Former FBI agent answers the question, “Are Serial Killers Crazy?”

 

Pete M. Klismet, Jr.

Pete M. Klismet, Jr.

Pete Klismet, Jr., a former FBI profiler, says, no, they are not.  “In talking about serial killers, I’ve heard comments from my college students and police officers in the schools where I continue to teach. “What do you mean they’re not crazy?”  Usually followed closely by, “Don’t they have to be crazy to kill all those people?”  And then, “But if they’re not crazy, why do they do it?”

If there is anything we can agree on, it would be that the acts of a serial murderer are, to say the least, a great departure from what we think of as normal.  To put it mildly.  Clearly, most normal people don’t wake up one morning, have some coffee, read the paper, check e-mails, and then decide, “Hmmm…..what am I going to do today?  Awww, what the heck, I think I’m going to start killing people.”  And off they go to their new adventures.

Picture from : www.documentingreality.com

We are all driven to seek answers and explanations for odd behavior.  We want to understand why a seemingly mild-mannered, quiet man like Gary Ridgway (“The Green River Killer”) could kill at least forty-eight women in Seattle.  What creates a monster like law student Ted Bundy who roamed from Washington State to Utah, Idaho, Colorado and finally Florida, brutally killing and maiming women along the way, eventually killing thirty-three women that we know of.  And how do you explain Jeffrey Dahmer?  What could have caused him to strangle seventeen young men and boys in Milwaukee, eat body parts so they’d be “a part of me,” keep their corpses in his apartment for days, and then dissolve their bodies in acid inside his apartment?  And they all performed sex acts on some of their victims after killing them.  If for no other reason, that would seem to be a huge clue that they simply have to be crazy…but are they?

There are a lot of questions posed at this juncture, so let’s pause briefly and take a look at some facts, beginning with the commonly-accepted (except in Canada and England) definition of the term “Serial Killer.”

FBI Pins

A serial killer was defined by the Behavioral Science Unit (now the Investigative Support Unit) in Quantico, Virginia, and combines three basic factors:

          1.    A person who kills three or more victims (most often one victim at a time).

          2.    The killings occurred over a period of time, usually days, weeks, months or years.

          3.    There is a cooling off period between the killings.

The latter point (cooling off) is what separates a serial killer from a mass killer (Columbine, for example, where all killings occurred in a single event), and a spree killer (where there might be a continuing and sometimes connecting series of killings in different locations over a day or several days, but no cooling off period).  With these killings, there is often a long period of seething anger which eventually boils to a point the killer decides to take some form of violent action.

jamesmarvel.blogspot.com

Many people, particularly the media, want to say they simply “snapped.’”’  It makes it so much easier to understand then.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  The anger has typically welled up in them for months or even years, much like a pressure cooker on low heat.  Eventually the pressure builds up to the point where they are seemingly unable to control themselves, to refrain from doing what they do.  It’s nothing like suddenly and impulsively deciding to go to their workplace or school and kill people who they believe have treated them unfairly.

cooker-40855743009_xlarge

Next we can pose the question, “Are mass killers crazy?”  And the answer to that is also no.  A more likely explanation is that they finally reached the boiling-over point with anger and frustration and could see no other way out of their dire situation.  What they eventually did was something akin to an irresistible impulse they couldn’t control.  But they certainly aren’t crazy.

www.flickr.com

If that’s the case, then we should review what the term insanity means.  In medical and psychiatric terms, the word insanity is avoided in favor of specific diagnoses of particular mental disorders.  The presence of delusions or hallucinations is more broadly defined as psychosis.  Most courts in the United States accept a potential insanity defense when experts can identify
a major mental illness (psychosis), but will not accept the numerous and less-than-psychotic personality disorders.

dsm5

Personality Disorders are a separate classification of mental health disorders which include such issues as Borderline Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, and Histrionic Personality Disorder (this is only a part of a much more exhaustive list).

Commonly-diagnosed mental health disorders such as Bipolar Disorder, Generalized (not chronic) Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, Schizophrenia, and Depression are among the classification of mental health disorders termed “Axis I” disorders.  None of them meet the criteria for psychosis.

While the diagnostic criteria and the multiplicity of possible disorders and psychoses can become a bit confusing to non-trained professionals, the key issue from a legal standpoint becomes relatively simple – did the person charged with the crime have the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, and did he know the behavior he engaged in was against the law?

5541481-a-gavel-and-wooden-block-isolated-on-white-for-use-with-any-legal-or-auctioneer-inferences

This is the difference between someone being legally sane vs. insane.  However, evidence and testimony from mental health professionals as to those issues must be clearly presented to the court or jury who must then make that decision.  And therein lies the crux of the matter when we’re considering serial murderers.  Conjecture, speculation and comments such as “Well, he just acted crazy all the time,” or “He was odd,” won’t work.  The word “crazy” doesn’t exist in the legal or psychiatric arenas, but the word “sanity” does.

A few specific cases can serve as a reference point. Several years ago a woman in San Antonio, Texas, killed and ate the body parts of her baby, including the brain. Most of us would call that crazy.

