17 - هر کسی می تواند یک قربانی باشد

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17 - هر کسی می تواند یک قربانی باشد

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Chapter 17

Anyone Can Be a Victim

On June 1, 1989, a fisherman in his boat spotted three “floaters” in Florida’s Tampa Bay. He contacted the Coast Guard and the St. Petersburg police, who removed the badly decomposed bodies from the water. They were all female, hog-tied with a combination of yellow plastic rope and regular white rope. All three were weighted down with fifty-pound cinder blocks tied around the neck. These blocks were of a two-hole variety rather than the more common three-hole type. Silver duct tape covered the mouths and, from residue, appeared to have covered the eyes when they were dropped in the water, and all three were wearing T-shirts and bathing-suit tops. The suit bottoms were missing, suggesting some sexual nature to the crime, though the state of the bodies in the water didn’t allow for any forensic determination of sexual assault.

From a car found near the shore, the three bodies were identified as Joan Rogers, thirty-eight, and her two daughters, seventeen-year-old Michelle and fifteen-year-old Christie. They lived on a farm in Ohio, and this was their first real vacation. They had already been to Disney World and were now staying at the Day’s Inn in St. Petersburg before returning home. Mr. Rogers didn’t feel he could spare the time away from the farm and hadn’t accompanied his wife and daughters.

Examination of the dead women’s stomach contents, correlated with interviews from restaurant workers at the Day’s Inn, fixed the time of death to have been about forty-eight hours previously. The only tangible piece of forensic evidence was a scribbled note found in the car giving directions from the Day’s Inn to the spot where the car was found. On the other side were directions and a drawn map from Dale Mabry, a busy commercial street in St. Petersburg, to the hotel.

The case instantly became a major news event, involving the police departments of St. Petersburg and Tampa and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department. Fear among the public was high. If these three innocent tourists from Ohio can be killed like this, everyone reasoned, then anyone can be a victim.

Police tried to follow up on the note, matching the handwriting against that of hotel employees and people in shops and offices around the area on Dale Mabry where the directions began. But they came up with nothing. The brutal, sexual nature of the killings, however, was alarming and indicative. The Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office contacted the FBI’s Tampa Field Office, saying, “We may have a serial case.” Still, the combined work of the three police jurisdictions and the FBI produced no significant progress.

Jana Monroe was an agent in the Tampa Field Office. Before coming to the Bureau, she’d been a police officer and then a homicide detective in California. In September 1990, after Jim Wright and I interviewed her for an opening in the unit, we requested her reassignment to Quantico. Jana had been a profile coordinator in the field office, and once she joined the unit, Rogers became one of the first cases she did for us.

Representatives of the St. Pete police flew up to Quantico and presented the case to Jana, Larry Ankrom, Steve Etter, Bill Hagmaier, and Steve Mardigian. They then developed a profile, which described a white man in his mid-thirties to mid-forties; in a blue-collar, home maintenance-type occupation; poorly educated; with a history of sexual and physical assault and precipitating stressors immediately prior to the murder. As soon as the heat was off the investigation, he would have left the area, but like John Prante in the Karla Brown case, he might later have returned.

The agents were confident of the profile, but it didn’t lead to an arrest. Little progress was being made. They needed a more proactive approach, so Jana went on Unsolved Mysteries, one of the nationally syndicated television programs that often have good results in locating and identifying UNSUBs. Thousands of leads were generated after Jana’s appearance and description of the crime, but still, none of them panned out.

If one thing doesn’t work, I always tell my people, you try something else, even if it’s never been tried before. And that’s what Jana did. The note of scribbled directions seemed to be the one item linking the victims to the killer, but so far it hadn’t been very useful. Since the case was well known in the Tampa-St. Pete community, she came up with the idea of blowing it up on billboards to see if anyone recognized the handwriting. It’s accepted in law enforcement circles that most people will not recognize handwriting outside their immediate family and close friends, but Jana figured someone might well come forward, particularly if the subject had been abusive and a spouse or partner was looking for a reason to turn him in.

Several local businessmen donated billboard space, and the note was reproduced for all to see. Within a couple of days, three separate individuals who had never met each other called the police and identified the handwriting as belonging to Oba Chandler, a white male in his mid-forties. An unlicensed aluminum-siding installer, he had been sued by each of these three people when their newly installed siding had come loose after the first heavy rain. They were so sure of the ID because each had a handwritten copy of his legal response to their charges.

