13 - خطرناک ترین بازی

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13 - خطرناک ترین بازی

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Chapter 13

The Most Dangerous Game

In 1924, the author Richard Connell wrote a short story entitled “The Most Dangerous Game.” It was about a big-game hunter named General Zaroff who had tired of pursuing animals and had begun hunting a much more challenging and intelligent prey: human beings. It’s still a popular story. My daughter Lauren read it recently in school.

As far as we know, until about 1980, Connell’s tale remained in the realm of fiction. But its status changed with a mild-mannered baker in Anchorage, Alaska, named Robert Hansen.

We didn’t profile Hansen or devise a strategy to identify and catch him according to our usual procedure. In September 1983, by the time my unit was called in, Alaska state troopers had already identified Hansen as a murder suspect. But they weren’t sure of the extent of his crimes, or whether such an unlikely individual, a respectable family man and pillar of the community, was capable of the terrible things of which he was being accused.

What had happened was this:

The previous June 13, a young woman had run frantically to an Anchorage police officer. She had a pair of handcuffs dangling from one wrist and told an extraordinary story. She was a seventeen-year-old prostitute who’d been approached on the street by a short, pockmarked man with red hair who had offered her $200 for oral sex in his car. She said that while she was performing, he slipped a handcuff on her wrist and pulled out a gun, then drove her to his house in the fashionable Muldoon area of the city. No one else was home. He told her that if she cooperated and did what he asked, he would not hurt her. But then he forced her to strip naked, raped her, and inflicted severe pain by biting her nipples and thrusting a hammer into her vagina. While he still had her handcuffed to a pole in his basement and immobilized, he slept for several hours. When he awoke, he told her that he liked her so much that he was going to fly her in his private airplane out to his cabin in the woods, where they’d have sex again and then he’d fly her back to Anchorage, where he would free her.

But she knew the chances of that were pretty remote. He had raped and assaulted her and hadn’t done anything to hide his identity. If he got her into that cabin, she would be in real trouble. At the airport, while her kidnapper was loading supplies into the plane, she managed to escape. She ran as fast as she could looking for help. That was when she found the policeman.

From the description she gave, her kidnapper appeared to be Robert Hansen. He was in his mid-forties, had grown up in Iowa, and had been in the Anchorage area for seventeen years, where he ran a successful bakery and was considered a prominent member of the community. He was married, with a daughter and a son. The police drove her to Hansen’s house in Muldoon, which she said was where she’d been tortured. They took her to the airport and she identified the Piper Super Cub that belonged to Robert Hansen.

The police then went to Hansen and confronted him with the young woman’s charges. He responded with outrage, saying he had never met her, and asserted that because of his prominence, she was obviously trying to shake him down for money. The very idea was ridiculous. “You can’t rape a prostitute, can you?” he said to police.

And he had an alibi for the night in question. His wife and two children were in Europe for the summer, and he was home having dinner with two business associates. He gave their names and they corroborated his story. Police had no evidence on him—just the young woman’s word—so he wasn’t arrested or charged.

But though they lacked proof, both the Anchorage police and Alaska state troopers office smelled smoke and knew a fire was out there somewhere. Back in 1980, construction workers had been excavating on Eklutna Road when they came upon the partial remains of a woman. Her body had been partly eaten by bears and bore the signs of having been stabbed to death and buried in a shallow grave. Known only as “Eklutna Annie,” she had never been identified and her killer had never been caught.

Later in the year, the body of Joanne Messina was discovered in a gravel pit near Seward. Then, in September 1982, hunters near the Knik River found the body of twenty-three-year-old Sherry Morrow in a shallow grave. She was a topless dancer who’d been missing since the previous November. She’d been shot three times. Shell casings found at the scene identified the bullets as coming from a .223 Ruger Mini-14, a high-powered hunting rifle. Unfortunately, it was a common weapon in Alaska, so it would have been difficult to track down and interview every hunter who owned one. But one peculiar aspect to the case was that no bullet holes were in her clothing, indicating she must have been naked when shot.

Almost exactly a year later another body was discovered in a shallow grave along the bank of the Knik. This time it was Paula Golding, an out-of-work secretary who had rather desperately taken a job in a topless bar to make ends meet. She had also been shot with a Ruger Mini-14. She’d gone missing in April, and since then the seventeen-year-old prostitute had been abducted and escaped. Now, with Golding to add to the list of unsolved crimes, the Criminal Investigation Bureau of the Alaska state troopers office decided they’d better follow up on Mr. Hansen.

