Cover Story: Profile of a killer

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

Posted by Sarah Hildmann - email

GAFFNEY, SC (WBTV) - One day after police confirmed the so-called Gaffney serial killer was dead.. new details are emerging about Patrick Burris' whereabouts the last two weeks and who he was with.  The big question is what would cause someone to go on a killing spree?

Police behavior science experts said the killer's profile that they were operating under that the man they were looking for might kill again which is why the community was so terrified and why law enforcers blanketed the Gaffney area putting so much manpower into this case.

What was it they saw in Patrick Tracy Burris?

The papers declared it.. "terrorized."

And the people said as much.. they were scared to death.

Marlene Jones started sleeping with a gun.   "It's right here," she says.

What is it about Patrick Burris that invited so much fear?

"I see an individual that has pretty much complete control of a community."

Dr. Vivian Lord professor and chair of the Criminal Justice department at UNC Charlotte has studied serial killers and has a background in psychology.

She says unlike serial killers.. like Jack the Ripper, Ted Bundy.. and the so-called Green River killer Gary Ridgeway.. who targeted prostitutes and young women..

And other serial killers who picked out children or homeless people..

Burris didn't single out any one group:  Kline Cash, a 63-year old peach farmer.  Hazel Linder, 83, and her daughter, Gina Parker.. 50-years old.  Stephen Tyler and his 15 year-old daughter Abby, gunned down as they closed Tyler Home Center.. the family store.

Anyone could be a potential victim.

"This individual seemed to be selecting as he's just going down the road. He's selecting people arbitrarily," says Dr. Lord.

And because the killings were happening with no cooling off period.. five in less than a week... it invited more fear.

All killed within a 10-mile area of Gaffney.. in broad daylight.

Which can make it different from a serial killer.

A spree killer the experts call it.. almost like a mass murderer.

"He hadn't anything to lose," says criminal profiler Pat Brown.  "And if he is a spree killer slash the type that's a mass murderer essentially he's not planning like a serial killer necessarily to back into regular life and then live normally and then come back two years from now and kill another person.. he will continue on his spree."

So if that's the case what was Burris' motive?

Police say they don't know.

One clue to his behavior.. from this woman.

"I did see him stumble and stagger as someone who is intoxicated," says Terry Valentine, a witness.

Valentine called police when this Ford sport utility backed into the carport of a vacant home across the street from hers in the middle of the night.. and she saw a drunk Patrick Burris get out.

We now know that Burris and siblings Sharon and Mark Stamey whom police described as transients with a drug and criminal past.. spent days partying together.

Whether that had any bearing on Burris we don't know.

The fear was he would keep striking until he was caught.

The crimes had more of an impact because the victims in the small community were well-known and well likely.

Any more word on a motive?

SLED Chief Reggie Lloyd says it appears Burris never adapted to life outside of prison.

Do know from a man who once worked with Burris that he had a violent temper.

Cherokee county sheriff's office hopes to trace his recent activity to see if there are other victims elsewhere.