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: 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


“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.


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.


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.



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.


“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:

You can connect with Pete at:


Facebook Page:

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

Until next time,

Happy Writing!

Diane Kratz

Blog edited by Sally Berneathy

Writing Is Murder MRW Article

Writing Is Murder


By: Diane Kratz


PSWA Member graphic


I’ve just returned from attending the Public Safety Writers Convention at The Orleans Hotel in Sin City (Las Vegas where the heat index was 114 degrees in the shade).


Sound boring? Let’s look at this through the writer’s eyes:


Sin City + New Orleans atmosphere+ dripping sweat = sounds like a great setting for a book, huh?


Throw in the FBI, Homeland Security, police officers, firefighters, emergency personnel, security persons, two psychologists, a journalist, two social workers and their take on how to catch a bad guy (or, in my book, bad girl), and OMG you have a thriller!

Seriously, that’s what this experience was like for me. I came back eager to write.


Why did I go there instead of RWA? RWA is great but expensive! I joined this group because it has a lot to offer.


First it was cheap. Yea, that’s me you hear squeaking when I walk, cheap, cheap, cheap. The cost is $55.00 year (they also offer 2 and 3 year memberships at a discounted rate).

A day-old chick

A day-old chick (Photo credit: Wikipedia)









Membership benefits include:

Manuscript Review—All new and renewing members may take advantage of a one-time manuscript review by one of the association’s published authors. Cost? FREE!


Writing Competition—Competition Categories include published and unpublished works:

Fiction—Books, Short Stories, Flash

Non Fiction—Books, Creative-Non-Technical, Creative-Technical, Technical Manual, Poetry, and Screenplay.

Cost? Just $10.00 per entry!!!! CHEAP!

Networking—All members of PSWA are welcome to participate in our website’s e-mail listserv which is intended to provide networking opportunities for members. It’s an e-mail list with all the expert members available for the rest of us to ask questions on crime or certain law enforcement agencies or any type of questions dealing with public safety. They will tell you REAL TRUTH, not what you see on TV. And let me tell you, cops LOVE to talk! You can also send them e-mail on new releases, blogs, yada, yada, yada.  Cost? FREE!

Annual Conference—PSWA’s (Public Safety Writers Association) annual conference was held in Las Vegas on July 11-14, 2013, at the Orleans Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas. It’s at the same place every year. The conference is open to anyone writing crime and mystery fiction or non-fiction, technical writing for public safety magazines in print or online, or anyone interested in writing. Cost: $200.00 before January 31 for members and $250.00 for non-members.

Yup, I said NON-MEMBERS!  You can still go even if you don’t join.

It was 3 days of learning, networking, finding new authors to read and make new friends with. What did I learn?  Here are a couple of hooks I’ll toss in the air for you…

Prostitutes usually don’t have drug problems and the average age for a prostitute is 14 to 18 years old.

The best promotion times to post on Facebook, to blog, or to tweet is 9:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. (Yes, Virginia, there is someone out there named Chris Sweeny analyzing this.)

Blog Talk Radio is in and boosting sales.

Image representing Blog Talk Radio as depicted...




DNA techs writing professional articles conducted an experiment and actually put grasshoppersants and cockroaches into volunteer family homes, retrieved them after a week and found 100% of that family’s DNA all over them. Why?  Because the DNA technology has gotten so precise they can now find DNA in skin scales. Yuck, but cool!

DNA is also being used by the rich and not so rich in a program named SNIPS.  Any guesses?  It’s a Genome DNA analysis that can trace your dog’s ancestry. It’s mostly used for show dogs.  It can also be used for humans to determine hair color, eye color, and skin color of your unborn child.  WOW!


Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...


All this IS included in the price of the conference plus they provided yummy lunches for the three days we were there! YES, the price includes LUNCHES!

You get a lot of Bang for your Buck! I’m thrilled with this group of talented writers. I’d love to share my GREAT find with you!   You can find the group at .

Until next time, happy writing,

Diane Kratz

Edited by: Sally Berneathy

Related articles

2013 Public Safety Writers Association Conference

2013-07-12 15.16.28
The 2013  Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA) was held at The Orléans hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 11-14th.  It was my first time attending the conference, and I have to tell you it was a wonderful experience.

Members included- police officers, civilian police personnel, firefighters, fire support people, emergency personnel, security personnel, FBI, homeland security, psychologists, social workers, and others in the public safety field.  They accept writer’s who write about public safety including mystery writers, magazine writers, journalists, and crime fiction or those who are simply interested in the genre.

Not only did I gain knowledge from this talented group of writers, but also I was surprised they had a pretty even mix on the writing craft itself.

