EILEEN, Orange, Mass.: What types of childhood traumas, if any, may have been suffered by Stacey that would contribute to developing this extreme selfishness and lack of caring?
KNOLL: I did not have access to Ms. Castor's historical data, nor did I evaluate her. I can tell you that, in terms of female serial killers, psychopathic traits and histories of childhood abuse have been consistently reported.
Perhaps one of the more high-profile female serial killers in the U.S. was Aileen Wuornos, who was rather rare in that she was not a black widow type but was convicted of killing seven men in separate incidents. Wuornos had claimed that all of the men had raped her (or attempted to) while she was working as a prostitute. Thus, she did not fit the typical profile of a female serial killer. Her case received remarkable media and Hollywood attention. In a detailed case study analysis, it was theorized that Wuornos was biologically predisposed to psychopathy, and her abusive childhood resulted in serious deficiencies in being able to form healthy/normal attachments in terms of relationships. [i] Finally, her aggressive narcissism and antisocial lifestyle predisposed her to situations in which she was able to commit acts of predatory murder. Wuornos was executed by lethal injection in 2002 in Florida.
[i] Arrigo B., Griffin A. Serial Murder and the Case of Aileen Wuornos: Attachment Theory, Psychopathy, and Predatory Aggression. Behavioral Sci and Law 2004 22: 375-393.
ANN, New York, N.Y.: I just read your blog. I'm not a psychiatrist, but it seems as though Stacey would have some other type of mental illness besides depression or schizophrenia. In general, depressed people don't seem to want to hurt/kill other people. The only ones who people with depression might want to kill would be themselves. Moreover, depression does not seem like a severe enough mental illness to motivate her to kill her two husbands and attempt to kill her own daughter. Stacey also seems to be too lucid and coherent to be schizophrenic. From the report, she showed no signs of any type of emotion. I thought that schizophrenics go from being able to function with the rest of society to having full-blown breakdowns in which they hear voices and are in a different reality. That didn't seem to be the case with Stacey. In fact, I was struck with how emotionless she was. Even on the off chance that she didn't kill the two husbands or try to kill her daughter, would you not at some point show some kind of emotion, being upset at the thought that it was her daughter who killed the two husbands? Wouldn't she also be upset that her daughter could have done something like that, and that she raised a child who was capable of murder? Is it possible that Stacey is instead a sociopath? From what I understand, sociopaths have that kind of cool, calm demeanor. KNOLL: Thanks for reading my blog! I agree with your observations. I too did not see any evidence, as an outside observer, of serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or depression with Ms. Castor. However, please keep in mind that I did not have a chance to evaluate her, and therefore I cannot make any diagnoses of her. I too would wonder about psychopathic traits in terms of your observations of Ms. Castor's apparent lack of emotion. Since you used the term sociopath, this gives me an opportunity briefly note the historical evolution of the concept of psychopathy.