Dr. Katherine Ramsland has published 35 books and over 900 articles, and is the chair of Social Sciences at DeSales University, where she teaches about forensic psychology, profiling, serial murder, and forensic science. Her latest books include The Devil’s Dozen: How Cutting-edge Forensics Took down 12 Notorious Serial Killers and The Real World of a Forensic Scientist, with and about Henry C. Lee. She describes what it was like to work with him.

In the Company of Dr. Henry Lee

Dr. Henry Lee

First, I want to say that this experience proves a point I often make: you should always be prepared, because opportunity can arrive from unexpected places. A couple of years ago I’d been invited to an annual symposium sponsored by the Henry C. Lee Institute in Connecticut. I went up on Sunday night and a few others were there so Dr. Lee came to join us for dinner. I ended up sitting next to him. I’d met him several times before in other venues so he knew my background. In fact, he’d given me a blurb for Beating the Devil’s Game. He started to talk about writing and mentioned that he’d recently lost his co-writer for a book about his life and work that was now overdue. So, there I was, a writer (and biographer) with background in forensic investigation. I offered to step in, and voila! I was part of an awesome team: Lee and his former lab director Elaine Pagliaro.

Dr. Henry C. Lee is one the most knowledgeable international experts in contemporary crime scene investigation. As a former Commissioner for the Department of Public Safety, Chief Criminalist, and Director of the Connecticut State Police Forensic Science Laboratory in Meriden, CT, he has visited thousands of crime scenes and testified in numerous high-profile cases, notably his participation on the O. J. Simpson defense team. He’s also been a consultant on the reinvestigation of the Sacco-Vanzetti affair, the JonBenet Ramsey murder, the John F. Kennedy assassination, and the mystery surrounding Vincent Foster’s death. Available to over three thousand agencies worldwide, he has assisted law enforcement in thousands of cases.

The first step for us was to outline the book and decide who was doing what. The cases came directly from Lee and Pagliaro’s reports, and I was happy that Elaine intended to write the technical stuff. I was more interested in forensic history and case analysis, especially the notes from the infamous wood chipper case and the investigation of serial killer, Michael Ross, who’d created such havoc in Connecticut when he elected to move forward with his execution.

Lee and I outlined the contents and he looked for photos and charts while Elaine and I filled in content. One of my projects was to visit the Henry C. Lee Institute to observer their forensic science program. I do a hands-on investigation course, myself, with a crime scene set-up, but the Institute has a lot more resources. It was no surprise to see that they had an amazing scenario, with an entire apartment laid out for setting up crime scenes. Next to that was a lab for analyzing the evidence, as well as a classroom.

Lee had devised it after he realized how ineffective it was to teach a practical skill with lectures alone. “When we were training students,” he said, “we noticed that it was very difficult for them to get practical experience, so I got the idea to set up an institute that would accept cases from people who could not pay a consultant fee. We charged them only the cost and those cases allowed students to get working experience. It also helps the community.”

While Lee appears to be a Jack-of-all-trades where forensic science is concerned, he got his start as a police officer and investigator, and then became a biochemist. His forte is getting the overall picture. “The major area for me is putting the case together,” he told me, “how to reconstruct a crime. Laboratory tests are mostly mechanical; you follow the procedure, you get the result. But how you interpret that result becomes crucial. You have to fit it into the whole case scenario. Sometimes you find DNA and it doesn’t mean a thing. We had a case where the police collected a lot of cigarettes, so we found a lot of DNA on the butts, but how do we know anything about that cigarette butts that people just threw there? It’s a shotgun approach. You pick everything up and hope that one will match your suspect.”