Even though the police had a suspect before I heard about him, I wanted to make sure my judgment wouldn’t be clouded by the investigative work already done. So before I let them give me the specifics on their man during our first phone conference, I said, “First tell me about the crimes and let me tell you about the guy.”

They described the unsolved murders and the details of the young woman’s story. I described a scenario and an individual they said sounded very much like their suspect, down to the stuttering. Then they told me about Hansen, his job and family, his position in the community, his reputation as an outstanding game hunter. Did this sound like the kind of guy who could be capable of these crimes?

He sure did, I told them. The problem was, while they had a lot of secondhand information, they just didn’t have physical evidence to charge him. The only way to get him off the street, which they were extremely anxious to do, was to get a confession. They asked me to come on-scene and help them develop their case.

In a sense, this was the opposite of what we normally do in that we were working from a known subject, trying to determine whether his background, personality, and behavior fit a set of crimes.

I brought along Jim Horn, who had recently joined my unit from the Boulder, Colorado, Resident Agency. We’d gone through new-agents training together back in the old days, and when I finally got authorization for four agents to work with me, I’d asked Jim to come back to Quantico. Along with Jim Reese, Jim Horn is now one of the two top stress-management experts in the Bureau, a critical function in our line of work. But in 1983, this was one of his first cases on the behavioral side.

Getting to Anchorage was one of the more exciting and least pleasurable business trips I’ve had. It ended up with a red-eye, white-knuckle flight over water. When we arrived, the police picked us up and took us to our hotel. On the way, we passed some of the bars where the victims had worked. It was too cold most of the time for hookers to work outside, so they made their business connections in the bars, which were open practically twenty-four hours a day. They closed for maybe an hour to clean up and sweep out the drunks. At the time, largely as a result of the huge transient population that came in for the construction of the oil pipeline, Alaska had among the highest rates in the country of suicide, alcoholism, and venereal disease. It had very much become the modern version of our Wild West frontier.

I found the entire atmosphere very strange. There appeared to be an ongoing conflict between the native people and those who had come from “the lower forty-eight.” You had all these macho men walking around with big tattoos and looking as if they’d come straight out of a Marlboro ad. With the great distances people had to travel, it seemed as though almost everyone had an airplane, so Hansen wasn’t unusual in that respect.

What was significant to us about this case was that it was the first time profiling was used to support a search warrant. We began analyzing everything we knew about the crimes and about Robert Hansen.

As far as victimology was concerned, the known victims had been prostitutes or topless dancers. They were part of a great crop of available victims who traveled up and down the West Coast. Because they were so transient, and because prostitutes are not in the habit of reporting their whereabouts to the police, it was difficult to know if anything had happened to any one of them until a body turned up. This was exactly the same problem the police and FBI faced with the Green River Killer down in Washington State. So the choice of victims was highly significant. The murderer was targeting only women who would not be missed.

We didn’t know everything about Hansen’s background, but what we did know fit into a pattern. He was short and slight, heavily pockmarked, and spoke with a severe stutter. I surmised that he had had severe skin problems as a teenager and, between that and the speech impediment, was probably teased or shunned by his peers, particularly girls. So his self-esteem would have been low. That might also have been why he moved to Alaska—the idea of a new start in a new frontier. And, psychologically speaking, abusing prostitutes is a pretty standard way of getting back at women in general.

I also made much of the fact that Hansen was known as a proficient hunter. He had made a local reputation for himself by taking down a wild Dall sheep with a crossbow while hunting in the Kuskokwim Mountains. I don’t mean to imply that most hunters are inadequate types, but in my experience, if you have an inadequate type to begin with, one of the ways he might try to compensate is by hunting or playing around with guns or knives. The severe stutter reminded me of David Carpenter, San Francisco’s “Trailside Killer.” As in Carpenter’s case, I was betting that Hansen’s speech problem disappeared when he felt most dominant and in control.

Putting this all together, even though this was a scenario we’d never seen before, I was beginning to get an image of what I thought was going on. Prostitutes and “exotic dancers” had been found dead in remote wooded areas of gunshot wounds suggestive of those made with a hunting rifle. In at least one case, the shots had been fired at an undressed body. The seventeen-year-old who said she had escaped claimed Robert Hansen wanted to fly her to his cabin in the woods. Hansen had packed his wife and children off to Europe for the summer and was home alone.

