- 1. Justified Homicide. The least malevolent: Those who have killed in self-defense and do not show psychopathic features.
- 2. Jealous Lovers, Non-Psychopathic. Though egocentric or immature, evildoers in this category committed their crimes in the heat of passion.
- 3. Willing Companions of Killers. Still far from psychopathic, some have antisocial traits and an aberrant personality. They're often driven by impulse.
- 4. Provocative 'Self-Defense.' These people kill in self-defense, but they aren't entirely innocent themselves; they may have been "extremely provocative" toward their victim.
- 5. Desperate Measures. These are traumatized, desperate killers of abusive relatives or others -- but they lack 'significant psychopathic traits' and are genuinely remorseful.
- 6. Hot Heads. Killers who act in an impetuous moment, yet without marked psychopathic features.
- 7. Narcissists. Highly narcissistic killers who are often possessive, not distinctly psychopathic, but "with a psychopathic core." They typically kill loved ones or family members out of jealousy.
- 8. Fit of Rage. Non-psychopathic people who live with an underlying, smoldering rage, then kill when that rage is ignited.
- 9. Jealous lovers, Psychopathic. The scale's first foray into psychopathic territory, these killers are jealous lovers but with marked psychopathic features.
- 10. "In The Way" Killers, Not Fully Psychopathic. Killers of witnesses or people who are simply "in the way." These evildoers are egocentric, but not totally psychopathic.
- 11. "In The Way" Psychopaths. Psychopathic killers of people "in the way." Premeditation is not usually a major factor in their killings.
- 12. Power-Hungry and Cornered. Power-hungry psychopaths who kill when "cornered," or placed in a situation they wouldn't be able to escape with their power intact.
- 13. Inadequate And Rageful. Murderers with shortcomings that follow them throughout life, who also express psychopathic impulses and are prone to rage.
- 14. Schemers. Ruthlessly self-centered and psychopathic, schemers stop at nothing to deceive, con and steal.
- 15. Cold-Blooded Spree. Murderers who kill multiple people calmly and with a psychopathic motive. Often pathological in their denial of guilt or inability to confront reality.
- 16. Vicious Psychopaths. Those who commit multiple vicious acts that may also include murder, rape or mutilation.
- 17. The Sexually Perverse. Serial killers with some element of sexual perversion in their crimes. In males, rape is usually the primary motive and killing follows to hide the evidence. Torture is not a primary motive.
- 18. Torturing Murderers. Though psychotic, they do not typically prolong their torture. Murder, not torture, is their primary motivation.
- 19. Non-Homicidal Psychopaths. Psychopaths who fall short of murder, yet engage in terrorism, subjugation, intimidation or rape.
- 20. Murdering Torturers. Psychotic (legally insane) and primarily motivated by their desire to torture.
- 21. Pure Torturers. Not all torturers murder. These psychopaths (evaluated to be in touch with reality) are preoccupied with torture "in the extreme," but never convicted of murder.
- 22. Psychopathic Torture-Murderers. Defined by a primary motivation to inflict prolonged, diabolical torture. Most in this category are male serial killers.
Roll over the blocks above to learn more about the 22 gradations of evil identified by Dr. Michael Stone. Scroll down to see who made the grade.
Charles Manson was a 15 on the scale of evil. Below, see how other infamous killers rank.
Columbia University professor Michael Stone knows evil. He's a forensic psychologist — the type of expert that provides testimony on the mental state of accused murderers when a declaration of insanity can mean the difference between life and death row.
Inspired by the structure of Dante's circles of hell, Stone has created his own 22-point "Gradations of Evil" scale, made up of murderers in the 20th century. "I thought it would be an interesting thing to do," he says.
His scale is loosely divided into three tiers. First are impulsive evil-doers: driven to a single act of murder in a moment of rage or jealousy. Next are people who lack extreme psychopathic features, but may be psychotic — that is, clinically delusional or out of touch with reality. Last are the profoundly psychopathic, or "those who possess superficial charm, glib speech, grandiosity, but most importantly cunning and manipulativeness," Stone says. "They have no remorse for what they've done to other people."
Stone hopes the scale could someday be used in prosecutions. "The people at the very end of the scale have certain things about their childhood backgrounds that are different," he says, from those who appear earlier in the scale. And because the scale follows a continuum of likelihood a killer will kill again, courts may be able to better categorize the risks posed by releasing a psychopath.
Conspicuously absent from Stone's scale are wartime evil-doers. "My scale is a scale for evil in peacetime," he says. That's because assessing wartime evil from a criminal-psychological standpoint is more complicated because of factors like culture, history and religion."
