The Price of Crime: 6 of the All-Time Wealthiest Gangsters

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Despite the allure of wealth and notoriety, a life of crime is never the most prudent course of action. And, generally speaking, the truism “crime doesn’t pay” has stood the test of time. But for some career criminals, their life in the underworld brought them wealth beyond their wildest dreams.

Here’s some of the wealthiest gangsters of all time.

Al Capone

One of the most notorious gangsters in American history, Al Capone operated the Chicago mafia during the criminally lucrative Prohibition Era. Ruthless, cunning and insatiable, Capone garnered his income from a variety of illicit enterprises, including bootlegging and the operation of gambling dens.

Capone was somewhat of a pop icon during his heyday, but certain events, such as the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, led to the demise of his public reputation. Experts believe that Capone – at the height of his empire – employed over 600 soldiers to manage and protect his vast assets and businesses.

In current monetary value, Capone’s empire would be now worth around $1.3 billion. Yes, you read that correct. Over one billion dollars!

After being released from prison, Capone spent his remaining years in extremely bad health. In 1947, Capone died of natural causes in his Florida mansion.

Griselda Blanco

Miami’s “Cocaine Queen” was a high ranking member of Colombia’s Medellin drug cartel. Using intimidation, brutality and sheer violence,  Griselda Blanco had a stranglehold on the Miami drug trade throughout the 1970s and ‘80s. It is said that Blanco’s business was bringing in around $80 million a month during the peak of her operations.

The “Black Widow”  was responsible for up to 200 murders during her drug smuggling days – which involved moving cocaine from Colombia to Miami, Southern California and New York. After spending time in an American jail and released due to a technicality, Blanco was deported back to Colombia in 2004. Her wealth, at its zenith, was valued at approximately $500 million.

In 2012, Blanco was assassinated in Medellin, Colombia.

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman

Joaquin Guzman, otherwise known as “El Chapo” (or “Shorty”) is a ruthless and dangerous Mexican drug lord who heads the Sinaloa Cartel. Forbes magazine has ranked El Chapo as the world’s most powerful drug kingpin. He is one of the richest men in Mexico, with an estimated worth of approximately $1 billion.

The United States DEA considers El Chapo to be the “godfather of the drug world” and many in law enforcement believe his sphere of influence has surpassed that of the notorious Pablo Escobar.

In January 2017, the United States extradited Guzman so that he may stand trial for numerous high level criminal charges in connection with his role as the head of the dangerous Sinaloa Cartel.

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Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno

In the 1960s, Fat Tony – based in East Harlem –  controlled one of the largest numbers racket operations in New York City, which was estimated to gross up to $50 million per year.  Although a large number of Italian mobsters moved out Harlem and East Harlem when those neighborhoods became predominantly Latino and African-American, Salerno kept his headquarters in East Harlem, not far from where he was born.

Salerno was once the boss and underboss for the infamous Genovese crime family, which was started by the infamous Italian mobster Lucky Luciano. By the mid-1980s, Fat Tony had accumulated a wealth of over $1 billion. Salerno was convicted of racketeering charges in 1988, and was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

In 1992, Salerno died in federal prison.

Frank Lucas

Dealing heroin out of Harlem in the late 1960s through the early 1970s, Lucas broke the drug trade monopoly  held by New York’s Italian mafia. How did he break the monopoly? He traveled to Bangkok, Thailand and secured a direct connection in the famed opium producing area of Southeast Asia known as the ‘Golden Triangle.’

Lucas cut out the middleman, and this unique business model served him well. Lucas’ drug empire was at its peak during the Vietnam War, and it is claimed that his heroin was smuggled in the pallets used to ship the coffins of fallen American soldiers.  Lucas accumulated a net worth of approximately $52 million.

Despite being sentenced to 70 years in prison, Lucas has served two separate prison terms for only a total of 12 years. He is 86 years old and the father of seven kids.

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org.

Pablo Escobar

Needing no introduction, Pablo Escobar is infamously known as being one of the most powerful, wealthiest and ruthless gangsters of the modern era. Dubbed a narco-terrorist by international law enforcement, Escobar’s wealth was built by flooding the United States with an exorbitant amount of cocaine.