It was my belief that, like General Zaroff in “The Most Dangerous Game,” Robert Hansen had tired of elk and bear and Dall sheep and turned his attention to a more interesting prey. Zaroff explained that he used captured sailors who shipwrecked on the intentionally unmarked rocks in the channel leading to his island: “I hunt the scum of the earth—sailors from tramp ships—a thoroughbred horse or hound is worth more than a score of them.” Hansen, I was surmising, regarded prostitutes in much the same way. They were people he could regard as lower and more worthless than himself. And he wouldn’t need the gift of gab to get one to come with him. He would pick her up, make her his prisoner, fly her out into the wilderness, strip her naked, let her loose, then hunt her down with a gun or knife.

His MO wouldn’t have started this way. He would have started simply by killing the early ones, then using the plane to fly their bodies far away. These were crimes of anger. He would have gotten off on having his victims beg for their lives. Being a hunter, at a certain point it would have occurred to him that he could combine these various activities by flying them out into the wilderness alive, then hunting them down for sport and further sexual gratification. This would have been the ultimate control. And it would have become addictive. He would want to do it again and again.

And this led me to the details of the search warrant. What they wanted from Jim and me was an affidavit they could take to court explaining what profiling was all about, what we would expect to find in the search, and our rationale for being able to say so.

Unlike a common criminal or someone whose gun is an interchangeable tool, Hansen’s hunting rifle would be important to him. Therefore, I predicted the rifle would be somewhere in his house, though not in open view. It would be in a crawl space, behind paneling or a false wall, hidden in the attic; someplace like that.

I also predicted our guy would be a “saver,” though not entirely for the normal reasons. A lot of sexual killers take souvenirs from their victims and give them to the women in their lives as a sign of dominance and a way of being able to relive the experience. But Hansen couldn’t very well put a woman’s head on the wall the way he would a big-game animal’s, so I thought it likely he would take some other kind of trophy. Since there was no evidence of human mutilation on the bodies, I expected him to have taken jewelry, which he would have given to his wife or daughter, making up a story about where the piece came from. He didn’t appear to have kept the victims’ underwear or any other item we could account for, but he might have kept small photographs or something else from a wallet. And from my experience with this type of personality, I thought we might find a journal or list documenting his exploits.

The next order of business was cracking his alibi. It was no big deal for his two business associates to say they were with him the night in question if nothing was at stake for them. If we could create some high stakes, however, that could change things. Anchorage police got the district attorney to authorize a grand jury to investigate the abduction and assault of the young prostitute who had identified Hansen. The businessmen were then approached by the police and asked to give their stories again. Only this time they were informed that if they were found to be lying to the grand jury, they’d each be facing hard time.

As we’d anticipated, that was enough to break things open. Both men admitted they had not been with Hansen that night, that he’d asked them to help him out of what he characterized as an awkward situation.

So Hansen was arrested on charges of kidnapping and rape. A search warrant of his home was immediately executed. There police found the Ruger Mini-14 rifle. Ballistics tests matched it to the shell casings found near the bodies. As we’d figured, Hansen had a well-outfitted trophy room where he watched television, full of animal heads, walrus tusks, horns and antlers, mounted birds, and skins on the floor. Under the floorboards in the attic they found more weapons, and various cheap items of jewelry belonging to the victims. One of these was a Timex watch. He had given other items to his wife and daughter. They also found a driver’s license and other ID cards from some of the dead women. They didn’t come across a journal, but they did find the equivalent: an aviation map marked with where he had left various bodies.

All of this evidence, of course, was enough to make a case to nail him. But without the warrant, we wouldn’t have had it. And the only way we could get a warrant in this instance was to demonstrate to a judge’s satisfaction that there was sufficient behavioral evidence to justify a search. We have successfully aided in search-warrant affidavits leading to arrests many times since then, perhaps most notably in the Delaware case of Steven Pennell, the “I-40 Killer,” who was executed in 1992 for torturing and killing women he picked up in his specially outfitted van.

By the time Anchorage police and Alaska state troopers actually interrogated Robert Hansen in February 1984, I was home recovering from my collapse in Seattle. Roy Hazelwood, who was heroically covering for me while still handling all his own work, coached the police on interview techniques.

