Evil Among Us: 5 Traits of Serial Killers

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Photo courtesy of theodysseyonline.com

For a plethora of alarming reasons, serial killers are a rare breed.

In that regard, one of the most horrific facets of these psychopaths is that these monsters not only possess psychotic and sadistic urges. But, they also have the wherewithal and intelligence to successfully act upon these aggressive and disturbing impulses.

Law enforcement and psychologists have studied these individuals, and have determined that the following five traits are found in most known serial killers.

Desire for Power

Most serial killers have an insatiable thirst for power. When they have a victim in their grasp, the feeling of having control over that person, gives the killer a great sense of satisfaction.

Even after the jig is up, and law enforcement has them in their clutches, serial killers still yearn for that power and control. Their need to exert control over others leads them to withhold small bits of information concerning their crimes.

So, despite being under the control of the police, a serial killer still manages to show some power by not allowing law enforcement to fully and efficiently solve the crimes at hand. Of course, that all changes, when and if, the serial killer decides that they want to cooperate – under their terms.

The Great Manipulators

Appearing vulnerable, and wanting to please others is another dominant characteristic of serial killers. This façade of relative humility and weakness is used to lure victims into a false sense of security.

The serial killer will hide their deeply disturbed personality under the false pretense of being a “nice guy.” These killers have an uncanny ability to read people, and manipulate other’s emotions, in order to get their way.

For example, a medical doctor—Harold Shipman—was able to lure people into the belief that he was an altruistic, caring member of society. Ultimately, this led his victims right into his sinister plot to inflict death upon them through so-called “medical treatment.”

Egomaniacs

Serial killers often have a difficult time keeping their atrocities to themselves. Whether they are bragging to another victim, an accomplice, or to law enforcement, these psychopaths cannot help but gloat about their horrific crimes.

Some killers take their bragging to an extreme by revisiting sites in which they committed their murders. This action will often lead a serial killer to self-incrimination due to the heightened potential of being followed or seen at the site. Such behavior goes against the criminal code of never revisiting the site of your crime. But, their egos get in the way of common sense.

A British serial killer, Trevor Hardy, once bragged to his brother about the fact that he had brutally murdered teenage girls. Hardy’s ego eventually resulted in his incarceration.

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Insincere Charm

Serial killers have an excellent grasp on what makes people tick. Essentially, serial killers use their feigned charisma, wit and charm, along with their manipulation skills, in order to determine their victim’s weakness. And then, they exploit that vulnerability and pounce.

These psychopaths have an excellent aptitude at gaining the position of power over someone by using simple common sense with a dose of flattery, and well-received compliments.

The epitome of a superficial charmer is the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer.  Another example is Ted Bundy, who was widely known as being a handsome and charming man. He would often approach his victims by feigning a disability, so that he could gain sympathy and trust from them. Then he would kidnap, rape and murder his female victims. It is believed that Bundy killed 30 people over a four-year span in the 1970s.

Everyday People

One of the most disturbing aspects of serial killers, is that they appear to be your average, everyday law-abiding citizens. They own homes. Have jobs. Pay their bills. But, unbeknownst to their colleagues, acquaintances and neighbors, these cold-blooded killers are harboring deep, sadistic secrets.

Serial killers use their “average Joe” status as a way to fool people into trusting them. They appear to be normal, well-adjusted members of society, but they are the closest thing to real evil that most of us will ever encounter.

Understanding the psychology of these monsters aides law enforcement in investigating and incarcerating those who wish to do us harm. Are there any traits, other than those mentioned above, that you believe serial killers’ possess?

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Investigating Cold Cases with High-Tech Forensic Methods

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There are more than 14,000 murders committed every year across the United States (on average).  That number averages out to about 38 murders every single day.  This number is based on crime statistical data from 2011 by the FBI Uniform Crime Reports. What is also concerning is that violent crime is trending upward across the United States.

The FBI Uniform Crime Reports are the collection of statistics and data from approximately 17,000 law enforcement agencies including city and town police departments, state law enforcement, tribal authorities and college and university police, on the violent crimes of murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. It also includes data on the property crimes of larceny, burglary and auto theft.

