Henry Lee Lucas

Henry Lee Lucas

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January 31, 2018

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The present study seeks to give analyze serial killers. It incorporates theories to explain the, sociological influences, biological predispositions and psychological factors that make serial killers. In addition, this paper also integrates the signs of serial killer and apply such concepts to the explanation and evaluation of a serial murder; Henry Lee Lucas.

Henry Lee Lucas

Born on August 23, 1936 in Blacksburg, Virginia Henry Lee Lucas was an American serial killer who confessed to killing up to 3,000 people ().  Henry was the youngest out of a family of 9 children. His mother loathed him from a young age. She beat Henry relentlessly and did not give him the attention kids needed.  At the age of 10, Henry Lucas lost an eye due to an infection; other scripts however argue that the infection escalated because his mother was less concerned. Things got worse after Henrys father died following a railroad accident. It’s worth noting that Henrys father was an alcoholic. Other accounts highlight that one of his mother stay home lover introduced him to bestiality. This opened doors for Henrys hedonists’ acts where he would kill vulnerable animals for his own sexual pleasure. Serial killers develop different forms of paraphilia’s. Paraphilias is an unusual sexual urge with unusual activities, fantasies, behaviors, or having sexual urge with non-human objects such as animals or children and non-consenting humans. His first human victim was 17-year-old Laura Burnsley, who had refused his sexual advances. After this, the rampage began with a killing spree of dozens of victims most of whom were women including his mother.

Although there are differing accounts of Henry’s childhood, it is clear that the character of Henry Lee Lucas suffered inconsistent childhood growth. To begin with, Henry was raised in a dysfunctional home; his father was an alcoholic and his mother loathed him. Henry dropped out of school at a very young age school and ran away from home. As children, serial killers undergo traumatizing events since they do not get or feel the necessary attention a child needs growing up. Henry was abused and neglected. As a result he grew having no sympathy or feeling of guilt. The fear and shame that the mothers inflicted on Henry at such a young age triggered an erotic obsession from the pleasure he would get from forcefully inflicting pain in his vulnerable victims. Moreover, Henry demonstrates an exceedingly controlled mood during his crimes. He was inhumanly self-possessed lacking humanity or compassion for his victims’ even young children. Moreover, Henry engaged in sexual activities for sadomasochistic purposes. It’s also notable that Henry changed jobs and left town when his crimes necessitated dramatic changes. While Henrys character fits the etiological characteristics that describe serial killers, he does not appear to fit in some of the other criminological characters. For example he is indeed a psychopath yet curiously there are no descriptions of him bed-wetting and fire starting. This can be blamed on different accounts or perhaps in this case crime theories can help us understand whether serial killers are made or born.

Crime theories

Trait Theories

This theory argues that certain personality traits predispose an individual into crime. It roots back to Michael Lombroso’s theory and is a mix between environmental and biological factors (Lee & Choi, 2014). Typically, our genes and experiences determine how we act. Sociobiologists insist that both our biological and genetic parameters influence our perceptions and learning social behavior which is linked to our environmental structures (Blackburn, 1993). Many factors determine ones personality, one major emphasis is on infancy and early childhood as well as trauma. Infancy is a major stage in development of humans. A child can suffer considerable personality disorders if they do not receive adequate attention at this time.  This implies that a serial killer like Henry Lee did not receive proper attention growing up.  Henry Lee was not only loathed by his mother but was also forced to dress up as a girl to school, and even made to go to school without shoes only to face ridicule from his peers. The relationship Henry had with his mother also affected his characters. Studies show that most serial killers have had an unstable relationship with their mothers (Fox & Levin, 2004).  For the most part, their mothers are abusive and over controlling. Studies also link early childhood trauma to serial killers. Mainstream research seems to suggest that that physical, sexual and mental trauma may have long lasting effects upon an individual (Bartol et al., 2005). Sociologists believe that psychopaths develop a brain defense mechanism and abnormalities because of such factors.

Social Structure theory

Social structure theories suggest that an individual place in the society shall determine whether the person shall be involved in crime or not. There are subtype theories that encompass this theory. The social disorganization places a considerable amount of an individual criminal behavior to his residential location (Lee & Choi, 2014).  For instance, if one is raised in a dysfunctional family chances are that they may turn up to be dysfunctional.  The strain theory points out to specific stressors that trigger individuals to engage in criminal activities. Individuals resort to killing as a way to get revenge on someone who is causing the strain. In this case, Henry Lee became a serial killer, killing women as a way of negative emotions and pressure that were created by his mother. Moreover, Henry Lee was also arrested for burglary at an earlier age because of socio-economic conditions at home.

Developmental Theories

This theory advances that human develops key aspects of their personalities in early life. A fundamental assumption in this theory is that the burdens that people carry from the past continue to affect their later experiences in life. For instance, sexual abuse or a happy childhood affects the way an individual behaves in the society. Feud believes that three major traits the id, the ego and the superego develop in early life (As cited in Lee & Choi, 2014).  The id is supplies unconscious drives for sex and food while the ego is a guide to societal expectations. Lastly, the superego incorporates values and morals.  Hence, serial killers are overwhelmed with the id as they grow up (Bartol et al., 2005). This explains why people like Henry Lee would become a serial killer.  Arguably, some people are more prone than others to commit crime since their family socialization during few years of life had failed to develop them sufficiently strong individuals.


There is no concrete theory that can explain the actions and psychology of serial killers. Apart from mental abnormalities it is argued that nature and nurture has a profound effect on outcome of humans. Even though most scholars believe that serial killers are untreatable especially once they begin to kill one wonders whether treatment might have succeeded had they been identified early enough. Indeed, both nurture and nature affects the making of serial killers. Thus we can partly argue that serial killers are created and not born and the same can be treated by proper upbringing.


Bartol, Anne M. and Bartol, Curt A. (2005). Criminal behavior: A psychosocial approach.Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall. 

Blackburn, R. (1993). The psychology of criminal conduct: theory, research, and practice, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Fox, J.A., & Levin, J. (2004). Extreme killing, understanding serial and mass murder. London: Sage publications.

Henry Lee Lucas. A biography. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0524150/bio

Lee, J., & Choi, K. (2014). Serial Murder: An Exploration and Evaluation of Theories and Perspectives. American International Journal of Contemporary Research, 4(3); 99-106.

Lee. E. (2007). Psychosocial Theories: Individual Traits and Criminal Behavior. Criminology:  An Interdisciplinary Approach. By Anthony Walsh. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage  Publications,  2007. 169-72. Sage Publications. Sage Publications. Web. 15 Nov.  2012. <http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/13434_Walsh_Chapter_7.pdf>.