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Category Archives: Forensic Psychiatry

Criminal Mischief: Show #1 Murder Motives Notes

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If you haven’t yet listened to my new podcast series, CRIMINAL MISCHIEF: THE ART AND SCIENCE OF CRIME FICTION on the Authors On The Air Global Radio Network,  then jump on board. Here are the notes for Show #1 as well as links to listen to the show and to follow future shows. Hope it proves fun and helpful to your storytelling.

Murder Motives Notes

Types of Crimes: theft, burglary, robbery, embezzlement, assault, rape, ID theft/ransom, extortion, forgery, arson, kidnapping, DUI, drug dealing, trafficking, pimping/prostitution

Motives for Murder:

Financial – – insurance, inheritance, business takeovers, avoidance of alimony
Property disputes
Revenge
Political
Cults & Religions
Murder for hire
Empathy and sympathy
Crimes of passion
Domestic
Protect self-image or secrets
To protect others
Blackmail
To cover another crime
Social and hate crimes
Sex, jealousy, obsession
Mental illness – – delusions and hallucinations
Drugs and alcohol

Listen to the Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/authorsontheair/1-murder-motives

Follow the shows on FB: https://www.facebook.com/criminalmischiefwithDPLyle/

See all shows here: http://www.dplylemd.com/criminal-mischief.html

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Guest Blogger: Dennis Palumbo: EROTOMANIA

EROTOMANIA: When the bad guy’s motive is a delusion

By Dennis Palumbo

Nietzsche once wrote, “There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”

Perhaps. Then again, Nietzsche never met Sebastian Maddox, the villain in my latest suspense thriller, Head Wounds. It’s the fifth in my series about Daniel Rinaldi, a psychologist and trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh police.

What makes the brilliant, tech-savvy Maddox so relentlessly dangerous is that he’s in the grip of a rare delusion called erotomania, also known as De Clerambault’s Syndrome.

Simply put, erotomania is a disorder in which a person–in this case, Maddox–falsely believes that another person is in love with him, deeply, unconditionally, and usually secretly. The latter because this imaginary relationship must often be hidden due to some social, personal, or professional circumstances. Perhaps the object of this romantic obsession is married, or a superior at work. Sometimes it’s a famous athlete or media celebrity.

Not that these seeming roadblocks diminish the delusion. They can even provide a titillating excitement. Often, a person with erotomania believes his or her secret admirer is sending covert signals of their mutual love: wearing certain colors whenever a situation puts them together in public or doing certain gestures whose meaning is only known to the two of them. Some even believe they’re receiving telepathic messages from their imagined beloved.

What makes the delusion even more insidious is that the object of this romantic obsession, once he or she learns of it, is helpless to do anything about it. They can strenuously and repeatedly rebuff the delusional lover, denying that there’s anything going on between them, but nothing dissuades the other’s ardent devotion.

I know of one case wherein the recipient of these unwanted declarations of love was finally forced to call the police and obtain a restraining order. Even then, her obsessed lover said he understood that this action was a test of his love. A challenge from her to prove the constancy and sincerity of his feelings.

As psychoanalyst George Atwood once said of any delusion, “it’s a belief whose validity is not open to discussion.”

This is especially true of erotomania. People exhibiting its implacable symptoms can rarely be shaken from their beliefs.

Like Parsifal in his quest for the Holy Grail, nothing dissuades them from their mission.

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In Head Wounds, Sebastian Maddox’s crusade–when thwarted in his desires–turns quite deadly and requires all of Rinaldi’s resourcefulness to save someone he cares about. In real life, the treatment options for the condition are limited to a combination of therapy and medication, usually antipsychotics like pimozide. If the symptoms appear to stem from an underlying cause, such as bipolar disorder, the therapeutic approach would also involve medication, typically lithium.

What makes erotomania so intriguing as a psychological condition, and so compelling in an antagonist in a thriller, is the delusional person’s ironclad conviction–the unshakeable certainty of his or her belief.

Nonetheless, as philosopher Charles Renouvier reminds us, “Plainly speaking, there is no such thing as certainty. There are only people who are certain.”

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BIO: Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (My Favorite Year; Welcome Back, Kotter, etc.), Dennis Palumbo is a licensed psychotherapist and author. His mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery MagazineThe Strand and elsewhere, and is collected in From Crime to Crime (Tallfellow Press). His series of mystery thrillers (Mirror Image, Fever Dream, Night Terrors, Phantom Limb, and the latest, Head Wounds, all from Poisoned Pen Press), feature psychologist Daniel Rinaldi, a trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh Police. For more info, visit http://www.dennispalumbo.com 

 

Guest Blogger: Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.: Killer Pen Pals

 

Killer Pen Pals

Whenever I give talks about my work, people sometimes ask how they can be pen pals with a serial killer. They’ve gotten hooked on true crime shows and they have the idea that because offenders are behind bars, they’re no longer dangerous. This would give the would-be correspondent a “safe” form of titillation and something cool to tell friends.