What is concerning about the number of annual homicides is that there are other violent crimes committed every single day as well, such as forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, which elevates the violent crime daily incidents.  When all of these types of investigations go cold, these cases pile up exponentially.

clearance_rates2011The clearance rate of homicides, on yearly average , is approximately 60%, which includes clearance by arrest and exceptional means.  I take an exception to clearance by “exceptional means”, which means that they have identified the offender and have enough evidence, but either law enforcement cannot find the person or has run into some type of problem.  I don’t like statistics including an offender that has not been arrested for homicide as a cleared homicide case.  In addition, there is room for reporting errors along with distorted or skewed information from law enforcement agencies.

Based upon the above reported crime statistic for homicide, it means that there are more than 5,000 cold cases every year.  There are many reasons a homicide case turns cold, such as lack of physical evidence and inability to identity the victim.  There just isn’t enough cold case units across the United States to address and investigate all of the cold cases waiting for closure.

I found an interesting forensic article published in October 2012 that addressed the scientific need to identity the thousands of John/Jane Doe cold cases by using a multidisciplinary approach to identifying the remains.

A Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory research team has found a scientific approach to identifying the remains of missing persons.  They use a “bomb pulse” radiocarbon analysis combined with anthropological analysis and DNA techniques.  They used their application to identify the remains of a body from 41 years ago.  The radiocarbon analysis of two teeth helped to determine more of a precise birth date of 4 ½ year old child, which had been thought to be a 7-9 year old child.  The DNA analysis determined the child to be male and a mitochondrial profile concluded a match to a living relative.

Every effort and scientific application should be implemented into cold case investigations, not only to bring the perpetrator to justice, but also to give families closure.

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More forensic articles to check out:

Forensics and Criminology: How’d They Do That?

Sister’s DNA Solves Missing Persons Case After 37 Years

6 Mistakes to Avoid at a Crime Scene Straight From a Cold Case Detective

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Latest Book Release: Now an Amazon Best Seller: BODY OF THE CRIME

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HAPPY NEW YEAR! Ready and Excited to Jump Into 2017

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It’s hard to believe that another year has come to an end. As I look back and reflect on everything, it’s been a bit of a bumpy ride, but there are so many things to be thankful for in 2016. I look forward to the new year. For me, it’s a time to reevaluate goals, stay connected with readers and friends, and move into new challenges. It’s an exciting time!

I want to thank you all for helping me to make BODY OF THE CRIME a success! It would not have been possible without you. I’ve wanted to launch another series with an eccentric forensic guy for a while now, and I’m very humbled that readers and fans have enjoyed it.

2017 will be filled with new books from Emily Stone and Chip Palmer, forensic articles, and, yes, some surprises too!

Wishing you ALL a very HAPPY NEW YEAR filled with prosperity, health, happiness, and love.

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DNA Profiling Solves the Murder: 5 Cold Cases Resolved in 2016

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The accuracy of DNA profiling is developing at a rapid pace. And, as a result, the landscape of modern law enforcement is evolving. The accurate results of criminal DNA analysis not only assist in putting criminals behind bars, but it also helps in exonerating those individuals who have been wrongly convicted.

As the end of 2016 is now upon us, here is a roundup of five horrific cold cases that were thankfully solved this year as a result of precise DNA profiling.

The Murder of the Florida Mistress

In 1977, after a rough divorce,  Debra Pentola Clark moved from New York to Florida so that she could get a fresh start in the Sunshine State. Within a short time after arriving in Miami, Debra met and fell in love with a 36 year old married man named Allen Bregman.

Bregman soon bought Debra a swanky South Miami townhome, where he would visit his mistress often, telling his wife that he was out of town on business. In the same year as her arrival, Debra was found beaten and shot to death. No one was ever charged with the heinous crime, and the case went cold.

Then, earlier this year, the case was reopened after investigators uncovered DNA evidence that linked Bregman to the murder. As a result of the newly discovered DNA evidence,  the police arrested Bregman for the killing. In a strange twist of events, the arrest came on the exact 39th anniversary of Debra’s murder.

The Pennsylvania Murder

Over 25 years ago, Louise Talley was horrifically raped and murdered in the Nicetown-Tioga neighborhood of Philadelphia. A man named Anthony Wright was convicted of the murder. His conviction was due in large part to his own confession, and the testimony of witnesses, who are now deceased.

