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Category Archives: Forensic Psychiatry

Q&A with Expanded Audio Discussions Now on the Suspense Magazine Website

Q&A with Expanded Audio Discussions Now on the Suspense Magazine Website

Check out the new posts John Raab of Suspense Magazine and I put together. Read the Q&As and listen to the expanded discussions. Hope each proves helpful for your crime fiction.

Can DNA Be Used To Identify Multiple Assailants In a Three Decade Old Rape?

http://suspensemagazine.com/blog2/2016/12/20/d-p-lyles-forensic-file-episode-1/

In 1863, Could An Autopsy Accurately Determine the Cause of Death?

http://suspensemagazine.com/blog2/2017/01/09/in-1863-could-an-autopsy-accurately-determine-the-cause-of-death-d-p-lyle-answers-this/

Can My Female Character Cause Her Pregnancy To Become “Stone Baby” By Shear Will?

http://suspensemagazine.com/blog2/2016/12/31/can-my-female-character-cause-her-pregnancy-to-become-stone-baby-by-sheer-will/

More to come.

Want more cool questions from crime writers? Check out my three Q&A books.

M&M 200X300

More Info and List of Included Questions

F&F200X302.jpg

More Info and List of Included Questions

MF&F 200X320

More Info and List of Included Questions

 

Psychopathic Brains and MRIs

MRI Brain

 

Psychopath, sociopath, borderline personality disorder, choose your phrase as these are often used interchangeably but in the end they are terms used to describe certain criminal offenders. In many cases, the worst of the worst. These individuals are often impulsive, lack self-control, and have little, if any, empathy with others, particularly their victims. The annals of serial predators are filled with such persons.

Forensic science has for many years searched for a true lie detector and a reliable method of determining someone’s criminal tendencies. Most have not panned out. One recent investigative arena is the use of functional MRIs to determine segmental brain activity in both “normal” and “psychopathic” individuals. The hope is to discover reliable and repeatable differences that might prove useful in criminal investigations.

MRI

One current study at Radboud University in the Netherlands has revealed some interesting results. It appears that persons with sociopathic tendencies possess an overly active “reward” area of their brains while at the same time showing some loss of communication between this area and one that is used for “self-control.” Obviously this leads to a dangerous combination of psychiatric defects. If someone is reward driven, impulsive, and narcissistic, while at the same time lacking any sort of consistent control of these impulses, it is easy to see that criminal behavior could follow.

Though this study and none of the others that have looked into this area of psychopathology have delivered the “smoking gun” of psychopathic behavior, they are intriguing investigations.

 

Crime and Science Radio: Dangerous Instincts: An Interview with Senior FBI Profiler (Ret) Mary Ellen O’Toole Ph.D.

meotoole

BIO: MARY ELLEN O’TOOLE, Ph.D. has spent her career studying the criminal mind. One of the most senior profilers for the FBI until her retirement in 2009, Dr. O’Toole has helped capture, interview and understand some of the world’s most infamous people including:

•Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer

•Derrick Todd Lee and Sean Vincent Gillis, both serial killers in Baton Rouge

•The Collar Bomb Case, a bank robbery and murder of a pizza delivery man

•Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber

•The Polly Klaas child abduction

•David Parker Ray, a serial sexual sadist

•The Red Lake School Shooting

•The Monster of Florence serial murder case

•The Zodiac serial murder case

•The bombing during the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, UT

•The mass murder in Florence, Montana in 2001
Dr. O’Toole also worked the Elizabeth Smart and Natalee Holloway disappearances, the Columbine shootings and many other high profile cases. Her law enforcement career spanned 32 years, beginning in the San Francisco’s District Attorney’s Office when she was a Criminal Investigator. Dr. O’Toole worked as an FBI agent for 28 years, spending more than half of her Bureau career in the organization’s prestigious Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU)—the very unit that is the focus of the hit crime series “Criminal Minds.”

During her time in the unit, Dr. O’Toole developed an expertise in Criminal Investigative Analysis (CIA) as well as offender behavior. She has provided assistance to law enforcement and prosecutors on a wide range of violent and criminal behavior including serial and single homicides, sexual assaults, kidnappings, product tampering, school shootings, arsons and bombings and extortions. Dr. O’Toole is also a trained FBI hostage negotiator and has a unique expertise in the areas of targeted school violence, workplace violence and threat assessment.

