Joran van der Sloot, 22, is being held in Peru, where authorities say he has confessed to the murder of 21-year-old Stephany Flores. Van der Sloot was, of course, the chief suspect in the disappearance and presumed death of Natalee Holloway in Aruba. In that case, there was insufficient evidence to charge him with a crime, and he was released.
Van der Sloot reportedly explained to Peruvian authorities that he killed Flores when she “intruded” into his personal life by looking at his notebook computer and learning he was involved in Holloway's disappearance.
Indeed, Van der Sloot seems to be a killer whose violence erupts from him, rather than the kind of serial killer who methodically and secretively stalks victims and carefully disposes of their remains. He was, after all, seen walking into his hotel room with Flores on a hotel video surveillance camera, and the two had been seen together before the alleged crime. He was known to have spent time with Holloway, as well. Those facts don’t support the kind of methodical stalking of victims that organized serial killers are known for.
Organized serial killers plan their crimes for weeks, months or years. They typically are aware of the internal need to kill. They are known to restrain their victims and bring murder weapons with them to the scenes of their crimes, keeping the weapons with them when they disappear.
Disorganized serial killers happen upon their victims at random and may be “provoked” to kill not just for the perverse joy of it, but by overwhelming feelings of rage or humiliation.
They often leave murder weapons at the scenes of their crimes and do little to dispose of the physical evidence associated with their crimes. What unites organized and disorganized serial killers, I believe, is a perverse connection with death. Ending life reaches them at a deep level that is connected to their own early and unexplored psychological traumas. The “projection” of their own powerlessness and helplessness and, ultimately, lifelessness is the terrible force that overtakes them—again and again. Alcohol and drugs can contribute to dissolving their defenses and rendering them more likely to be homicidal.
Serial killers — whether organized or disorganized — are always made, never born. Having interviewed dozens of killers myself, I can tell you that it turns out that evil never appears “out of the womb.”
Joran Van der Sloot traveled the world in the five years since he was held in Aruba for the murder of Natalee Holloway. One or more unexplained murders anywhere he visited may involve him. But something also has to have killed off Van der Sloot’s capacity to contain his rage and to empathize with the suffering of others. And the scene of that crime, stored deep inside the mind of Van der Sloot himself, is not yet known.
It may well be that every episode of violence in Joran Van der Sloot’s life has seemed to him as though it would be the last one—beginning with the emotional or physical violence that turned him into a predator.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for Fox News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author. His book, "Living the Truth: Transform Your Life Through the Power of Insight and Honesty" has launched a new self-help movement including www.livingthetruth.com. Dr. Ablow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.