DUNCAN — The “thrill kill” of an East Central University student from Australia is a type of crime that experts say is rare.
While the facts in the shooting of Christopher Lane, 22, are still being investigated, police have said those accused seemed to have no real motive other than a vague notion of trying to relieve boredom. Police have discounted the idea that gangs or racism served as motivation.
The victim was white. One of those arrested in the case is also white, one is of mixed race and the other is black, the prosecutor said.
Other so-called thrill kills have involved gang initiation rites or racism, said Brent Turvey, an Oklahoma City University adjunct professor of criminology and justice studies and author of “Criminal Profiling an Introduction to Behavioral Evidence Analysis.”
“Some gang initiations require the killing of civilians at random,” he said. “These people will usually ‘jump' a man or rape a woman; for them it's a point of pride. When the victim is a stranger, racism or classism is usually the motive.”
He also said the notion that boredom led to the crime is hard to fathom.
“Anybody who has a teenager knows that the excuse of boredom is nonsense,” he said. “Teens give that excuse all the time because they don't want to say why they did what they did.”
Dr. David Hartman, a Chicago forensic neuropsychologist, said the profile of a casual killer often includes a troubled background.
“The perfect storm, so to speak, really has to exist to cause someone to kill casually,” he said. “The perpetrator has to be in a neglectful, stressful, violent or abusive environment.
“There has to be a neurological trait, a gene or a family history of mental illness and of course they have to have access to the kind of weaponry that would allow them to execute the act.”
Police have said those accused in this case had previous run-ins with police, but details of criminal juvenile background haven't been released.
Hartman stressed that a combination of factors are usually involved in such homicides.
“Neurology is not destiny,” he said. “There are a lot of people with a neurological trait of mental illness who are fine citizens. Similarly, there are a lot of people who grew up in challenging environments but who are wonderful people with normal, successful lives.”
However, there are some known character traits of people who said they killed simply for the thrill of it.
“These killers aren't insane,” he said. “They know that technically what they're doing is a crime. They know that society disapproves, they just don't care. These people tend to be cold individuals. They have a defective ability to empathize.”
Hartman said other traits include the need for more stimulation than the average person desires, narcissism, experiencing casual or inappropriate signs of aggression and a history of harming animals.
Ryan Brown, associate professor of psychology at the University of Oklahoma, said some seek status with violent crime.
Males between the ages of 15 and 24 commit the most violent crimes in the United States. Perpetrators sometimes talk about seeking honor and respect, and some obviously take these natural desires too far.
“You take the normal pressure men feel to prove themselves and put it on steroids,” he said.
“If all you have is very little and it can be taken away very quickly and law enforcement is not likely to do anything about it you are likely going to do something that says to others ‘don't mess with me' and to make the message even louder you are likely to do it to someone who possess a high level of status,” he said. “The desire to feel respected and valued is a primitive one but it's not a racial or ethnic one; it's a human one.”
Turvey stressed that it's too early, and too little is known to drawn definitive conclusions about this case.
“The fact of the matter is right now we don't know what led them to do this,” he said.
Anybody who has a teenager knows that the excuse of boredom is nonsense. Teens give that excuse all the time because they don't want to say why they did what they did.”
Oklahoma City University adjunct professor