True Crime Psychology and Personality: Narcissism, Psychopathy, and the Minds of Dangerous Criminals

FEMALE KILLERS: Nannie Doss, the Giggling Grandma

March 13, 2020

This podcast examines the construct of female serial killers' behavior versus what we would expect with male serial killers. In particular, we focus on the female serial killer named Nannie Doss, otherwise known as “the giggling grandma”.

When it comes to female serial killers, one of the weird things is that for a long time a lot of people didn't even believe that women were capable of serial murder. A lot of the early definitions of the term serial killer were limited to murders that involved a sexual component, but the crimes of female serial killers rarely involve a sexual component. Some experts have argued that there's no such thing as a female serial killer. We see that 98% of female serial killers are white, and they start at around age 31 to 38. They tend to kill female and male victims with about equal frequency. The average number of victims of female serial killers is about 6 and the average victim age is around age 48. In terms of targeting, we see that 30% of female serial killers killed both and children, 45% killed only adults, and 25% killed only children. We also see that female serial killers generally murder within their local area. Female serial killers tend to kill victims by poisoning, suffocation, and staged accidents.

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Harrison, M. A., Murphy, E. A., Ho, L. Y., Bowers, T. G., & Flaherty, C. V. (2015). Female serial killers in the United States: means, motives, and makings. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 26(3), 383–406.

Harrison, M. A., Hughes, S. M., & Gott, A. J. (2019). Sex differences in serial killers. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences.

Frei, A., Völlm, B., Graf, M., & Dittmann, V. (2006). Female serial killing: review and case report. Criminal Behaviour & Mental Health, 16(3), 167–176.

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