runaways hooked on dope. He's a death row inmate in Oregon.
The disturbing thing about all of these men is that they did not stand out in any way. They did not look like monsters, and in their daily lives did nothing that revealed who they really were. Notwithstanding their homicidal activities, they seemed ordinary. That's what made them so dangerous. And it also made them hard to catch.