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 Shelton’s signature.