Monte Ralph Rissell (an overview of criminal behaviour)

In this blog post, we will shortly describe the life of Monte Ralph Rissell, who recently has become widely known in the media. We then will describe criminal behaviour and answer the following question: Are criminals born or made?

Who is Monte Ralph Rissell?

In 1978, The Washington Post reported that Monte Ralph Rissell, who murdered five women between 1976 and 1977, was writing a book that recounted their crimes. In one of the chapters, in which he described the night he stabbed a woman to death, his style was very much like that of a romance novel. 

Rissell is one of the characters to appear in one of the most recent Netflix series, Mindhunter, which is based on the book Mind Hunter: Inside FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, by Mark Olshaker and John E. Douglas. 

FBI agents come to interview Rissell for being one of the youngest serial killers and with an IQ of 120. For some specialists, the mental coefficient is not enough to measure an individual’s intelligence, while others point out that IQ has considerable predictive value in terms of academic or job performance. 

In the case of Monte Ralph Rissell, who came from a broken home, as his parents divorced when he was seven, there was not much opportunity to demonstrate the advantages of a high IQ. When he was 12 years old, his mother married again. It was at that age that problems began in the teenager’s life, who entered and left the patrols for “graffiti” walls with obscene legends, but also for the sale of drugs at retail. 

After “accidentally” terminating a cousin, the mother took her children with her to Alexandria, Virginia, taking advantage of the fact that her second marriage collapsed. In Alexandria, crimes tended to rise: armed robbery, car theft, and forcible violation, the latter crime becoming serial conduct. 

In 1976, at 18, Monte Ralph Rissell was able to enrol in high school, where the most he managed to do was have a girlfriend, which, by the way, caused a great disappointment in Rissell, who found her kissing another young man. Rissell drove to the street where he lived. 

For a few hours, he was drinking and smoking marijuana inside his unit. Seeing a woman stop her car almost in front of him, Rissell threatened her with a pistol and took the car with her and her driver, Aura Gabor. 

After driving for several minutes, the young man stopped the vehicle in a solitary spot. Without leaving the gun, Monte Ralph Rissell ordered the woman to undress. What the criminal ignored is that Gabor was a street worker. The woman was not afraid of forcible violation, she was afraid of the pistol that Rissell nervously brandished. 

Gabor decided to take the initiative, undressed and asked Rissell which sexual position was his favourite. Without intending to, Gabor detonated something in the head of her kidnapper, who began to hit her and strangle her. The girl was already dead when Rissell plunged Gabor’s head into the water to drown her. 

Rissell’s victims were forcibly touched before being killed. The mistake of one of them was that “she talked a lot” and asked Rissell why he didn’t have a girlfriend. A young woman saved her life when she said that she had to go home to accompany her father, who was dying of cancer. The fourth victim was drowned, while the fifth was unrecognizable because of the more than 100 stab wounds her assailant gave her. 

Monte Ralph Rissell was unable to publish his memoirs because the law that prohibits criminals from profiting from their crimes was already in effect in the United States. Rissell was 19 years old when he received five life prison terms. He has never expressed remorse for the five murders he committed, although he regrets not having taken advantage of his mental coefficient. 

In one of the interviews, he pointed out: “I think I would have been a lawyer if instead of staying next to my mother I had gone with my father.

Are criminals born or made?

One in a hundred people are psychopaths. And most of these have very similar characteristics that we could even find in our friends and neighbours. We talk about a disturbing childhood, trauma, events that leave a mark on her emotional life. But not all psychopaths are murderers.

Some take them to the end of the fantasy but from there nobody moves them, so we can ask ourselves “What drives them to kill?” What is that important fact that deprives the person of being able to distinguish between the rational and the irrational?

Ted Bundy explodes when his girlfriend leaves him and he cannot overcome that crucial moment in his life, he uncovers the “animal” inside him and murders women with a physical resemblance to that of his ex-partner. A different case from Tommy Lynn Sells who in defence of small murders a paedophile, but this “interprets” the feeling as a “drug” and a call to continue committing crimes.

Many of them mistreat animals, cannot bond romantically with people and find them as just prey waiting for them.

Instead, I would like to highlight a characteristic that all serial killers have, and that is that all but absolutely all present a blow to the FRONT OF THE BRAIN. Which is in charge of saying to a person “do not do it because it is bad” or “stop”. It may be then that we find that missing link in this detail, but they are only speculations not yet confirmed.

Dahmer said, “dress him in a suit and he is equal to ten other men.” Below I will show you some characteristics of the past that could give us an idea of what drives these people into the abyss of madness. 