After spending over 20 years in prison, Wright was granted a new trial after a recent DNA analysis uncovered that a local drug dealer was the murderer, not Wright.  The investigation had been reopened in 2013 when Wright had demanded that new DNA testing be conducted, due to the claim that his confession was coerced. After the analysis was conducted, it was determined that a  local convicted crack dealer was responsible for the rape and murder of Louise.

After the results were shown to the court, a judge immediately ordered a new trial. The actual perpetrator died in prison in 2013 on unrelated charges.

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Photo courtesy of tes.com.

The Death of Cherita Thurman

In 2002, exterminators found the dead body of 22 year-old Houston resident Cherita Thurman in her apartment. Cherita was found battered, beaten and hog-tied. Investigators never found a suspect, and the case quickly went cold.

In an effort to take advantage of improved forensic technology, law enforcement reopened the case in 2014. Right before the case was reopened, the DNA profile of Craig Porter had been entered into the system after he had been arrested on drug charges. After running a thorough DNA profiling analysis, investigators matched DNA found at Cherita’s crime scene to Porter.

The murderer, Porter, was arrested and is now serving life in prison.

The Killer Real-Estate Agent

As a 48-year old real estate agent, and mother of two kids, Carolyn Heckert appeared to be a well-adjusted member of society. The problem is—Heckert has been carrying around a deep, dark secret for over 27 years. In 1989, she brutally stabbed and killed an 18-year old named Sarah DeLeon in Kansas City, Missouri.

Sarah’s boyfriend used to date Heckert, and it is now believed that the murder was out of jealousy and revenge for “stealing” her boyfriend. Sarah’s murder case went cold shortly after the killing occurred. Recently, however, local Kansas City law enforcement reopened the matter, and took advantage of modern DNA technology. The results of the new investigation, and DNA analysis, led police right to Heckert.

In a rather disturbing twist, Heckert’s DNA has now also been linked to a second murder of another woman, which occurred in 1994. Although Heckert has been charged with Sarah’s murder, no formal charges have been brought against her (yet) with respect to the second murder.

Librarian Charged With Murder

In 1983, a decorated World War I vet was brutally robbed and murdered in his Buffalo home. At 92 years old, Edmund Schrieber was strangled to death with his own neckties. At the time of the killing, law enforcement believed it was a robbery gone wrong by some neighborhood teens. The case was never solved though, and it went cold. Until now.

Recent DNA testing uncovered DNA on the eight neckties used to strangle Edmund. The results led straight to Saundra Adams, a 50 year-old librarian, who was a teenage neighbor of Edmund’s at the time of the murder. Adams has been convicted of second degree murder.

Do you know of any interesting cold cases which have been solved as a result of modern breakthroughs in DNA technology?

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Latest Book Release: Now an Amazon Best Seller: BODY OF THE CRIME

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Caught! Domestic Spies Nailed by the FBI

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Photo courtesy of tes.com.

There have been, and continue to be—spies among us. These deceitful individuals have (or maneuver their way into) important positions within various American intelligence agencies. Once entrenched into a position of relative importance with high level security clearance, the infiltrators pilfer confidential information for foreign governments in exchange for, usually, a hefty sum of money.

Although the world of international espionage may not be as sexy and glamorous as a 007 flick, the rewards seem to make it worthwhile for a handful of intelligence moles. Here are the stories of a few spies that were rightfully busted by the FBI, and brought to justice for their treasonous acts.

Anna Montes

Ten days after the September 11th terrorist attacks on the US, the FBI arrested a 44-year-old woman named Ana Belen Montes. Although she had absolutely no involvement with the attacks, her arrest still had great value in providing security to our nation during a dark and insecure period.

Montes, a senior analyst for the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was spying for the Cubans, and in her position, she would shortly have had access to highly classified information concerning America’s forthcoming invasion of Afghanistan.

In 1984, Montes held a clerical position with the Department of Justice. At that time, Montes was very outspoken with respect to her opposition towards America’s foreign policy with Cuba. This led to Montes being covertly contacted by Cuban intelligence, who believed she would be sympathetic to their “cause.”

