Luis Garavito was a Colombian serial killer in the 1990s. He was responsible for the murder of 138 boys between the ages of 6-16. However, many investigators believe that number is closer to around 300 boys. His violent actions could be accredited to his rough home life when he was a child. Like most serial killers Garavito had a specific way he killed and would stick to that everytime. He has many characteristics that many serial killers have throughout the world. As a result of his cooperation with the police, his sentence has been shortened to only 22 years, leaving him to get out in the year 2021.
Background of Serial Killers
A serial killer is categorized as someone who has killed 3 or more people over a period of more than a month. The first serial killer in America was Dr. H.H. Holmes who admitted to killing 27 people in the late 1800s. The serial killer with the most victims in modern day history is Dr. Harold Shipman who confessed to killing 250 of his patients in England. In the United States, California is home to the most serial killers at 16% of the national total (the national total is around 300). The state with the lowest number is Maine, at 0 serial killers. Most of the serial killers in the United States are white males between the ages of 18-45 (Lehnardt, 2016)
In our society today serial killers are somewhat common, and many people are infatuated by them. In the height of their killing spree, they always gain excessive amounts of media attention, which is what most of them probably want. There are many people who like to collect, sell, and display memorabilia from serial killers. In addition to that, there was also a board game created based around serial killers and the way to win was to have the most dead bodies (Lehnardt, 2016).
All serial killers are different; however, many of them share common traits and experiences. Many serial killers experienced sexual or physical trauma that was stressful to them as a child. As a result of them being neglected or abused as a child, their self-esteem is impaired, they have an inability to function in society and form close, healthy relationships with people. Many admit that they start acting their fantasies out on small animals and then move up to people later on. A big sign of a future serial killer is if a child is wetting the bed after the age of 12. A lot of serial killers are intrigued by authority, and have even tried to become police officers or served in the military. Being a true psychopathic serial killer means that they feel no sympathy for their victims; however, they are able to fake it by observing others and imitating their emotions (Lehnardt, 2016).
There are about 4 different theories as to why people kill: visionary, mission-oriented, hedonistic, and power hungry. Visionary serial killers are ones that kill because they feel like they are satisfying a higher power (God or the Devil). Mission-oriented serial killers use killing sprees to get rid of people they designate “undesirable”. Some of these people include homosexuals and prostitutes. Hedonistic killers kill because they find pleasure in it. Finally, power hungry killers commit these crimes to fulfill a need of being in control or having power (Lehnardt, 2016).
Background of Luis Garavito
Luis Garavito was born in January 25, 1957 in Genova, Columbia. He was the eldest of 7 children (Jenkins, 2016). He admitted in his testimony that he suffered abuse from his father and was repeatedly raped by two of his male neighbors. With only 5 years of schooling, Garavito started working early. He left home at age 16 and worked as a store clerk. He was known to drift from job to job and never stay in a city or region for very long. He was also credited with “drinking excessively and behaving aggressively” (Blanco, 2018).
Throughout his 5 year killing spree, Luis Garavito admitted to killing 138 boys (recent studies have shown that the number of victims is most likely closer to 300), ages ranging from 6-16 (Serena, 2018). Known as “La Bestia” or the Beast, Garavito targeted homeless children whose parents were either dead, or gone at work (Serena, 2018). Targeting children with absent parents allowed him to kill many children without being caught, because no one would notice they’re missing. He has killed in about 54 cities across Colombia and Ecuador. However the majority of his killings were in a region known as Pereira (Blanco, 2018).
Luis Garavito had a process he used every time he killed. He would usually impersonate a priest, a farmer, an elderly person, or a street vendor. Then, he would lure the boys away from the busy streets by offering the young boys gifts or candy, and the older boys money or employment. To earn the boys’ trust he would talk to them and have conversations with them. He would then convince the boys to walk long distances to wear them down which made them vulnerable and unwary. After they were exhausted, he would corner them and bind their wrist together. All of the boys’ bodies showed signs of torture: including, bite marks, anal penetration, and some victims even had their genitals removed and placed in their mouths (Serena, 2018). Finally, to kill them he would either cut a lateral line across the victims’ neck or decapitate them (Blanco, 2018).