As he had when police first confronted him with the abduction charge, Hansen denied everything. He pointed to his happy home life and his success in business. At first he claimed that the reason shells from his rifle had been found at various sites was that he had been there and practiced his shooting. Apparently, the presence of dead bodies at each of the locations was merely coincidental. But eventually, faced with a mountain of evidence and the prospect of an angry prosecutor seeking the death penalty if he didn’t come clean, he admitted to the murders.

In trying to rationalize and justify himself, he claimed that he only wanted oral sex from the prostitutes he picked up—something he didn’t feel he should ask from his proper, respectable wife. If the hooker satisfied him, he said, that would be that. The ones who didn’t comply—who tried to control the situation—those were the ones he punished.

In this way, Hansen’s behavior mirrored what we learned in our prison interview with Monte Rissell. Both Hansen and Rissell were inadequate types with bad backgrounds. The women who received the worst of Rissell’s wrath were the ones who tried to feign friendship or enjoyment to placate him. What they didn’t realize was that for this type of individual, the power and domination of the situation is everything.

Hansen also asserted that thirty to forty prostitutes had gone with him willingly in his plane and that he had brought them back alive. I found this proposition hard to believe. The class of prostitutes Hansen picked up are in business to turn a quick trick and move on to the next customer. If they’ve been in the business for any time, they’re generally pretty good assessors of people. They’re not willingly going to take a plane ride into the country with some john they’ve just met. If they made a mistake with him, it would be in letting him convince them to come with him to his house. Once he got them inside, it was too late.

Like his fictional counterpart, General Zaroff, Hansen stated that he hunted and killed only a certain class of people. He would never consider hurting a “decent” woman, but felt that prostitutes and topless or nude dancers were fair game. “I’m not saying I hate all women, I don’t . . . but I guess prostitutes are women I’m putting down as lower than myself. . . . It’s like it was a game, they had to pitch the ball before I could bat.” Once he started his hunting, the killing became anticlimactic. “The excitement,” Hansen told interrogators, “was in the stalking.”

He confirmed our suspicions about his background. He had grown up in Pocahontas, Iowa, where his father was a baker. Robert was a shoplifter as a child, and long after he reached adulthood and could afford to buy what he wanted, he still stole for the thrill of it. His trouble with girls started in high school, he said. He resented the fact that his stuttering and bad acne kept people away from him. “Because I looked and talked like a freak, every time I looked at a girl she would turn away.” He had an uneventful stint in the Army, then married when he was twenty-two. There followed a string of arson and burglary convictions, separation and divorce from his wife, and remarriage. He moved to Alaska upon his second wife’s graduation from college. There he could make a new start. But his troubles with the law continued for several more years, including repeated assault charges against women who apparently rejected his advances. Interestingly, like so many of the others, he drove a VW Beetle at the time.

On February 27, 1984, Hansen pled guilty to four counts of murder, one of rape, one of kidnapping, and assorted theft and weapons charges. He was sentenced to 499 years in prison.

One of the questions we’d had to answer in the Hansen case before police knew how to proceed was whether all of the noted prostitute and topless-dancer deaths in Anchorage had been or could have been committed by the same individual. This is often a critical issue in criminal investigative analysis. Just about the time the body of Robert Hansen’s first victim was discovered in Alaska, I’d been called by the Buffalo, New York, Police Department to evaluate a string of vicious, apparently racially hate-based murders.

On September 22, 1980, a fourteen-year-old boy named Glenn Dunn was shot and killed in the parking lot of a supermarket. Witnesses described the gunman as a young white male. The next day Harold Green, thirty-two, was shot at a fast-food restaurant in suburban Cheektowaga. That same night, thirty-year-old Emmanuel Thomas was killed in front of his own house, in the same neighborhood as the previous day’s murder. And the next day another man, Joseph McCoy, was killed in Niagara Falls.

As far as anyone could tell, only two factors linked these senseless murders. All the victims were black men. And all had been killed by .22-caliber bullets, prompting the press to bestow an instant title: the “.22-Caliber Killer.”

Racial tension ran high in Buffalo. Many in the black community felt helpless and accused the police of doing nothing to protect them. In some ways it seemed to mirror the horror taking place in Atlanta. And as so often happens in these situations, things didn’t immediately get better. They got worse.