Lee’s mission is to keep improving the quality of crime scene investigation. Among his efforts was to create a decision tree, with which investigators can diagram their reasoning process. “It’s like a living textbook,” Lee stated. “When you look at the history of criminal justice, not only in this country but in foreign countries as well, the problem is that in many cases the crime scene was not handled properly. We lost the window of opportunity and now the crime scene is gone. The physical evidence is was not collected or was collected but improperly. It got contaminated, or deteriorated, or distorted. All of those issues can be avoided. How we can improve that is threefold: through education, good textbooks, and practical experience. Many times, people investigate cases with a shotgun approach—hit and miss. The logic tree approach is the reverse. We have to look at a crime scene first and try to determine what’s the MO, what’s the pattern evidence, and then try to determine what happened, where it happened, how it happened, and when it happened. We have to determine the primary scene and secondary scene, and whether it’s an active scene or passive scene, or an organized scene or disorganized scene. Once you have all of those issues resolved, you develop a hypothesis.”

When I teach forensic science, I’m often surprised that police officers in the class erroneously believe that the scientific method involves forming a theory about what happened at a scene and finding evidence to support it. Lee has noticed this as well: “The problem with most police officers is that they think in real life, you develop theories, like Kojak or Columbo. But nobody has a theory. A theory is something that has to be proven to be correct. We start with a hypothesis, which is based on our experience and training. In other words, you come up with a logical explanation. So we try to teach the students how to develop logical thinking from a hypothesis. Then how you use witness statements and physical evidence to prove or disprove this hypothesis. After it’s been tested and proven, you have a viable theory.”

For gaining experience, the Institute offers courses to professionals from around the world on such things as blood spatter, cold case investigations, and gunshot reconstruction. “We go shoot up a car,” said Lee, “and then let them study the bullet holes in the glass and in the car body, and teach them to use the bullets and casings to determine the shooter’s position and the bullet trajectory. We videotape them and then show them the original videotape that shows how we shot the car. They then learn from that how they made mistakes.”

Lee emphasizes that crime scenes are unique: “It’s like a human face: very individual, all different, but all humans have hands, arms, and legs. So you can approach a crime scene with a general principle. As long as you follow that principle, you will not make basic mistakes. Then you learn the specifics. Each type of crime scene-a rape or homicide scene or contract killing—all those specifics mean we handle it as a special type of case. You develop this through years of experience because the more you see, the more you learn; the more mistakes you make, the less mistakes you make in the future. The best way to avoid mistakes is to learn how others made mistakes. Then you don’t make your own mistake.”

Dr. Lee once taught a class for me, offering advice to aspiring forensic scientists:
“I come to this country with only $50 in my pocket. I didn’t speak English. This country provided the opportunity for me to learn to grow. It’s the only country in the world where if you work hard, you can prove yourself. The forensic field is not lucrative. You cannot become wealthy. If you want to be challenged, it’s the right field. But you have to have a good science background. You also have to learn to use deductive and inductive logic. You need to have curiosity. You can’t have an 8-to-4 attitude. I never have a day where I go home at 4:00. You have to have that persistence. Then you need an attitude, that you do your best. Win, lose, draw, you don’t care. Don’t let public opinion pressure you. Don’t let the police pressure you. Don’t let anything pressure you to do something unethical. Then you can survive and become one of the best forensic scientists.”

I’m proud of the work we did to produce The Real World of a Forensic Scientists and I hope it’s useful to students and experienced professionals alike.

*This book is a favorite of The Graveyard Shift. I have a copy and it is fantastic. You can find a copy here.


International Festival of Falconry at the Englefield Estate, England


My friend, Paul Beecroft, a Coroner’s Officer employed by the Thames Valley England Police, has generously invited us to join him on a visit to the Second International Festival of Falconry. The festivities were held at the Englefield Estate on the outskirts of Reading in England. This is the home of Sir Richard Benyon.

On the 11th & 12th July, falconers from all over the world – over 50 nations – joined together to celebrate what is perhaps the oldest of field sport dating back thousands of years. From the Steppes of Russia to New Zealand, China, Europe, UAE and America.

Parade of Nations

Falconers traveled thousands of miles bringing with them their traditions, culture and music.

Front page of the programme.

There were a number of dignitaries there one of which was Prince Andrew.

Prince Andrew with Gyr Falcon.