In his book Serial Killers, Joel Norris describes the cycles of violence as generational: 

Parents who abuse her children, both physically and psychologically, install instincts of violence in them, a resource they will go to in the first place to solve their personal challenges and problems. ” 

Child abuse not only generates violent reactions but affects the development, growth and nutrition of the child, among other things.

Some parents think that being strict and zealous in discipline creates right-handed and successful children. But it has been shown that the opposite occurs, rather it is a complete disaster. If between the infant and its first tutors, whether these are its biological parents or not, poor affective bonds are created, the foundation behind which the nobility and trust towards other peers are born is lost.

He who lacks the above is isolated; violent fantasies appear in his solitude, which becomes the only source of happiness. And all this, in substitution of social interaction.

In the book: Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives the authors Robert Ressler, Ann Burgess and John Douglas conclude that after this failed childhood, the individual grows up accompanied by his fantasies about domination and control. Not experiencing any sympathy or remorse for others. Every person is reduced to a mere symbol that can be manipulated according to the fantasy in turn.

The specialists are very clear that child abuse, of any kind and to any degree, is not the direct cause in the formation of a future murderer. But it is a very important factor to understand the psychopath. We know that many people suffer in childhood, but then the world would have to be full of criminals. 

The vast majority of murderers blame their fathers and mothers (just like Monte Ralph Rissel did).  They exaggerate when they describe abuse and mistreatment. Many want to believe them and provoke them to declare more than they should, thus gaining sympathy in front of the public and is not a few law enforcement officers.

Anyway, although there is an exaggeration, there are also witnesses who corroborate the stories. Let’s also consider that there are families that have a normal appearance and that within the family is nothing more than a farce; reinforcing the pattern Dr Jeckyll-Mr. Hyde in its members.

Most serial killers have a sick history. It is known that they were frequently abused during childhood, whether physically, sexually or psychologically, since there is a correlation between childhood abuse and the crimes they commit.

Alternatively, another school of thinkers classifies the reasons for:  necessity, profit motive or power.

Don’t think that all murderers are psychopaths

There are no identical brains and, like fingerprints, that of every human being is unique. However, the species share biological characteristics that identify a common functioning. 

“Prosocial and” antisocial “behaviours would be actions that help or seriously harm others, respectively. The social neurosciences concerned with understanding the biological foundations of social behaviour have learned what happens in the brain of someone who exhibits altruistic, cooperative, fair and empathetic behaviour, comparing it with the opposite brain: that of the psychopath.

Psychopathy or sociopathy, a term used in popular language, is a mental health disorder that identifies someone who lacks empathy, establishes few or superficial emotional ties and has, among others, impulsive, antisocial, generally criminal behaviour.

Is the brain of the psychopath different from that of the common subject or that of one who does not have antisocial behaviour? Available data derived from research on the social brain suggest significant changes in brain areas that normally control emotions, impulses, and social responses in these individuals. A serial killer is a typical example of someone with an antisocial or psychopathic personality disorder.

Serial killers are people who kill at least three times with some interval between each murder. They almost always use the same method, leave traces that follow a singular pattern or usually have a distinctive modus operandi.

Serial killings are rare events. Assassins hardly ever have a previous relationship with the victim, many have above-average intelligence and seduction skills. The victims, for their part, share with each other some particularity: gender, age range, hair colour, profession or the geographical area of the murder. 

The murderer frequently modifies the crime scene to leave his signature: a card of cards, a trace on the wall or any detail that identifies his authorship. The search for the murderer is a challenge for criminal justice professionals, who try to decipher, at every signal, the identity of the murderer. In fiction, research resembles the cat-and-mouse game.

The crimes committed are, possibly, the result of serious problems during childhood that prevent, very early on, those affective bonds that our species evolved, and still does, despite its predatory past. In other words, these subjects, who have committed extremely violent, often indescribable acts, have serious problems with behaviour or social cognition and have always been said to be incurable.

Further reading

Mindhunter: Inside the FBI Elite Serial Crime Unit, by John Douglas 

Talking with Serial Killers: Dead Men Talking: Death Row’s worst killers – in their own words, by Christopher Berry-Dee

The Best New True Crime Stories: Serial Killers (True Story Crime book, Crime Gift, and for Fans of Mindhunter), by Mitzi Szereto

Serial Killers: Shocking, Gripping True Crime Stories of the Most Evil Murderers. by Brian Innes

American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century. by Maureen Callahan


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