Panels were as follows:

  • Adding Realism to Your Novels/Stories
  • The Prostitution Culture, Different Types of Prostitution, How Pimps Work, the Pimp Law and How Best to Investigate Them
                           Presenter: Joseph B. Haggarty, Sr.   Police officer working as a vice detective from 1973 until 1996 in Washington DC.

Presenter: Joseph B. Haggarty, Sr.
Police officer working as a vice detective from 1973 until 1996 in Washington DC.

  •  The Mystery of DNA
The Mystery of DNA  Presenter: Susan Connell Vondrak  A 27 year forensic veteran of the Illinois State Police.

The Mystery of DNA Presenter: Susan Connell Vondrak.
A 27 year forensic veteran of the Illinois State Police.

  • The Non Professional Sleuth
Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 10.18.27 PM

The Non-Professional Sleuth
Panelists: Ilene Scheider, Lorna Collins, Madeline Gornell, Mata Chausee, Marja McGraw and moderator Susan Smily.

  • Real vs. Reel Crime Scene and Evidence Collection
  • Going from Book to Blog
  • Writing Believable Dialogue

I joined this group because the first book in my Victims of Love series is NOT a romance.  It is crime fiction and I wanted to get the details right.  Luckily for me I learned after  joining this group, I had to re-write my ending because DNA was not around in 1986 where Genesis (my prequel ) takes place.

And I found out siting in Denver International Airport (DIA) smoke lounge that in 1986 there was no Denver International Airport it was called Stapleton International Airport (SIA). My hero Johnny Gaston, catches a plane to Denver, I had him going to DIA now he is going SIA.  Also, Denver International Airport is massive in size compared to old Stapleton International Airport.  Two very BIG boo-boo’s! Two major re-writes!

So-it pays to research your book, it adds realism to your story, and readers will call you on any mistakes. Research is very IMPORTANT!
PSWA also had publishers to pitch to. Kathy Contrell from Wild Rose Press, Billie Johnson from Oak Tree Press and for those of you who want to self publish, Geno Munari from Houdini Press.

He showed us an interested concept on how books will be distributed in the very near future.

Vending machines!

The hotel was also wonderful. Staff was friendly and the lunches provided for the conference were out of this world!

Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 9.58.03 PM

The Orléans Hotel-Las Vegas, Nevada

It had been at least twenty years since I last went to Las Vegas and, boy, has it changed! The strip almost looks like New York’s Times Square . My husband Tom and I visited with family while we were there. Four days was not enough time. I not only acquired a great deal of knowledge but I also made a few friends. I would encourage any of you who write books about murder, mystery and have any type of law enforcement or public safety characters,  to think about joining this group of experts and writers.

Here’s where you can find PSWA at:

Until next time, happy writing!

Diane Kratz

Blog edited by: Sally Berneathy

Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 10.26.29 PM

My husband Tom and I, standing in front of a waterfall at the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino.

Social Workers’ Safety Tips To Live By

This blog post is slightly different than my usual posts. I recently completed a required continuing education course called “Everyday Self DefenseSM For Social Workers”, taught by Janet Nelson, MSW. I learned some extremely valuable safety precautions, but I was also reminded of why we’re required to take a self-defense course to begin with, and it brings up the opportunity for me to revisit the disturbing case of Teri Zenner, a social worker who was killed by one of her clients while I was in grad school.

I’ll share the safety tips with you in a moment, but first let me tell you the backstory: what happened to Teri, and how this course became a requirement of the Kansas Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board, for all new social workers. 

Teri’s Story

Social Worker Teri Zenner
Photo from

Like me, Teri Lea Zenner was a mental health social worker. She was 26 years old, a Kansas University graduate student who worked for the Johnson County Mental Health Center.

In August 2004, Teri went on a routine visit to the home of a 17-year-old, mentally unstable client named Andrew Ramey Ellmaker. Andrew was diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder; Teri was there to make sure that he was taking his medication.

Andrew Ramey Ellmaker
Picture from

Zenner’s visit with Ellmaker began normally enough, but at some point things took a deadly turn. We will never know exactly how, or why she agreed, but Ellmaker was able to lure Zenner to his bedroom. Once inside, he refused let her leave. She begged to be released, but Ellmaker had a weapon – a knife.  His mother, Sue Ellmaker, returned from the store, heard Teri’s cries and threatened to call police if her son didn’t let Teri go by the count of three.

At the end of the count, Teri came rushing down the stairs. Blood was spurting from a wound in her neck. Ellmaker came right behind her, stabbing her all the way.