Many were in traditional dress or dressed from bygone days. The event was colourful and spectacular.

Korean Faloconers.

Henry VIII

Peregrine Falcon

Black Eagle

Russian Falconer

Austrian Falconer

Turkmenistan Falconers

83 year-old Turkmenistan Falconer

American Falconer

Friday's Heroes - Remembering the fallen officers

Officer Michael Davey, 34

Weymouth Massachusetts Police Department

Officer Michael Davey was directing traffic at a construction site on August 24, 2009, when he was struck and killed by a motorist. He leaves behind his wife, three children, two brothers, and parents.

*Thanks to ODMP

Sandy Russell

Hi, I’m Sandy Russell, a Private Investigator licensed in the State of North Carolina. I traveled along a very interesting path in order to get to this place in my life. I was always somewhat of a “tomboy.” I loved to to do anything as long as it was outdoors. I grew up on a small plot of land just outside of Greensboro, NC. I loved horses, so my mom bought me one when I was about 6 years old. I would ride from the time I got out of bed in the morning until just before dark. Those were the days when a child could take off and be gone all day and the parent had nothing to fear, well except for my mom. She never knew when I was going to come home with a stray dog or cat, sometimes something more unusual. But, she did know I would be home safe and sound.

I was married before graduating high school and fell into a life as wife and mother and not much more. That is until one day I was scanning the newspaper for a part-time job. I saw where the Belk Department Store at a local mall was hiring a part-time loss prevention officer. I applied and believe it or not they hired me, just like that. No experience, no background in anything really. It turned out to be a full time job and I caught the fever.

A few years later I was hired as a police officer at a local UNC school. They gave me uniforms and a gun. Wow! They wouldn’t let me drive the patrol car because the insurance didn’t cover me until I had attended “rookie school.” Did you catch that? I couldn’t drive a car, but they gave me a gun. I had been driving for about 12 years but had never shot a weapon. How cool is that?

I stayed there a few years and then was hired as a Deputy Sheriff. That is where I really found my passion. That was still during the time where women were a rarity in law enforcement. I was promoted after a few years, first to the rank of Corporal, then Sergeant, and finally Lieutenant. I was the first female in the history of the department to hold a supervisory position in the field. Articles were written about me in the local newspapers and probably had a lot to do with what happened next. As luck would have it, my luck ran out, and a new Sheriff was elected. And in the South that means a few key people had to vacate their positions and find work elsewhere. I was one of those.

I got lucky and was hired by a high security printing company out of New York to provide on premise security. We printed postage stamps, treasury checks, U.S. Visas and social security cards to name a few. My job was to turn this building into a mini Fort Knox, well sort of. Our clients that I mentioned above were very particular about the security of their products. Our perimeter was fenced; we had a 24 hour security staff. Our buildings were secured with electronic devices that I had never heard of prior to coming to this job. Cameras were everywhere. Our officers were even enclosed in a bullet proof office. The joke was always that no one could ever shoot one of us, but we couldn’t shoot them either.

North Carolina allows private companies that meet certain criteria to develop their own police departments. So, I decided to establish a Company Police Department within this company. It turned out to be a great marketing tool from a secure environment standpoint. So, now I was a Chief of Police. My department was larger than some public police departments in NC.

During this time I decided to run for Sheriff of the same department where I had worked and been eliminated. I made a pretty good showing, but as you can see, I am a PI, not the sheriff. So you guessed right if you thought maybe I lost that election. Well, here I am today, eight years or so later. I am a Private Investigator with my own company, CornerStone Investigations, but I am also a wife, a mother and a grandmother and loving every minute of it.

Private investigations have come a long way just in my lifetime. I sometimes watch the old movies where the wife comes into the smoke filled office of the man she is going to hire to follow her husband. He sits behind an old desk, feet kicked up, smoking a stub of a cigar. She sits gingerly, somewhat timid, across from him with a tissue in hand.