On October 8, a seventy-one-year-old black taxi driver named Parler Edwards was found in the trunk of his cab in suburban Amherst with his heart cut out. The next day, another black taxi driver, forty-year-old Ernest Jones, was found on the bank of the Niagara River with his heart torn out of his chest. His cab, covered with blood, was found a couple of miles away within the Buffalo city limits. The day after that, a Friday, a white man roughly matching the description of the .22-Caliber Killer entered the hospital room of thirty-seven-year-old Collin Cole, announced, “I hate niggers,” and proceeded to strangle the patient. Only a nurse’s arrival caused the intruder to flee and saved Cole from death.

The community was in an uproar. Public officials were concerned a wide-scale reaction from black activist groups might be imminent. At the request of Buffalo SAC Richard Bretzing, I came up that weekend. Bretzing is a very proper, solid guy, a real family man and a key member of the FBI’s so-called Mormon Mafia. I’ll never forget, he had a sign in his office saying something to the effect of, “If a man fails at home, he fails in his life.” As I always try to do, I looked first at the victimology. As the police had suggested, there really weren’t any significant common denominators between the six victims except their race and, I felt, being unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Quite clearly, the .22-caliber shootings were all done by the same individual. These were mission-oriented, assassin-style killings. The only evident psychopathology in these crimes was a pathological hatred of blacks. Everything else about them was detached and removed.

I could see this individual joining hate groups, or even groups with positive goals or values such as a church and convincing himself he was contributing to them. For this reason, I could see him joining the military, but he would have been discharged early in his career for psychological reasons or failure to adjust to military life. This would be a rational and organized individual, and his prejudiced delusional system would be orderly and “logical” within itself.

The other two crimes, the horrifying attacks on the taxi drivers, also were racially based, but in these cases, I did not feel we were dealing with the same offender. These crimes were the work of a disorganized, pathologically disoriented person, possibly hallucinatory and in all probability a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. To me, the crime scenes reflected rage, overcontrol, and overkill. For the four shootings and two eviscerations to have been perpetrated by the same individual would have meant a severe personality disintegration between the murders of Joseph McCoy and that of Parler Edwards less than two weeks later. This didn’t square with the incident in the hospital—if that person was, in fact, the .22-Caliber Killer—plus my instinct and experience told me that the heart remover’s sick fantasies had been building for a long time, several years at least. Robbery wasn’t a motive in either set of killings, but while the first four represented a quick hit and get the hell out, the crime scenes of the last two clearly showed that the offender took a lot of time at the site. If these six crimes were related, it was more likely to me that the psycho who cut out the hearts might have been triggered by the racist who had already gone about assassinating blacks in the community.

Then, on December 22, in midtown Manhattan, four blacks and one Hispanic were knifed to death over a thirteen-hour period by the “Midtown Slasher.” Two other black victims narrowly escaped being killed. On December 29 and 30, the slasher apparently struck again upstate, stabbing and killing thirty-one-year-old Roger Adams in Buffalo and twenty-six-year-old Wendell Barnes in Rochester. In the next three days, three other black men in Buffalo survived similar attacks.

Now I couldn’t assure police that the .22-Caliber Killer was also the Midtown Slasher or the man who had committed this last set of crimes. But what I could say with conviction was that it was the same type of individual. They all had the racist element, and all were committed in a blitz-assassination style.

The .22-Caliber case broke in two steps over the next several months. In January, Army private Joseph Christopher, age twenty-five, was arrested at Fort Benning, Georgia (where three years before William Hance had tried to play the racist card in the “Forces of Evil” murders), charged with slashing a black fellow soldier. A search of his old house near Buffalo turned up a large store of .22-caliber ammunition and a sawed-off rifle. Christopher had just enlisted the previous November and was on leave from Fort Benning during the times of the Buffalo and Manhattan murders.

While in the Confinement Center at Fort Benning, he told Capt. Aldrich Johnson, the officer in charge, that he did “that thing in Buffalo.” He was charged with the Buffalo shootings and some of the stabbings. He was convicted, and after some back-and-forth wrangling about his mental competence, was sentenced to sixty years to life. Capt. Matthew Levine, the psychiatrist who examined Christopher at Martin Army Hospital, said he was amazed by how closely Christopher fit the .22-Caliber Killer profile. As the profile had predicted, the subject did not adjust well to military life.

Christopher neither admitted nor denied the murders of the two taxi drivers. He wasn’t charged with them and they don’t fit into the pattern of the others, from either a modus operandi or signature perspective. Both of these are extremely important concepts in criminal investigative analysis, and I have spent many hours on the witness stands of courtrooms throughout the country trying to get judges and juries to understand the distinction between them.