Sue Ellmaker threw herself between her son and Teri, yelling for him to stop. All three tumbled to the floor, and Sue rolled over Teri to protect her. Andrew stabbed Sue four times in the back, once in the chest, and once in the right arm; he also slashed her ear. If the knife hadn’t bent in her back, giving her the chance to flee to a neighbor’s house and call 911, Sue Ellmaker undoubtedly would have been killed.

It is not clear if Teri was alive at this point. All we know is, with his mother gone, Andrew went into his bedroom, turned on some loud music and grabbed his chainsaw from the closet. He began cutting into Teri Zenner, almost severing her left forearm and her neck. He also slashed her head, back, and right hip. At this point, the chain broke – which caused Andrew to feel “pissed off” because he had only recently bought the chainsaw.

Andrew Ramey Ellmaker in restraints
Picture from

After mutilating Teri, Andrew tried to commit suicide by ingesting a variety of pills. He then left the house with two pellet guns and attempted to drive away in Teri’s vehicle. When he had trouble getting the car to start, he took a can of gasoline from the garage, poured it on the vehicle, and set it on fire. As the police arrived, Andrew ran into the street. The police ordered him to drop his weapons, which he did. As Ellmaker was being handcuffed, he spontaneously stated, “I just killed my therapist with a chainsaw.”

I met Teri Zenner’s widower, Matt, while in grad school. He came and spoke to us about Teri’s story and pleaded with us to contact our state representatives to pass help a Kansas law in her honor, requiring specific safety training for all new social workers. Among social workers who are killed on the job, most are killed within the first five years of employment.

As part of the Social Workers Code of Ethics, standards set forth by NASW- National Association of Social Workers, we are required to take Social and Political Action for our clients.

Article 6.04 (a) reads:

“(a) Social workers should engage in social and political action that seeks to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources, employment, services, and opportunities they require to meet their basic human needs and to develop fully. Social workers should be aware of the impact of the political arena on practice and should advocate for changes in policy and legislation to improve social conditions in order to meet basic human needs and promote social justice.”

Everyone who heard him speak at Washburn University marched over to Topeka Capital building and spoke to their representatives, myself included. Only this time it wasn’t for our clients; it was for social workers everywhere. The bill was signed into Kansas law on April 8, 2010.

Matt and Teri Zenner
Photo from

However, Matt’s activism didn’t end there. Matt was also lobbying for a national act called the Teri Zenner Social Worker Safety Act H.R. 1490 (111th Congress), which would have established a grant program to assist in the provision of safety measures to protect social workers and other professionals who work with at-risk populations. He wanted social workers to have the same publicly viewed protections as police officers do. Unfortunately, as of right now H.R. 1490 is dead and has been submitted to the House Education and Workforce Community for review.

Social work is a helping profession. Teri died because she was trying to make sure that her attacker had been taking care of himself. We see clients at their most vulnerable, often at the worst times of their lives – clients who are mentally unstable, accused of abusing their children, spouse or intimate partners, or clients just released from prison. Our cases are emotionally charged by nature, and can become dangerous in the blink of the eye.

When it comes to the violence on the job, social workers are the second highest at-risk profession. The first are police officers. The glaring difference between these two occupations is that police officers carry weapons and receive intensive training to protect themselves.

Something needs to change.

Now on to Janet’s safety tips…

Above all, STAY CALM!

BREATHE and CENTER yourself to stay in CONTROL and to regain balance in emotionally charged situations.

Client known factors contributing to assault behavior:

  • Violence in client’s history or a criminal record
  • A diagnosis of dementia or low mental functioning
  • Intoxication from alcohol, drugs or medications
  • Low impulse control and high frustration level
  • Mania, paranoia and antisocial personality disorder
  • Law enforcement or military training/combat experience
  • Knowledge of weapons
  • Authoritative or confrontational counseling approaches
  • Client’s feeling powerless
  • The treatment environment itself

