It’s our very first special Law Enforcement Edition of Aftermath Radio! We’ve got an unprecedented TWO very special guests… an unbelievable lineup of law enforcement professionals that you won’t want to miss…
First, we have Investigator Damon Tucker from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, who joined us IN STUDIO to talk about psychopathy and fraud cases.
Next, we welcome back to the show Dr. Mary Ellen O’Toole, former FBI profiler and author of the book, Dangerous Instincts. Dr. O’Toole discussed psychopathy and criminal profiling, and how psychopathic traits may manifest at crime scenes. She contributed the following:
Psychopathy is a devastating personality disorder hallmarked by a stunning lack of empathy for others and a lack of remorse for their behavior. Approximately 95% of serial sexual killers are believed to manifest the traits of psychopathy and these traits can be identified in behaviors left behind at their crime scenes. If indicators of psychopathy can be observed and identified at a serial murder scene, I believe investigators will be better able to craft more effective investigative strategies, interview strategies and ultimately prosecutive strategies based on the uniqueness of the psychopathic construct. Why is this important? If the offender is a psychopath he or she does not respond to traditional law enforcement strategies.
Let me give you some examples of how to identify psychopathic traits at a crime scene and then how to interpret this behavior and what it means for the investigation.
Glib and superficial Charm: This is one of the interpersonal traits of psychopathy. Psychopaths are known to be charming, outgoing, engaging, and even charismatic. In serial murder cases, investigators look for injury patterns that indicate the victim tried to fight off his or her attacker. These are called defensive injuries. If each of the victims in a series of murders lacks defensive injuries, the investigator must consider the likelihood that the offender was able to charm his way into the victim’s comfort zone because he did not appear threatening and/or dangerous. As a result, the victim did not feel he or she needed to protect themselves – until it was too late.
Lack of Remorse: Psychopaths do not feel remorse for their actions including murder. If a psychopathic child abductor is watching the news reports of his crimes, emotional appeals from family members will likely fall on his deaf ears. He will not be motivated to “do the right thing”.
Impulsivity: Impulsivity is one of the lifestyle traits of psychopathy. The psychopath “momentarily” considers the consequences of his behavior, but carries out the actions anyway. For those psychopaths with a “heavy dose” of impulsivity, their crime scenes can appear sloppy, disorganized and manifest a great deal of variation. For example, in one serial murder investigation, the victims ranged in age from 19 to late 50s. The victims were from different ethnic backgrounds. The method of killing and body disposal also varied. It was the variation in the scenes that actually linked them together.
Grandiose Sense of Self Worth: Grandiosity is also an interpersonal trait of psychopathy and one of the most important one for law enforcement interviewers to understand. Because of their grandiosity and their lack of empathy for others, psychopaths do not respond to themes of rapport building in an interview. Rapport building usually takes place in the beginning of the interview, and involves building trust between the interviewer and the suspect. It involves identifying common interests, lifestyle habits, hobbies etc. For example, the interviewer may talk about his or her children being the same age as the suspect’s children, or point out their children attend the same school or both of them like a particular sports team. However, psychopaths do not bond with others so this bridge building can be a significant waste of time. The psychopath wants to talk about himself or herself and does not care about the interviewer and what is going on in his/her life.
Psychopathy is a devastating personality disorder, which has been studied and researched for more than forty years. This research has identified the traits and characteristics that make these people very distinct. Understanding psychopathy from an operational perspective can be a powerful investigative tool to identify and apprehend psychopathic offenders quicker, interview them more effectively and present the evidence in their cases in a more understandable and realistic manner.
Listen to the podcast here: