Ted Bundy's prosecutor: Social media culture a factor in shootings

Students and politicians do not line up on how to stop mass shootings because they don't agree -- or don't know -- what's causing them.

Democrats, Republicans and activists on both sides continue to debate the need for additional gun safety legislation, including calls for a ban on military-style semiautomatic rifles, as well as enhanced funding for mental health services. 

Critics of new gun laws will point out violent crime and the murder rate have mostly been going down in recent years. Calls to focus exclusively on mental health funding have noted the funding increases that have already passed in recent years have not reduced mass shootings, while many shooters like the Las Vegas killer had no history of diagnosed mental illness, while others like the Parkland shooter reportedly received mental health services.

Former prosecutor and author Bob Dekle says it's a combination of things, including factors that politicians, pundits, and the media often miss in the public debate. 

Science journals and research have tied mass shootings to misfits who seek revenge and fame in a nation unique from others for its growing fixation on fame within our culture and media. 

"There can be a motivation to go out in a blaze of glory,” said Dekle. "That’s the easiest way for a nobody to achieve notoriety is to commit some sort of horrible act.”

Dekle has handled mass-shooting cases and other horrific crimes. He's best known as the lead prosecutor of serial killer Ted Bundy. Dekle said a serial killer like Bundy kills more or less as a hobby, while mass shooters are driven by rage and attention.

Dekle added, “Some may think ‘I’m a nobody. I can’t get a date but I can get a whole bunch of attention by going off and killing a bunch of people.’”

And he noted the media and public can play into it.  

For example, the Broward public defender has received stacks of fan letters addressed to the confessed Parkland shooter. It's a combination of men and women of different ages. Many are teenaged girls or young women sending selfies and even some bikini shots.

While the Parkland shooter has not been given this mail, prosecutors say he has discussed the attention he’s now getting with his brother in their conversation during a recent jail visit. 

“That his face is everywhere and his name is national," said assistant state attorney Sarahnell Murphy.
“There is discussion of starting some sort of pen pal or fan club and how many girls he is capable of attracting." 

Dekle said twisted people have been fawning over killers for many years. He includes a case from the 19th century in one of his books, and he personally witnessed how Ted Bundy drew fans in court during his trial.

But he said changes in the media landscape and the age of social media -- which includes the amplification of celebrity news, violence, and reports that often omit the killers’ fates -- can feed the problem, especially at time in which he noted “people are famous for being famous now.”