In addition to the age and profession, he fit the profile in other key areas. He had a previous record of property crimes, assault and battery, and sexual assault. He had moved out of the immediate area after the heat was off, though he hadn’t felt a need to leave the region. The precipitating stressor was that his current wife had just delivered a baby he didn’t want.

And, as often happens once you can do something to break a case open, another victim came forward after hearing the details of the murder. A woman and her girlfriend had met a man matching Chandler’s description who wanted them to come out with him on his boat in Tampa Bay. The girlfriend had a bad feeling about the whole thing and had refused, so this woman went alone.

When they were out in the middle of the bay, he tried to rape her. When she tried to resist, he’d warned her, “Don’t scream or I’m going to put duct tape on your mouth, tie you to a cinder block, and drown you!”

Oba Chandler was arrested, tried, and found guilty of the first-degree murder of Joan, Michelle, and Christie Rogers. He was sentenced to death.

His victims were ordinary, trusting people whose selection was almost random. Sometimes the selection is completely random, proving the frightening assertion that anyone can be a victim. And in situations like these, as in the Rogers case, proactive techniques become all-important.

In late 1982, people were dying suddenly and mysteriously in the Chicago area. Before long, Chicago police came up with a connection between the deaths and isolated the cause: the victims had all taken Tylenol capsules laced with cyanide. Once the capsule broke down in the stomach, death followed quickly.

Ed Hagarty, the Chicago SAC, asked me to come into the investigation. I’d never worked a product-tampering case, but as I thought about it, I figured that much of what I’d learned from the prison interviews and experience with a variety of other types of offenders should apply here, too. In FBI code, the case became known as “Tymurs.”

The primary problem facing the investigators was the random nature of the poisonings. Since the offender neither targeted a specific victim nor was present at the crime scene, the type of analysis we normally did wouldn’t reveal anything directly.

The homicides were apparently motiveless—that is, they weren’t motivated by any of the traditional, recognizable motives such as love, jealousy, greed, or revenge. The poisoner could be targeting the manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, any of the stores selling the product, one or more of the victims, or society in general.

I saw these poisonings as the same type of act as a random bombing or throwing rocks down from an overpass onto cars below. In all of these crimes, the offender never sees the face of his victim. I pictured this offender—much like David Berkowitz shooting into darkened cars—as more concerned with acting out his anger than with targeting a particular type of victim. If this type of subject were ever made to see the faces of his victims, he might have second thoughts or show some remorse.

Given the ready comparison with other random, cowardly crimes, I felt I had an understanding of what the UNSUB would be like. Even though we were dealing with a different type of crime, in many ways the profile was a familiar one. Our research had shown us that subjects who kill indiscriminately without seeking publicity tend to be motivated primarily by anger. I believed this guy would have periods of severe depression and would be an inadequate, hopeless type who would have experienced failure throughout his life in school, jobs, relationships.

Statistically, the subject would probably fit the assassin mold—a white male in his late twenties to early thirties, a nocturnal loner. He would have gone to victims’ homes or visited grave sites, possibly leaving something significant there. I expected him to be employed in some position as close to power and authority as he could come, such as ambulance driver, security guard, store detective, or auxiliary policeman. And he would probably have some military experience, either Army or Marines.

I thought he’d have had psychiatric treatment in the past and have been on prescription drugs to control his problem. His car would be at least five years old, not well maintained but representing strength and power, such as the Ford model favored by police departments. Near the time of the first poisoning—around September 28 or 29—he would have experienced a precipitating stressor for which he may have blamed society in general, fueling his anger. And once the case became public, he would discuss it with whoever would listen to him in bars, drugstores, and with police. The power these crimes represented was a major boost for his ego, which indicated he might keep a diary or scrapbook of media coverage.

I told the police it was also likely he’d written to people in positions of power—the president, the director of the FBI, the governor, the mayor—to complain about perceived wrongs against him. In early letters, he would have signed his name. As time passed without what he considered an appropriate response from anyone, he grew angry over being ignored. These random killings could be his way of getting back at all those who didn’t take him seriously.

Finally, I warned against reading too much into the selection of Tylenol as the means of poisoning. This was a crude, sloppy operation. Tylenol was a common drug and the capsules were easy to open. It was at least as likely that he liked the packaging as that he had any particular grudge against Johnson & Johnson.

As with serial bombers, arsonists, and other such cases, in a large city like Chicago many people would fit the general profile. Therefore, like the Rogers case, it was more important to focus on proactive techniques. The police had to keep pressure on the subject and not let him cope. One of the ways they could do this was by issuing only positive statements. At the same time, I warned them not to provoke him by calling him a madman, which, unfortunately, was already happening.

More important than that, though, would be to encourage the press to print articles humanizing the victims, since the very nature of the crime tended to dehumanize them in the UNSUB’s mind. In particular, I thought he might begin to feel some guilt if forced to confront the human face of a twelve-year-old girl who had died, and we might be able to get to him through that.

As a variation on what we’d tried in Atlanta and in the Shari Smith case, I suggested holding a nighttime vigil at the grave sites of some of the victims, which I thought the UNSUB might attend. Recognizing that the subject probably didn’t feel good about himself, I also advised giving heavy press to anniversaries associated with the crimes.

I thought we could encourage him to visit specific stores in the way we’d been able to “direct” bank robbers in Milwaukee and Detroit to hold up specific bank branches where we were waiting for them. For example, the police could leak information about steps being taken to protect customers at one particular store. I thought the guy might feel compelled to visit that store to see firsthand the effects of his actions. A variation on that would be to publish an article about an arrogant store manager who would publicly state how confident he was in his establishment’s security and that it would be impossible for the Tylenol poisoner to tamper with any product on his shelves. Another version of this ploy would be to have police and FBI agents respond to a “hot tip” at a particular store, with attendant publicity. This would turn out to be a false alarm. But the police official would then state for the cameras that his department’s intelligence capability is so efficient that the unknown subject decided against planting the poisoned Tylenol. This should provide him with an indirect challenge he might find difficult to pass up.

We could put forth a bleeding-heart psychiatrist who would give an interview professing great support for the subject, categorizing him as a victim of society and thereby providing him with a face-saving scenario. The subject would be expected to call or drive by the doctor’s office, where we’d be ready to trap and trace.

And I thought that if officials set up a volunteer civilian task force to help the police with all the phoned-in tips, the subject would likely volunteer to help man it. Had we been able to set up something like that in Atlanta, I think we would have seen Wayne Williams. Ted Bundy, in his time, had volunteered at a Seattle rape crisis center.

There is always some squeamishness on the part of law enforcement about cooperating too closely with—or using—the media. This has come up a number of times in my career. Back in the early 1980s, when the profiling program was relatively new, I was called up to headquarters to meet with the Criminal Investigation Division and Bureau legal counsel to explain some of my proactive techniques.

“John, you don’t lie to the press, do you?”

I gave them a recent example of how a successful proactive approach to the media had worked. In San Diego, a young woman’s body was found in the hills, strangled and raped, with a dog collar and leash around her neck. Her car was found along one of the highways. Apparently, she had run out of gas and her killer had picked her up—either as a Good Samaritan or forcibly—and had driven her up to where she was found.

I suggested to the police that they release information to the press in a particular order. First, they should describe the crime and our crime analysis. Second, they should emphasize the full thrust of FBI involvement with state and local authorities and that “if it takes us twenty years, we’re going to get this guy!” And third, on a busy road like that where a young woman was broken down, someone had to have seen something. I wanted the third story to say that there had been reports of someone or something suspicious around the time of her abduction and that the police were asking the public to come forward with information.

My reasoning here was that if the killer thought someone might have seen him at some point (which they probably did), then he would think he had to neutralize that with the police, to explain and legitimize his presence on the scene. He would come forward and say something to the effect of, “I drove by and saw she was stuck. I pulled over and asked if I could help, but she said she was okay, so I drove off.” Now, police do seek help from the public all the time through the media. But too often they don’t consider it a proactive technique. I wonder how many times offenders have come forward who slipped through their fingers because they didn’t know what to look for. By the way, this is not to imply that genuine witnesses need have any fear of coming forward with their stories. You will not become a suspect, but you may very well help lead to the arrest of one.

In the San Diego case, the technique worked just as I had outlined it. The UNSUB injected himself into the investigation and was caught.

