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Why Do They Kill?

Men Who Murder Their Intimate Partners

David Adams

Publication Year: 2007

Moving backwards from the murders they committed through their adult lives, relationship histories, and their childhoods, the author sought to understand what motivates the men to kill. The patterns he found reveal that the murders were neither impulsive crimes of passion nor were they indiscriminate. Why Do They Kill? is the first book to profile different types of wife killers, and to examine the courtship patterns of abusive men. The author shows that wife murders are not, for the most part, "crimes of passion," but culminations of lifelong predisposing factors of the men who murder, and that many elements of their crimes are foretold by their past behavior in intimate relationships.

Key turning points of these relationships include the first emergence of the man's violence, his blaming of the victim, her attempts to resist, his escalation, her attempts to end the relationship, and his punishment for her defiance. Critical perspective on the men's accounts comes from interviews with victims of attempted homicide (standing in for the murder victims) who survived shootings, stabbings, and strangulation. These women detail their partner's escalating patterns of child abuse, sexual violence, terroristic threats, and stalking. The section on help-seeking patterns of victims helps to dispel notions of ìlearned helplessnessî among victims.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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pp. 4-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

Thanks first and foremost to Susan Schechter who started this project with me and, until her untimely death in February 2004, was a valued consultant. Susan was instrumental in both the research design and the early analysis of the data, and even conducted the first victim interview. ...

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1. Men Who Kill Their Partners

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pp. 1-22

This book is the culmination of over ten years of work investigating the murders of women by their intimate partners. In 1993, Governor William Weld declared a state of emergency for women in Massachusetts in response to the murders of twenty-eight women and six children at the hands of their husbands or boyfriends. ...

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2. Recognizing Abusive Men

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pp. 23-34

Before proceeding with the analysis of killers, it is necessary to step back to review what is known about abusive men in general. In giving this overview, I draw upon my twenty-nine years of experience working with men who batter as well as the growing body of research findings about men who are violent to their intimate partners. ...

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3. Killer Profiles

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pp. 35-119

The murderers we interviewed were not representative of men who kill their partners in one important respect: none of them had also killed themselves. For two of the men, this had not been for lack of trying. Immediately after strangling and stabbing his partner, one man had plunged the same knife into his neck and slashed both wrists. ...

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4. The Killers’ Upbringings

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pp. 120-137

Upon hearing the title of my book, several colleagues have asked, “What about their upbringings?” This question implies that the seeds to murder are to be found in the childhoods of the killers. I must confess that, in plumbing their upbringings, I had also hoped to find a “smoking gun” of some kind. ...

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5. Short Courtships

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pp. 138-147

One of the unanticipated findings of this study was that a high proportion of the relationships that ended in murder or attempted murder had very fast beginnings. I further found that the relationships that began with short courtships had much faster demises than those with longer courtship periods. ...

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6. Child Abuse

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pp. 148-162

In my investigation of the perpetrators’ treatment of their children, radically different accounts were provided by the victims of attempted homicide than those offered by the killers. I asked the members of each group of perpetrators over twenty-five open-ended questions about their relationships with any and all of the children they had shared with their victims. ...

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7. Patterns of Possession and Punishment

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pp. 163-219

Victims and perpetrators often have opposing perceptions about violence and control. For the most part, abusers minimize their violence and disavow any intent to control their partners. Compared to other abusers, it appears that severe abusers are even more likely to do so. ...

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8. Victim Help-Seeking

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pp. 220-250

In the previous chapter, I discussed some of the self-help strategies that the victims had employed prior to the attempts of their lives. The vast majority of the women had also turned to many other people as well as agencies for help.1 These included the police, courts, medical centers, counselors, battered women’s programs, child protection agencies, and clergy. ...

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9. Conclusions and Recommendations

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pp. 251-268

No previous study has so painstakingly examined the lives of men who kill their partners. Moving backwards from the murders they committed through their relationship histories and their childhoods, I sought to understand what motivates them to kill. Embedded in their histories, I found strong patterns in how these men sought to establish and maintain relationships. ...


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pp. 269-274


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pp. 275-282


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pp. 283-288

E-ISBN-13: 9780826592316
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826515681

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2007