By the late 1980s, Escobar controlled over 40% of the Medellin Cartel’s drug business. Commencing in 1987, Escobar made it on Forbes’ list of international billionaires for seven straight years. At one point in his notorious career, he offered to pay down his native Colombia’s national debt – a whopping $10 billion.

In 1993, Escobar was killed by the Colombian National Police after a massive and time consuming manhunt. At the time of his death, Escobar’s net worth was $30 billion, of which most (if not all) of the income was derived from his cocaine trade.

 

Many of these infamous individuals have been glamorously portrayed in television and film, but despite any of the allure shown in popular media, they were cold-blooded killers that destroyed neighborhoods and families. Can you think of any notorious gangsters that amassed a great deal wealth like these criminals?

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Crime and Serial Killers: In the Beginning for Emily Stone

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When Serial Killers Terrorize a California Beach Community, One Woman Stands in Their Way

Emily Stone doesn’t have a badge. But that hasn’t stopped her from tracking down some of the West’s most dangerous child-killers. Armed with a digital SLR camera, laptop computer and her trusty Beretta, Stone uses her innate gift for detective work to identify the perps — and then anonymously e-mail the evidence to the cops.

Now, the hunt for two brazen serial killers on the loose right in her own coastal California town threatens to expose Stone’s identity — unraveling her carefully constructed cover and jeopardizing her life’s work. But when she gets too close to the action, this razor-sharp hunter becomes the hunted. Cooperating with the handsome local police detective could be the only hope for stopping the rampage directed at unsuspecting young women — and saving herself. Can they piece together the clues in time?

Compulsion mixes CSI-style investigation with a ripped-from-the-headlines plot and a dose of romance for a keeps-you-guessing, fast-paced and savvy thriller, right up until the shocking finale.

You can read COMPULSION now!

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Recent 5-Star AMAZON Reviews

“What a page turning, exciting and thrilling read! I absolutely love the storyline and the characters…Emily, Rick and Mike! I can’t wait to read the next book in the series!!”

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Extraordinary!!!

“Another Emily stone book I thoroughly enjoyed. Well done to Jennifer Chase.”

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Emily Stone has hunted down some of the most dangerous serial killers and child kidnappers, which rivals anything you’ve seen on TV or the movies. Every Emily Stone Thriller is written to stand alone, but you might want to check out all of her stories. If you love small towns, high-tech Gamers, Hawaiian islands, or deserted Army bases, her stories have you covered. If you haven’t met Emily Stone yet–then I think it’s about time.

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DEAD COLD, An Emily Stone Thriller

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9 Key Steps for a Successful Crime Scene Investigation

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To perform a successful crime scene investigation, there are a myriad of individual procedures used by investigators. And, of course, different crimes call for specific methods. Despite, however, the various tactics and circumstances, individual investigators generally utilize the following nine universal steps in order to conduct a fruitful and efficient crime scene investigation.

Establish Scene Dimensions / Identify Potential Hazards

An investigator must initially locate the main area of the disturbance, i.e. the focal point of the crime. This could be a ransacked living room, a traffic intersection where a collision occurred or a remote part of nature where a murder took place. Once the focal point has been ascertained, the investigator creates a radius of the area, in which all the immediate, relevant physical evidence may be present.

It behooves the investigator to create a relatively large radius, due to the fact that it is much easier to later condense the crime scene than enlarge it. It would be detrimental to the investigation if the area was too small, and crucial evidence (outside of the area) was compromised by onlookers or the media.

In addition to establishing the focal point’s radius, the investigator must identify the potential areas of ingress and egress of the criminal. The safety of all people in the area must also be taken into consideration. Therefore, any sort of hazardous materials, weapons or intentional traps must be identified.

Secure the Perimeter

Every single person who enters and exits the crime scene will “add or subtract” crucial material from the crime scene. Thus, it is vital that the lead investigator secure the area as quickly as possible.