“Okay, Douglas, we see your point,” the FBI headquarters staff responded begrudgingly. “Just keep us informed whenever you think you’re going to use this approach.” Anything new or innovative can be scary to a bureaucracy.

I hoped that in one way or another, the press could help bring forth the Tylenol poisoner. Bob Greene, the popular syndicated columnist of the Chicago Tribune, met with the police and FBI. He then wrote a moving article about twelve-year-old Mary Kellerman, the poisoner’s youngest victim and the only child of a couple unable to have more children. As the story appeared, police and FBI agents were ready with surveillance on her home and the grave. I think most of the people involved thought this was bullshit, that guilt-ridden and/or happily reminiscing killers don’t actually return to grave sites. But I urged them to give it a week.

I was still in Chicago when the police staked out the cemetery, and I knew I’d face their ire if they didn’t come up with anything. Stakeouts are boring, uncomfortable work under the best of circumstances. They’re even worse in a graveyard at night.

The first night, nothing happens. It’s peaceful and quiet. But sometime during the second night, the surveillance team thinks they hear something. They approach the grave, being careful to stay out of sight. They hear the voice of a man just about the age the profile predicted.

The man is tearful, apparently on the verge of sobbing. “I’m sorry,” he pleads. “I didn’t mean it. It was an accident!” He begs the dead girl to forgive him.

Holy shit, they’re thinking, Douglas must be right. They pounce on him.

But wait a minute! The name he uses isn’t Mary.

This guy is scared out of his wits. And when the police finally get a close look, they see he’s standing in front of the grave next to Mary’s!

It turns out that buried next to Mary Kellerman is the victim of an unsolved automobile hit-and-run, and her unwitting killer has come back to confess his crime.

Four or five years later, Chicago PD used the same ploy with an unsolved murder. Spearheaded by FBI training coordinator Bob Sagowski, they began giving information to newspapers around the time of the anniversary of the murder. When police apprehended the murderer at the grave, he commented simply, “I wondered what took you so long.”

We didn’t catch the Tylenol poisoner this way. We didn’t catch a murderer at all. A suspect was apprehended and convicted on extortion charges linked to the murders, though there wasn’t sufficient evidence to try him for the murders themselves. He fit the profile, but had been out of the Chicago area when police conducted the cemetery stakeout. After his incarceration, however, no more poisonings were reported.

Of course, since there was no trial, we can’t say with any legal certainty that this was our man. But it is clear that a certain percentage of the perpetrators of unsolved serial murders are actually caught, unbeknownst to the officers and detectives investigating the cases. When an active killer suddenly stops, there are three strong explanations aside from his simple decision to retire. The first is that he’s committed suicide, which can be true for certain personality types. The second is that he’s left the area and is actually plying his trade somewhere else. With the FBI’s VICAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program) computer base, we’re working to prevent that from happening by giving the thousands of police jurisdictions around the country the ability to share information easily with one another. The third explanation is that the killer has been picked up for some other offense—generally burglary or robbery or assault—and is serving time on the lesser charge without authorities having connected him to his most grievous offenses.

Since the Tylenol case, there have been numerous product tampering incidents, although most have been motivated by more traditional drives. In domestic cases, for example, a spouse’s murder may be staged to look like product tampering. In evaluating this type of case, police should consider the number of incidents reported, whether they’re localized or scattered, whether the product was consumed in close proximity to where it was apparently tampered with, and what the relationship has been between the victim and the individual reporting the crime. As in any other suspected personal-cause homicide, they should look for a history of conflict and gather all the information they can on pre- and postoffense behavior.

A crime that may appear on its surface to have had no particular intended victim may actually have had a specific target. And what seems to be a crime of general anger and frustration may actually involve a motive as traditional as wanting to get cleanly out of a marriage or a desire to collect insurance or an inheritance. After the Tylenol publicity, a wife knocked off her husband using poisoned Tylenol, figuring it would be attributed to the original killer. The staging was obvious and the details different enough so that no one was fooled. In these cases, forensic evidence also usually links the offender. For example, labs can analyze the source of cyanide or other poisons.