Today the smoke filled room is a thing of the past. And, more than ever there is a woman sitting behind that desk. I have been a Private Investigator in North Carolina for 8 years. To get my license I was subjected to an extensive background investigation and then I had to go before the Regulatory Board to be interviewed. After two meetings I was officially a “PI.”

PI’s in NC perform a wide range of investigations. Of course the old standby, domestic situations is almost always the main staple of our diet. But, we do get to do more interesting things like, murder investigations; missing persons; nursing home abuse; skip tracing; serving civil papers; executive protection and lots of other dangerous things.

Here is one example of a case I was involved in. It was my first case and was almost a flashback to the smoke filled room and the man with the cigar. Of course he was the client, not the PI. It turns out we had a mutual friend who recommended my services to him. When I arrived he was shocked to see that I was a woman. Turns out that he was an elderly gentleman whose wife had been receiving harassing phone calls. The language that was being used was crude and he and his wife were shocked by it. The common link seemed to be that the calls always came in just after he left the residence, leaving his wife alone. They called two to three times in a row. She told them how mean and ugly they were being and asked them if their mother was aware of their behavior. The husband had placed a device on his phone so that he could record the caller in case it was needed as evidence.

When I asked to listen to the recording he hesitated and then said, “I can’t let you listen to that, you’re a lady!” I then asked him, “Has your wife heard it?” He got the hint and turned over the recording to me. I respected him enough to listen to the tape outside of his earshot. I’m sure he would have been totally embarrassed otherwise. We had to report the calls to the police so that the phone company could trace the calls as they came in.

On my first day I suggested that I stay in the house with his wife while he went to play golf. My car was parked a few blocks away. Almost as quickly as he left, the phone rang. The wife answered it after a few rings. I picked up the extension at the same time. The caller proceeded to say things that brought red even to my cheeks. I motioned for her to hang up without speaking. The phone rang yet another time. Same caller, same type of language. She hung up. Suddenly I heard giggling and swearing outside. The phone rang one more time. I motioned for her to answer it while I slipped out the side door of the house. I slid in behind the shrubbery and made my way around the house. A window was open near where the wife was. I could hear her trying to shame the caller into some type of repentance. Just before I got to the corner of the house I realized from the stinging on my face that I had run into the middle of a yellow jacket convention of some type. I came out of the bushes jumping and screaming.

Before I realized it I was standing in front of two teenage boys using a cell phone to harass this nice old lady. Working in my favor was the jumping and screaming that came naturally to me because of the bee stings. The boys dropped the cell phone and started yelling for me not to shoot. Needless to say, I didn’t shoot them but I did call the police who came and arrested them for trespassing and harassing phone calls. It turned out that the boys lived a few blocks away and were no strangers to trouble. The police found several other misdemeanor warrants on them.

I went back not realizing that my hair was a mess. I had a couple of stings on my face, including one on my lip. What a sight I must have been. The lady then fixed me some ice water and mixed up some concoction and put it on my stings. I was relieved because the stinging was subsiding. She was relieved because the harassment was now over and her husband who had come home just after the police arrived was relieved because his wife was safe.

He shook my hand and told me he appreciated everything I had done for them. He said he was still a little embarrassed, and I was glad to hear it. I guess chivalry is alive after all.

In the end, the boys were convicted and sentenced, their family moved away from the neighborhood. The exterminator was called and the bees left the area too.

Addie J. King

Addie J. King spends her days as an assistant prosecutor for Champaign County, Ohio, and has over seven years experience as a prosecutor handling adult felonies, misdemeanors, juvenile delinquency cases and appellate work. She holds a degree in criminal justice from Ohio Northern University and a law degree from the University of Dayton School of Law. She spends her spare time reading, writing fiction, playing softball, and trying to wean herself from home improvement shows, cooking shows, and videogames.

The Life of a Prosecutor

What’s it like to be a prosecutor? It’s hard to explain; it’s exciting, it’s heart-breaking, and it’s satisfying. Most people think they get it, but, like most things in life, there’s much more to the story than you get in a one hour television show.