And Cuba’s instinct was accurate. Because, in 1985, Montes applied for a position as an intelligence analyst with the DIA, and was quickly hired. By that point, she was a full-fledged Cuban spy, who had access to highly classified data at the Pentagon.

Montes was crafty. She never removed any documents or electronic information from the Pentagon. Rather, she memorized the materials, and typed the information on her home laptop. Montes then transferred the data to an encrypted disk, and awaited transfer instructions via short wave radio from her Cuban handlers.

The FBI eventually nailed Montes for her espionage, and in 2002, she was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Outside of reimbursement for travel costs, Montes never received compensation from Cuba for her actions, because she was entirely motivated by ideology.

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Photo courtesy of popsi.com.

Brian P. Regan

On August 23, 2001, Brian P. Regan – a former Air Force intelligence officer and father of four – was arrested by FBI agents in connection with his theft of highly classified materials from the National Reconnaissance Office. Regan’s intent was straightforward – he was going to sell the stolen data and documents to Iraq, Libya and China for $13 million.

Regan’s arrest took place at Dulles International Airport, where he was attempting to embark upon a flight from Washington, D.C. to Switzerland. At the time of his apprehension by the FBI, Regan was in possession of contact information for foreign diplomats, as well as encrypted notes.

During its investigation, the FBI discovered that Regan had stolen a significant amount of classified items, which included encoded tactical information and photographs of Iraqi missile sites.

Prior to his arrest, Regan had buried (deep underground) his treasure trove of stolen items in a myriad of locations in and around the Washington, D.C area. He kept track of the locations on a small piece of paper that he hid in a toothbrush holder, which he also buried (underneath an exit sign off an interstate highway.)

Regan was convicted by a jury and sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2003. Interestingly, his life sentence was a plea bargain in exchange for fully cooperating in locating the stolen, buried items.

The Year of the Spy: 1985

According to the FBI, there were a number of significant arrests made in 1985 involving acts of espionage. Here are the stories of two of the offenders.

John Anthony Walker, Jr.

Walker was a US Navy Warrant Officer and communications specialist. He was also a spy for the Soviet Union. Over the course of 17 years, Walker furnished the Soviets with at least one million classified messages.

Walker also recruited three other people into his espionage ring. After a tip from his ex-wife, the FBI moved in and arrested Walker, who was eventually sentenced to life in prison.

Larry Wu-tai Chin

For almost 30 years, Chin worked as a Chinese language translator and intelligence officer for the CIA. During that time, Chin was also furnishing China with classified photographs and documents, which included CIA reports on affairs in the Far East.

Chin was busted by the FBI for his treason, and convicted on November 22, 1985. Chin never served a prison term, because he committed suicide before being sentenced.

Truth is absolutely stranger than fiction in these tales of deceit, treason and eventual justice. Are there are any other espionage stories that you find particularly intriguing?

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If you liked this post, you might also like:

INTUITION: An Underused Weapon to Fight Crime
Modern DNA Profiling: Two Infamous Cold Cases Solved
6 Fascinating Advances in Forensic Science

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Latest Book Release: Now an Amazon Best Seller: BODY OF THE CRIME

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IT’S TIME FOR A CELEBRATION! My Blog Hit a Milestone this Week

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When I first began blogging I wasn’t sure if I could do it or if anyone would actually read what I wrote. I had been following so many great blogs and I would always think: How’d do they do that? Well, I couldn’t do what I do without all of you.

This week my blog hit 200,000 visitors! Wow! I want to thank all of YOU from the bottom of my heart that made this possible. With the ups and down of life, the readers/followers/fans made blogging so worthwhile. Thank you!

Here are some of my favorite blog posts:

Emily Stone’s Weaponry: Knife or Gun?

Vigilante Detective Emily Stone Answers 5 Questions

KILLER ON THE LOOSE with Emily Stone & Nick Bracco: Follow Along Story

Examining Four Types of Serial Killers

Are Female Serial Killers More Shocking than the Men who Commit the Same Crimes?

Confrontation with Violent Sociopath Compelled me to Pursue Criminology

FBI Profiling: Inside the Minds of Violent Criminals

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Latest Book Release: Now an Amazon Best Seller: BODY OF THE CRIME

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FBI Profiling: Inside the Minds of Violent Criminals

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Photo courtesy of cantebury.ac.uk.