This same type of analysis makes it relatively easy for investigators to recognize when someone has altered a product with the intent to sue for money damages, such as placing a dead mouse in a jar of spaghetti sauce, a rat in a soda can, or a needle in a bag of snack food. Companies often want to settle quickly to avoid bad publicity and stay out of court. But forensic science has now evolved to the point where if the company strongly suspects product tampering, refuses to settle, and brings the case to the FBI, the odds are high that the tamperer will be found out and charged. In the same way, a good investigator will recognize acts of staged heroism—orchestrated scenarios created by an individual to get recognition from his or her peers or the public.

The Tylenol case, for all its horror, was something of an anomaly. It didn’t seem to be primarily an extortion. For an extortionist to succeed, he must first establish that he has the capability to make good on his threat. Extortionists who threaten product tampering, therefore, will typically alter one bottle or package of the product, mark it in some way, and deliver a warning in a phone call or a note. The Tylenol poisoner, on the other hand, didn’t begin with threats. He jumped right into killing.

By extortionist standards, he wasn’t sophisticated. Based on the crude nature of the tampering (after these murders, Johnson & Johnson spent a fortune developing effective tamper-resistant packaging), I knew this guy wasn’t highly organized. But of those who do make threats, some of the same guidelines can be used as would apply to a political-threat analysis to determine whether the threatener is actually dangerous and capable of carrying out his announced intention.

The same is true of bombers. If a bomb threat is made, it is always taken seriously. But quickly, so that society doesn’t grind to a halt, authorities must determine whether the threat is real. Bombers and extortionists typically use the word we in their communications to imply a large group watching from the shadows. The fact is, though, most of these people are suspicious loners who don’t trust others.

Bombers tend to fall into one of three categories. There are power-motivated bombers attracted to the destruction. There are mission-oriented bombers attracted to the thrill of designing, making, and placing the devices. And there are technician types who get gratification from the brilliance and cleverness of their actual design and construction. As far as motives, they range from extortion to labor disputes, revenge, even suicide.

Our research into bombers shows a repeating general profile. They’re usually white males, the age being determined by the victim or target. They’re of at least average intelligence, often quite above, though underachievers. They’re neat, orderly, and meticulous, careful planners, nonconfrontational, nonathletic, cowardly, inadequate personalities. The profile comes from assessing the target or victim and the type of device (is it more explosive or incendiary, for instance), much as we profile a serial killer from a crime scene. We would consider the risk factors associated with both the victim and the offender, whether the victim was random or intended, how accessible he or she was, what time of day the attack occurred, the method of conveyance (such as through the mail), as well as any unique qualities or idiosyncrasies in the components or workmanship of the bomb.

Early in my profiling career I developed the first profile on the now-famous Unabomber (from the FBI code name Unabom), who got his nickname by targeting universities and professors.

We learn most about bombers from their communications. By the time Unabomber decided to communicate at length with the public through his letters to newspapers and multithousand-word manifesto, he had left a trail of three deaths and twenty-three injuries in a seventeen-year career. Among other feats, he managed temporarily to slow down the entire commercial airline industry through his promise of a bomb coming out of Los Angeles International Airport.

Like most bombers, he referred to a group (the “FC” or “Freedom Club”) as responsible for his terrorism. Still, there is little doubt he is the type of loner I described.

The profile has been widely published by now and I’ve seen no reason to alter my judgment. Unfortunately, despite Dr. Brussel’s groundbreaking work on the Metesky “Mad Bomber” case, when Unabomber first struck, law enforcement wasn’t as set up to use our type of analysis as they are now. Most of these guys are catchable early in their careers. The first and second crimes are the most significant in terms of behavior, location, and target, before they start perfecting what they do and moving around the country. As the years go on, they also expand their ideologies beyond the simple and elemental grudges against society that get them going in the first place. I think that had we been where we are now with profiling in 1979, Unabomber might have been caught years earlier.

Much of the time, bomb threats are a means of extortion, directed against an individual or a specific group. In the mid-1970s, a bomb threat was phoned in to the president of a bank in Texas.

In a long, complicated script, the caller says that a few days before when Southwest Bell sent technicians to the bank, it was actually his people. They planted a bomb that he can set off with a microwave switch, but he won’t do it if the president complies with his demands.

Now comes the most chilling part. He says he has the president’s wife, Louise. She drives a Cadillac, goes here in the morning, then here, et cetera, et cetera. Panicked, the president has his secretary call his home on another line because he knows his wife should be there. But no one answers. Now he’s become a believer.