   In Your Client’s Home and Neighborhood

old houses photo: Old houses P3100008.jpg

Picture from

  • Make sure you understand that you are on their turf. This is a natural safety dilemma.
  • When you schedule a visit, let them know when to expect you. Let them advise you about any safety concerns in their area.
  • Drive by first to check out the dwelling, the atmosphere and the surrounding area. Notice what’s happening on the streets and who is present.
  • Ask your client to watch for you as you leave your car upon arrival. Have them watch you go to your car as you leave.
  • Observe the home—both inside and outside. Notice its hiding places, vulnerable points, blocked exits, and escape routes.
  • If anything looks out of the ordinary in or around the dwelling, or you feel uneasy about the situation you are in, leave and call for back up.
  • Listen while outside the door for any disturbances. After knocking, stand off to the side.
  • As you enter the home, notice the general interior layout, exits, and phones.
  • Position yourself for an easy exit, if necessary.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing that doesn’t restrict your movement. Do NOT wear anything that can be used as a weapon against you. This includes jewelry, scarfs, belts, etc.…
  • Carry a cell phone with you. Keep it on and preprogrammed to Call 911 for assistance in any emergency.
  • Keep purses locked in the trunk. Keep keys, a little money, and a cell phone in pockets or a waist pack (on your person).
  • Look around and think of what objects could be used as weapons, if needed.
  • Most importantly, know your client. Be aware of what they may be capable of based on size, gender, mental health status, medications, legal status, and history.
  • Whenever possible, travel with a co-worker or law enforcement if uncertain about safety.
  • Stay out of the kitchen! The kitchen is the most dangerous place in the home.

In the Car

Cars 005

  • Make certain your car has gas, water, and a spare with jack, a working horn, spare change, a flashlight, jumper cables, and a first aid kit.
  • Travel with a cell phone. Keep it on and preprogrammed to Call 911 for assistance in any emergency or threatening situation.
  • Have understandable directions and maps available.
  • If you have a flat tire at night, try to keep going along the shoulder to a gas station.
  • Use extra caution in parking garages. Scan the garage as you enter it.
  • Have your car keys in your hand as you approach your car assuredly.
  • Scan the area as you approach the car and check the floor/back seat and under the car.
  • If stranded and you accept assistance, pretend that someone else will soon be arriving. Stay on guard so that you do not become a victim of a “Good Samaritan” ploy, in which your helper becomes an attacker.
  • Ask to see the identification of anyone stopping to assist you (police too!).
  • If someone approaches your car to force entry, lay on the horn and drive off.
  • If someone is in your car forcing you to drive, turn on the flashers, press the horn, stop suddenly, get out and run or cause an accident with other cars (with your seat belt on).
  • If you have your windows open be aware of what’s going on around you.
  • Keep car doors locked while in or away from your vehicle.
  • If you are being forced into your car, throw away the keys (distracting the attacker) and run.
  • During home visits park your car in position for a quick and easy departure.
  • Be careful about what you leave on your seats or dashboard — valuables and items with your name, address, phone number, or e-mail address on them (e.g., mail, cell phone).

Thank you, Janet Nelson, for your input on this post – and for giving social workers everywhere the tools they need to protect themselves. To find out more on Janet’s self-defense courses, visit her website at: .

Happy Writing,

Diane Kratz


“Everyday Self Defense­ SM For Social Workers” by Janet Nelson, MSW, website:

NASW- National Association of Social Workers

WIB.COM, Sentence Holds For Man Convicted Of Murdering Social Worker, Posted: Fri 1:07 PM, Dec 04, 2009.

Edited by Sally Berneathy and Nicolase Mallat (Crime Consultant)

When Children Kill By: Diane Kratz

There have been far too many headlines in the news lately on teen murderers and school shootings.

We are shocked when we hear a child has committed the abominable act of murder. It defies our minds when we learn sweet little Janie down the street whacked her parents to death as they slept.

We grieve for families who have lost a parent, child, friend, spouse, sibling, or neighbor.

And in the middle of the shocking awfulness of these seemingly senseless tragedies we ask, “How can this happen?” “What went wrong?” and “What in the world is the matter with a child or teenager who would ruthlessly murder?”

From all the research I’ve done on the subject of why kids kill, their motives are not that much different from those of adult killers.

They carry out murder for money, love, revenge, and for the thrill of committing it.

There is no profile for teen murderers. One of the things we do know about teen murders is that most are NOT well planned. Some have been caught because they left evidence like a driver’s license or prescription with their name on it.

They are divided into six types:

Jasmine Richardson

1. The Family Killer—A juvenile who kills a family member. These types usually kill for money or revenge. They feel pressured by demands, abuse, and hatred.

Jasmine Richardson was twelve when she brutally murdered her parents and younger brother in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Motive, to be with her boyfriend whom her parents didn’t approve of.

2. The School Killer—A juvenile who kills a student, teacher or administrator at school. I’ll write more on this type later because there is more information coming out from different studies. The motives of these killers differ from the usual.

School shooters are mostly male. They have typically planned the shootings for months and usually told someone else of their plans. According to the FBI publication on school shooters this is called “leakage.”

Leakage occurs when a student intentionally or unintentionally reveals clues to feelings, thoughts, fantasies, attitudes, or intentions that may signal an impending violent act. These clues can take the form of subtle threats, boasts, innuendos, predictions, or ultimatums. They may be spoken or conveyed in stories, diary entries, essays, poems, letters, songs, drawings, doodles, tattoos, or videos.