Story can be found here:  http://www.nbcnews.com/id/32171926/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/investigators-stunned-child-dismemberment/

After lengthy psychological evaluation, this woman was diagnosed with a psychotic disorder. The woman believed the devil made her mutilate and dismember her newborn son.  She was subsequently found not guilty of the crime by reason of insanity and was committed to a mental institution until deemed to no longer be a danger to herself or others.

www.tumblr.com

In a similar case in 2001 Andrea Yates of Houston, Texas, was shown to have been suffering from postpartum psychosis and, in this psychotic state, drowned each of her five children.  She later explained that Satan was inside her, and she was trying to save her children from going to hell. A jury found her not guilty by reason of insanity, and she was committed to a mental institution.

John_Hinckley,_Jr._Mugshot

In 1982 John Hinkley, Jr., was found to be not guilty by reason of insanity after attempting to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. Hinkley had a long history of psychiatric care when he was younger, and his statements made it clear he did not have his psychological act completely together. Hinkley has been confined to a mental institution in the Washington, D.C., area for nearly 30 years.  While he’s gained some privileges, it is doubtful he’ll ever be completely free and on his own.  Hinkley will probably never become a person who can function in society on his own.

jeffrey-dahmer-108

So, you might ask, how are the two women noted above different from Jeffrey Dahmer?  It certainly seems they did similar things.  Dahmer killed seventeen people, strangling most, drilled holes in their heads to inject acid in the process of making sex zombies (by his own admission).  He dismembered and disemboweled his victims, ate body parts, saved others, collected skulls and dissolved their bodies in a huge vat of acid.  And he’s the one who is NOT psychotic!  Not crazy?  How on earth can that be true?

plan

Here’s the difference, why Dahmer was found to be sane despite the manifestly “crazy” things he did.  Dahmer showed planning and premeditation in every one of his killings, and the prosecutors skillfully pointed this out.  A psychotic person does not have the cognitive (or mental) organization to create the detailed plots and plans that Dahmer created.

DAHMER

He hunted for his victims in gay bars only and sought victims who were light-skinned black males, young and slender. Very specific criteria and not random victims. Thus he wasn’t a killer who would simply murder anyone who got in his way, although some serial killers do.  Ted Bundy was similar to Dahmer in his selectivity, as most of his female victims had long dark hair, parted in the middle, and, we later learned, looked a lot like a girlfriend who had dumped him several years before.  Bundy also brought with him items he’d need to gain control of the victims and would commonly use an arm sling or crutches to make his victims feel immediately safe.  All of these things require some thinking and planning which a psychotic person could not typically accomplish in his delusional state.

Addiction-Image

Dahmer constantly fantasized about and was obsessed with killing over and over. His obsession developed into a compulsion and then a need, and he eventually became addicted to killing.  Yet he could compartmentalize that secret part of his life and create the image that he was perfectly normal.  He fit well into society. He was attractive, dressed well (some suggested “dressed to kill”) and used this to his advantage in luring potential victims.  He hunted only on Friday nights because if he was successful, he would have the victim for a couple of days and then would have time to do what he wanted to do with the body.  He never used a car because he knew he could be identified by the type of car he drove.  He installed extra locks and a security camera on his apartment to thwart anyone from entering.  But he also presented a normal side when talking to his parents, the police on a couple of occasions, and people he worked with.  He was able to hide in plain sight, appear perfectly normal, and no one would have imagined it was him committing the horrible crimes he did.  An insane person couldn’t begin to accomplish all of those things.

http://cde.peru.com/ima/0/0/5/8/2/582448/287x212/richard-trenton-chase.jpg

On the other side of the coin are several serial killers who were probably insane yet were adjudged to be sane in court.  Richard Trenton Chase, for example, killed several people in Sacramento, California, eviscerated at least one victim, and sat beside the victim, drinking her blood from a cup.  Chase had a long psychiatric history and told investigators he was drinking blood because space ships from other planets were sending radiation down to earth which was turning his blood into powder.

Like Dahmer, he had body parts in his refrigerator and had used a blender to chop up other human organs, mixing them with blood.  While all of that doesn’t sound like the acts of a sane person, one never knows what will happen when a case goes to court.  Chase was adjudged to be sane despite considerable evidence to the contrary.  I’ve researched this case and still am clueless how he was found sane.

220px-KemperMug_1

The idyllic beach town of Santa Cruz, California, in the early 1970s seemed to be one of the most unlikely places to become the murder capital of the U.S.A.  Edmund Kemper was a prime contributor to the high murder rate, picking up hitchhikers in the area, killing them and dismembering their bodies.  But Kemper’s issue was not insanity. It was anger, due in large part to his dominant and verbally abusive mother.  Since he couldn’t violently strike back at his mother, he could against other women, which is exactly what he did.  But investigators and prosecutors were able to show the planning and premeditation Kemper went through to both gain control of his victims and dispose of their bodies.

While Kemper was terrorizing Santa Cruz and keeping investigators busy, another killer, Herbert Mullin, was on an even worse killing spree.

