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Gerald Stano’s Psychological Analysis


Born Paul Zeininger on September 12 1951 in Schenectady, New York, Stano was neglected during infancy by his mother (Ecker, 2003). His situation was worse, with doctors stating that it had reached “animistic level”. For instance, he had adopted the survival mechanism of eating his own feces as early as he was six months old (Ecker, 2003). The mother had initially neglected him, failed to provide adequate food and breast milk and finally decided to give up the infant for adoption. A nurse named Normal Stano was granted the right to adopt the young Zeininger after treatment, eventually changing the infant’s name to Gerald Eugene Stano to match her name (Ecker, 2003).

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Facts on the familial, development, educational, criminal and psychological history of Gerald Stano

After adoption, the Stano family, especially the nurse and her husband, attempted to bring the young Gerald in the normal manner. Nevertheless, records indicate that the adopted son was highly indiscipline right from his childhood. Throughout elementary and high school years, Stano could only obtain C’s and D’s, with an exception of music (Ecker, 2003). School records state that the young Stano was a great liar. He manipulated his ways through lies to avoid punishments and guidance.

In addition, he portrayed the character of a morally and ethically corrupt individual. Records state that he admitted to the school authorities that he wanted people to realize that he was a failure in all fields by paying the colleagues to fake defeat by bribing them with money he had stolen from the father. By the time he graduated high school, he was 21and poorly performing in class and the field activities.

A number of young women, especially high school and college students, had been reported missing in the neighborhood. However, nobody had been charged with the disappearances because of insufficient physical evidences. In fact, the cases were investigated more than 20 years later, which made it difficult to charge Stano. It is reported that between the age of 21 and 29, Stano had murdered about 41 women. Most of the murders associated with his activities were reported in Florida and New Jersey.

Stano was handed a death sentence by a Florida court and executed in 1998. However, his confessions, actual involvement in crimes and the available evidence yield major controversies. In fact, it psychologists and criminologists have argued that his confessions might have been wrong and actually false. It appears he was interested in “serial confessions”, probably due to his psychological problems since childhood.

In addition, psychologists argue that the corrupt nature of the detectives, especially Sergeant Paul Crow, contributed to false accusations and inability to investigate the psychological and mental aspects of the accused. In a book titled “The Blind Fury”, it is claimed that Detective James Gadberry had filed an affidavit claiming that he had witnessed Sergeant Crow “spoon feeding” the accused to make serial confessions, some of which were cases that he might not have been taken part (Flowers, 1993). In addition, it is reported that Stano was only accused of one case of homicide, yet he had confessed that he had killed more 40 women during his 17 years of crime.

Analysis of Stano’s social behaviors, traits, emotions, relationship patterns and psychological functioning related to his criminal life and personality

As indicated in his history as a child, adolescent and early adult, Stano’s life was indicated by the fabrication of lies, detest to be seen as a failure and normal relationship with the other people, especially women (Flowers, 1993). From a psychological perspective, it is worth noting that all of Stano’s targets and victims were women. It appears that he had normal relationships with men and never attempted to murder or cause harm on a male.

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While he confessed that he killed 41 women during his 17 years of crime, the police reported that he might have caused the death of approximately 80 women (Ecker, 2003). While both reports are controversial, an important thing to note from a psychological perspective is his “modus operandi”. For instance, he lured women into his car, often offering to give them marijuana, money or go out with them. In addition, it is reported that the majority of the targets were runaway teenagers and prostitutes. What should psychologist learn from Stano’s mode of operation and targets?

This question prompts psychologists to think about Stano’s upbringing and social relationships. It is possible that Stano developed a deep hatred of women believed with the characteristics of his biological mother. It is possible that he noted that his mother had neglected him because she was one of the women with the behaviors portrayed by runaway girls and prostitutes. It is possible that he was trying to revenge against his biological mother.

Since he started murdering women at the age of 17 or 18, it is possible that he started this form of crime after realizing that his mother was responsible for his failure in school (Flowers, 1993). He developed a deep hatred of women who reminded him of his biological mother’s treatment of her child (Hare, 2008). For instance, it is reported that Stano told the court that he “hated a bitchy chicks”, meaning that he hated prostitutes, runaway girls and women with the characteristics that he associated with those of his biological mother (Kelly & Montane, 2011).

It is also important to note Stano’s employment and life relationships. For example, after graduating from high school, he found a computer school and enrolled himself, which surprised most people. In addition, he passed with excellence and immediately got an employment at a local hospital. It is also reported that he was a good cook at the Dayton Beach, though it was a part-time or short order employment. In addition, he owned a car and rented a house.

He was meeting his daily needs using his part time employment. Although he used marijuana, he was never found to be of unsound mind by both neighbors and employers. In fact, he appears to develop good relationships with women before luring them to his car or killing fields.

Despite this, it is also evident that Stabo’s social and emotional attachments were problematic since he was a child. As a child, he was emotionally “distant” and never liked playing with kids in the neighborhood. He was often lonely, isolated and introverted.

As such, he was an easy target for school and neighborhood bullies. In fact, records state that girls were particularly involved in joking about his character, a factor that could have triggered his hatred for women. Reports also indicate that rather than playing with friends and peers, Stano did strange things such as throwing stones at passing vehicles. When the police warned his parents that he was about to face juvenile justice, they enrolled him in a military school. However, he was involved in theft, often stealing money and items from his colleagues.

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Analysis of Stano using PCL-R2

Item Factor loading
Superficial charm 1
Grandiose sense of self-worth 1
Proneness to boredom 2
Pathological lying 1
Conning/manipulative 1
Lack of guilt 1
Show of affect 1
Lack of empathy 1
Promiscuous sexual behavior
Parasitic lifestyle 2
Poor behavioral control 2
Early behavior problems
Lack of long-term goals 2
Impulsivity 2
Irresponsibility 2
Failure take responsibilities 1
Juvenile delinquency 2
Short-term marital relationships
Revocation of conditional disease 2
Criminal versatility 2

This checklist shows that Stano scores most of factors 2a and 2b, which indicates that his condition can be diagnosed. In particular, the diagnosis shows that Stano was suffering from antisocial personality disorder, which is associated with reactive anger, criminal activities and violence against certain people (Hill, Neumann & Rogers, 2004). In this case, it is worth noting that Stano might have been angered by his mother’s actions and directed criminality to women who represented his idealized character of the mother (“the bitchy chicks”). These factors are major characteristics portrayed by most individuals accused of serial crimes (Bartol & Bartol, 2012)

Summary and Conclusion

The analysis of Stano’s personality, social history, behavior and development shows that he had a psychological problem that originated right from birth. He was mostly antisocial and socially withdrawn or isolated. He was a victim of bullying, which prompted him to express his anger on other people, especially women (Hare, 2009). Thus, it is possible that he had antisocial personality disorder.


Bartol, C. R., & Bartol, A. M. (2012). Criminal behavior: A psychological approach. New York: Prentice Hall.

Ecker, T. (2003). Stano story. New York: True Crime Library.

Flowers, A. (1993). Blind Fury. New York: Pinnacle Books.

Hare, R. D. (2008). A research scale for the assessment of psychopathy in criminal populations. Personality and Individual Differences 1(2), 111–120.

Hare, R. D. (2009). The Psychopathy Checklist. New York: Multi-Health Systems.

Hill, C. D., Neumann, C. S., & Rogers, R. (2004). Confirmatory Factor Analysis of the Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL:SV) in Offenders with Axis I Disorders. Psychological Assessment 16(1), 90–95.

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Kelly, K., & Montane, D. (2011). I Would Find a Girl Walking. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.

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