It’s not a nine to five job.
I come in early just about every day. Most days involve paperwork over my lunch hour. While I have nights that I leave when the courthouse closes, many involve staying late or taking work home. If necessary, I come in on weekends, and law enforcement has my cell phone number. I once took a call from an officer with a question while I was standing on a ladder painting my living room on a Saturday afternoon.

Even if you leave it behind to go do other things, it’s hard sometimes to completely ignore it. I’ve lain awake at night running arguments and strategy through my head before a big hearing. I once spent a Sunday afternoon driving by myself, talking aloud through an argument for an upcoming trial. Of course, I had to run to work to type it all up and file it away before I went home.

Much like law enforcement, we have to learn to shut it off.

Many cases involve concerns over someone’s safety; I’ve had cases where people are concerned for violence but also cases where someone might be suicidal, or could overdose on drugs. I’ve learned more than I wanted to know about sex abuse and incest, especially involving children. I have to shut it off when I walk out of the office, or I would brick up my two year old nephew in an ivory tower where no one could ever go near him. That’s also why law enforcement officers and prosecutors sometimes have an interesting sense of humor. They have to, in order to deal with the things they see on a regular basis.

I wish I didn’t know some of these things. Even so, I’m glad I’m doing this job. I hope that, while I’m trying to find the truth, I can make it just a little less intimidating or frightening to someone who has already been traumatized once. For that, I’m okay with being a little less naïve than I’d like to be.

I’m not getting rich.
Lawyers accumulate massive student loan debt getting through college and law school. It’s rare for someone to make it all the way through seven years of higher education without student loans of some kind. Prosecutors don’t make a lot of money. We don’t get overtime. We have state employee benefits, which are nice, but the salary is nothing compared to what could be made in private practice. This means that many prosecutors work for more than the paycheck, which is further reduced by the big student loan payment. We’re not buying Armani suits; Target sells suits for much less.

I’m not college-student broke; I’ve got a middle class income. After seven years as a prosecutor, I have a decent house, car, and a retirement account. It’s livable. But I’m not rolling in the cash. I don’t have a vacation home. I’m not traveling the world. I shop for bargains on suits, clip coupons, and otherwise watch my money. Right now, I’m writing on a four year old laptop and watching a fourteen year old television. Sooner or later, I’ll have the cash to upgrade, but I love my job, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. Just don’t offer me a trade while I’m writing the check for my student loan payment for the month. I might be tempted then.

My job isn’t to represent the victim; it’s to seek truth.
I try to make the whole process easier for someone who’s already been a victim of crime, but there’s only so much I can do. It’s a rough process, but I’m not their lawyer. I can prepare them for the whole process. I can tell them my opinion of the case, with all of its strengths and weaknesses, but I represent the State of Ohio. Society has a larger interest than individual victims do. There have been cases where a victim doesn’t want to press charges, though the state goes forward anyway because it’s in the interest of everyone to do so. It’s in the interest of all society to stop violence, despite one person’s reluctance to go forward. That doesn’t mean I ignore a victim; they have to live with the outcome. It does, however, mean that my office, not the victim, makes the final determination as to resolving cases, litigating cases, and trial strategy.

It also means that, from time to time, I have to sit down with a victim and be honest about their case, their expectations, and their testimony. My goal isn’t to make them happy. It’s to figure out what happened, protect society, and protect them if appropriate. I would much rather a defense attorney let me know if there’s information I don’t have rather than waiting until trial, because then I can try to find out if there’s merit to it, and how it impacts my case, the victim, and the interests of the State. I like trials, but not every case should go to trial, and it makes life easier for the judge, the attorneys, the victim, and the defendant if everyone knows what’s going on. There might be a reasonable solution, and going to trial is always a risk.

Jury trials are cool, but they’re stressful, and the job isn’t just being in court all day.
There’s a ton of paperwork. Being in court all day means less time that paperwork gets done. Discovery requests, responses to motions, filing, emails, reviewing police reports and returning phone calls take up a lot of time. I’d much rather be in court than doing paperwork, but then I’m behind on getting things done.