In order to control access, the scene is generally cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape or other methods, such as rope or cones.  Further,  an entrance is established for all personnel to use when entering and exiting the scene. Once the common entryway has been created, all people who enter and leave the area must be documented. For larger and more complex crime scenes, additional consultation and evidence storage areas may be created.

Organize and Communicate

Prior to the collection of evidence, the crime scene investigators must develop a theory concerning what exactly transpired at the scene. Once the team has a working knowledge of what type of crime occurred, the investigators will be more prepared to anticipate what kind of evidence may be present.

A method for developing the crime theory is to interview witnesses, or persons of interest. Once the investigators have obtained sufficient information, the team will develop their strategy for collecting evidence.

Perform Initial Survey of Scene

A preliminary crime scene survey is performed in an effort to prioritize the collection of evidence. While conducting the scene walkthrough, the lead investigator will identify and take photos of important evidence.

Investigators will also document certain aspects of the crime scene, so that the scene conditions are properly captured. For example, the investigators will note weather conditions, the exact position of items such as furniture, the presence of any smells and whether the lights were on or off.

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Process the Scene

After the plan has been established and the initial survey has been performed, the crime scene investigators conduct a diligent, thorough and coordinated investigation of the scene. At that time, the team will collect all probative evidence. The collection of evidence includes the proper digital documentation of the scene and evidence, which also may include 3D scanners, diagrams, models and sketches.

While the collection of evidence is being conducted, it is vital that all investigators follow strict protocol in the collection, packaging and preservation of the evidence. If the integrity of any of the evidence is compromised, it could hinder the investigation and eventual prosecution.

Conduct Second Walkthrough

For quality control purposes, a secondary walkthrough is conducted by the lead investigator so as to ensure that the entire crime scene has been thoroughly searched.

Preserve and Record Evidence

In order to ensure that all collected evidence has been documented, the investigation team will create an inventory log. Each piece of evidence is described in the log, and such description must match the photo of the evidence and the crime scene report description.

The evidence log and crime scene report establishes the chain of custody, which will follow the evidence throughout the duration of the case.

Perform Final Survey

The final survey allows the investigators to conduct a critical review of all aspects of the crime scene investigation. Each team member participates in the final survey to ensure that no inadvertent errors are found in the documentation, and that the paper trail is thorough, accurate and complete.

One last search of the area is performed to ensure evidence was not overlooked in hidden or hard to access sections of the crime scene.

Release Crime Scene

Once the final survey has been completed, the lead investigator or other authorized persons may release the crime scene. Oftentimes, in order to gain re-entry to a released crime scene, a warrant is required.

I thoroughly enjoy the topic of crime scene analysis and investigation. I hope you found this article both informative and interesting. And, most importantly, I hope you learned something about the fascinating world of criminal science.

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6 Groundbreaking Moments in Criminal Justice

Throughout history, the criminal justice system—both domestic and abroad—has been consistently challenged to develop innovations to combat the growing threats that confront society. Here are six historical moments that forever changed how law and order is preserved.

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Photo courtesy of wichita.edu.

The First Murder Solved by Utilizing Fingerprints (1892)

The world’s first fingerprint classification system was established by the Central Police Department in La Plata, Argentina. The system was developed, in 1892, by Juan Vucetich, who used data obtained from earlier fingerprint analysis experiments performed by English scientist Sir Francis Galton.

The criminal investigation in which the fingerprint evidence was used involved the gruesome double murder of two children. A bloody fingerprint found at the scene of the crime led to strong evidence against the murderer, who eventually confessed to the crime.

The killer? Shockingly, it was the mother of the young victims.

America’s First State Police Force (1905)

Pennsylvania established the first state policy agency in the United States. The department was formed in 1905 under strong opposition by organized labor, who believed that Pennsylvania would use the agency as a small, private army intent on disbanding strikes, and other labor disputes.

Pennsylvania’s State Police quickly became a model by which other states used to form their own departments. The original force consisted of 228 men, who were responsible for patrolling Pennsylvania’s 45,000 square miles of territory.

America’s First Female Police Officer (1908)

In 1905, Portland, Oregon hosted the Lewis and Clark Exposition, which drew over 1.5 million visitors to the city. In an effort to protect the city’s women from the “inevitable con men, pimps and other criminals,” Lola G. Baldwin was hired to run a traveler’s aid program directed at women.