Then the caller makes his money demand: used bills—tens through hundreds. Don’t contact the police, we can easily recognize their unmarked cars. Tell your secretary you’ll be leaving the bank for about forty-five minutes. Don’t contact anyone. Just before you leave, flash the lights in your office on and off three times. My group will be watching for this signal. Leave the money in your car, parked by the side of the road at a specific heavily trafficked area, leave the motor running and the parking lights on.

Now, in this particular case, there was no bomb and no abduction, merely a clever con man targeting the most likely victim. Everything about this scenario has a purpose. His timing was based on when the phone company had actually been working in the bank, so that he could cast them as his bomb planters. Everyone knows the phone company does technical work that no one understands or pays much attention to, so it’s quite believable that they could have been impostors.

Knowing the bank president would call home for his wife, the extortionist had called her that morning, claiming to be from Southwest Bell, saying they had received a number of complaints about obscene phone calls in her neighborhood and they were trying to track the caller—so between noon and twelve forty-five today, don’t pick up the phone if it rings; we’ll be running a trap and trace.

The instruction about leaving the money in the car with the lights on and the motor running is perhaps the most ingenious part of the plan. The president thinks the lights are part of the signal, but in fact, they’re part of the caller’s escape system. Despite the warning not to contact the police, the extortionist knows the victim will probably involve them anyway, and the most dangerous phase for the offender is always the money exchange, when he presumes the police will be watching. Under this scenario, if the offender is unfortunate enough to be nabbed by the police in the car, he can say he was walking down this busy street, saw a car with lights on and the motor running, and decided to be a Good Samaritan and turn them off. If the police grab him at that point, they’ve got nothing. Even if they grab him with the money, since he’s already established a legitimate reason to be in the car, he can say he found the bag sitting there on the seat and was going to turn it in to the police.

For the extortionist, this is a percentage game. He’s got his script written out and all he has to do is fill in the details. If today’s targeted victim doesn’t go for it, he’ll try it on another the next day. Eventually, one of them is going to bite, and he’ll end up with a nice piece of change for his efforts without actually having to kidnap or bomb anyone. In these cases, the script is generally a good piece of evidence since the offender will keep it, knowing it will be useful for future jobs. Because the one thing he knows is that with a few simple advance arrangements, anyone can be his victim.

Once authorities were finally onto his tricks, he was apprehended, tried, and convicted. He turned out to be a former disc jockey who had decided to put his gift of gab to more short-term advantage.

What’s the difference between this type of individual and one who actually does kidnap? They’re both in it for profit, so neither one wants to expose himself to the victim any more than necessary because killing is not part of the aim. The big difference is that the true kidnapper will generally need someone to help carry out his scheme, and while the simple extortionist is basically a clever con man, the kidnapper is a sociopath. Killing the victim is not his intention, but he is clearly willing to do so to fulfill his goals.

Steve Mardigian participated in the case of an Exxon Corporation vice president who was abducted in front of his home in New Jersey and held for ransom. In the struggle, he was shot in the arm by accident. The kidnappers—a former company security guard and his wife—went ahead with the abduction and held the wounded man (who had a heart condition) in a box, where he died. The reason for the box—or its equivalent—is so that the abductors can have as little contact with the victim as possible and not have to personalize him. In this case, the kidnappers professed regret at the outcome and a sense of desperation that led them to the crime in the first place. But they did it, and they carried it out step-by-step without hesitation. They were willing to have someone else die for their selfish purposes, and that is one of the definitions of sociopathic behavior.

As terrifying as it is, unlike certain other serious crimes, kidnapping is such a difficult act to get away with that an investigator really has to evaluate it carefully and with a skeptical eye, looking closely at victimology and preoffense behavior. And, while acknowledging that anyone can be a victim, the investigator has to be able to answer the question: why this particular victim?

A couple of years ago, I got an urgent call one night at home. A detective in Oregon proceeded to tell me the story of a young woman who went to school in his district. She was being stalked, but neither she nor anyone else could discover the identity of the stalker. She would see the stalker in the woods, but by the time her father or boyfriend went out to look, he was gone. He would call the house, but never when anyone else was home. The girl was turning into a basket case. After several unnerving weeks of this, she was at a restaurant with her boyfriend. She left the table to go to the ladies’ room. While leaving the rest room, she was grabbed and quickly dragged out to the parking lot, where her assailant savagely stuck a gun barrel into her vagina, threatened to kill her if she went to the police, then let her go. She was emotionally traumatized and couldn’t provide a good description.