Dr. O’Toole is recognized as the FBI’s leading expert in the area of “psychopathy.”  Her work in psychopathy has put her on the forefront of mental health and law enforcement efforts to apply the concepts of this personality disorder to both violent and white collar offenders and their behavior and crime scenes. She lectures internationally on the application of the theory of psychopathy to real life situations. She continues to lecture at the FBI Academy on psychopathy and interviewing. She has served as adjunct faculty to the FBI’s Prestigious Leadership Development Institute (LDI) at the FBI Academy and also frequently lectures at the Smithsonian Institution about everything from Sherlock Holmes to personal safety. She is a Fellow with the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

LISTEN: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/suspensemagazine/2017/03/04/crime-and-science-radio-with-special-guest-mary-ellen-otoole

Link will go live Saturday 3-4-17 at 10 a.m. Pacific

LINKS:

Mary Ellen’s Website: http://maryellenotoole.com

Mary Ellen on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drmaryellenotoole/

Mary Ellen on Twitter: https://twitter.com/maryellenotoole

Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Feelings Betray Us: https://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-Instincts-How-Feelings-Betray/dp/1594630836

Dangerous Instincts: The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/dangerous-instincts-fbi-profiler-explains-the-dangers-of-that-nice-neighbor/2011/10/17/gIQAkvNCDM_story.html

Learning How To Read People: http://www.theironjen.com/learning-how-to-read-people-dr-mary-ellen-otoole/

Psychopathy: FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin: https://leb.fbi.gov/2012/july/psychopathy-an-important-forensic-concept-for-the-21st-century

Orlando Shooter Profile: CCTV America: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhTjGAsUuzk

Why Are American Cops So Bad At Catching Killers?: https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/04/02/why-are-american-cops-so-bad-at-catching-killers#.PFh6oYRhF

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violence-and-gender

 

King Henry the VIII’s Brain Injury and Behavioral Changes

henry_viii

King Henry VIII was often a bad boy. I mean, he had two of his many wives executed, for starters. But he was an historical giant—-he took on the Pope and established the Church of England—no small feat in the 1500’s.

But he also developed erratic behavior later in his life. Many date his significant personality change to a head injury following a fall beneath a horse in a 1536 jousting match. He apparently remained unconscious for two hours.

But could a blow to the head cause a dramatic personality change? Absolutely.

There are many types of brain injuries that could lead to such an outcome: Concussions (usually multiple such injuries are needed before personality changes would occur—if at all); Cerebral contusions (brain bruises); intracerebral bleeds (bleeding into the brain tissue; and subdural hematomas (bleeding in the space between the brain and the skull). In Henry’s case, I suspect the later might be the case.

subdural

Subdural Hematoma

Subdural hematomas follow blows to the head and here blood collects in the dural space—between the brain and the skull. It can be small and inconsequential or larger and compress the brain. It can occur immediately or be delayed by hours, days, weeks, and even months. The increased pressure on the brain can lead coma and death. Less dramatically, it can cause headaches, visual impairment, weakness, poor balance, sleepiness, confusion, and, yes, personality changes.

 

The Black Dahlia: The Cold Case That Even 70 Years Later Won’t Go Away

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Elizabeth Short

The shocking and graphic murder of Elizabeth Short (The Black Dahlia) has never been solved and likely never will be. Seventy years ago yesterday, on January 15, 1947, the nude body of a young woman was found in a vacant lot on Norton Avenue in the Leimert Park area of Los Angeles. She had been bisected (cut in half) and her two body parts displayed in a spread eagle fashion.

The victim was identified as Elizabeth Short and she soon became known by the moniker The Black Dahlia. Her death has remained one of the truly iconic American crimes. It’s hard to believe that after 70 years little progress has been made in solving her murder.

During the initial investigation, the police were at a loss as to who could have and would have killed Elizabeth, and since then many theories about the killer’s identity have been postulated. But none have ever been proven. Still many are intriguing.

An excellent article from Crime Magazine by Stephen Karadjis was published in 2014. It summarizes the case, its investigation, and the various theories that have circulated about this murder.

 

 

First Successful Insanity Plea in the US

philip-barton-key

Philip Barton Key

“Key, you scoundrel, you have dishonored my house—you must die!”

This words were shouted by US Congressman Daniel Sickles just before he shot Philip Barton Key, a US Attorney and the son of the author of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” And true to his words Sickles shot Key with three different pistols in broad daylight in direct view of the White House. It seems that Sickles had discovered, or at least believed, that Key was carrying on a affair with Sickles’ wife Teresa.

sickles

Daniel Sickles

At the trial, his attorneys employed the insanity defense. In his two-day opening statement, attorney John Graham put it this way:

It may be tragical to shed human blood; but I will always maintain that there is no tragedy about slaying the adulterer; his crime takes away the catcher of the occurrence….the fact is now proved in this case that Philip Barton Key seduced the wife of Daniel E. Sickles, and that for that, in a transport of frenzy, Daniel E. Sickles sent him to his long account.

