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Sketch of killer rejects usual mass murderer case
By Dan Rozek | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/4/2009 5:03 PM | Updated: 8/4/2009 9:51 PM

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Originally published Jan. 14, 1993

The baffling slayings of seven people in a Palatine fast-food restaurant seems to break the pattern seen in most other mass killings, that of a disgruntled loner killing for revenge, criminologists say

Mass murders are defined as the killing of four or more people, and the bulk of the 400 mass murders committed in the nation since 1976 were done by one person, usually someone blindly bent on avenging real or imagined slights, authorities say.

But investigators working on the Palatine murders are looking at the possibility that multiple gunmen committed the killings, and sources say robbery, not revenge, may have been the motive

That makes the Palatine killings a rarity among mass murders.

"Most mass murders are committed for specific reasons, for example, to get back at someone," said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston and the author of a book on mass killings, said "this is not that kind of incident, it's not someone mad at the world."

And that ultimately could make it more difficult for police to solve than most mass killings, about 95 percent of which end with the death of the suspect, either at his own hand or at the hands of police, according to one expert

"It's going to be harder to solve than the typical mass murder because the typical mass murder solves itself," said Jack Levin, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University.

A clear psychological profile exists for the "typical" mass killer, Fox and others say. A white man, in his 30s or 40s, struggling with marital and financial problems, often a disgruntled ex-employee looking to get even with his former bosses.

But the circumstances surrounding the weekend killings in Palatine don't fit the typical profile, several criminologists say.

Police acknowledged Wednesday "one of the strong investigative avenues" they're pursuing is similarities between the Palatine killings and other suburban robberies. Also, a source familiar with the case says the killers emptied the cash register during the crime, then painstakingly cleaned up the bloody murder scene, a tactic that suggests the presence of at least one accomplice and criminals who knew how to cover their tracks.

"If profit was the motive, there's no psychological profile because they (the killers) were motivated by greed," Fox said.

That more than one person apparently committed the killings, something that happens in only 10 percent to 25 percent of multiple killings, prompted some criminologists to speculate robbery was the prime motive.

"Most of the cases I've seen where robbery is a motive are committed by teams of killers," Levin said. "In this case, that would make sense."

The tidy crime scene also indicates the killers are experienced criminals at least passingly familiar with police procedures.

"What it says is these people have some practice or experience in how the system works, in what police look for," said Loyola University criminologist Mark Dantzker, a former police officer "They're probably people who have done this kind of thing before."

During his tenure as a Fort Worth, Texas, police officer, he recalls only one case where a killer took similar precautions to erase his footprints at the crime scene. In that case, the killer was a teenage boy who had murdered a relative, Dantzker said

In Palatine, the killers also appeared to take pains to make sure the bodies were not visible from outside the building.

"They were smart enough to move the bodies out of the line-of-sight from the front of the store," he said.

Based on the victims' wounds and the fact that no shell casings were found, police believe .38 revolvers were used. Dantzker, however, raised another possibility. That a similar-sized, semiautomatic weapon was used but that the killers then painstakingly picked up all the spent casings to thwart investigators.