Another form of leakage involves efforts to get unwitting friends or classmates to help with preparations for a violent act. Sometimes this is accomplished through deception. For example, the student asks a friend to get ammunition for him because he is going hunting.

Leakage can be a cry for help, a sign of inner conflict, or it can be boasts that may look empty but actually express a serious threat. Leakage is considered one of the most important clues that may precede an adolescent’s violent act.

Enoch Brown Monument - East Side Inscription
Ken Shockey, Antrim-Allison Museum

Though school shootings have been highly publicized in recent years, they are not new. They have been around since 1764. The earliest known United States shooting to happen on school property was the Pontiac’s Rebellion school massacre on July 26, 1764. Four Lenape American Indians entered the schoolhouse near present-day Greencastle, Pennsylvania, shot and killed schoolmaster Enoch Brown, and killed nine or ten children (reports vary). Only three children survived.

3. The Gang/Cult Killer—A juvenile killer motived by a street gang, hate group or cult. These crimes often begin with Satanists because it gives them the feeling of power over others.

Ricky Kasso

At age 17, while wearing an AC/DC T-shirt, he murdered fellow teen Gary Lauwers in the Aztakea Woods of Northport, Long Island. Along with two other friends—who, like Kasso and Lauwers, were high on mescaline—Kasso was in the woods to dabble in occult practices, as part of their self-dubbed “Knights of the Black Circle” cult.

Tensions had long before mounted between Kasso and Lauwers, after the latter allegedly stole 10 bags of PCP from Kasso. On June 16, 1984, in the Aztakea Woods, unsuccessful attempts to build a fire prompted Lauwers to make up for the damp driftwood by using his socks and denim jacket’s sleeves. Kasso said that they should use Lauwers’ hair instead, which led to Kasso biting him on the neck. Then, over a reported three-to-four-hour period, Kasso and his two other friends stabbed Lauwers upwards of 36 times, burned his body, gouged his eyeballs out, and stuffed rocks down his throat.

As he was killing Lauwers, Kasso ordered him to “say you love Satan,” but Lauwers said, “I love my mother.” Kasso covered the thought-to-be-dead body with branches and leaves, but, as reports tell, Lauwers rose back up, said “I love my mother” again, and prompted the assailants to continue their assault until he was confirmed dead.

On July 5, Kasso was arrested. Two days later, he hung himself in his jail cell.


Update: I originally had “The West Memphis Three” as my feature here, but I was told by a reader they were exonerated and released from prison in August 2011. After spending almost 20 years in prison, they gave a Alford plea and were released. My apologizes to Damien, Jason, Jesse and my readers for not following up on this case before posting it. Thank you Nico for bringing this to my attention!

4. The Crime Killer—A juvenile who kills while committing another crime, like burglary.

Bryton Gibbs

Bryton Gibbs was 16 when he stabbed Christopher Taylor to death with an 8-inch kitchen knife.  Gibbs called Pizza Hut and placed an order to be delivered to a vacant apartment. When Taylor, 33, arrived, Gibbs and three other male teens robbed him of $50 and killed him.

5. The Baby Killer—A juvenile who kills his or her infant or young child.

Cassidy Goodson, a teen who admitted killing her newborn baby and hiding him in a shoebox this past fall, used a Santa Claus doll to show investigators exactly how she strangled him in her bathroom shortly after giving birth.

6. The Thrill Killer—A juvenile who kills to feel what it feels like. These types are usually psychopathic. They have no empathy for their victims. The only time you will see them cry is when they are caught, and the tears are for themselves.

Child Killer Speaks Out

Eric Smith at age 13

Eric Smith murdered a four-year-old boy named Derrick Robie in 1980. He dropped large rocks on the boy’s head, strangled him, and then sodomized him with a small stick. Smith has never explained why he murdered the four-year-old. He has been denied parole five times. “I don’t doubt for a second, never have doubted, that had he not been caught, Eric Smith would have killed again,” the prosecutor in the case has said.

Eric Smith denied parole

Eric Smith at age 29

According to Phil Chalmers, who has interviewed 200 adolescent killers and is a teen violence and youth culture expert, there are 10 reasons why teens kill. They are listed from most likely to least.

1. Unstable Home and Bullying at School

2. Obsession with Violent Entertainment and Porn

3. Suicidal Ideation and Depression

4. Alcohol and Drug Use

5. Cults, Gangs, and Hate Groups

6. Obsession with Guns, Bombs, and Knives

7. Peer Pressure

8. Fascination with the Criminal Lifestyle, and Poverty

9. Lack of Spiritual Guidance and Proper Discipline

10. Mental Illness

He also suggests most teen killers have at least 3 of the list of causes, and many have 6 to 8 of the 10 causes.

