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Case Study: The Case of Carl Panzram

Serial murder (also known as serial killing) is defined as “the unlawful killing of two or more victims by the same offender(s), in separate events [i.e., not in the same incident]” (Behavioral Analysis Unit, 2008, p. 9). Serial killing is rare when compared to other crimes. In fact, between 1800 and 2004, there have been more serial killers depicted in works of fiction (well over 500 in novels and movies) than actual offenders (approximately 430). Nonetheless, the investigation of serial murders is a high priority for law enforcement agencies (Hickey, 2010).

Carl Panzram may not be the most well-known of serial killers, having committed his crimes over a century ago, but he did leave “behind a remarkable listing of his crimes and misdeeds” (Serial Killers, 1991, p. 85). Born in Minnesota in 1891, Panzram began his life of crime at an early age.

Panzram was born into an impoverished German immigrant household in Minnesota in 1891. “Carl’s first years were spent without the attention he desired. In attempts to gain attention, Carl acted out, only to be psychically punished and then further ignored” (Singer & Hensley, 2004, p. 467). When only eight years old, Panzram was arrested for disorderly conduct and drunkenness. He was arrested for a number of robberies and sentenced to a juvenile reform school by age 11. At the school he was sexually and physically abused, and as a form of revenge, he set fire to one of the school buildings. After being released from the school, when 14, he “set fire to a warehouse…just for fun” (p. 468), and was returned to reform school.

Panzram joined the army at age 16 and received a dishonorable discharge after serving over three years in a military prison. “Before leaving the base, he managed to burn down the military prison workshop” (Singer & Hensley, 2004, p. 468). Following his discharge, Panzram was in and out of prison for a serious of burglaries. In his prison terms, Panzram was a difficult inmate, escaping and damaging prison property.

“Before imprisonment, Carl Panzram hated all humanity, but during this period, he turned this hatred toward himself” (Singer & Hensley, 2004, p. 468). Panzram also turned to serial killing, traveling the world in search of victims. He later wrote, “In my lifetime I have murdered 21 human beings. I have committed thousands of burglaries, robberies, larcenies, [and] arsons…For all these things I am not in the least bit sorry” (Serial Killers, 1991, p. 85).

After being sentenced to prison for another burglary, Panzram killed a prison staff member, for which he received a death sentence. In 1930, after a lifetime of criminal activity both inside and outside of correctional institutions, Panzram was executed (Singer & Hensley, 2004). While an extreme example, Carl Panzram’s life and activities beg for explanation.*

  1. Even without further biographical information about Panzram, brainstorm at least three factors (e.g., individual characteristics, negative influences, etc.), that could have influenced him to commit his deviant acts. Explain why.
  2. What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of psychodynamic theories of crime? Include at least two strengths and two weaknesses and explain why.
  3. Include your own overall question that you had about the readings.


  1. Your response to each question should be a minimum of 400 words each, answer all parts of the prompt, use proper APA citation style, and is due Friday by 11:59 pm (CA time).
  2. Your question to the class is not required to meet the 400 word count. However, you are expected to give enough information to explain why you are asking your question.
  3. Demonstrate written communication skills by using complete paragraphs, accurate grammar, and proper mechanics.
  4. Draw from the readings and other course content to answer the questions. This means that you are expected to include direct references to the assigned chapter as well as other relevant course content.
  5. Review APA in-text and reference citations here: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/general_format.html (Links to an external site.)

You are strongly encouraged to type your responses in a Word document before pasting it into Canvas. Technical glitches, though rare, do happen, and it is frustrating to lose your work.

6 Points


Step 2: Read all other posts. Respond to the posts of at least two students.

  • In your responses, you can agree or disagree with your classmates, but if differences of opinion occur, provide examples to support your opinions.
  • You are expected to use APA citation style.
  • Draw from the readings and other course content to reply to your peers. This means that you are expected to include direct references to the assigned chapter as well as other relevant course content.
  • Reply posts should be at least 200 words each and are due Sunday by 11:59pm (CA time).
    • I would like everyone to receive at least one comment, so scroll through the discussion to find posts that do not already have responses.


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