USJ’s Newest Elective: The Serial Killer’s Handbook

In the past year, the University of Saint Joseph’s B.S. in Criminal Justice/Restorative Justice program has successfully taken off. As a Criminal Justice major, students have the opportunity to combine coursework and outside classroom experiences. One of their electives, “The Serial Killer’s Handbook,” has been very popular among students because of its unique curriculum and perspective. Kathleen Mullin, J.D., director of Criminal Justice/Restorative Justice, and Tracy Robinson, M.A., assistant professor of Psychology, created this exciting new course.

“Throughout the semester, we’ve profiled known serial killing cases and looked at these cases from the psychology of the killer, demographic of the victim, whether they’re an organized or disorganized killer, and the hallmarks of their crime scenes, which allowed law enforcement to ultimately identify and arrest them,” said Mullin. In addition, students are also looking at these crimes from a legal perspective.

During the course, students are assigned to unsolved cases and asked to use all of the resources at their disposal: freedom of information requests and phone calls to the law enforcement agents who are still working those cases. By the end of the course, students are able to identify the differences between organized and disorganized killers, sociopaths, and psychopaths. From there, students use their gathered information to come up with theories of what happened in each case.

“I truly enjoyed partnering with Professor Kathleen Mullin to offer the Serial Killer Handbook course. This unique course provided our students with a glimpse into the minds of various serial killers. Our areas of expertise melded seamlessly together and allowed our students to examine the applications of criminal justice and psychology,” said Robinson.

For the final presentation, students present their findings to the class. If they are able to identify or profile a specific suspect in the case, Mullin and Robinson forward their findings to the active law enforcement team that is still working on that specific case.

“I enjoyed coming to class every week! Learning about new serial killers’ motives and lifestyles was very intriguing. I think future students will be interested in taking this course because it is so unique with the topics discussed,” remarked Brenna Chichester ’20.

This course, along with many others, will continue to expand the Criminal Justice/Restorative Justice major here at USJ.

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