Throughout history, law enforcement has developed many tools to combat, and protect us against, the dangerous criminals who unfortunately live among us. Over the past 50 or so years, one such highly effective tool that has gained significant traction and attention is “behavioral profiling.”

No other law enforcement agency has dedicated more time and resources to perfecting behavioral profiling than the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI has an extensive network of highly trained professionals who are dedicated to providing behavioral based investigative and operational support to law enforcement agencies across the globe.

Particularly, the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) uses its premier training, vast experience, and thorough research to assist police departments in solving complex violent criminal acts, or time-sensitive threats of impending violence.

Origins

In 1970, FBI Agent Howard D. Teten performed his, and the FBI’s, first “official” criminal behavioral profile while he was stationed in Amarillo, Texas.

Agent Teten began his career as a police officer in California. Shortly after joining the FBI in 1962, Teten was appointed as an applied criminology instructor at the National Police Academy in Washington, D.C. Always fascinated with offender behavior, Teten’s lectures would expound upon his evolving ideas in the emerging field of forensic psychology. He was greatly inspired by, and developed many of his theories under the tutelage of  his mentor, Dr. Paul Kirk – an internationally renowned criminologist.

A hallmark of Teten’s investigative technique included looking for crime scene manifestations of peculiar mental and psychological dysfunctions, and other unique personality characteristics of the offender. He would then use this information to make logical deductions about the criminal’s identity.

In 1972, the FBI opened its new Academy in Quantico, Virginia, while simultaneously forming the Behavioral Sciences Unit. Teten was assigned as in instructor, along with fellow behavioral sciences pioneer and instructor, Patrick J. Mullany.

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Famed Profiler

Think like a criminal. That’s what famed FBI profiler John E Douglas would tell his students, fellow agents, and the world at large.

A career FBI agent, Douglas wore many hats – from sniper to hostage negotiator to instructor to “serial killer interviewer.” When his interest in profiling began to develop, his first thought was to go to the source, and interview incarcerated criminals. At the time, this technique was considered innovative, because Douglas did not approach the interviews from a rehabilitation perspective, but rather, from an investigative perspective.

He believed that if you wanted to learn about crimes, you needed to speak to, and understand, the motivations of the murderers, rapists and arsonists. Douglas, who began teaching hostage negotiation and applied criminal psychology in 1977 at the Academy, used the information he gathered to illustrate his theories to his students. His classes became very popular.

Utilizing the data gathered during his interviews with violent criminals, Douglas began to notice behavioral patterns. These patterns – now widely known to the public because of movies and television – were relatively new concepts at the time. Douglas uncovered that most of the criminals hailed from dysfunctional families, which often included some form of abuse, as well as a passive or absent father, and a domineering mother.

Douglas also discovered a phrase known as the “homicidal triangle,” which is marked by a sadistic pleasure in torturing animals, bedwetting beyond the normal age, and setting fires. The research advanced by Douglas helped him develop a keen understanding of the criminal mind, which in turn enabled him to assist investigators by listing likely traits of the offender by simply viewing photos of the crime scene.

Throughout his career, Douglas was involved in several high-profile cases, including the Atlanta Child Murders and the West Memphis Three. During his first year as a profiler in 1979, Douglas serviced 59 cases, and during his final year with the FBI in 1995, he assisted with over 1,000 cases.

The BAU’s Role

Currently, the BAU receives investigate requests from local, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies. The assistance provided by the BAU is known as “criminal investigative analysis,” which entails analyzing a crime from both a behavioral and investigative perspective.

Specifically, the investigators will assess the facts of the crime itself, then interpret the criminal’s behavior and interaction with the victim.

The fascinating world of criminal behavioral analysis has generated numerous, successful television shows and films. Is there a particular movie or TV show from this genre that really grabbed your attention?

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If you liked this post, you might also like:

INTUITION: An Underused Weapon to Fight Crime
Modern DNA Profiling: Two Infamous Cold Cases Solved
6 Fascinating Advances in Forensic Science

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Silent Partner  Screenwriting

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Latest Book Release: Now an Amazon Best Seller: BODY OF THE CRIME

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