In conclusion, children can be capable of committing hideous acts on their fellow human beings. There have been many books and movies about bad kids. The one that comes to mind is the 1956 movie, The Bad Seed, which depicts a housewife who suspects that her seemingly perfect 8-year-old daughter is a heartless killer. It was actually a book first written by William March in 1954 and was awarded The National Book Award for Fiction in 1955.

The Bad Seed

Sound familiar?

The child, Rhoda, is portrayed as a sociopath although the term was not widely used at the time. She has no conscience and will kill if necessary to get whatever she wants. By the time Christine, her mother, puts the truth together, Rhoda has already killed two people (a neighbor in Baltimore and her classmate Claude Daigle). In time, she also kills Leroy, the apartment building’s gardener and the only adult who sees through her. An adept manipulator, she can easily charm adults while eliciting fear and revulsion from other children who can sense something wrong with her.

Happy Writing,

Diane Kratz

Edit by Sally Berneathy

Web Resources

International Business Times:


Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG)
National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) FBI Academy
Quantico, Virginia 22135

When Children Kill

Women who fall in love with a psychopath…should they have known?

English: FBI Mugshot of serial killer Cary Sta...

English: FBI Mugshot of serial killer Cary Stayner taken by the FBI following his arrest by Agent Jeff Rinek at a nudist resort in Wilton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)  Good looking on the outside but lurking inside is a monster. 

I write about serial killers but the truth is that many psychopaths living in our world have never murdered any one physically. They get off on murdering people emotionally, a sucker of souls. They are users of people. And they are excellent profilers. They look for easy prey they can pounce on and take advantage of.

In fact, my daughter just severed a three-year relationship with a psychopath.

He abused her physically and emotionally. Her physical bruises have healed, but emotionally, she is scarred. I doubt she will ever see another man without worrying about who he really is inside. This man met all the criteria on Dr. Hare’s list. Grandiose (exaggeration of self), he once told me after they broke up that he was “the best thing that ever happened to your daughter.” Mind you, this man weighed close to 300 pounds and was a high school dropout whom my daughter supported (parasitic lifestyle). He is a pathological liar who accused her of cheating, when in fact he fathered another child with another woman, a child five days younger than their son.

These people have a way of twisting the truth to suit their needs or to hide their bad behaviors.

Serial killers are what most people think of when they hear the word psychopath. The only difference between the two is that serial killers need more simulation than the other and want the ultimate high by killing another human being. They can’t stop killing because it makes them feel as good as drugs do to an addict.  They must feed the constant need for stimulation.

I’ve often heard the comment about women who married or lived with a serial killer, “How could she not have known?” Well, you have to recall, serial killers are psychopaths and are skilled at concealing their “dark side.”

English: Ted Bundy in custody, Florida, 1978 o...

English: Ted Bundy in custody, Florida, 1978 or 1979. Florida Memory Project, Florida Photographic Collection, #DND0671 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember Dr. Hare’s checklist? The first symptom is glib and superficial charm. Even Ann Rule, who writes true crime stories, couldn’t see the psychopathic behavior in her friend, Ted Bundy. These people enter every relationship hidden in a mask of normalcy. They are experts at concealing their true nature. All psychopaths have this in common.

Judith Mawson/Ridgway was married for 16 years to Gary Ridgeway (The Green River Serial Killer) who was responsible for murdering 48 women. Judith said in an interview on Investigative Discovery channel, “Gary was the perfect husband.”  When Judith met Gary Ridgway at a bar in Seattle in 1985, she recalled he seemed like the perfect suitor. He was handsome, polite, had a good job, and treated her like a lady.

She thought she’d found a man she adored and wanted to spend the rest of her life with. Two years later they moved in together. A year after that they were married.

Judith said of him, “He made me smile every day. I had the perfect husband, perfect life. I absolutely adored him.” But Ridgway was also a prolific serial killer.  He was convicted for killing 48 women in the Seattle area over a period of 20 years, but officials believe he is responsible for over 70 murders.

She trusted him when he said he was late because of a union meeting. She had no reason to disbelieve him when he told her his ex-girlfriend came and took her bed back or that he replaced the carpet because the kids had ruined it.