Herbert Mullin

Mullin had a lengthy psychiatric history as far back as his early teen years.  His father sought counseling and had him committed, but after each period of evaluation he was then released on the belief that he was no longer a danger to himself or others.  Let’s say that diagnosis wasn’t entirely accurate.  As Mullin’s psychosis deepened, he developed an obsession with earthquakes, and of course California is prone to have them occasionally.

telepathy500a-300x216

Mullin then added a delusion to the obsession, namely that he could prevent earthquakes from occurring if he killed people.  He randomly selected victims who, in his delusional state, he believed were telepathically telling him to kill them and the problem of earthquakes would stop.  His victims were simply unfortunate people who appeared on his radar screen on any given day, male and female and even some children. There was no pattern or logic to what he did or the victims he chose.

This is the antithesis of Dahmer’s and Bundy’s process of victim selection by certain well-established and defined criteria.  Mullin was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was committed to the state mental hospital after his trial.  Kemper, on the other hand, offered an insanity defense but was adjudged sane and received a life sentence which he is currently serving.

Son of Sam David

Virtually all serial killers are found to have been sane at the time they committed their crimes.  David Berkowitz, the infamous “Son of Sam” killer who paralyzed New York City for over a year, tried an insanity defense, as many have.

Despite claiming a satanic demon inhabited the body of a dog next door and that the dog spoke to him with instructions on what to do and how to kill people, Berkowitz was found to be sane.

bianchi_mugshot

Kenneth Bianchi, one of the “Hillside Stranglers” in Los Angeles, claimed to be a multiple personality and that the “Bad Ken” was the one who did the killings.  Confronted by a psychiatrist who told Bianchi that people with Multiple Personality Disorder usually had at least three distinct personalities, Bianchi promptly came up with a third one.  That didn’t work, and Bianchi is currently on a full-ride scholarship in a Washington state prison, having also been convicted of killing two women in Bellingham, Washington, after his nefarious murders in Los Angeles.

In conclusion, very few serial killers even come close to meeting the exceedingly strict criteria for insanity. The challenge to investigators is in discovering those things in their lives they did which displayed their true sanity.  They are not crazy as we’d like to think.  A very small percentage of those we’ve identified over the years qualified as being legally insane.  Every year we identify more of them, and the certainty they face is the death penalty or a life in prison.”

Wow! Thank you, Pete, for stopping by my blog this month. Pete has agreed to talk about what a FBI agent really does next month, and he’s going to give us the breakdown of the acronyms they use.

And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Pete’s new award winning book, FBI Diary: Profiles Of Evil.

1322_10201400152626747_1756650232_n

Remember, when writing a villain who is a serial killer, keep in mind what Pete has taught us. Most are nice looking, very personable and blend in to be the guy next door, someone you would never think could be killing people. These villains, to me, are far more scary because you don’t see them coming. Until next time.

Happy writing,

Diane Kratz

You can connect with Pete at:

Website:  www.criminalprofilingassociates.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pete.klismet

Book trailer for: FBI Diary: Profiles of Evil:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcmgAPGHFbo

Blog edited by Sally Berneathy

Interview with former FBI profiler Pete Klismet

Today I’m honored and thrilled to have on my blog former FBI Special Agent Pete Klismet.  He was selected to be one of the original group of criminal profilers in the 1980s. He is the founder of Criminal Profiling Associates on the web at: www.criminalprofilingassociates.com. Pete is a retired FBI criminal profiler who teaches, writes, and provides consulting services on this subject. Pete is here to help us understand exactly what he was trained to do—profile criminals.

Pete Kismet

Pete Klismet

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ASSUMPTIONS OR COMMENTS YOU’VE HEARD ABOUT CRIMINAL PROFILING?

“How’d you know that?”

“Are you some sort of a psychic?”

“Do you have a crystal ball or something?”

Anyone who has been trained in criminal profiling and has worked with law enforcement agencies or has taught about the concept in college has heard all of these comments.  And many more.  The word “profiling” conjures up some sinister images in people’s minds and seems almost devilishly frightening to some but fascinating to others.

WHAT IS CRIMINAL PROFILING?

Criminal profiling is the art of developing a behavioral profile of an offender based on evidence from a crime scene and many other factors involved in an investigation of a violent crime.  Profiling is sometimes done by a forensic psychologist, someone who has studied the criminal mind. However, since the mid-1980s the FBI has assumed a prominent role in the use of this technique.  A profile may then be used by police departments to assist in apprehending the criminal.  But a criminal profile by itself rarely solves a crime.  In most cases that is accomplished by old-fashioned detective work.

A profile is intended to be a behavioral portrait of an offender. If done correctly, the profiler may be able to determine “why” a person committed the crime he did.  If “why” can be determined, then we may have motive, and that can help identify the person who committed the crime.  There is a lot that a crime scene can tell a profiler about the person who committed the crime. This is especially true in homicide investigations. Criminal profiling is often used to help investigators identify psychopaths and serial killers who might otherwise go free. It can also be used to help identify other types of offenders such as serial sex offenders.