Police started to recognize children were missing before he got arrested, but due to the large amount of serial killers in Colombia at the time, it was hard to identify who it was. However, on April 22, 1999, police were called by a homeless man who suspected a man trying to rape a 12 year old. During the interrogation, the police asked him about the recent killings in the area and described the details of them to Garavito. He claimed he was innocent, but the descriptions of the murders made him cry in the interrogation room (Blanco, 2018). Although the police suspected him of being La Bestia, that interview wasn’t enough to book him. Once they had him in custody, they realized that he had a unique and rare eye condition that few men his age have. As a result, he wore glasses that were specifically made for him and his condition. At the crime scene the police found eyeglasses that match Garavito’s. They also found empty liquor bottles, his underwear, and sometimes his shoes. Later on after doing autopsies on the victims’ bodies, they found his DNA in their anal cavities. Investigators were also led to him based on witnesses, hotel records, and the rope he used was also found in his apartment (Blanco, 2018). He ended up being convicted of the murder and rape of 138 boys. During his confession he told the police that he committed all his crimes while drunk and that he was taken over by a “superior being” (Blanco, 2018). With the way Colombian law works, the max jail sentence is 30 years. There is no life sentence and no death penalty in Colombia as of right now. However, his sentence has been shortened to 22 years because he helped the police located his victims’ bodies. The exact location of the jail that Garavito is serving time in is unknown to the public, but it is known that he is kept in a cell by himself resulting from a fear that the other inmates would try to kill him (Blanco 2018). The guards describe him as relaxed, positive, and respectful. He also stated that he is studying to be a politician with a focus in being an activist for child abuse. Garavito is being released in 2021.
The stereotype of “intelligent serial killer” could be challenged with Garavito. To be able to kill the amount of victims he did in 5 years required him to be very clever and able to adapt to his surroundings. However, Garavito is known to jump to different conversations within minutes. He could be in the middle of a conversation he finds intriguing and then just jump to a whole new topic (Blanco, 2018). They also conducted picture quizzes with him, and he failed all of them. Another common stereotype for serial killers is that they are extremely controlling. Garavito fits under this guideline because he’ll do whatever he can do achieve his goal. As of right now that means cooperating with the police so that he can be released earlier. However, the police stated that he never showed any regret. He claimed that he felt sensitivity for one boy who claimed he was abused when he was younger, but he still continued to torture and murder that boy (Blanco, 2018).
Behavioral psychologists believe that the environment affects how people learn and act. Given Garavito’s past of physical and sexual abuse, his environment predisposed him to violence and abuse as a child. These environmental stimuli greatly affected his childhood and how he grew up. He learned at a young age, through observational learning, that violence is a good way to let out anger and to feel in control. This brings in the classic psychological debate of nature vs nurture. Most serial killers aren’t born as murders, but the way they are brought up and their surroundings shape them into who they become. It was stated that Garavito felt some sympathy for his victims (Blanco, 2018), but as a result of being abused for multiple years by his father and neighbors, he became desensitized to people’s emotions. The reason he targeted young boys has to do with the fact that he was very young when he was abused by many male figures in his life. This abuse of young boys from older men became the society norm for him.
The humanistic approach is all about human growth and empowerment. Humanist psychologists believe that everyone is essentially good and that they are trying to find their full potential (Hierarchy of Needs). Being abused at such a young age, left Garavito with no sense of security, control, love, or belonging, Garavito was stuck in the basic fundamental aspects of the Hierarchy of Needs which was created by Abraham Maslow. This, in turn, left him struggling to find the missing pieces for those major factors. In the beginning, he used killing to feel in control and to feel like he achieved something; however, now he is studying to be a politician and activist for child abuse to help children with the same problem as him.
Luis Garavito was a power hungry serial killer, whose childhood trauma led to his actions in adulthood. He was able to kill so many young boys because most of them were poor or homeless and their disappearance would have gone unnoticed. During his time as a serial killer he confessed to 138 murders. There is still speculation if that is the true amount or not. Luis Garavito seems to be the perfect inmate, who is polite and respectful to all the guards. He is even studying and trying to start a new life for when he gets out. However, many people are outraged by his short jail sentence and approaching release date.