The mind of a murderer


Frank Timmons


Frank was born in 1964 in a large metropolitan city, as the second-youngest of 13 children. His parents were Billy, a car dealer lot attendant, and Loretta, a maid, both of whom later divorced. Though Billy was strict, the household was, according to one of Frank’s siblings, peaceful. Other siblings say that Billy was verbally abusive and that alcoholism ran in the family. Loretta died when Frank was 12. She was described as not being an active parent to her youngest children, leaving their upbringing largely to the older siblings, one sister in particular, Margaret. Questions were raised by other siblings regarding Margaret’s overall stability, as well as the possibility of sexual abuse perpetrated by her. Margaret had difficulty maintaining stable relationships and employment, was reported to have made a number of suicide attempts, and may have followed in her father’s footsteps with regard to verbal abuse and alcoholism. In high school, Frank was good at sports and played football for the school team, but did not graduate because of insufficient credits. Some sibling reports indicate that Frank did not earn enough school credits to graduate because of efforts to make money for the family. The family income came primary from DES subsidies and food stamps. Though well-liked by his teammates, Frank had a reputation for excessive roughness with opposing teams. During his senior year, Frank and a brother were arrested for raping a young woman, but no charges were pursued. He was charged with trespassing a few years later and with driving under the influence the following year. 

In his late 20s, he was charged with abducting a woman, brutally raping and bludgeoning her. He claimed that she willingly had oral sex with him and that the rape and assault was the work of two other men. Frank was sentenced to 15 years for the abduction and 21 years for a robbery. After serving 13 years in prison as a model inmate, he was paroled and moved into a house not far from the four-mile crime area with his wife, Jenny Nelson. Though his neighbors all knew that he had served time in jail, he was so well-liked that they could look past it. He got a job as a construction worker. The year after his parole, the Serial Murderer crimes began.

In the first crime attributed to the Serial Murderer, the perpetrator forced three teenage girls behind a church and molested two of them. He is believed to have committed his first murder a month later. Over the course of the following 11 months, he committed several robberies, sexual assaults, and a total of eight additional murders. His friends and family have strongly defended him, insisting that the police have arrested the wrong man; some have even gone so far as to accuse them of framing Frank for the crimes. His wife has since been running a website maintaining his innocence.



● Surviving witnesses described a “light-skinned black man,” often wearing various disguises, such as a Halloween mask, as well as attempting to impersonate a homeless man or drug addict.

● The murders were particularly brutal, with the killer often shooting the victims in the head. In addition, there were reports of the suspect sexually assaulting females as young as 12 years old at gunpoint within a four-mile radius.

● Police say that the shell casings found at each of the crime scenes all came from the same gun.

● At the time of the murders, Frank Timmons was on community supervision (parole) with the Department of Corrections. Parole officers provided information to the Police Department task force suggesting that Frank Timmons matched the sketch of the serial murderer. Parole officers searched Frank Timmons residence and found a ski mask and a realistic “toy” handgun. Police used this information to obtain a search warrant for Frank’s residence and found additional items that linked Frank to crimes committed by the Serial Murderer.

● The crimes were distinguished by having no apparent motive. Timmons targets were women. When he killed, the victims were typically snatched from a public corner, taken to some secluded nearby place and shot in the head with a medium or large caliber weapon. Timmons used some kind of disguise and/or ruse while committing some crimes, such as wearing a Halloween mask to conceal his identity, approaching his victims asking for a ride or even pretending to be a homeless man or a drug addict. 

● Frank Timmons was arrested in connection to the sexual assault of two sisters, an attack which was tied to the Serial Murderer investigation. The sisters, one of whom was visibly pregnant, were assaulted in a city park. Frank was linked to the attack by DNA evidence collected shortly following the crime.

What People Are Saying:

Current friend:

He is the nicest guy I have ever met and I have no clue why you think he did these things. As far as I know, he’s never been in any trouble, goes to Mass each week, and loves his life. Are you sure we are talking about the same guy? He’s too smart to get himself into trouble and I can’t see him doing anything like this. Maybe you should spend your time looking for the real killer because he wouldn’t dream of this.

Current coworker:

He kind of keeps to himself at work. He is always early and stays late, probably to impress the boss. I’ve heard he has some problems with his girlfriend—they fight a lot. They take separate vacations to get away from each other and are in couples counseling. But, he is a private guy, does his work, and goes home. I wish I could tell you more.

Next door neighbor: 

I see him in the mornings when he goes to work. He waves but never wants to talk. When they moved here, I tried inviting them over, but he would always decline so I stopped asking. He sometimes works odd hours, I think, mainly when there is no one else home. Seems to keep busy. Respectful but quiet.

I. Summary 

a. Summarize the case provided. In your summary, include key facts and demographic information. 

b. Develop an initial hypothesis about the potential motivation to commit the crime. As you consider the motivation, identify the type of crime that was committed. 

II. Crime Assessment 

a. Compare data and evidence of similar crimes. 

b. Identify patterns found in similar crimes. 

c. Make inferences about motivation of the identified individual based on case evidence and comparison to similar crimes.

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