And in war, there are often two sides. Take Hitler, Stone says. "He thought we were evil, we thought he was evil." But, he adds, "in that particular case, we were right."
The Scale Of Evil
1. Justified Homicide
The least malevolent: Those who have killed in self-defense and do not show psychopathic features.
Long Island native Cheryl Pierson had been repeatedly molested by her father after her mother died. He was a domineering man with rigid and bizarre rules — for example, he insisted she eat three items on her dinner plate incrementally in a clockwise rotation; if she didn't he would become violent. In desperation at age 17, she paid a classmate $400 to kill her father. She was sentenced to six months in jail for what was, in Stone's words, "in effect a self-defense killing."
People who are not really psychopaths, not subject to routine unspeakable acts without remorse. "Ordinary people that get caught in some terrible situation," Stone says.
2. Jealous Lovers, Non-Psychopathic
Though egocentric or immature, evildoers in this category committed their crimes in the heat of passion.
School director Jean Harris led an exemplary life before she became romantically involved with "Scarsdale Diet" doctor Herman Tarnower. But when she found another woman's panties in his dresser, she snapped. Harris shot her lover to death in a crime of passion — and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
3. Willing Companions Of Killers
Still far from psychopathic, some have antisocial traits and an aberrant personality. They're often driven by impulse.
Jack Olsen's 1987 book Cold Kill describes Cindy Campbell as a manipulative, chaotic woman. She claimed she was the victim of incest and was accused of enlisting her lover, David West, to kill her parents in their sleep. Both she and West were convicted of murder.
Larry Morris/AFP/Getty Images
Susan Cummings Larry Morris/AFP/Getty Images
4. Provocative "Self-Defense"
These people kill in self-defense, but they aren't entirely innocent themselves; they may have been "extremely provocative" toward their victim.
A shy, tomboyish daughter of a billionaire arms trader, Susan Cummings fell in love with an Argentine polo player, Roberto Villegas. But after two years together, they fought: She was stingy and began to refuse sex; he would get angry and verbally abusive. Finally she shot him to death in her kitchen in 1997. Originally charged with first-degree murder, she was ultimately convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 60 days in jail.
5. Desperate Measures
These are traumatized, desperate killers of abusive relatives or others — but they lack “significant psychopathic traits” and are genuinely remorseful.
Susan Wyche was a topless dancer who married and had a child with Jeff Wright, a successful carpet salesman from Houston. He used cocaine, had affairs, gave Susan herpes and was physically abusive. In 2003, she reached a breaking point, and in a fit of rage stabbed him 193 times. Portrayed as a battered wife by the defense and a vicious seductress by the prosecution, she was given a relatively light sentence: 25 years. A new punishment hearing is set for October.
Junji Kurokawa/AFP/Getty Images
Issei Sagawa Junji Kurokawa/AFP/Getty Images
6. Hot Heads
Killers who act in an impetuous moment, yet without marked psychopathic features.
Born in Japan, Issei Sagawa was pampered by his mother, but became highly irritable and prone to tantrums. In high school, he developed cannibalistic fantasies, and in 1981 he was accused of carrying one out in Paris. His victim: a Dutch student named Renee Hartevelt. He lured her to his apartment, shot her to death, sexually assaulted the body and then began eating her muscle tissue. He was declared legally insane in France and sent back to Japan, where he was released from a mental institution in 1986. He's now a minor celebrity and has written books and magazine articles about his experience.
Highly narcissistic killers who are often possessive, not distinctly psychopathic, but "with a psychopathic core." They typically kill loved ones or family members out of jealousy.
In 1968, college student Prosenjit Poddar met Tatiana Tarasoff at a dance class in California. They dated briefly but she rejected him. Poddar then told his therapist about wanting to kill her. His therapist wanted to commit him to hospital, but Poddar convinced campus police he was not dangerous. In the summer of 1969, after she returned from a vacation, Poddar stabbed Tarasoff to death with a kitchen knife. Poddar was convicted and deported back to India after his conviction was overturned. Her parents sued the campus police for failing to warn that their daughter was in danger. This led to the famous Tarasoff decision, which ruled physicians now must warn potential victims of a psychiatric patient.
8. Fit of Rage
Non-psychopathic people, who live with an underlying, smoldering rage, then kill when that rage is ignited.
In 1966, ex-Marine Charles Whitman gunned down his wife and his mother, then ascended a tower at the University of Texas and began shooting people with a rifle. He killed 14 people and wounded 32, before being shot and killed by police. His early life was plagued by physical abuse by his father. A UT psychologist who met with Whitman before the murders described him as "oozing with hostility." An autopsy revealed that he had a brain tumor, which may have contributed to his rage.
Those who show a "fair number" of psychopathic traits — grandiosity, superficial charm, or general lack of remorse.