During the 4-month event, Baldwin was paid $75 a month, and was charged with recruiting other women to help with surveilling the fairgrounds. Most importantly, Baldwin was granted the authority to arrest. Three years later, Baldwin was officially sworn-in as the nation’s first female police officer.

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The Creation of INTERPOL (1923)

Vienna police commissioner, Dr. Johanness Schober, created the International Criminal Police Commission (CPC) in 1923. The CPC was a collaboration between 16 sovereign nations, including countries such as China, Egypt, France and Sweden. In 1946, the organization became known as INTERPOL, which is merely a contraction of the phrase “international police.”

Today, INTERPOL is based in Lyon, France and is comprised of 190 member countries, which cooperate with the unified goal of combatting international criminal activity.

DNA’s Utilization As a Biological Identification Tool (1984)

On what appeared to be a regular day in the lab, British geneticist Dr. Alec Jeffreys encountered a “horrible, smudgy, blurry mess” on a slide containing biological material from his assistant, Jenny Foxon. But after closer examination, the blurry mess turned out to be an encounter of a lifetime. A discovery that dramatically changed the landscape of criminal science.

Upon studying the biological material on this fateful September 1984 day, Dr. Jeffreys came to the realization that he could distinguish all three members of Foxon’s family by a deciphering a pattern of inheritance. Over the next two years, Dr. Jeffreys used his newfound knowledge to solve a complex immigration issue, which led to the reuniting of a young African boy with his family in England, and to the conviction of a perpetrator who raped and murdered two young girls.

Today, the National DNA Index contains more than 10 million offender profiles, and DNA analysis has helped with innumerable investigations and led to countless convictions. All thanks to the smudge left behind by Jenny Foxon on a microscope slide.

Government Sanctioned Use of Sustained Cyber-Warfare (2010)

In June 2010, Iran discovered that a highly sophisticated virus had infiltrated the computer network that controlled five of its nuclear facilities. The virus – Stuxnet – was designed by the United States to contaminate and destroy the uranium enriching centrifuges used at Iran’s facilities.

The cyber-attack was ordered by President Obama, and it was a continuation of President George W. Bush’s strategy  of destabilizing and eliminating Iran’s unsanctioned nuclear program. Apparently, the virus’ code most likely took a whopping ten years to write due to the code’s complexity. Many people believe that the Stuxnet was the first government sanctioned, and sustained, cyber-attack on an adversary’s infrastructure.

Are there any seminal moments in the history of criminal justice that particularly stand out for you?

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The Age of Technology and the Impact on Law Enforcement

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Law enforcement’s utilization of contemporary hi-tech tools in preventing and combating crime is certainly not a new concept. But, what separates modern technology trends from those of yesteryear is the exceptional rapid pace in which technology is progressing.

As a result of this ever-changing tech landscape, police departments (and other agencies) are constantly forced to familiarize themselves with new hi-tech trends and gadgets. So, not only are police officers trained to defend against, and disarm perpetrators, they are also becoming increasingly skilled in effectively using technology to their advantage.

Not too long ago, the only technology an officer had was a police radio, and the knowledge of where the nearest payphone was located. Nowadays, police officers are armed with body cameras, cell phones and radios that scan over 30 channels. Additionally, police cruisers are equipped with radar units, hi-tech engines, surveillance cameras, computer data terminals with internet access, and point of view (POV) cameras.

3D Crime Scene Imaging

Crime scene analytics have fascinated the general public for generations. That’s an obvious fact when you consider the amount of television shows centered around forensic science. A relatively new tool being used in this regard is known as 3D crime scene imaging.

The 3D device essentially conducts a complete scan of a crime scene, and recreates a three-dimensional model of the area.  Sketches and photographs are still being used, but many believe that the 3D model will become the primary method of recreating and analyzing a crime scene.

Through the Wall Radar

This technology utilizes radio waves to detect action on the other side of a given wall. It is an amazing method of limiting the potential harm that may fall upon officers, who would otherwise walk into a potentially volatile, unknown situation.