Jury trials are also stressful. They aren’t just stressful because of the work, but because of what’s on the line. Getting an acquittal (not guilty) in a big case is heartbreaking, especially with the time, effort, and energy that go into them. A prosecutor shouldn’t go to trial unless they have a reasonable belief that a crime has occurred, so failing to convict is frustrating.

Obtaining a conviction (guilty) is a good feeling, but I do have sympathy for the defendant’s family for the truth that they now face, or the hardships they’ll endure because a loved one is in prison. That person’s family will forever be changed.

On the other hand, nothing changes the fact that these bad things have happened to someone. You can’t un-rape someone. A conviction doesn’t mean that someone will come back to life after they’ve been murdered. It’s a humbling feeling that no matter the outcome, nothing fixes what’s been done.

There are cases I’ll never forget. There are people I couldn’t forget if I tried. Prosecutors aren’t saints, but hopefully they’re in their jobs because they have some belief in what they’re doing. It’s an exciting job and no two days are ever the same.

Senator Charles Schumer, one of four senators who introduced legislation to ban texting while driving, says studies show it’s more deadly to text while driving than it is to drive when intoxicated.



Longs rows. Rows as far as the eye can see.

Red clay.

August sun.

Heat. Unbearable heat.


Men sweat like rain.

Bending. Pulling leaves.

Sunup to sundown.

Bottom of stalks.

Pulling leaves as large as palm fronds.


Goo between fingers.

Green worms like undulating fingers.


Wagons. Heavy. Laden with piles of waxy leaves.


Muscles straining.

Hooves dig into orange soil.

Hazy sky.

Bending. Bending. Bending.

Tired, so tired.

Foreman pushing.

Move! Move! Move!

Water from bucket.

No shade.

Tired eyes gaze at horizon.

Endless fields.

Sun high in sky.



Long sleeve shirts and straw hats.


Skin glistening.

Hands calloused like old leather.

Bending, pulling.

Loading wagons.

Almost dark.

To the barns.

Tie leaves.

Fingers cramping. Stinging.

Hang bundles.


Black snake slithering at feet.


No time to worry.

Tomorrow’s coming.


Friday's Heroes - Remembering the fallen officers


Agent Jorge Sanchez-Santiago, 37

Puerto Rico Police Department

Agent Jorge Sanchez-Santiago was shot and killed on August 16, 2009, while transporting a prisoner to the jail. During a struggle the prisoner took the officer’s weapon and shot Agent Sanchez-Santiago once in the head. The officer is survived by his wife and children.

Deputy Sheriff Stephen (Mike) Gallagher, 34

Lewis County Washington Sheriff’s Office

Deputy Mike Gallagher died on August 18, 2009 from inuries he received in an automobile accident the previous night. He was responding to assist another deputty when his patrol car struck an elk and then crashed into a shed and utility pole. Deputy Gallagher leaves behind a wife and two small children.

Corporal Mike Roberts, 38

Tampa Florida Police Department

Corporal Mike Roberts was shot and killed while questioning a suspicious person pushing a shopping cart – a shopping cart that contained a hidden rifle and three handguns. Corporal Roberts is survived by his wife and three-year-old son.

*Thanks to ODMP

Dr. Michael Stone, the host of Discovery’s “Most Evil” is a professor of clinical psychiatry at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. The author of ten books, he has recently published “The Anatomy of Evil” with Prometheus. Known for his 22-category scale of evil, Dr. Stone agreed to answer some questions about his work, posed by Katherine Ramsland. “Most Evil” can now be seen on Investigation Discovery.

The Faces of Evil:

An Interview With Dr. Michael Stone by Dr. Katherine Ramsland

Dr. Stone, you’ve written a comprehensive account of the world’s most evil people and evil acts, taking into account many factors. You probably have the world’s largest collection of biographies of killers. How did you decide on the criteria for dividing evil acts into 22 categories along a scale?