Paul Snider and Dorothy Stratten.
9. Jealous Lovers, Psychopathic
The scale's first foray into psychopathic territory, these killers are jealous lovers but with marked psychopathic features.
Paul Snider "discovered" Dorothy Stratten when she was working at a Dairy Queen at age 17. He became her manager and steered her to Playboy magazine, where she became Playmate of the Year in 1980. They married, but their relationship soon deteriorated, and she became involved with film director Peter Bogdanovich. In a jealous rage, Snider lured her to his apartment and shot her to death with a rifle before killing himself. Bob Fosse made a film about her tragic life, Star 80.
10. "In The Way" Killers, Not Fully Psychopathic
Killers of witnesses or people who are simply "in the way." These evildoers are egocentric, but not totally psychopathic.
Born in 1925, John List was described as rigid, joyless, angry and a neighborhood crank. A failed accountant with poor executive ability, he kept losing jobs, yet bought a big house for his wife and three children — which he couldn't afford. Caught between his indebtedness and his monstrous pride, he decided to kill his family. In 1971, he shot and killed his mother, wife and children, and fled to Colorado under an assumed name. He was at large for 18 years, until an image constructed by a forensic anthropologist was broadcast on America's Most Wanted. He died in prison in 2008 at age 82.
Jeffrey McDonald Shane Young/AP
11. "In The Way" Psychopaths
Psychopathic killers of people "in the way." Premeditation is not usually a major factor in their killings.
An Army Green Beret doctor named Jeffrey MacDonald began showing signs of violence and hatred of women in his adolescence. In 1970, was accused of killing his wife and daughters, and then staging the scene to look like a cult slaying in the mold of Charles Manson. MacDonald was convicted of murder, but his case — the subject of the book Fatal Vision — has dragged on for four decades. In August 2010, his lawyers filed a brief in federal court asking for a new trial and claiming that DNA evidence could prove MacDonald's innocence.
Rev. Jimmy Jones Greg Robinson/AP
12. Power-Hungry And Cornered
Power-hungry psychopaths who kill when "cornered," or placed in a situation they wouldn't be able to escape with their power intact.
Born in 1931, Jim Jones was attracted early on to a Pentecostal religious group that practiced "speaking in tongues." He later became a charismatic leader of the Peoples Temple. Grandiose and fanatic, as well as psychopathic and paranoid, he gathered a large group of followers and moved with them to Guyana. In 1978, U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan and his entourage went to Guyana to investigate; he and four others were shot and killed. Cornered, Jones told his followers to commit group suicide. In all, 914 people died, 276 of them children. He also took his own life.
13. Inadequate And Rageful
Murderers with shortcomings that follow them throughout life, who also express psychopathic impulses and are prone to rage.
Karla Faye Tucker
Karla Faye Tucker was born the illegitimate daughter of prostitute and abused drugs since she was 9. She married at 16 — by which time she had already had a hysterectomy for pelvic inflammatory disease. She divorced at 20. In 1983, she and boyfriend Daniel Garrett invaded the apartment of Jerry Lynn Dean while the two were high on methadone, valium, heroin and alcohol. Tucker and Garrett killed Dean and the woman he was with, using a hammer and pickaxe. After 14 years on death row, she was executed in 1998. She was the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War.
Ruthlessly self-centered and psychopathic, schemers stop at nothing to deceive, con and steal.
Sante Kimes was born in 1934 and soon became a self-trained con artist. Briefly married to Lee Powers, she had a son, Kenny. Many more thefts followed, along with use of numerous aliases. She made her son into a kind of slave; the two became "grifters" — accomplished at stealing. In 1998 she and her son conned their way into the good graces of Irene Silverman, a wealthy Fifth Avenue widow in New York City. They got her to sign over her property and then killed her, disposing of her body. Kimes is a classic psychopath, and is considered responsible for other murders besides that of Silverman. She and her son are serving life sentences.
15. Cold-Blooded Spree
Murderers who kill multiple people calmly and with a psychopathic motive. Often pathological in their denial of guilt or inability to confront reality.
Charles Manson was born in 1934 to a troubled family. At a young age, he began stealing, ending up in reformatories then jail and prisons. In his 30s he began to attract a following of waif-like women who were in his thrall. Then in 1969 he had his group invade the home of pregnant actress Sharon Tate, killing her, her unborn baby and four friends. Later they killed Rosemary LaBianca, scrawling "Death to Pigs" in her blood around the house. He received the death penalty, later commuted to a life term in Corcoran Prison in California.
Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images
Fully psychopathic by every modern definition.
16. Vicious Psychopaths
Those who commit multiple vicious acts that may also include murder, rape or mutilation.