Now, apparently, she’d been abducted as she left the library one night. Her car was found in the parking lot. There had been no communication and things were beginning to look pretty grim.

I asked the detective to tell me about the victim. She was a beautiful girl who’d always done well in school. But last year she’d had a baby and had had some problems with her family, particularly her father, about support. Her grades had been going to hell lately, especially after the stalking began.

I said not to say anything to the father just yet in case I was wrong and the young woman ended up dead, but this sounded to me like a hoax. Who would stalk her? She had a steady boyfriend and no recent breakups. Generally, when a noncelebrity is stalked, it is by someone who knows that person in one way or another. Stalkers aren’t that good or careful at what they do. If she saw the stalker, her father and boyfriend should not have missed him each time. No one else ever got the phone calls. And when police put a trap and trace on the line, the calls suddenly stopped. It also happened that the kidnapping took place right before final exams—not at all a coincidental finding.

The proactive strategy, I suggested, would be to have the father be interviewed by the media, emphasize the positiveness of their relationship, say how much he loves her and wants her back, appealing to the kidnapper to let her go. If I was right, she should turn up a day or two later, banged up and dirty with a story about how she was abducted, abused, and thrown out of a car on the side of a road.

This is what happened. She was pretty banged up and filthy with a story of abduction. I said that the interrogation—in this case in the form of a debriefing—should focus on what we really believed had happened. It should not be accusatory, but acknowledge that she was having a lot of trouble with her parents; going through a lot of stress, trauma, and pain; was panicked by exams; and needed a face-saving way out. She should be told that she didn’t need punishment, what she needed was counseling and understanding, and that she would get it. Once that was made clear, she confessed to the hoax.

This is one of those cases you sweat, though. If you’re wrong, the consequences are horrible, because when stalking is for real, it can be a terrifying and, too often, deadly crime.

Most often, whether we’re talking about the stalking of a celebrity or an ordinary person, the stalking begins with love or admiration. John Hinckley “loved” Jodie Foster and wanted her to return his love. However, she was a beautiful movie star going to Yale and he was an inadequate nobody. He believed he had to do something to equalize the situation and impress her. And what could be more “impressive” than the historic act of assassinating the president of the United States? In his more lucid moments, he must have realized that his dream of the two of them living happily ever after together wasn’t going to come about. But through his act, he did achieve one of his goals. He became famous, and in a perverse way, he would be forever connected to Foster in the public mind.

As with most of these cases, there was an immediate stressor with Hinckley. Around the time he shot President Reagan his father had given him an ultimatum about getting a job and supporting himself on his own.

Secret Service agent Ken Baker conducted a prison interview with Mark David Chapman, the assassin of John Lennon. Chapman felt a strong connection to the former Beatle and, on a superficial level, tried to emulate him. He collected all of Lennon’s songs and even went through a string of Asian girlfriends, to imitate Lennon’s marriage to Yoko Ono. But as happens with many of these types, eventually he reached a point where his inadequacy was overwhelming. He could no longer deal with the disparity between himself and his hero and so had to kill him. Chillingly, one of the things that moved Hinckley to commit his crime and become famous (notorious is actually a much better word) was the example of Chapman.

I interviewed Arthur Bremmer, who stalked and then attempted to assassinate Alabama governor George Wallace in Maryland while he was running for president, leaving Wallace paralyzed and in chronic pain for life. Bremmer didn’t hate Wallace. Prior to the shooting, he’d stalked President Nixon for several weeks but couldn’t get close enough to him. He just got desperate to do something to show the world his worth, and Wallace was approachable, essentially another victim in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The cases of stalking that have turned to assassination are alarming in their number. In the case of political figures, there is the construct of a “cause” for the killing, although this is virtually always a cover for a deeply inadequate nobody who wants to be a somebody. In the case of movie stars and celebrities like John Lennon, even that excuse is meaningless. Among the most tragic of the cases is the murder of twenty-one-year-old Rebecca Schaeffer in front of her Los Angeles apartment in 1989. The beautiful and talented young actress, who had become widely known as Pam Dawber’s younger sister on the television series My Sister Sam, was shot once, as she answered the front door, by Robert John Bardo, an unemployed nineteen-year-old from Tucson whose most recent job had been as janitor in a Jack in the Box. Like Chapman, Bardo had begun as an adoring fan. His adoration had grown into obsession, and if he couldn’t then have a “normal” relationship with her, he would have to “possess” her in another way.