Sometimes, people just want to ease someone’s (or their own) loneliness. So, they look for an inmate who seeks connection.

I’m not talking about criminologists and journalists who correspond with killers to acquire information to improve our comprehension. I’m talking about people – especially kids – who think it would be fun to write to a killer. Often, they don’t grasp the potential consequences of having an offender focused on them. Not only do inmates know people on the outside whom they might persuade to be their proxy, but some of them eventually get out, too.

There are plenty of stories about pen pals becoming so enamored that they turn into prison groupies. In fact, in British news this week, a young pen pal from Poland supposedly became engaged to the ailing Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe. He’s 72. She’s 17. This kind of bond can make a person more vulnerable to manipulation.

It doesn’t take much searching to find examples where such relationships have ended in murder. Phillip Carl Jablonski murdered his wife in 1978. He was serving a sentence for it when he placed an ad for a pen pal. Carol Spadoni answered it. In 1982, they got married while he was still in prison. He got out in 1990. A year later, he sexually assaulted and shot Carol’s mother and suffocated Carol with duct tape before stabbing her to death. (That same month, he also murdered two other women.)

These potentially violent inmates can hook people by talking about how lonely they are and how they’re looking for love. They promise that they’ve reformed, they’re “spiritual” now, and they just need a friend. Some pen pals want to give them a second chance. Laura Jean Torres offered a helping hand to violent ex-con Robert Hernandez, who’d served time for aggravated battery. Torres ended up fatally stabbed.

David Goodell, 33, murdered pen pal Viviana Tulli, 22. They’d met when she was 16 and began a relationship through correspondence when he went to prison for assault. Once Doodell was out on parole, they reunited. Their mutual affection was short-lived as he soon strangled her to death. Hoping to avoid prison, he decided to fake a fatal car crash. Putting sunglasses and a hat on Tulli’s corpse, he placed it in the front seat of her car. His staging failed and he was arrested. In 2013, he pleaded guilty.

Darren Pilkington, convicted of manslaughter at 18, had a reputation for being a troubled kid. From prison, he put out word that he wanted a pen pal, which got the attention of 15-year-old Carly Fairhurst, five years younger than him. When she was 16, she visited him in prison, and after he was freed, he moved in with her. He soon began to abuse her. In 2006, after they came home from a pub, they argued. Pilkington hit Carly and she fell down the stairs. He covered her, waiting until morning to call for help. She died a week later from her injuries.

And it’s not just females who are vulnerable.

In 2014, Scott Kratlian fatally strangled 82-year-old Harry Major, a former high school teacher. The men had become pen pals while Kratlian was serving a sentence for manslaughter. Upon his release, Major invited Kratlian to move in. That was a fatal mistake.

Then there was Thomas Knuff, on parole in Ohio after serving 15 years for armed robbery and home invasion. He’d become acquainted with John Mann, 65, and his girlfriend Regina Capobianco, 50, through a prison pen pal program. He’d asked them to pick him up. Since he had nowhere to go, they brought him to their home, where he tied them up and stabbed them, killing both. He then lived in their home, with the bodies, for a week.

Edward Andrews started a correspondence with Thomas Jeffrey Brooks, nearly forty years younger than him. Upon Brooks’ release in 2007, he moved into Andrews’ mobile home. They became lovers, or so Andrews believed. Brooks had other ideas. With an accomplice, he killed Andrews, wrapped his body in duct tape, entombed it in a cement egg in a former employer’s rock garden and drained Andrews’ bank accounts.

“It’s not shocking when inmates behave like criminals,” says former U. S. Probation Officer Sally Keglovits. “It’s what most people expect. Manipulation comes with the territory and it’s not difficult for them to project a sympathetic image while in prison. What is somewhat shocking is the number of people who invite and encourage manipulation. They fall in love with an image that an inmate created. Reality can slap them in the face, often literally, upon the inmate’s release.”

Although many offenders do benefit from a kind word and a helping hand, those people who wish to assist (or acquire a more serious friend) should learn the behavioral red flags. Past violence is among the best indicators of future violence. So is a lack of remorse for harming others, a history of deception, a lack of respect for others, and a tendency to blame others for one’s own behavioral issues. Convictions for murder, sexual or physical assault, home invasion and crimes involving deadly weapons all foreshadow a dim future with such offenders. Often, they have poor skills for inhibiting impulses and for negotiating in relationships.

More to the point, what they’re like behind bars is no indication of what they might be like once free. Those who seek to become an inmate’s pen pal need to educate themselves about risk factors.