“Transport of frenzy”? I guess that’s sort of like “going postal.” Temporary insanity as it were.

And of course in that state the only logical action would be to send the scoundrel “to his long account.”

Regardless, Graham’s ploy worked and Sickles was acquitted, served out the rest of his term in the House of Representatives, became a Major General in the Civil War, and was later an ambassador to Spain under US Grant—where he supposedly was the lover of Spain’s deposed Queen.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2017 in Forensic Psychiatry, Interesting Cases

 

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

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.

 

Ripperexhibit

 

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 anecdote she heard at a dinner party about an elderly couple who were certain that Jack the Ripper had lodged with them around the time of the murders late in 1888. During the Ripper spree, Lowndes had been a young aspiring writer. Although she was in Paris, not London, at the time, she followed the sensational news coverage. Years later, she used the unique context to write a story that drew out gender and class issues in London society. She also shows a keen eye for subtle psychological twists.

The plot is basic: The Buntings, an aging couple with financial problems, are overjoyed when a single man arrives and decides to rent several rooms. Without this stroke of good luck, they would have starved. The lodger, Mr. Sleuth, is an odd duck, but Mrs. Bunting can overlook this as long as he pays and doesn’t cause trouble. Her accommodating attitude foreshadows more dramatic allowances to come.

Mrs. Bunting attends to Sleuth, while her husband spends his time reading newspapers, especially when stories pop up about “The Avenger,” a Ripperesque killer of alcoholic women. Mr. Bunting has a friend on the police force, so he gets behind-the-scenes details. This also gives the author a chance to describe Scotland Yard’s Black Museum, founded in 1875.

Criminological museums popped up in several large cities during the late nineteenth century. Objects and pictures were exhibited to showcase theories about crime and its perpetrators. Into these museums went weapons, poisons, blood samples, fingerprints, hangman’s nooses, morgue photos, crime reconstructions, handwriting samples, police memorabilia, and even human remains.

Mrs. Bunting despises her husband’s obsession with the unsolved Avenger murders, but she begins to suspect that their lodger might be the guy. This is where the story’s genius lies. The more she discovers, the more she covers for him. She even ventures out to a coroner’s inquest – something only vulgar people did – to discover what the police actually know. (Great period detail!)

Mrs. Bunting knows the lodger has a satchel but she cannot find it when she cleans his rooms. She spots red liquid seeping from a locked cabinet, but accepts his hasty and implausible explanation. She begins to act in uncharacteristic ways, including lying to her husband. Each time she discovers something that implicates Mr. Sleuth as a killer, she tones it down.

In part, she needs to feel safe in her own home, and in part, she needs the money. If he’s arrested, she faces poverty.

In this tale you get some early criminal profiling (a “mission killer”), and even a glimpse of Madame Tussaud’s famous wax museum. But most interesting is the way Lowndes so subtly shows how anyone might accommodate the behavior of someone later unmasked as a serial killer.

I hear this question all the time. People just cannot believe that in the home of a serial killer there might be innocent parties. But it happens. Even if certain items or behaviors should seem sinister, denial is a powerful mechanism – especially when a personal investment in seeing things in a more flattering light is strong.

The best expression I’ve seen is in Lionel Dahmer’s memoir about his son, Jeffrey. When Jeff lived in his grandmother’s basement, she complained to Lionel twice about disgusting odors. Jeff had an innocent explanation: he experimented with chemicals on chicken parts from a grocery store. Lionel found a nasty-smelling liquid near the garbage cans that he thought was ordinary meat juice. Why would he have concluded that it was human blood?

“I allowed myself to believe Jeff,” Lionel mused in A Father’s Story, “to accept all his answers regardless of how implausible they might seem…. More than anything, I allowed myself to believe that there was a line in Jeff, a line he wouldn’t cross…  My life became an exercise in avoidance and denial.”

He accepted a stolen mannequin as a “prank”, a .357 Magnum as a “target pistol,” a charge of child molestation as an “accident,” and the request for a freezer as a responsible attempt to be economical. Who would have thought it was for dismembered body parts?

The Lodger sheds no light on the Ripper’s identity, but it does portray what can happen when bias and need infect our perception and beliefs.

Visit the original post: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shadow-boxing/201608/what-if-jack-the-ripper-lived-you

And check out Katherine’s recent interview on Crime and Science Radio:

http://www.dplylemd.com/csr-past-details/katherine-ramsland.html

 

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