Years ago, when I was just starting out as a mystery writer, I did my due diligence, in finding out what drives people to kill. Afterall, the strength of a book depends on the strength of the motives driving the action.
According to most experts there are seven major reasons someone kills: revenge, jealousy, thrill, love, gain, conviction/hate and concealment. Thirty plus years ago, jealousy and love topped the list for the reasons most women killed. Now, with a different generation of women driving the stats, I decided to do another deep dive.
Have the reasons to kill changed? Not so much.
According to most sources, the seven categories still stand. Though, I did find an interesting article in Law Enforcement Today where former cold case homicide detective J. Warner Wallace, claims there are only three reasons why people become killers: financial greed, sexual—or relational—lust, and pursuit of power.
Either way, it turns out love has little to do with it.
Women nearly always kill for gain. “Gain homicides” being those committed for personal benefit, such as money or business and personal advantage—insurance payouts, assets, or being removed from a will following a divorce.
Women who kill are more likely than men to suffer from serious mental illness. Men are far more likely to suffer from personality disorders and are often sociopaths who are unable to empathize with their victims. This might be the reason that most of the murders in all categories are still committed by men—90.3% according to the US Department of Justice.
One thing stands true
Women are less likely to use extreme violence.
“Women tend as a rule to do softer killings, poisoning, suffocation, those sorts of things. Rarely are they the slasher types or inflicting a lot of bodily damage,” said Gregg McCrary, a retired criminal profiler for the FBI.
“Women are different in whom, how and why they kill. The victims are younger, they’re more often related to them, they kill with means other than guns. For women, killing is often seen as a last resort — a defensive move, whereas, for men, it’s an offensive move,” said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University.
So, what does love have to do with it?
According to a study in the Boston Globe, men are actually more romantic than women. They say “I love you” first, they have more positive recollections of their fist kiss and are more likely to end a relationship because it lacked “magic.”
Sounds like motive for a murder mystery to me.