Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Profile of 'The Profiler'

(reprinted with permission) 

The Profiler: My Life Hunting Serial Killers and Psychopaths, by criminal profiler and WCI contributor Pat Brown, with co-author Bob Andelman, hits book shelves May 18.

Waiting for police to act on the 1990 murder of Anne Kelley, Pat Brown couldn't understand what was taking so long to bring the case to a close. Brown had long suspected a possible connection to the odd man who'd briefly rented a room in her home. At the time unfamiliar with the criminal investigative process, Brown believed the Kelley case was unusual. But as she began exploring unsolved murders in her area, she soon realized the case, unfortunately, was not all that rare.

For example, in Washington, D.C. alone, Brown learned  that the murders of more than 120 women remained unsolved. "Who killed Nia Owens, Dana Chisholm, and Ann Bourghesani?" Brown asks in her latest book, The Profiler.

Who, indeed?

Brown vowed to do something. It was a move that would define her ensuing career as a criminal profiler. "Dead women were turning up everywhere," she writes in The Profiler. "It's like when you're pregnant and suddenly you notice how many other women are pregnant." It was a seminal moment. While she might not have been able to bring the Kelley case to an immediate close, she could help investigators and families figure out who might have killed other women, plus help determine if any of those cases were related, suggesting a serial killer might be on the loose.

She printed photos of 15 murder victims -- all women -- from across the country. She laminated the photos and placed each above the word "unsolved," written in large letters. Next, she hung the photos in a booth she rented at an outdoor festival. Festival-goers were stunned at the display. They'd assumed cases they'd read about in newspapers and seen on TV news reports had been solved. "They never caught that killer either," one person commented, pointing to the photo of a woman in the display.

Eventually, Brown launched a nonprofit group and web site. She took every training course available and read some 400 books on the subject and subtopics. Then she began profiling criminals. When the D.C. sniper in 2002 shot at people and their vehicles, the news media found Brown through her site. The attention catapulted her into the public eye and onto the airwaves, and one mystery case led to another. Today, she travels across the country consulting, criminal profiling and commenting on cases.

The Profiler is the result of that work, looking at individual cases, the evidence and circumstances surrounding them, any similarities to other cases, as well as peculiarities of certain murders. With this book, which Brown calls purposeful, she not only wants to pass on what she's learned and details of the cases she's worked on; she's hoping to see national changes in use of profilers. Her concept would have police departments use criminal profilers as standard tools, either inside the departments or outside, for the homicides they investigate.
In addition, she wants to to see profilers involved early on in a homicide investigation, within the first 48 hours. "What I've learned over a decade and a half of profiling cases is that you cannot bring a criminal profiler in late in the game. The evidence is long gone. 

"We have far too many unsolved crimes, we have too little justice, and we have too many killers on the streets repeating those crimes," says Brown, who also received a master's degree in criminal justice from Boston University in 2007. Her aim is for "criminal profilers to be trained, including police investigators. There are thousands and thousands of unsolved homicides across the country."

But with law enforcement funding tight, Brown is realistic and understands fulfillment of her goal will take time. Eventually, she believes, it will happen. "In the long run," Brown says, "It could help save a lot of lives."

The Profiler is available wherever books are sold. Or order it on Amazon.com

Monday, May 03, 2010

Scene of the Crime: LAPD's Infamous Exhibit

Reprinted from Women in Crime Ink

Los Angeles Police Department authorities recently put on a show--the LAPD's Homicide Exhibit at the California Homicide Investigators Association conference in Las Vegas. And the community came out in droves to view the two-day "Famous Crime Scenes Exhibit."

It offered a unique behind-the-scenes look at the evidence police gather at crime scenes. Police cases ran the gamut from robberies, murders, serial killings, bank hold-ups, high-speed pursuits and hostage situations.

LAPD Homicide Detective Dennis Kilcoyne explained the reasoning behind making an exhibit and taking it on the road. "Homicide investigators very rarely invite people under the crime scene tape and into the murder scene; this may be as close as some will ever get," he said, to seeing the scene as a detective would.

And so it was for the thousands who stood in line for up to an hour and a half to get in. The evidence of L.A.’s gritty past was more than sobering.

A respectful silence fell over the room as viewers quietly filed in, one by one, during the tour. They looked at evidence, photos, videos, get-away cars, weapons, documents, and autopsy photos. Included was evidence from the Black Dahlia case and Hollywood mob-era contract hits, all on loan from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office and LAPD’s evidence vaults.
It showed evidence from the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson, who in 1994 was killed after she was repeatedly and brutally stabbed, along with Ron Goldman, in the courtyard of her Brentwood townhouse courtyard. It was almost chilling to see the bloody leather gloves, displayed behind glass, that were made infamous when suspect O.J. Simpson tried on the gloves in court and struggled to get them over his hands. There were a bullet-riddled police car and similarly ventilated
suspect get-away auto from the notorious North Hollywood bank robbery and shootout. 

But perhaps most grisly were evidence and photos from the ritualistic killing at a Benedict Canyon mansion where Charles Manson’s followers murdered five people, included pregnant including pregnant actress Sharon Tate, in the summer of 1969.

Still, it was the Robert F. Kennedy assassination display that seemed to stop people in their tracks. On display was the revolver used to cut down Kennedy in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel on a June night in 1968.

I toured the site of the killing not long before the historic Ambassador Hotel was razed in 2005 so a public school could be built in its place. Linda Deutsch, longtime special court correspondent for The Associated Press, led the media tour to some of Los Angeles's more notorious crime scenes. We were taken inside the hotel to the upstairs ballroom where the presidential candidate gave a short speech. We walked the path Kennedy took from the ballroom to the kitchen’s pantry area, where he was gunned down at point-blank range. 

The Kennedy evidence exhibit led to controversy. Robert Kennedy’s son protested when he learned it included the torn and bloody shirt, tie and jacket his father was wearing when he was assassinated. Maxwell Taylor Kennedy expressed outrage that his father’s clothing was transported across state lines, from California to Nevada, to be publicly exhibited in Las Vegas. 

"My request was refused by the district attorney's office," Maxwell Taylor Kennedy told the media. "The District Attorney promised, though, to keep the personal items with care and out of public view."
Maxwell Kennedy said he was particularly bothered that his family was denied possession of those items when they requested them. The younger Kennedy's protests made national news that night, after the first day the public was allowed to see it. The next morning, people waited in a line that wrapped around the interior of the Palms casino, where the exhibit was set up in a conference room. 

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck issued a public statement and an apology: "The last thing we want to do is to traumatize a victim's family, and I am very sensitive to that. But at the same time, we want to preserve the history of the city of Los Angeles and improve the quality and understanding about our homicide investigations." 

The LAPD pulled the shirt, tie and jacket from the exhibit after the first day.
Based on the response from a member of the Kennedy clan, it is doubtful the displays will go on tour again anytime soon, making the exhibit in Las Vegas a one-time-only viewing.

Photos by Cathy Scott
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