Modus operandi—MO—is learned behavior. It’s what the perpetrator does to commit the crime. It is dynamic—that is, it can change. Signature, a term I coined to distinguish it from MO, is what the perpetrator has to do to fulfill himself. It is static; it does not change.

For example, you wouldn’t expect a juvenile to keep committing crimes the same way as he grows up unless he gets it perfect the first time. But if he gets away with one, he’ll learn from it and get better and better at it. That’s why we say that MO is dynamic. On the other hand, if this guy is committing crimes so that, say, he can dominate or inflict pain on or provoke begging and pleading from a victim, that’s a signature. It’s something that expresses the killer’s personality. It’s something he needs to do.

In many states, the only way prosecutors can link crimes is by MO, which I believe we’ve shown is an archaic method. In the Christopher case, a defense attorney could easily make the argument that the Buffalo .22-caliber shootings and the Manhattan midtown slashings showed a markedly different modus operandi. And he’d be right. But the signature is similar—a propensity to randomly assassinate black men fueled by racial hatred.

The shootings and the eviscerations, on the other hand, show me a markedly different signature. The individual who cut out the hearts, while still possessing a related underlying motivation, has a ritualized, obsessive-compulsive signature. Each type needs something out of the crime, but each one needs something different.

The differences between MO and signature can be subtle. Take the case of a bank robber in Texas who made all of his captives undress, posed them in sexual positions, and took photographs of them. That’s his signature. It was not necessary or helpful to the commission of a bank robbery. In fact, it kept him there longer and therefore placed him in greater jeopardy of being caught. Yet it was something he clearly felt a need to do.

Then there was a bank robber in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I flew out to provide on-site consultation in the case. This guy also made everyone in the bank undress, but he didn’t take pictures. He did it so the witnesses would be so preoccupied and embarrassed that they wouldn’t be looking at him and so couldn’t make a positive ID later on. This was a means toward successfully robbing the bank. This was MO.

Signature analysis played a significant role in the 1989 trial of Steven Pennell in Delaware, in whose case we’d prepared the affidavit leading to the search warrant. Steve Mardigian from my unit worked closely with the combined task force of New Castle County and Delaware state police, producing a profile that allowed police to narrow their focus and come up with a proactive strategy to nail the killer.

Prostitutes had been found strangled with their skulls fractured along Interstates 40 and 13. The bodies had clearly been sexually abused and tortured. Steve’s profile was very accurate. He said the offender would be a white male in his late twenties to early thirties, employed in one of the construction trades. He would drive a van with high mileage, cruise excessively looking for victims, exhibit a macho image, have an ongoing relationship with a wife or girlfriend, but enjoy dominating women. He would bring his weapons of choice with him and destroy evidence afterward. He would be familiar with the area and choose his disposal sites accordingly. He would be emotionally flat during the crimes and would kill again and again until caught.

Steven B. Pennell was a thirty-one-year-old white male who worked as an electrician, drove a van with high mileage, cruised excessively looking for victims, exhibited a macho image, was married but enjoyed dominating women, had a carefully prepared “rape kit” in his van, attempted to destroy evidence when he knew the police were onto him, was familiar with the area, and chose his disposal sites accordingly. He was emotionally flat during the crimes and killed repeatedly until caught.

He was located when Mardigian suggested using a decoy female cop posing as a hooker. For two months Officer Renee C. Lano walked the highways, always looking for a man in a van to pull up who matched the profile’s description. They were particularly interested in the van’s carpeting. Blue fibers consistent with automobile carpeting had been found on one of the victims. If a van did stop, Lano was under strict orders not to get in—even though she was wired, that could have been a death sentence—but to find out as much as she could. When a guy matching the traits finally did stop, she engaged him in conversation and haggled extensively about the price for her services through the opened passenger door. As soon as she noticed the blue carpeting, she began admiring the van, and as they talked, she began casually scraping up carpet fibers with her fingernails. The FBI laboratory would confirm that they matched the previous samples.