The radar can alert officers to the slightest movement, which can lead to understanding the full scenario of what lurks on the other side of the wall.  A potential roadblock to this tech is the Fourth Amendment right we all have to not be subject to unreasonable searches and seizures, which generally begins with an “expectation of privacy” argument.

As with any emerging technology, the courts must balance the rights of an individual with public safety concerns.

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Social Media

When you think of social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, your mind does not generally think of the ramifications on law enforcement. But, with the advent of the social media age came the ability for criminal enterprises to coordinate in a new fashion; social media enables people to organize in a virtual world with little-to-no societal or geographical boundaries.

Nevertheless, for every single nefarious social media purpose, there are hundreds of innocent, good-hearted outcomes. Once such example is the social media mobile app known as “Waze.” This app is a commuter-centric program that allows users to communicate with one another and navigate through traffic with real-time, user-based updates. So, for the most part, it’s a positive app that helps people “beat” traffic.

However, one of the features on the app allows users to identify the locations of police officers. This is generally used as a warning to “slow down” but, for those with malice in their heart, it could be used as a way to find and hunt down officers.

Although social media lends itself to criminal abuse, it also bestows countless tools for law enforcement to track down perps. Privacy issues versus public safety are always at the forefront of evidence gathering through social media. And the law revolving around, and concerning, these issues continues to evolve.

It is widely known that criminals leave behind valuable personal information when they engage these sites. Using the proper analytical tools, police can piece together quite a story about criminals, ranging from behavioral patterns and habits through actual confessions.

As social media continues to impact society, so will its influence be felt in law enforcement.

Predictive Analytics

The internet (in general) has given those with criminal propensities many avenues to further pursue their malicious goals. Law enforcement analysts are now able to sift through the plethora of data left behind by these criminals. Drawing on data from cell phone companies, financial institutions, and other publicly accessed forums, analysts are able to determine connections between cases and activities, and oftentimes, they can predict a future threat.

Predictive analytics is a highly complex science, which uses statistical data and algorithms to make predications concerning a myriad of behavioral issues. And through the utilization of cutting edge software coupled with the services of highly trained analysts, the often insurmountable amount of internet data can be tamed, and the outcome can yield positive results in the fight against crime.

In your opinion, what emerging technology will most impact law enforcement in the near future?

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I Have Been Given a Lie Detector Test: Could You Pass?

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Years ago, I had an interview with a police department for a forensic position. I had already been fingerprinted, interviewed by the supervisor, had an in-depth background meeting with the background investigators trying to catch me in a lie from my thirty plus page application of my background. The investigator even visited my home. I still wasn’t done with the interview process yet!  The final phase of the interview was the lie detector test.

I’m a fairly easy-going, straight to the point kind of person with nothing to hide, but I have to admit I was a little intimidated by the thought that my stress might make the lie detector test blip a bit. Maybe it would make me look guilty for something I did or didn’t do.

Was that possible?

I met with a patrol sergeant who was certified in administering the lie detector test to police department applicants. I was escorted into a small interrogation room. We are talking no thrills, small metal table, two uncomfortable chairs, and a rudimentary sign on the wall that read: check your firearm before entering.  Yeah, it was one of those rooms where the cops questioned suspects with hardcore investigative techniques.

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My writer’s brain went through all types of wild scenarios, and I wondered if they had questioned a murder suspect in the very chair I was seated. Now I was sweating and fidgeting in my chair. I expected to be wired up with numerous plastic suction cups with a strap across my chest as shown on television; but instead, my lie detector test was one tiny clip with a microphone affixed to my shirt. The one cord was linked via USB connection to a laptop computer as the sergeant watched the modest size screen. It was a voice stress analyzer that would detect any inconsistencies (or stress) from my voice.

And so it began… I kept thinking that my voice sounded funny, almost hollow, as I answered the routine questions. It was like someone else was talking, but it was most likely my perception inside my head along with my rattling nerves.

Once the interview was over, I asked half-jokingly, “So did I pass?”

The polite cop answered, “I just have a question that I need verified from someone else.”