In criminal profiling a crime scene often helps to label the offender as organized or disorganized. An organized offender will plan ahead, often choosing the victim ahead of time. Any tools needed are brought by the offender. He is meticulous with details, and it is clear that the crime was well thought out. This tells a profiler much about the offender.

 

FBI Badge & gun.

FBI Badge & gun. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Organized offenders tend to be high in the birth order of their family. They are very intelligent but often were underachievers in both school and life. Most of them have a live-in partner, are socially adept, and will follow the coverage of their crimes in the media very carefully.  Contrary to popular belief, a killer of this nature, even a serial killer, is not “crazy.”  Quite the opposite is true.  They also “hide in plain sight,” and when identified are a complete surprise to people who know them and thought they were “perfectly normal.”

A more spontaneous or impulsive offense is often the work of a disorganized offender. He will act impulsively with little to no planning involved, and the crime scene will usually show this lack of planning. Seeing this, a trained profiler can draw some conclusions about this offender.  Disorganized offenders are often of average or slightly below-average intelligence. They were younger children, they usually live alone and are not as socially mature or competent as an organized offender. They often live or work near the scene of the crime and tend to have a poor work history. Typically they are younger than the organized offenders.

Criminal profiling is used not only to find potential offenders but also to narrow down a list of offenders that has already been compiled by the police. Although it doesn’t work in every case, criminal profiling has helped investigators to apprehend hundreds of criminals. By studying the patterns and motives of previous offenders, profiling may enable investigators to predict the characteristics of current and future offenders, allowing killers and other perpetrators to be caught before they can continue on to more crimes.

WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT SERIAL KILLERS?

Serial killers are a fairly recent phenomenon on the American landscape, and many people are captivated by what they do and how they do it.  Some of them, such as Ted Bundy, Richard Ramirez (The Night Stalker), and Jeffrey Dahmer have even had cult followings, as odd as that may seem.  In some ways it sounds ghoulish, but at the same time the allure of a person who commits multiple murders presents a fear of the unknown, of not being able to comprehend such irrational acts, and a desire to learn more about what makes these people tick.  To some it’s not all that interesting, but to many others it’s something they can’t learn or read enough about.

 

English: Ted Bundy in custody, Florida, July 1...

I became friends with the husband of one of my former students, an Air Force major, some years ago.  We both enjoyed golf and would get together once or twice every couple of weeks and play 18 holes.  After one round, we sat down and were enjoying a couple of cool, refreshing beers.  Without any prompting and literally out of the clear blue sky, Paul said, “By the way, I want to thank you for ruining my love life.”

“Me?  What did I do?”

“Brandy lies in bed every night with a book about one serial killer or another.  I have a hard time getting between her and her books.”

“Sorry….my bad.”

While we both got a good laugh out of that, I know I’ve had more than a few of my college students who were similarly absorbed with learning more and more about the dark and gruesome, illogical actions of people who kill others for “fun.”  It’s one of the most irrational things man can do, yet trying to learn what drives them to kill with such blood-lust can almost consume one’s life.  Unfortunately, we are using rational minds and thinking to try to understand their behavior.  Thus the only explanation we can come up with is “they’re crazy.”  Which is only rarely true.

English: The Seal of the United States Federal...

English: The Seal of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. For more information, see here. Español: El escudo del Buró Federal de Investigaciones (FBI). Para obtener más información, véase aquí (Inglés). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I went through what we called “Profiling Boot Camp” at the FBI Academy in the mid-1980s, I was the same way.  Since then I’ve spent nearly thirty years reading virtually every book on particular serial killers that I could get my hands on.  To the present date, that probably numbers well over one hundred books.  With every book I read I learn something new, and I’ve continued to do the same thing for many years.  I’ve also spent hundreds of hours studying these offenders and taught a class in college on “Criminal Profiling.”

Tell us about your new book.

1322_10201400152626747_1756650232_n

FBI DIARIES: PROFILES OF EVIL

When I combine my years of training and experience with what I have learned from research and extensive reading, it almost seems unfair not to share that knowledge with other people who may have a similar interest or may be taking a course on criminal profiling in college.  There are other books out there which some consider textbooks.  Some of these contain information which is not consistent with what I learned and practiced.  A few of these books offer the author’s own personal “spin” on profiling and, more often than not, this is someone who declared themselves a “profiler” because they read some books and perhaps have taken some psychology classes in college, including “Abnormal Psychology.”

I suppose anyone can make the same claim, but relatively few of us can make the claim with the training, education and experience to back it up.  And I think that’s what’s driven me for so many years.  No one “knows it all” about criminal profiling, and I certainly don’t claim to.  In fact, one thing I’ve learned over the years is the more I learn, the less I seem to know, but I continue to want to learn as much as I can.  And that’s what I hope to offer anyone who reads this book, whether you’re similarly fascinated and want to know more or whether the topic simply intrigues you.  And that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.  Anytime I tell people what I have done for most of my life, I get a similar “Gee whiz” reaction, and they want to know more.