Follow Katherine on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/katherine.ramsland

Originally posted on Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shadow-boxing/201807/killer-pen-pals

 

Guest Blogger: Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.: Redheads and Serial Killers

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Redheads and Serial Killers

Several killing sprees have targeted women with red hair.

Last week came news that police in Texas and Louisiana are investigating whether a serial killer is killing and decapitating redheaded women. The heads were discovered in plastic bags, tossed near lakes 150 miles apart. On March 1, one was found in undergrowth near Lake Calcasieu, and the other turned up three weeks later near Lake Houston. Witnesses described a man who got out of a pick-up truck and stood on a bridge to toss a trash bag over the rail. Investigators hope to track him down. 

If it turns out that the same person is responsible for both, the case might be similar to a few others, like trucker Charles Floyd. On July 1, 1948, he broke into an apartment in Tulsa, Oklahoma, attacking a woman and her two teenage daughters. He raped her, but a neighbor interrupted, so he fled before he killed anyone. Down the street, Floyd cut a hole into the door of another home, entered and bludgeoned a woman to death. The victims all had red hair.

A witness outside the second house described Floyd to police and they traced him to where he worked at a trucking company. Under arrest, he admitted that redheaded women triggered an overwhelming lust in him. In fact, he said, he’d killed before. Six years earlier, Floyd had murdered the redheaded pregnant wife of a fellow trucker. Later that year, he’d raped and murdered a mother and daughter, both redheads. Two and a half years later, he’d killed a redhead he’d seen undressing in her apartment. Due to Floyd’s low IQ, a judge sentenced him to life in a mental institution.

Glen Edward Rodgers also seemed to have a thing for redheads. The “Cross Country Killer” traveled from state to state between 1993 and 1995. He’d cozy up to women and ask for a favor. He even moved in with one, briefly. He was convicted of five murders, but bragged that he’d murdered more than 70 people, including Nicole Brown Simpson. Four of his victims were women with reddish hair. It turns out that his mother was a redhead and Roger’s brother says that she’d rejected and abused him.

Then there’s a series of incidents known collectively as “the Redhead Murders.” You’ll find different ideas about who should be counted among the victims, but according to one source, this set of murders started in 1978 and possibly continued until 1992. Some people identify three victims, but others say there are more (between 6 and 11). Most were strangled and their bodies dumped along major highways, as if they’d been hitchhiking or offering services to truckers. One young mother who disappeared from her home, mentioned on some lists, was found years later in a river. Most of the victims remain unidentified.

Many believe that a serial killer is responsible for all of the victims, and some have suggested links to Glen Rogers. Two truckers became suspects, but both were cleared.

The FBI got involved in 1985 to investigate possible links among victims found in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. Linkage analysis turned up significant inconsistencies, such as their state of dress and evidence of sexual activity. The agency also ruled out a victim in Ohio and four in Texas. They did not solve the cases.

Jane Carlisle published a brief e-short, The Redhead Murders. She believed that the killer targeted victims who had no one who might come looking for them. This would suggest that the killer picked up redheads, queried them, and then decided to kill them based on satisfactory responses. Carlisle starts with a body discovery in 1983 in Virginia. The next one was in Arkansas. Several turned up in Tennessee in 1985. Only a few have been identified.

The murder in 1992 in Tennessee that some believe is linked involved a nun. An arrest was made, which undermined any link to the other redhead victims. Since most of the “Redhead Murders” remain unsolved, it’s not possible to know if a serial killer with a preference for redheads committed them, but it’s an intriguing mystery. 

Follow Katherine on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/katherine.ramsland

Originally Posted on Shadow Boxing on the Psychology Today Blog

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shadow-boxing/201805/redheads-and-serial-killers

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My Cough Medicine Did It

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Whenever someone does something stupid, like crash a car, get in a bar fight, or, say, stab someone 123 times, they are always looking for an excuse. Somewhere to lay the blame. After all, they couldn’t have done anything like that, so it must’ve been some outside person, or situation, or invisible force, or even a miasma. Perhaps alcohol or drugs. Maybe even cough medicine. Really? I don’t buy it.

That’s apparently the defense of one Matthew James Phelps, a young pastor in North Carolina, who apparently inflicted 123 knife wounds on his wife. He stated that a dose of Coricidin Cough and Cold medicine made him do it. Or as he said: “I know it can make you feel good and sometimes I can’t sleep at night.” Too bad he didn’t simply go to sleep.

No doubt various drugs can cause anger, aggression, and even psychosis in some people. Cocaine has done it, and Phencyclidine (PCP or Angel Dust) was notorious for it. Meth, too. There are others, but I don’t think Coricidin would be a likely member of that group. 

Possible? Maybe. Likely? No.

 

Guest Blogger: Katherine Ramsland Ph.D.: Day Pass for a Psychopath?

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Day Pass for a Psychopath

Treatments are not yet sufficiently effective to engender trust.