I just stared at him. Was he kidding? Was it a part of the test?

To make a long story short, I passed all of the tests and was offered a position and began an internship in the forensic’s division.

So what the heck is the standard lie detector test?

It’s actually called a polygraph, which is administered by a certified polygraph examiner.  A polygraph is basically a combination of medical devices that are used to monitor changes occurring in the body. As a person is questioned about a certain event or incident, the examiner looks to see how the person’s heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate and electro-dermal activity (sweatiness) change in comparison to normal levels. Fluctuations may indicate that person is being deceptive, but exam results are open to interpretation (if the subject is deceptive) by the examiner. ­

This is where the whole polygraph thing gets interesting. The questions, answers, and responses are all subjective to the “interpretation” of the examiner. It leaves room for some seriously grey areas in my opinion.

Can people really beat the polygraph?

According to Russell Tice, the National Security Agency whistleblower who blew the lid open on warrantless wiretapping conducted by the federal government on U.S. citizens post-9/11, says a person can trick the tester on “probable-lie” questions.

These are the basic questions that the examiner gives to the recipient before the process actually begins, like “have you ever stolen money” or “have you ever cheated on a test”, etc.

Tice goes on to explain, “to trick the tester, a person should lie in response to these questions like most other people would, but also bite their tongue hard while doing so, which will set off other physiological reactions in the body. The tester’s “needles will fly everywhere,” says Tice, “and he will think, ‘This guy is a nervous nelly. He has a strong physical reaction when he’s lying.’”

What about psychopaths?

If these types of individuals don’t see anything wrong with lying in the first place and have no bodily changes in the process, then this test would deem inaccurate and at the very least highly incomplete.

How accurate is the lie detector?

Some interesting new research published in May of 2013 from an international team of psychologists has shown that people can actually suppress incriminating memories.  What happens when certain individuals do this is that they avoid detection in the brain activity with guilt detection tests. It sounds simple enough, but it’s based on the logic that criminals have specific memories of their crime stored in their brain. Once the criminal is confronted or reminded of these details, then the brain will automatically recognize these details and the bodily changes occur.

Contrary to this assumption, some individuals can intentionally suppress unwanted memories. It wasn’t clear from the article if psychopathy was studied as well, but I would guess that sociopathic and psychopathic individuals would/could be a part of this memory suppressor group.

Dr. Jon Simons, of the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge stated, “Our findings would suggest that the use of most brain activity guilt detection tests in legal settings could be of limited value. Of course, there could be situations where it is impossible to beat a memory detection test, and we are not saying that all tests are flawed, just that the tests are not necessarily as good as some people claim. More research is also needed to understand whether the results of this research work in real life crime detection.”

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Fun Fact:   The polygraph was invented in 1921 by John Augustus Larson, a medical student at the University of California at Berkeley and a police officer of the Berkeley Police Department in Berkeley, California. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the polygraph was on its 2003 list of greatest inventions, described by the company as inventions that “have had profound effects on human life for better or worse.”

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Katherine Ramsland: What if Jack the Ripper Lived with You?

This is a great article from Dr. Katherine Ramsland that previously posted on The Writer’s Forensic Blog (with D.P. Lyle, M.D.) 9/1/2016. I thought it was an interesting post to reblog. You can check it out below.

The Crime Fiction Writer's Forensics Blog

It seems that after many disturbing crimes, the family, friends, or neighbors, in shock at what happened, often say: “But he seemed so nice. So normal. We had no idea.”

Happens all the time.

My friend Katherine Ramsland addresses this in an excellent new blog post in Shadow Boxing on the Psychology Today site.

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What if Jack the Ripper Lived with You? by Dr, Katherine Ramsland

An early Ripper tale depicts the role of denial in reframing the obvious.

I’ve long known about an early fictional story based on the murders attributed to Jack the Ripper, but only recently read it. The Lodger, by Marie Belloc Lowndes, was published as a short story in January 1911 in McClure’s magazine. Later, she lengthened it into a novella that focused on the female landlady. Alfred Hitchcock changed it somewhat to turn it into a film.

Reportedly, Lowndes was inspired by an…

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