Born in 1962 into a wealthy Japanese family, Miyazaki Tsutomu had a congenital hand defect, such that he was unable to hold his hands palm-up. He was ostracized as a child and began to lurk around young girls, stalking them. In 1989, he kidnapped and murdered four young girls, mutilated their bodies and drank the blood of one victim. When his crimes were discovered, his father committed suicide out of shame. Miyazaki coldly regarded that as "just punishment" for not raising him correctly. He was executed in Tokyo in 2008.
17. The Sexually Perverse
Serial killers with some element of sexual perversion in their crimes. In males, rape is usually the primary motive and killing follows to hide the evidence. Torture is not a primary motive.
Ted Bundy was born in 1946, performed well in school and was acutely shy. His sexual homicides began in earnest in 1974, near his alma mater, the University of Washington. He worked his way down to Florida, luring, raping and killing at least 28 girls en route. He escaped from a Colorado prison in 1977, and continued killing until identified and apprehended (thanks to bite marks that matched his teeth) in 1978. He was executed in Florida in 1989.
Josh Trujillo/Getty Images
Gary Ridgway Josh Trujillo/Getty Images
18. Torturing Murderers
Though psychotic, they do not typically prolong their torture. Murder, not torture, is their primary motivation.
Gary Ridgeway, a.k.a the "Green River Killer," grew up in Washington state. He was troubled by his sexual attraction to his mother and of his feelings of lust and humiliation. He's one of the serial killers showing the famous childhood "triad" of bed-wetting, fire-setting, and animal torture. He began serial killing of prostitutes in earnest after a third divorce in 1982. Some investigators believe he may have killed as many as 90 women, subjecting some to bondage or necrophilia. He's now serving 48 life sentences plus 480 years.
19. Non-Homicidal Psychopaths
Psychopaths who fall short of murder, yet engage in terrorism, subjugation, intimidation or rape.
Gary Steven Krist
Gary Steven Krist had served prison time for robbery and fraud in three different states before he was 18. Out of prison in 1968 at age 23, he planned a ransom kidnapping. His victim was Barbara Mackle. Krist buried her underground, allowing her to breathe using a tube, while he awaited a $500,000 ransom from her father. She was rescued after 83 hours buried alive. He was sentenced to life in prison, but was paroled and later convicted of importing cocaine into the United States. He's in a federal prison in Florida, with a planned release in November 2010.
20. Murdering Torturers
Psychotic (legally insane) and primarily motivated by their desire to torture.
From a young age, Joseph Kallinger's foster family abused him so severely that at age 6 he suffered a hernia inflicted by his foster father. He was psychotic and schizophrenic, and when he married and had children, he was equally brutal. In 1972 he was held on charges of child abuse but was later released. In 1974, he and his 13-year-old son Michael began to break into houses in Philadelphia, Baltimore and New Jersey, where they terrorized and tortured four families, and then sexually assaulted and killed a 21-year-old nurse. Finally arrested, he was sentenced to life, and then sent to a mental hospital where he died in 1996 at age 59.
Cameron Hooker Walt Zeboski/AP
21. Pure Torturers
Not all torturers murder. These psychopaths (evaluated to be in touch with reality) are preoccupied with torture "in the extreme," but never convicted of murder.
Cameron Hooker was born in 1953. As he grew older he read pornography, particularly that which portrayed women being tortured. He married his wife, Janice, in 1975. He fantasized about having his own sex slave and allegedly reached an agreement with his wife that she could have a baby if he could have a sex slave. After the birth of their child, Hooker kidnapped 20-year-old Colleen Stan in 1977 and kept her captive for seven years. She was whipped, strangled, burned, electrically shocked and raped. For much of that time, she was locked inside a box for 23 hours a day. She and Hooker's wife fled together in 1984. He was convicted and sentenced to 104 years in prison.
22. Psychopathic Torture-Murderers
Defined by a primary motivation to inflict prolonged, diabolical torture. Most in this category are male serial killers.
Born in 1960 in Milwaukee, Jeffrey Dahmer was sexually molested by a neighbor when he was 8. At 10, he was decapitating animals and mounting their heads on stakes in the backyard. At 17 he committed his first murder, a male hitchhiker whom he bludgeoned, strangled, dismembered and buried. After a failed stint in the Army, his serial killing began in earnest in the late 80s, ending up with at least 17 victims — all males, some homosexual, like Dahmer. Finally arrested in 1991, he was convicted the next year of 15 murders and sentenced to 936 years in prison. In 1994, another inmate at the Columbia Correctional Institution in Wisconsin bludgeoned Dahmer to death with a bar from a weight machine.
Fully psychopathic by every modern definition.