banner ad

Executive Summary:

Homicide cases in which the victim cannot be identified are difficult to solve and profile. This article will discuss the importance of victimology in a homicide investigation.


In 1978, the Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) at the FBI Academy, Quantico, Virginia established a Psychological Profiling Program to assist local, state, and federal agencies in the investigation of violent crimes. Research by the BSU determined that there was a lack of credible and experienced forensic experts who could assist agencies confronted with bizarre, repetitive violent crime by attempting to determine the thought patterns and motivation of the offenders. In 1984, the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) was funded by the National Institute of Justice and is currently operated by the FBI.

NCAVC Criminal Investigative Analysis (CIA) Program:

The FBI's Psychological Profiling Program eventually evolved into the Criminal Investigative Analysis Program which is defined by the FBI as "an investigative process that identifies the major personality and behavioral characteristics of the offender based on the crimes he or she has committed." The CIA involves a behavioral approach from a law enforcement perspective which focuses on the identification and apprehension of the offender rather than the mental health view of diagnosis and treatment.

CIA Process:

The process of a CIA involves the following steps:

1. Evaluation of the crime.

2. Evaluation of the crime scene.

3. Detailed analysis of the victim (victimology).

4. Evaluation of the police records.

5. Evaluation of the medical examiner's and lab reports.

6. Development of the profile.

7. Investigative suggestions.

One of the most important aspects of the CIA process is the evaluation of the victim also known as victimology. The purpose of this step is to determine why the victim was attacked and if there was any relationship between the victim and the offender prior to the assault. Also, attempts are made to determine the victim's risk level or how the victim's life style may have contributed to his or her assault or death.

Discussion of the Crime:

The body of a headless man was found in an isolated rural area by a truck driver. He notified the local police.

The following was noted by investigators:

1. Victim appeared to be a white male in his 20s to early 30s. Body in good condition so had not been at dump site long.

2. Head missing - appeared to have been removed at scene with a dull instrument. Head never found.

3. Arms below elbows missing. Never found.

4. Body clothed only in underwear.

5. Scrotum and testicles missing.

6. No other injuries noted.

7. Cause of death unknown.

8. Autopsy found evidence of tattoo ink in the lymph nodes.

9. A review of missing person's files failed to develop any leads.

10. Utilization of the news media failed to develop any significant leads.

11. Victim never identified and case unsolved to this day.


Profiles are usually not provided in these types of cases due to the limited information about the victim. However, certain opinions/observations can be made based on what is known.

1. Offender(s) had a close personal relationship with the victim and were probably about the same age.

2. Removal of head and arms was done so that victim could not be identified through fingerprints, tattoos, or dental records.

3. The victim had done something to the offender, or someone close to the offender such as a wife, girlfriend, or child. It is suspected that the victim sexually assaulted someone close to the offender.

4. The victim was killed as an example to others where the incident took place.

5. The victim most likely lived in another state since there was no one (missing from the state where he was found) meeting his general physical description.

6. Victim's penis and testicles were removed as a message to others who might have a similar interest in persons close to the offender.

7. The offender(s) did not care if the body was found since he knew the victim could not be identified and, therefore, not traced back to him.

8. The offender(s) most likely followed this case in the media and kept clippings of any news articles.

9. The case will most likely never be solved until the victim is identified.


Homicide cases in which there is limited or no victimology are very difficult or impossible to profile since victimology is very important in completing an accurate and complete profile of the killer(s). Plus, without any victimology, the case will be very difficult to solve by the investigative agency.

Dan L. Vogel is Forensic Consultant Expert Witness based in Oklahoma City. He has 27 years of Federal law enforcement experience and has testified as an expert in Federal and state court. Pro Bono work is performed on a case by case basis. He is currently a member of the Consulting Committee, The American Investigative Society of Cold Cases.

©Copyright - All Rights Reserved