The appeal of ‘bad boys’


On Monday the world got its first look at accused Aurora movie theater gunman James Holmes in action at his advisement hearing, telecast from a Colorado courtroom. Evidently the 24-year-old murder suspect made a good impression on some women, who took to Twitter to talk about how hot he is. That’s right: a man who allegedly killed 12 people—one of them a six-year-old little girl—has groupies.
It might seem unfathomable to some that anyone could respond to the purported face of evil by complimenting its bone structure. Even one of the women who Tweeted about how she finds both Holmes and Trayvon Martin’s shooter George Zimmerman “cute” seemed confused by her feelings. And while it’s probably not “normal” for criminals to be a girl’s “type,” it’s actually much more common than you’d think. Women have a long history of being physically attracted to people who’ve committed particularly heinous crimes. There’s actually a term for it: Hybristophilia.
Also known as “Bonnie and Clyde syndrome,” it goes beyond the “bad boy” appeal to which many women are drawn at some point in their lives. While hybristophilia is considered by some experts to be a potentially lethal form of sexual expression—as associating with known serial killers tends to be—Arthur Aron, a psychology professor at the State University of New York-Stonybrook says that for some, a relationship with someone imprisoned for life is actually safer, emotionally.
“For some people it’s threatening to be intimate,” he says, “And a relationship with an incarcerated partner may give these people the sense of control they want or need when it comes to emotional closeness.”
Statistics show that male inmates are more likely to gain groupies and have romantic relationships with pen pals than female prisoners. This could be because men are 11 times more likely to be incarcerated than women, but whatever the case, those who commit the most violent, gruesome crimes—murder and rape—enjoy the most attention from “fans.” Ted Bundy, who had killed over 30 women, was perhaps the most famous literal and figurative lady killer, as he had one of the biggest groupie followings, and received an average of 200 letters a day from women who were either attracted to him or believed him to be innocent, before he died in the electric chair. even after all these years, 77-year-old Charles Manson is still receiving female visitors on Valentine’s Day.
And it’s not uncommon for high-profile murderers to get married while behind bars, even while on death row, as Ted Bundy did. Just last week, it was reported that Joran van der Sloot—the 24-year-old convicted murderer who gained notoriety in 2005 as the chief suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway—was planning to get married while serving his 28-year sentence in Peru, to an unknown woman. Phil Spector met his current wife, Rachelle Short, after he was arrested for the 2003 murder of Lana Clarkson.
Erik Menendez—who was convicted of the 1989 murder of his parents—has been happily married to Tammi Ruth Saccoman for 15 years. His brother Lyle—who is also serving a life sentence for the murder of his parents—is on his second prison wife. His first prison wife—former Playboy model Anna Eriksson—left him after she found out he was cheating on her, through letters, with another woman (a pen pal). In 2003, Lyle married Rebecca Sneed, a 33-year-old magazine editor from Sacramento.
Serial killer and rapist Richard Ramirez married Doreen Lioy, ” freelance magazine editor with a bachelor’s degree in English and an I.Q. of 152,” in 1996. He has been on death row since the early 1980s and Lioy, an otherwise bright woman, claims that she will commit suicide when Ramirez (who was convicted of murdering 14 people) is executed.
Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi—the serial killers known as the Hillside Stranglers—were convicted of kidnapping, raping, torturing, and murdering little girls and women in the late 1970s, but both somehow found women to marry them. Christine Kizuka, mother of three, met Angelo Buono while she was visiting her husband in prison. His cell was next to Buono’s. She later divorced her husband and married Buono in 1986, however, prison officials forbade conjugal visits because of the nature of Buonos crimes. Kenneth Bianchi married Shirlee Book after a three-year pen pal relationship. (She had also corresponded with Ted Bundy.)
Just like with most things, the Internet has made love connections between prisoners and those on the outside so much easier, particularly with the site Meet-An-Inmate, which allows friends and family members to create profiles for prisoners, in hopes that they’ll acquire a pen pal. Given James Holmes’ penchant for creating profiles on dating sites, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him pop up there.