Linda Yates slept for two years in her bedroom of her new home and had no idea that her husband had a body buried outside the window. Linda had a 26-year union with her husband, Robert Yates (aka The Spokane Serial Killer), who killed 13 women. This man appeared to be as normal as anyone. He obtained a job as a guard at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, enlisted in the Army where he served his country for 19 years as a helicopter pilot, served in Germany, participated in Desert Storm, served in relief efforts for Hurricane Andrew, and flew on a UN peacekeeping mission to Somalia. Mr. Normal to everyone who knew him. Everyone except the 13 prostitutes he murdered.

When he came home early one morning with blood in their van and told Linda he’d hit a dog and loaded the poor thing in his van to take to the vet, why wouldn’t she believe him?

Psychopaths look like everyone else. Only they are not like everyone else. Their brains are not wired the same as yours and mine. Serial killers are normal looking and act like Joe Blow, but underneath that mask lies a monster, and that’s why I think people (including myself) are fascinated with them.

You don’t have to be a serial killer to be a psychopath. There are many, many functional (I’m using the term “functional” loosely) psychopaths living among us. They leave behind internal scars that wreak havoc on the people they meet. They can devastate person financially, emotionally, sexually, and physically. Many people in therapy are there because they crossed paths with a functioning psychopath.

We are all vulnerable to becoming one of their victims. There are a few resources out there to help victims.


2. Victims of Psychopaths Sociopaths—An on-line support group

3. Your local mental health office

The intent of this blog was to tell my readers you don’t have to be a serial killer to be a psychopath. They live among us in all societies and nationalities. They can be your boss, friend, neighbor, minister, teacher, or your love interest. They don’t look like monsters, they look like you and I.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Diane Kratz

Writers Note

Writers find characters in all sorts of places. The most vivid comes from a personal experience. Having a character that seems normal throughout the book and suddenly takes off his mask and is revealed as a villain makes for a thrilling ride.  I hope this blog article inspires you to be both watchful and creative.

Resources used in this blog article were:

Hare’s Psychopathy Check List

Mail Online News by Rachel Quigley

TRUTV Crime Library Criminal Minds and Methods by Gary C. King


The Stranger Beside Me – Ted Bundy: The Classic Story of Seduction & Murder by Ann Rule

Blog edited by Sally Berneathy



Women Who Kill



Characters Robert Goren and Female Serial Killer, Nicole Wallace from the television show Law and Order Criminal Intent

In my Victims of Love series, my villain Jillian Black is a prolific serial killer who has killed since her early teens. She is a true psychopath who uses her charms to convince people she is a victim. Killing her own family is no more difficult than killing a stranger or deciding what dress to wear a cocktail party. She has no attachment to anyone. The only thing she feels is the excitement of the fantasy of having complete control over her victims.

In the 1960s Dr. Robert Hare was at the psychology department of the University of British Columbia. There his interest in psychopathy merged with his experience as he worked with over 100 male psychopaths in prison to form what was to become his life’s work. He began to see a pattern emerge among these types of criminals and came up with a checklist which is now accepted by the World Health Organization, the international organization responsible for classification of diseases.

Psychopaths, according to the Hare Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R), have been identified as sharing the following common twenty characteristic personality traits:

  • Glib and superficial charm
  • Grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
  • Need for stimulation
  • Pathological lying
  • Cunning and manipulative
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
  • Callousness and lack of empathy
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Poor behavioral controls
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Early behavior problems
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • Many short-term marital relationships
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Revocation of conditional release
  • Criminal versatility

A female serial killer is rare, but don’t kid yourself, they do exist.  The Bureau of Justice Statistics for the years 1976-2005 compiled data and determined the overall rating of female serial (multiple) homicide at just 6.5%. This compares to their male counterparts who rated at 93.5%.

In fact, little study has gone into the rare butterflies called female serial killers. Even Roy Hazelwood of the FBI who started the Behavioral Science Unit was quoted at a conference in 1998 as saying, “There are no female serial killers.” Not true. There are a few out there.

 Real Female Serial Killers

From L to R; starting on top row: Sara Aldrete, Juana Barraza, Erzsébet Bathory, Marie Alexandra Becker, Marie Besnard, Elfriede Blauensteiner, Mary Ann Cotton, Nanny Doss, Amelia Dyer, Kristin Gilbert, Delfina and Maria de Jesus Gonzalez, Dana Sue Gray, Belle Gunness, Anna Hahn, Myra Hindley, Karla Homolka, Hélène Jégado, Delphine LaLaurie, Enriqueta Martí, Dagmar Overbye, Dorothea Puente, Raya and Sakina, Darya Saltykova, Jane Toppan, Rosemary West, and Aileen Wuornos.
Picture courtesy of Photobucket, by By Dorotea.