Last week in England, the notorious child killer Colin Pitchfork – the first criminal to be identified with DNA – created a stir. Now 56, he’s been in prison since 1988 for the rape/murders of two teenage girls. At the time, he was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years. That term’s end is just months away and it appears that the system is preparing for it.

The former baker was given an unsupervised day pass. This did not sit well with the parents of his victims. They fear he’s being prepared for eventual release. Prison officials possibly believe he no longer poses a danger to the community, but British criminologist David Wilson described Pitchfork’s crimes as “pathological” and believes he should not be released.

Pitchfork raped and strangled Lynda Mann on a footpath in November 1983, while his infant son slept in his car. Three years later, he raped and killed Dawn Ashworth in nearly the same spot. Then he doctored his ID and paid someone to pose as him during a community-wide DNA screening (the first ever). That guy had a big mouth.

Pitchfork is devious. This is partly what makes him dangerous. So does the fact that he strangled his victims – a behavioral red flag for persistent violence. In a 2014 report, the U.S. Sentencing Commission recognized strangulation as a marker of dangerousness, recommending increased prison time for such offenders. Between the two murders, Pitchfork had sexually assaulted at least two other young women. His crimes were considered sadistic.

Let’s not forget when hospital staff in Ontario was so optimistic in 1991 about the progress of another child killer, Peter Woodcock, that they granted him a day pass. As a teenager in the mid-1950s, he’d killed two boys and a girl. Arrested, he confessed, but his crimes were so shocking and his manner so distant he was declared legally insane. He went to a psychiatric facility. Going through numerous therapeutic treatments for decades, Woodcock charmed the staff. He was granted the unsupervised day pass. Far from proving that he was reformed, he used the opportunity to kill again. Within hours, he murdered an inmate who had jilted him, mutilating and sodomizing the corpse.

One of the facility’s staff commented that all of the therapy they’d given him had merely made him more manipulative and able to pose as safe. He wasn’t.

Last week, we also saw news of “psychopath” Randall Toshio Saito escaping from Oahu’s Hawaii State Hospital, where he’s been held since his insanity finding in a 1979 murder. He’d filed for a conditional release in 1993 but was denied when the court found that he still had sadistic sexual urges and an attraction to necrophilia. He was denied again in 2000. Fed up, Seito decided to escape and prove that he could live normally.

“They won’t give me a chance,” he said in an interview. “They’re not going to release me. I decided to run away and come to the mainland and to live as long as I can on the money that I had in the community without getting into any kind of trouble.” He reportedly had $7,000 and some help. “I can live in a community without doing drugs, without hurting anyone and prove without a doubt I did it.”

But this sounds like Gary Gilmore. He’d spent his youth in reform school and prison for numerous delinquent activities. After being allowed a conditional pass in 1973 to attend art classes, he committed armed robbery. Incarcerated again, one day he told a judge that all he needed was a chance to prove himself. He argued that “you can keep a person locked up too long” and that “there is an appropriate time to release somebody or to give them a break.” He was sure he could make it.

Eventually, a parole plan was worked out, with family support. In 1976, Gilmore was released. Three months later, he was back for the cold-blooded murders of two men. The very chance he’d requested to prove himself had been granted twice, but he didn’t know himself as well as he believed. When life got difficult, he resorted to violence.

Prisons and other facilities must show consistent results for treated dangerous offenders before they release people whose past impulses might return. Day passes aren’t likely to demonstrate much, and some of them know very well how to pose.

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Katherine Ramsland is a professor of forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, where she also teaches criminal justice. She holds a master’s in forensic psychology from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a master’s in clinical psychology from Duquesne University, a master’s in criminal justice from DeSales University, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Rutgers. She has been a therapist and a consultant. Dr. Ramsland has published over 1,000 articles and 60 books.

Original Post on Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shadow-boxing/201711/day-pass-psychopath

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Webinar: What Were They Thinking? The Planning of the Perfect Murder

Join me for a fun Webinar hosted by Sister in Crime-Atlanta on Tuesday, June 13, 2017 from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time. You must be a member of that chapter to join is but if you’re already a SinC National member it’s only $20.

Here is the info on the event:

When your character plans and executes “The Perfect Murder,” he always, ALWAYS makes a mistake or two. These errors ultimately lead your sleuth to the solution. In this session, Dr. D.P. Lyle deconstructs the planning, execution, and post-crime behavior of two headline-grabbing murderers–O.J. Simpson and Scott Peterson—to help mystery writers and fans better understand fictional killers from social, psychological, forensics, investigative, and motivational points of view. Q & A follows a 1-hour presentation. Forensic questions welcome!

Webinar: https://www.meetup.com/Sisters-in-Crime-Atlanta-Chapter/events/239240813/

SinC-Atlanta: https://www.sincatlanta.com

 

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