This is not an academic treatise in which you will have to review statistical tables with boring columns of numbers and percentages.  Unlike a college textbook, I’ve tried to write this in a conversational manner.  I try to take you through some of the training we received and provide several cases which may give you an understanding into how a profiler’s mind works and why they think the way they do.  Hopefully I’ve written it in a way that will be understandable, and the cases I’ve reviewed should add some credibility to the concepts in an early part of the text.

I promise you that I’ve put as much of my learning and experience into this book as I possibly can, and if you study some of the concepts and cases I’ve studied or profiled, you may gain a similar thirst to know even more.  If I make you think in a different way, I’ve done my job.  And an author or a teacher can’t hope to accomplish more than that.

THANK YOU, Pete, for taking the time to visit my blog! I wish you many sales for your book! I’m waiting for mine to arrive in the mail as I type! Your book will help me better define my character, Johnny Gaston, who so far sounds like your fictional clone!

Here is the blurb for Pete’s book: FBI Diary: Profiles of Evil at Amazon

Step into the shoes of an FBI agent working cases in the field.

Walk along the path as he is selected to be one of the original FBI “Profilers.”

Take an inside view of the extraordinary and groundbreaking training received by this “new breed” of FBI agents made famous by the renowned Behavioral Science Unit.

Work along with him and see what he’s thinking as he analyzes facts and develops profiles in several murder cases he investigates.

Reviews:

“Pete has a fascinating story to tell, and the reader is fortunate to have been invited to listen. Read and enjoy.”
-Legendary FBI Profiler Roy Hazelwood - best selling author of Dark Dreams and The Evil That Men Do.

“The stories he shares of his days in the FBI and the years he spent as one of the agency’s first profilers are incredibly engaging. After reading this book, all I can say is, ‘I’m sure glad Pete was on our side!’”
David Gibb, best selling author of Camouflaged Killer. 

You can find his book trailer for FBI Diary: Profiles of Evil on YouTube at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcmgAPGHFbo

You can connect with Pete at:

Website:  www.criminalprofilingassociates.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pete.klismet

I hope you all have enjoyed this as much I as have.

Until next time,

Happy Writing!

Diane Kratz

Blog edited by Sally Berneathy

Everyone goes through phases, even profilers.

Phases In Profiling

Special Agent John Douglas
Photo credit: criminalminds.wikia.com

John E. Douglas and Robert Ressler, both FBI Agents who worked in the Behavioral Science Unit, developed the idea of the “organized/disorganized opposition.”

Special Agent Robert Ressler
Photo credit: criminalminds.wikia.com

They believed they could tell what type of murderer they were dealing with by looking at a crime scene and examining the behavior of the person who created that crime scene.

English: Detail of the crime scene composite o...

English: Detail of the crime scene composite of the produced by the Science Division of the Italian national police, Scientifica which was submitted as evidence in the subsequent trials. Can you guess which type we have here?
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Organized crimes are premeditated and carefully planned, so little evidence is found at the scene. Organized criminals are antisocial but know right from wrong, are not insane and show no remorse.

Organized murderers are thought to have advanced social skills, display control over the victim using those social skills, leave little forensic evidence or clues, and often engage in sexual acts with the victim before the murder.

English: Detail of the crime scene composite o...

English: Detail of the crime scene composite of the produced by the Science Division of the Italian national police, Scientifica which was submitted as evidence in the subsequent trials. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In contrast, the disorganized offender is described as impulsive, with few social skills. His/her murders are opportunistic, and crime scenes suggest frenzied, haphazard behavior including a lack of planning or attempts to avoid detection. They may engage in sexual acts after the murder because they lack knowledge of normal sexual behavior. Disorganized crimes are not planned, and criminals leave such evidence as fingerprints and blood. Disorganized criminals may be young, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or mentally ill.

According to Douglas and Ressler’s theory, profiling has five distinct phases:

Profiling phases

  1. The first phase is the assimilation process. All information available in regard to the crime scene, victim, and witnesses is examined in detail. This may include photographs of the crime scene, autopsy reports, victim profiles, police reports, and witness statements.
  2.  The next phase, the “classification stage,” involves integrating the information collected into a framework. This is the phase that classifies the murderer as “organized” or “disorganized.”
  3. Following the classification stage profilers attempt to reconstruct the behavioral sequence of the crime. Specifically they attempt to reconstruct the offender’s modus operandi or method of committing the crime.
  4.  Profilers also examine closely the offender’s “signature” which is identifiable from the crime scene and is more idiosyncratic than the modus operandi. The signature is what the offender does to satisfy his psychological needs in committing the crime.
  5. After further consideration of the modus operandi, the offender’s signature at the crime scene, and an inspection for the presence of any staging of the crime, the profiler moves on to generate a profile. This profile may contain detailed information regarding the offender’s demographic characteristics, family characteristics, military background, education, and personality characteristics. It may also suggest appropriate interview techniques.
FBI Badge & gun.

FBI Badge & gun. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although the FBI approach has gained public attention, some psychologists have questioned its scientific solidity. Ressler, Douglas, and the other FBI agents were not psychologists, and some psychologists who looked at their work found methodological flaws.