I used my responses to the different murders and other violent crimes I read about – mostly from true crime biographies – as my yardstick for creating the scale. I tried to rank the various crimes and criminals according to how horrific and shocking they were, and according to the level of suffering that their acts imposed on the victims. After reading some hundred or so such books, I ended up with 22 categories. I anchored the scale to a “zero” point, where there was no evil at all: that was for “justified homicide.” That was my Category #1. Then came crimes of passion: that was the first level of Evil: Category

#2. At the opposite end: murder after prolonged torture of the most heinous type (or even torture of that sort without murder). That was level #22. Now that I’ve read almost 700 such books and have interviewed violent criminals in many places, I still use that scale, though there are a few who are difficult to place in a precise way.

How might the scale of evil assist the justice system?

I didn’t create the scale to be a guide for judges in court, though I can see how there might be some utility. In states that use the death penalty, for example, I would want to see that punishment reserved for the truly depraved torturers (like Noel Dorbal, currently on Death Row in Florida), and not for crimes of passion where the killer happens to kill several people at once (as in the case of Wayne Coy Wesbrooke who killed his ex-wife when she invited him for a “reconciliation”: she was giving sex to two men at once, and two others in the front room were making fun of Wayne. Wayne being a good Texan, he went to his truck, got his rifle, and blew all five away. Because there were so many bodies, even Texas couldn’t look the other way, so they put him on Death Row – and then gave him a stay of execution). My point: capital punishment is currently used rather indiscriminately, and should be thought of only for the most heinous crimes – and then only where the evidence is at the level of 100% proof.

You just published “The Anatomy of Evil.” Such a writing process demands a great deal of immersion in horrific acts and dark personalities. Was the book difficult to write? Did you have a way to refocus on lighter subjects?

Immersion in horrific acts and dark personalities of course often generates disgust (as in the case of John Evander Couey in Florida, who raped a 6-year-old-girl and then buried her alive), but I can’t say it made writing the book more difficult. If anything, it gave a sense of urgency to the writing: here is something the public needs to know and think about. As for refocusing on the lighter side, my wife and I go to the theater or the opera about twice a week, and try to arrange dinner dates with our friends – so that on balance, we spend a lot more time being exposed (if that is the right word) to very lovely people than to these ugly museum-pieces – rarities, after all – about whom I was writing.

You have interviewed or read about many extremely violent killers. Does any one of them stand out in some way?

As to who stood out among all the violent killers I studied and interviewed, there are several “stand-outs”: David Parker Ray (of the New Mexico torture-house he created, that he called his Toy Box), Leonard Lake (and his California torture-house), and John Ray Weber in Wisconsin, who tortured his young sister-in-law in ways that my editor would not let me describe in print, and that I can’t speak about in detail on the radio.

Did any of them surprise you?

As for surprises, yes – I was surprised by Tommy Lynn Sells, on Death Row in Texas. I assumed I’d hate him and want to pull the switch on him myself. But when I interviewed him, I was struck by his candor and openness about his dreadful childhood and about the terrible crimes he committed, since he was willing to explain to me how his crimes gave him a (temporary) surcease from the rageful and vengeful feelings he had stored up over the years because of his maltreatment. So I ended up with some respect and sympathy for him.
Did any of them, after talking with you, seek more extensive contact as a result of trusting you?

Several of the prisoners I interviewed sought more contact with me afterwards: Tommy Lynn Sells and I continue to exchange letters; I published at the end of my book part of the poem Dennis Nilsen sent me in one of his letters; I also received a letter from Wesbrook, whose stay of execution may have stemmed in part from the many letters the prison received after my show – expressing sympathy for Wayne (and for which he was grateful).

Who among them would you most want to study more in depth?