At Pennell’s trial, I was called in to testify about the signature aspects of the case. The defense was trying to show that it was unlikely these crimes were all committed by the same individual because so many details of the modus operandi varied. I made it clear that regardless of the MO, the common denominator in each of the murders was physical, sexual, and emotional torture. In some cases the murderer had used pliers to squeeze his victims’ breasts and cut their nipples. He had bound others at the wrists and ankles, cut them on the legs, whipped or beaten their buttocks, or hit them with a hammer. So, though the methods of torture varied—the MO, if you will—the signature was the pleasure he received out of inflicting pain and hearing his victims’ anguished screams. This wasn’t necessary to accomplish the murder. It was necessary for him to get what he wanted to out of the crime.

Even if Steven Pennell were still alive and reading this, he would not be able to change his behavior in future crimes. He might be able to devise different or more ingenious methods of torturing women. But he would not be able to refrain from the torture itself.

Fortunately for all of us, as I mentioned, the State of Delaware had the good judgment and decency to execute Pennell by lethal injection on March 14, 1992.

One of our landmark cases in the use of signature analysis was the 1991 trial of George Russell Jr., charged with the bludgeoning and strangulation murder of three white women in Seattle—Mary Anne Pohlreich, Andrea Levine, and Carol Marie Beethe—the year before. Steve Etter from my unit did the profiling, then I went out to testify. In these cases, the prosecution knew it could not get a conviction based on a single murder. Police had the most compelling evidence in the Pohlreich killing and felt it would shore up the other two cases. So the key was tying all three together.

Russell wasn’t the type you’d think of for these heinous crimes. Though having a long record as a petty thief, he was a handsome black man in his thirties, well spoken and charming, with a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Even the local Mercer Island police who’d run him in on many charges in the past couldn’t believe he would commit murder.

By 1990, it was still unusual to see sexually based homicide between races, but as society loosened up and became more tolerant, we were beginning to see race as less of an issue. This would be particularly true for a cooler, more sophisticated type like Russell. He regularly dated both black and white women and had friends in both races.

The strategic focal point came when Public Defender Miriam Schwartz made a pretrial motion before King County Superior Court judge Patricia Aitken to have the cases severed from each other and tried separately, based on the premise that the three murders were not committed by the same offender. The prosecutors, Rebecca Roe and Jeff Baird, asked me to explain how the crimes were all linked.

I mentioned the blitz-style MO attack in each one. Since the three killings happened over a seven-week period, I would not expect the offender to change his MO unless something had gone wrong in one case and he felt a need to improve upon it. But more compelling was the signature aspect.

All three women had been left naked and posed provocatively and degradingly. The sexual content of the posed scene escalated from one to the next. The first was posed with hands clasped and legs crossed at the ankles and left near a sewer grate and trash Dumpster. The second was posed on a bed with a pillow over her head, her legs bent out to each side, a rifle inserted into her vagina, and red high heels on her feet. The final one was posed spread-eagled on her bed with a dildo in her mouth and the second Joy of Sex book placed under her left arm.

The blitz attacks were necessary to kill these women. The degrading posing was not.

I explained the difference between posing and staging. Staging, I said, appears in crimes where the offender is trying to throw off the investigation by making the police believe that something happened other than what did, such as when a rapist tries to make his intrusion look like a routine burglary. That would be an aspect of MO. Posing, on the other hand, would be signature.

“We don’t get that many cases of posing,” I testified at the hearing, “treating the victim like a prop to leave a specific message. . . . These are crimes of anger, crimes of power. It’s the thrill of the hunt, it is the thrill of the kill, and it is the thrill afterwards of how that subject leaves that victim and how he’s basically beating the system.”

I felt confident in saying, “The probability is extremely high that it was a single suspect.” Bob Keppel, the chief criminal investigator with the state attorney general’s office and a veteran of the Green River Task Force, testified along with me, saying that of more than a thousand murder cases he’d examined, only about ten had included posing, and none had all of the elements of these three.

At this point, we weren’t saying that Russell was the offender; all we were saying was that whoever did one did all three.

The defense planned to bring in an expert to refute what I had to say, to testify that I was wrong on signature and that these three crimes were not committed by the same individual. Ironically, that person was my longtime FBI colleague and serial-killer study partner, Robert Ressler, retired from the Bureau but still consulting in the field.

I thought this was a pretty tight and compelling case for anyone as experienced in profiling and crime-scene analysis as both Bob and I were, and so I was extremely surprised that he would be willing to come out on the other side and testify for severance of the cases. To put it bluntly, I felt he was out-and-out wrong. But as we’ve all admitted many times, what we do is far from an exact science, so he was certainly entitled to his opinion. Bob and I have since come out on opposite sides of a number of issues, perhaps most noticeably as to whether Jeffrey Dahmer was insane. Bob sided with the defense that he was. I agreed with Park Dietz, who testified for the prosecution, that he was not.