Former FBI agent Gregg O McCrary agrees that some of the FBI’s early research was rough. “Early on it was just a bunch of us [FBI agents] basing our work on our investigative experience,” he says, “and hopefully being right more than we were wrong.”

McCrary says he believes that they were right more than wrong even in the early days, and emphasizes that FBI methods have improved since then leading to an even higher degree of accuracy.

According to McCrary, the basic premise is that behavior reflects personality. In a homicide case, for example, FBI profilers try to collect the personality of the offender through questions about his or her behavior at four stages:

1. Antecedent: What fantasy,  plan or both did the murderer have in place before the act? What triggered the murderer to act on a particular day as opposed to other days?

2. Method and manner: What type of victim or victims did the murderer select? What was the method and manner of murder—shooting, stabbing, strangulation, or something else?

3. Body disposal: Did the murder and body disposal take place all at one scene or at multiple scenes?

4. Post-offense behavior: Is the murderer trying to inject himself into the investigation by reacting to media reports or contacting investigators?

Psychology’s contributions and the law enforcement relationship

Sigmund Freud

Professor David Canter, PhD, is the pioneer of scientific offender profiling. He developed the discipline of Investigative Psychology as a response to his dissatisfaction with the scientific bases for this activity. He founded the field of investigative psychology in the early 1990s and now runs the Centre for Investigative Psychology at the University of Liverpool. The IAIP of which Canter is President seeks to set professional guidelines for practice and research in this area.

Canter includes many areas, including profiling, where psychology can contribute to investigations. The goal of investigative psychology’s form of profiling, like all profiling, is to infer characteristics of a criminal based on his or her behavior during the crime. But, Canter says, the key is that all of those inferences should come from empirical, peer-reviewed research and not necessarily from investigative experience.

For example, Canter and his colleagues recently analyzed crime scene data from 100 serial homicides to test the FBI’s organized/disorganized model. Their results indicate that, in contrast to some earlier findings, almost all serial murderers show some level of organization.

Among those in the profiling field, the tension between law enforcement and psychology still exists to some degree. “The difference is really a matter of the FBI being more oriented towards investigative experience than [academic psychologists] are,” says retired FBI agent McCrary.

“But,” he adds, “It’s important to remember that we’re all working toward the same thing.” I’ve also just learned that John Douglas has his own website (list below)  and he has added the “Mixed” to his “organized and disorganized” theory.  He states, “Mixed. When I say mixed classification, I mean a case such as that of O.J. Simpson, where the crime scene appears to be very premeditated. The subject brings to the scene the weapon, gloves and a hat — premeditated. Yet the crime scene appears disorganized. The subject had a well-planned idea but did not expect to be confronted, as the subject was, in this case, by Ron Goldman. So he — O.J. — basically lost control over the situation so the crime’s ultimate appearance shifted from organized to disorganized.”

Interesting stuff! Who would have guessed Ressler and Douglas were not psychologists! I hope this gives my followers a more accurate/realistic account of the criminal profiler and of the villain characters in their books.

Happy writing,

Diane Kratz

Resources:

Criminal Profiling An Introduction To Behavioral Evidence Analysis, Brent E. Turvey.

Criminal profiling the reality behind the myth, Lea Winerman. American Psychological Association. July 2004, Vol 35, No. 7. 

 http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/index.html

http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug04/criminal.aspx 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki 

http://www.johndouglasmindhunter.com/home.php  

John Douglas books include:

Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

The Cases That Haunt Us by John E. Douglas, Mark Olshaker and John Douglas

Journey Into Darkness by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker

Obsession: The FBI’s Legendary Profiler Probes the Psyches of Killers, Rapists, and Stalkers and Their Victims and Tells How to Fight Back by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker

The Anatomy of Motive : The FBI’s Legendary Mindhunter Explores the Key to Understanding and Catching Violent Criminals by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker

Anyone You Want Me to Be: A True Story of Sex and Death on the Internet by John E. Douglas and Stephen Singular

Inside the Mind of BTK: The True Story Behind the Thirty-Year Hunt for the Notorious Wichita Serial Killer by John Douglas and Johnny Dodd

He also had his own website/blog called, John Douglas Mind Hunter at: http://www.johndouglasmindhunter.com/home.php He actually IS involved with his site.

Robert Ressler books include:

Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI by Robert K. Ressler and Thomas Schachtman

Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives- Paperback by John E. Douglas, Ann W. Burgess and Robert K. Ressler

I Have Lived in the Monster: Inside the Minds of the World’s Most Notorious Serial Killers (St. Martin’s True Crime Library) by Robert K. Ressler and Tom Shachtman

Criminal Profiling from Crime Scene Analysis by John Douglas, Ann Burgess, Robert Ressler and Carol Hartman

David Canter books

Criminal Shadows, Inner Narratives of Evil by David Canter, Robert D. Keppel

Principles of Geographical Offender Profiling (Psychology, Crime and Law) by David Canter and Donna Youngs, David Canter and Donna Youngs

The Social Psychology of Crime: Groups, Teams, and Networks (Offender Profiling Series, Vol. 111) by David Canter and Laurence J. Alison

Investigative Psychology: Offender Profiling and the Analysis of Criminal Action by David Canter and Donna Youngs

The Faces of Terrorism: Multidisciplinary Perspectives by David Canter

Mapping Murder by David V. Canter

Blog edited by: Sally C Berneathy

Do you know who was the first profiler in the FBI?

