Date of Award

January 2019

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Justice Studies

First Advisor

Kevin I. Minor

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies

Second Advisor

Kristie R. Blevins

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies

Third Advisor

Scott A. Hunt

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies


Serial murder has been a popular media phenomenon across the United States since the 1980s, and media representations of serial killers may significantly influence public opinion as well as impact capital punishment policies. This content analysis examined the portrayal of one dozen different serial killers using 120 online media reports which included articles published between the 1970s to present day. Results of the analysis showed serial killers were often sensationalized and portrayed in biased ways by popular media, with little attention afforded to academic theories. Support for capital punishment was also prevalent. These findings have implications for policy makers seeking to abolish capital punishment as well as law enforcement who may overlook killers that do not fit popular media stereotypes.