I was therefore even more surprised when Bob said he had other commitments and never showed up for the Russell pretrial hearing, and instead sent another retired agent, Russ Vorpagel. Russ is a bright guy. He was a chess champion who could play against ten opponents at once. But profiling wasn’t his main specialty, and I thought the facts were against him. He endured a pretty hard time from Rebecca Roe when she cross-examined him after he disputed my opinion. At the end of the hearing, Judge Aitken ruled that based on the signature evidence Keppel and I had presented regarding the likelihood of a single offender in all three cases, they could be tried together.

I testified on signature again during the trial itself, refuting the multiple-killer theory the defense had put forth. In the Carol Beethe murder, defense attorney Schwartz suggested that her boyfriend had both the opportunity and the motive. We always study spouses or lovers in sexual homicides, and it was my firm opinion that this was a sexually motivated “stranger” homicide.

In the end, a jury of six men and six women deliberated four days and found George Waterfield Russell Jr., guilty of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole and sent to the state’s maximum-security penitentiary at Walla Walla.

This was my first time back in Seattle since my collapse and coma there. It was good to be back and have a hand in solving a case after the intense frustrations of Green River. I went back to Swedish Hospital and was pleased to see they still had the plaque I’d given them in thanks. I went back to the Hilton Hotel to see if I could remember anything, but I couldn’t. I suspect that that was just too much trauma for my mind to consciously process. And anyway, after all the time I’d put in on the road for so many years, hotel rooms all blend together.

We have now developed signature analysis to the point that we testify routinely in serial-murder trials, not only I but other profilers who’ve taken up my interest as well, most notably Larry Ankrom and Greg Cooper.

In 1993, Greg Cooper played a major role in obtaining twin first-degree murder convictions against Gregory Mosely, who had raped, beaten, and stabbed two women in two separate jurisdictions in North Carolina. Like the related crimes in the Russell trial, it would have been difficult for either jurisdiction to successfully convict on its own. Both had to have testimony linking the cases, and after studying the crime-scene photos and case files, Greg felt he could give it.

The key to signature analysis in the Mosely cases, Greg decided, was overkill. Both victims were lonely, single, mildly handicapped women in their early twenties who had attended the same country-western nightclub, where they had been abducted a couple of months apart. Both had been severely beaten. You might say beaten to death, except for the fact that they were also strangled manually and by ligature; one had been stabbed twelve times, and there was evidence of vaginal and anal penetration. There was forensic evidence in one case, including DNA from semen linking the crime to Mosely. Both rape-torture murders had been committed in secluded areas and the bodies dumped at isolated, remote sites.

Greg testified at the first trial that the signature behavioral evidence indicated an inadequate personality who was a sexual sadist. His inadequacy was clear from his choice of victims. His sadism was even clearer from what he did to them. Unlike many of the inadequate, disorganized types, this one didn’t kill them before mutilating their bodies. He wanted to be in total physical and emotional control. He wanted to be the author of their pain and enjoy the response his cruelty provoked.

Through his testimony in the first case, Greg helped enable the prosecution to introduce the second murder. Mosely was convicted and sentenced to death. In the second trial nine months later, Greg was able to do the same thing, achieving another conviction and death sentence.

The first time he testified, Greg and Mosely locked eyes as Greg described Mosely’s personality to the packed courtroom. Greg could tell by the grim expression on Mosely’s face that he was thinking, “How the hell could you know that?” The pressure was intense. If Greg had been unsuccessful, the case would have been thrown out and the second case could have been weakened beyond salvage.

When Mosely first saw Greg at his second trial, he muttered to his police escorts, “That’s the son of a bitch who’s gonna try to get me again!”

Traditionally, to get a successful prosecution and conviction in a murder case, you’ve needed conclusive forensic evidence, eyewitness accounts or a confession, or good, strong circumstantial evidence. Now, from our work in behavioral profiling from crime scenes and signature analysis, there is another arrow in the police’s and prosecution’s quiver. In and of itself, it’s not usually enough to convict. But taken together with one or more of the other elements, it can often link various crimes together and be just what is needed to put a case over the top.

Serial killers play a most dangerous game. The more we understand the way they play, the more we can stack the odds against them.

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