Howard D. Teten was the first FBI Agent to give a profile for the FBI.

Mr. Teten started out as a veteran police officer from the San Leandro Police Department in California, joined the FBI in 1962. He was appointed as an instructor in applied criminology at the old National Police Academy in Washington, D.C. Teten was greatly interested in the offender profiling, and included some of the ideas in his applied criminology course.

He studied under, and was inspired by, Dr. Paul Kirk, the internationally renowned criminalist. The inspiration for his work also included the work of Dr. Hans Gross and Dr. Brussel. Teten met Dr. Brussel and exchanged investigative ideas and psychological strategies in profiling crimes. Although Teten disagreed with Dr. Brussels’ Freudian interpretations, he accepted other principles of his investigative analysis.

Hogan's Alley sign at the FBI Academy in Quant...

Hogan’s Alley sign at the FBI Academy in Quantico Virginia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Teten designed a method for analyzing unknown offenders.  His approach included an understanding of forensic science, medicolegal (pertaining to legal aspects of the practice of medicine), death investigations, and psychiatric knowledge, which became the corner stone of Teten’s investigative skills, and shaped his approach to criminal profiling.

He’d looked at the behavioral manifestations at a crime scene for evidence of aberrant mental disorders and other personality traits and then used that information to make deductions.

Teten initiated his criminal profiling program in 1970 for the Bureau. Later that same year, Teten gave his first profile as an FBI agent in Amarillo, Texas.

In 1972, the Federal Bureau of Investigation opened the new FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. It was also the year the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) at Quantico was formed with Teten joining FBI Instructor Patrick J. Mullany‘s team.

Hogan’s Alley sign at the FBI Academy in Quantico Virginia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Teten and Mullany designed a method for analyzing perpetrators in unsolved cases. Their ideas on offender profiling were tested when a seven-year-old girl was abducted from a Rocky Mountains campsite in Montana. In the early hours of the morning, the offender overpowered the girl sleeping in a tent near her parents. When an intensive search for the missing child failed, the case was referred to the FBI.

Teten, Mullany, and Col. Robert K. Ressler employed their criminal investigative analysis technique to track down the unknown perpetrator. Their profile declared that the abductor was most likely a young, white, male, homicidal Peeping Tom; a sex killer who mutilates his victim after death and sometimes takes body parts as souvenirs.

The profile led to the arrest of David Meirhofer, a local 23-year-old single man who was also a suspect in another murder case. The search of his house unearthed “souvenirs” (body parts taken from both victims). Meirhofer was the first serial killer caught with the aid of the FBI’s new investigative technique, called criminal profiling.

Neither Teten nor Mullany, the formative minds behind early criminal profiling techniques used by the FBI, ever headed the Behavioral Science Unit.

A decade later, the technique became a more sophisticated and systematic profiling tool known as the Criminal Investigative Analysis Program (CIAP).

I have the utmost respect for the law enforcement profession. These professionals see horrible images of what human beings can do to one another. They see mankind at their worst on a daily bases. They work hard to find new ways of protecting families and communities. Imagine what our world would look like if we didn’t have them.

Hey an idea for another book just popped into my mind!

Happy Writing,

Diane Kratz

Resources:

Criminal Profiling, An Introduction to Behavioral Evidence Analysis by: Brent Turvey (2005) pg. 16-17.

http://en.wikipedia.org , http://www.thefreedictionary.com , www.fbi.gov/.

Blog Edited by DeAnn Sicard

“Chances are he will be wearing a double-breasted suit. Buttoned.” James A. Brussel

James A. Brussel

James Brussel holding his book, “Casebook of a Crime Psychiatrist” Picture courtesy of manuelcarballal.blogspot.com

Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis and the treatment of mental disorders. A forensic psychiatrist specializes in the legal aspects of mental illness. Dr. Brussel’s method included the diagnosis of unknown offender’s mental disorders from their crime scenes.  He would infer the characteristics of an unknown offender by comparing their criminal behavior to his own experience with the behavior of patients who shared similar disorders. Up until this time it had been historically uncommon for psychiatrist to apply their expertise to investigative matters.

Dr. James A. Brussel of Greenwich Village, New York is considered by many to have advanced the investigative thinking behind the criminal profiling process.

Between 1940 and 1956, a serial bomber terrorized New York City by planting bombs in public places including movie theaters, phone booths, Radio City Music Hall, Grand Central Terminal, and Pennsylvania Station. In 1956, the frustrated police requested a profile from Dr. Brussel, who was New York State’s assistant commissioner of mental hygiene.

Letters sent to the media from the Mad Bomber.

Letter sent to the media from the Mad Bomber.
Picture courtesy of trutv.com

Dr. Brussel studied photographs of the crime scenes and analyzed the so-called “mad bomber’s” mail to the press. Soon he came up with a detailed description of the offender.