As we all know by now, stalking targets are not limited to the famous. There are, of course, frequent cases of people being stalked by former spouses or lovers. The deadly stage is reached when the stalker finally thinks, “If I can’t have her (or him), no one else can either.” But Jim Wright, our unit’s most experienced specialist on stalking and among the leading experts on the subject in law enforcement, points out that anyone who deals with the public, particularly women, may be vulnerable to stalkers. In other words, the object of a stalker’s desire need not be on television or the movie screen. She might be a waitress at the restaurant down the block or a teller at the local bank. Or she could even work in the same store or business.

That was what happened to Kris Welles, a young woman who worked for Conlans Furniture Company in Missoula, Montana. Kris was efficient and well respected and worked her way up in the company first to sales manager and then, in 1985, to overall manager.

At the same time Kris worked in the office, a man named Wayne Nance worked in the warehouse . He tended to keep to himself, but he seemed to like Kris, and she was always cordial and friendly to him. Still, Wayne’s personality blew hot and cold, and the temper she perceived just beneath the surface scared her. No one had any complaints with Wayne’s work habits, though. Day in and day out, he consistently worked the hardest of anyone in the warehouse.

What neither Kris nor her husband, Doug, a local gun dealer, knew was that Wayne Nance was obsessed with her. He watched her all the time and kept a cardboard box filled with souvenirs of her—snapshots, notes she had written at the office, anything that belonged to her.

The other thing neither the Welleses nor the Missoula police knew was that Wayne Nance was a killer. In 1974, he had sexually molested and stabbed a five-year-old girl. It was later discovered he had also bound, gagged, and shot several adult women, including the mother of his best friend. Alarmingly, all of this had taken place in counties neighboring where he now lived. Yet even in sparsely populated Montana, one police jurisdiction had no idea of the criminal activity recorded in another jurisdiction.

Kris Welles didn’t know any of this until the night Nance broke into her and Doug’s home outside of town. They had a female golden retriever, but the dog put up no resistance to him. Armed with a handgun, he shot Doug, tied him up in the basement, then forced Kris upstairs into the bedroom where he tied her to the bed so he could rape her. She obviously knew him well and he made no attempt to hide his identity.

Meanwhile, in the basement, Doug had managed to wriggle free from his bonds. Weak and on the verge of unconsciousness from pain and loss of blood, he staggered over to a table where a rifle loader from his store was set up. He managed to feed one round into the rifle, then mustering all his remaining strength, he pulled himself slowly and agonizingly up the basement stairs. As quietly as he could, he made his way up the stairs to the second floor, and in the hallway, his eyes blurring, he took aim for his one shot at Nance.

He had to get him before Nance saw him and went for his own gun. Nance was unhurt and had more shots available. Doug would be no match for him.

He squeezed the trigger. He hit Nance, knocking him backward. But then Nance got up again and started coming for him. The shot hadn’t been deadly enough. Nance kept coming for him toward the staircase. There was nowhere to go and Doug couldn’t leave Kris alone there, so he did the only thing he could. He charged forward at Nance, using his empty rifle as a club. He kept hammering at the powerful Nance until Kris could get herself free and help him.

To this day, the Welles case remains one of the few on record in which intended victims of a serial killer were actually able to fight back and kill their attacker in self-defense. Their story is a miraculous one, and we have had them out several times to speak to classes at Quantico. This unassuming couple have been able to give us rare insight from the perspective of victims who became heroes. Having been to hell and back that night, they are amazingly warm, sensitive, and “together” people.

At the end of one of their presentations at Quantico, a police officer in the class asked them, “If Wayne Nance had lived and there was no death penalty—that is, if he were still sharing the earth with you—would you both be as mentally sound as you are now?”

They turned and looked at each other and then silently agreed on their response. “Almost definitely not,” said Doug Welles.

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