According to Deborah Schurman-Kauflin, Ph.D., a criminal profiler who claims to be an expert on female serial killers and who is the only person to interview a large group (25) of female serial killers, “Female killers can actually be more lethal than their male counterparts because they use covert murder methods. That is, often, there is little to no evidence that a homicide has been committed.”

One of the main studies on them has produced what was named the Kelleher Typology which divides these killers into five groups: Black Widows, Angels of Death, Sexual Predators, Revenge Killers, and Profit Killers.

The Black Widows and Angels of Death are the most common type of female serial killer. Revenge Killers that are repeat offenders are rare because most are one-time crimes of true passion. Profit Killers are also rare, but they are considered the most intelligent and resourceful.

Many serial killers, both male and female, work as part of a team. One third of all female serial killers are members of a team.

White women are much more likely to be a serial killer than African-American, Asian, or Hispanic women.

Alice from BBC Luther, the award-winning BBC One crime series.

Hickey (2002) studied 399 serial killers and compiled a rank order of the most often used methods and motives. Women serial killers account for only 8% of all American serial killers, but American females account for 76% of all female serial killers worldwide.  Hickey’s (2002) subsample of 62 women out of 399 serial killers used the following methods and motives:



  • 1. Poison (80%)
  • 2. Shooting (20%)
  • 3. Bludgeoning (16%)
  • 4. Suffocation (16%)
  • 5. Stabbing (11%)
  • 6. Drowning (5%)


  • 1. Money (74%)
  • 2. Control (13%)
  • 3. Enjoyment (11%)
  • 4. Sex (10%)

Women also tend to get away with the murders for an average of 10 years before they are detected. Why? According to Dr. Deborah , “Female serial killers commit murder because they have intense feelings of helplessness and lack of control. Through killing, female serial killers create power and importance in their lives. They tend to come from terrible backgrounds filled with high levels of abuse and emotional cruelty, isolation, lack of stability, and abandonment.

Being unable to defend themselves, the females turn this anger inward and begin fantasizing about killing. The fantasy serves as an escape from the powerlessness. As time passes, the serial killer creates more vivid and more grotesque fantasies. The tolerance increases thereby allowing the offender to create ever-more heinous acts within her mind.

“This is very important as female serial killers fantasize in detail about how to kill while avoiding detection (Schurman-Kauflin, 2000). They decide that by creating an equivocal death scenario, they are less likely to be caught (Kirby, 1999). If a death is equivocal at best, many times, especially in smaller jurisdictions, there is no investigation.”

So why did I pick a woman to be my villain? Because I believe a woman can be just as lethal as a man. Society’s gender role expectation of women being passive, gentle and the meeker sex only makes them scarier because we don’t suspect woman of being so deviant, ruthless and as capable as a man when it comes to killing.

I don’t know why society deems woman meeker when according to a 1998 report from the Department of Health and Human Services on Child Maltreatment in the United States, 53.6% of women abuse their children.


I don’t believe woman as serial killers is that far of a stretch. I’m tired of reading about alpha male heroes saving a poor, defenseless woman from the big bad wolf. Why not make a woman a villain? That’s the fun of writing fiction. And my villain, Jillian Black, is an alpha villain!  I hope this blog article has convinced you to think about women in a more realistic view.

Happy Writing,

Diane Kratz

Web Resources:

Bureau of Justice Statistics, Homicide Tends In The U.S.

Female Serial Killers

Web Page Project by: Jeanne Nikki Gilbert, Heather Thone, Gregory Mouton, and Martin Millien. 11/28/2003.

Lethal Ladies: Revisiting What We Know About Female Serial Murderers Amanda L. Farrell, Robert D. Keppel, and Victoria B. Titterington. Homicide Studies, August 2011; vol. 15, 3: pp. 228-252.

Amicus Curiae, The blog for Professor Corcos’ classes at LSU Law Center A Murderous Phenomenon: Female Serial Killers, by March 15, 2011

Violent Crimes Institute, LLC, Your Guide Into The Deviant Mind. Article, Why Females Get Away with Murder, by Deborah Schurman-Kauflin, Ph.D., Behavioral Profiler, July 6, 2011.

The New Predator–Women Who Kill:‪Profiles of Female Serial Killers by, Deborah Schurman-Kauflin, Algora Publishing, Jan 1, 2000.

Murder Most Rare, Michael D. Kelleher and C. L. Kelleher, Dell Publishing, January 12, 1999.

The Feminization of Serial Killing: A Gender Identity Study of Male and Female Serialists Using Covert Methods of Murder, dissertation by Patricia Lee Kirby. Published by, UMI Dissertation Services, 1998.

The US Department of health and Human Services, Statistics and Research, Child Maltreatment 2010.