In his profile, Dr. Brussel suggested that the unknown offender would be a heavy middle-aged man who was unmarried, but perhaps living with a sibling. Moreover, the offender would be a skilled mechanic from Connecticut, who was a Roman Catholic immigrant and, while having an obsessional love for his mother, would harbour a hatred for his father. Brussel noted that the offender had a personal vendetta against Consolidated Edison, the city’s power company; the first bomb targeted its 67th Street headquarters. Dr. Brussel also mentioned to the police that, upon the offender’s discovery, the “chances are he will be wearing a double-breasted suit. Buttoned.”

James Brussel's first case profile was of the 'Mad Bomber of new York'

James Brussel’s first case profile was of the ‘Mad Bomber of new York’ Picture courtesy of homepage.ntlworld.com

From his profile, it was obvious to the police that the mysterious bomber would be a disgruntled current or unhappy former employee of Con Ed. The profile helped police to track down George Metesky in Waterbury, Connecticut; he had worked for Con Ed in the 1930s. He was arrested in January 1957 and confessed immediately. The police found Brussel’s profile most accurate when they met the heavy, single, Catholic, and foreign-born Metesky. When the police told him to get dressed ( He was in his pajamas) he went to his bedroom and returned wearing a double-breasted suit, fully buttoned, just as Dr. Brussel had predicted.

George Metesky mug shot. Photo Courtesy of, blog.mailasail.com

Dr. Brussel assisted New York City police from 1957 to 1972 and profiled many crimes, including murder. Dr. Brussel also worked with other investigative agencies. Brussel’s profile led the Boston Police to the apprehension of Albert DeSalvo, the notorious serial sex murderer known as the Boston Strangler. The media dubbed Dr. Brussel as “Sherlock Holmes of the Couch”.

Resources: Criminal Profiling, An Introduction to Behavioral Evidence Analysis by: Brent Turvey (2005) pg. 13 - 14,  and http://en.wikipedia.org.

What Exactly is a Profile?

What Exactly is a Profile?

A profile is exactly what it sounds like, descriptive data.  We all have one. It is a summary (or in writing terms, a synopsis) of our life. Criminal investigators use the crime scene, victims, statistics, and forensics to sketch out an outline of the who, what, when, where, and why of a crime.

Investigators actually have several different types of profiles to draw from in their tool belts.

 

Inductive Criminal Profiling- A set of offender characteristics that are reasoned, by correlation, experiential, and/or statistical inference, to be shared by offenders who commit the same type of crime. These characteristics are based on averages. Example: Men are more likely to be serial killers than women. Why? Because the percentages tell us they are.

Deductive Criminal Profiling- A set of offender characteristics that are reasoned from the union of forensic and behavioral evidence patterns within a crime(s). It is based on psychical evidence suggestive of behaviors, type of victims (Victimology), and crime scene characteristics/analysis.

 

Victimology Profile-The study of all available victim information including sex, age, height, weight, family, friends, acquaintances, education employment, residence, and neighborhood. Background information is a part of this profile and includes personal habits, hobbies, criminal and medical history. Why is this important? It helps determine victim risk and linkage to other crimes.  Significant facts about the victim’s life, especially in the days and hours leading up to his or her death, are of the utmost importance.  A timeline is drawn up to map their movements, and investigators study all of their personal communications for signals to where they may have crossed paths with a viable suspect. It’s important to know their state of mind and their mental health assessment and history as well as their risk level (for example, a prostitute’s risk would be much higher than a girl with a nine to five job, living in her own home).

A crime scene. .

A crime scene. . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Crime Scene Analysis Profile- A report that examines and interprets the behavioral evidence including location and scene types, point of contact, offender method of approach, attack and control, offender use of weapons, force and resistance, sexual acts, precautionary and contradictory acts, evidence of planning, offense skill level, items taken by or left behind by the offender, verbal behavior, and modus operandi/motivational behavior.

Offender Characteristics Profile. This is similar to Crime Scene Analysis but also includes familiarity with a victim or location, evidence of criminal history and state of mind, evidence of psychopathic characteristics such as superficiality, deceitfulness, impulsivity, lack of empathy or remorse, egocentricity, need for excitement, evidence of personal or sexual conflict, and evidence of sexual fantasy.

 

Writers Note:

As writers, we profile our characters. We bring them to life by giving them emotions, goals, conflicts and motivations.  We get into the heads of our characters. We give them an age, sex, height, weight, hair color, eye color, likes and dislikes, hobbies, friends, enemies, personality traits, and emotional baggage.

We can make our characters heroes or diabolical villains. Writers have the advantage of telling a story from any point of view (POV) we choose. It can be told from the victim’s POV, the villain’s POV or the hero/heroine’s POV. By doing so, each becomes a different story to tell.

In crime fiction I have the advantage of allowing my victims to have justice. In real life this isn’t always the case. This inspires me to write about the darkness in murders’ minds. I know in the end, I can create the justice they deserve.

Happy Writing,

Diane Kratz