In another situation, a rapist enters the house, orders the woman to phone
her husband, and tells her to use some ploy to get him to come home. Once
the husband arrives, the rapist ties him to a chair and forces him to watch
the assault on his wife.
The rapist who used the cup and saucer developed an effective modus operandi
to control the husband. However, the other rapist went beyond just committing
the rape. He satisfied his fantasies fully by not only raping the wife but
also by humiliating and dominating the husband. His personal needs compelled
him to perform this signature aspect of the crime.
In Michigan, a bank robber makes the bank tellers undress during the robbery.
In Texas, another bank robber also forces the tellers to undress, but he
also makes them pose in sexually provocative positions as he takes photographs.
Do both of these crimes demonstrate a signature aspect?
The Michigan robber used a very effective means to increase his escape time,
i.e., causing the tellers to dress before they called the police. When
interviewed, they offered vague, meager descriptions because their embarrassment
prevented them from having eye contact with the robber. This offender developed
a very clever M.O.
However, the Texas robber went beyond the required action to commit his crime
successfully. He felt compelled to enact the ritual of requiring the tellers
to pose so that he could snap photographs. He left his signature on the crime.
The act of robbing the bank itself did not gratify his psychosexual needs.
When attempting to link cases, the M.O. plays an important role. However,
as stated previously, the M.O. should not be the only criteria used to connect
crimes, especially with repeat offenders who alter their M.O. through experience
and learning. Usually, first offenses differ considerably from subsequent
offenses. However, the signature aspect stays the same, whether it is the
first offense or one committed 10 years later. The ritual may evolve, but
the theme remains constant.
The signature aspect should receive greater consideration than victim
similarities, although these should never be discounted when attempting to
link cases to a serial offender. Physical similarities of victims are often
not important, especially when linking crimes motivated by anger. The offender
expresses anger through rituals, not by attacking a victim who possesses
a particular characteristic or trait.
Cases Linked By Offender Signature
Ronnie Shelton: Serial Rapist
Ronnie Shelton committed as many as 50 rapes. When convicted of 28 of them,
he received a prison sentence in excess of 1,000 years.1 Both
his verbal communication and sexual assaults manifested his signature.
Verbally, Shelton was exceptionally degrading and exceptionally vulgar. In
addition, he would make such comments as “I have seen you with your boyfriend,”
“I’ve seen you around,” or “You know who I am.” Thoughts of Shelton lurking
around their neighborhoods terrorized the victims.
However, it was the sexual assault itself that occupied the central position
in Shelton’s ritual. He would rape his victims vaginally, then withdraw and
ejaculate on their stomachs or breasts. Shelton would also frequently masturbate
over the victims or between their breasts or force them to masturbate him
manually. Then, he would use their clothing to wipe off the ejaculation.
He also forced many of his victims to have oral sex with him and then insisted
that they swallow the ejaculation. The combination of these acts displayed