I would have wanted to study Diana Dial, whom I interviewed in Texas: she was a very intelligent, educated woman who became lastingly psychotic “post-partum” after her third child. She killed her landlord, thinking he was trying to poison her and that he was part of the plot hatched by the Nazis and the Kennedys (the Kennedys???) to take over our country. I asked the warden if it’d be possible to do a functional MRI on her, to see what parts of her brain responded to various types of questions – but of course there was, as I was told, no money for that kind of research in the prison. I would have wanted to study the cannibal I interviewed in Montana, especially when I discovered (by studying all the cannibals I could find in the literature and from the internet) that half the cannibals were gay (as was the one in Montana). We all say of our babies: he or she is so cute, “I could eat him up” or “I could eat her up.” But we don’t. The cannibals do. Why? I haven’t a clue.

Do you find anything consistent in the childhood development of narcissism in the psychopathic killers?

As for the childhood development of narcissistic/psychopathic killers, many had been treated with either brutality or neglect (or both) by their parents – which seems to have some explanatory value. But more intriguing are the ones brought up in normal families, especially the adoptees adopted by normal families (like serial killer Gerald Stano or Lawrence Bittaker – with whom I correspond). Clearly, there is a strong genetic component to psychopathy, such that some psychopaths, even though never abused or neglected, go on to commit horrific crimes – thanks in part to their congenital deficiency in compassion.

You have also studied a long history of philosophical issues involved in pondering evil. Has this supplemented your psychiatric analysis of the subject?

My study of what philosophers and theologians have had to say about evil, spanning the past three thousand years, has taught me that they almost never get down to real cases. Instead they speak of evil in the abstract as if it were some supernatural force that gets somehow instilled in certain persons, as if against their will. “The Devil got into me, and made me do it!” I don’t think we can think constructively about evil until we get away from that abstract way of looking at the problem – and realize that “evil” is, if anything, a reaction – the word we use – when we hear of or witness an act of breathtaking cruelty or wickedness. So I’m interested in what Augustine, and St Thomas, and Maimonides, and Spinoza, and Descartes, and Kant, and Hegel, and Kierkegaard had to say on the subject – but I always find myself thinking: you guys never stood over the site where a girl-child had been raped and buried alive, and was now dug up; you weren’t there when Susan Atkins (Manson’s devotee) stabbed to death actress Sharon Tate, yelling at her: Die, bitch!! – so you don’t know about evil firsthand; you don’t know it has nothing to do with God, and everything to do with Man…

What kind of person, having committed evil acts, is still salvageable?

The kind of person who has committed an act that the public regards as evil – may yet be salvageable if he or she can experience genuine remorse for the act, turns out not to be a psychopath, and shows other characteristics of being able to conduct himself as a decent law-abiding citizen. Examples: Wayne Wesbrook, that I mentioned; Ron Luff, the devout Mormon who got mesmerized by Jeff Lundgren – the psychopathic cult leader in Ohio, who got Ron to help him kill the five members of the Avery family, when the father no longer trusted Lundgren. A very decent and remorseful man when I interviewed him in Chillicothe prison in Ohio: he had already served 17 years of a 170 year sentence, but I would definitely say he is salvageable and I would welcome him in my home. Susan Wright, who stabbed her husband to death after he had abused her physically repeatedly, cheated on her, and given her a sexually transmitted disease – is salvageable. James Cahill III who tried to kill his wife with a baseball bat (envious of her much greater social/financial success) and then, when she lay recovering in the hospital – sneaked in, wearing a wig and a janitor’s uniform, and injected her with cyanide (thus finishing his job) – is not salvageable. If you’re in the presence of psychopathy and wondering about salvageability, the key word is (in Brooklynese) fugeddabottit!.

Anatomy of Evil by Dr. Michael Stone

Dr. Katherine Ramsland has published 35 books and over 900 articles, and is the chair of Social Sciences at DeSales University, where she teaches about forensic psychology, profiling, serial murder, and forensic science.  Her latest book is The Real World of a Forensic Scientist, with and about Henry C. Lee.

Please check back next week when I interview Dr. Ramsland about her project with Dr. Henry Lee.

Wacky Police News


Strike Three – Two Honolulu, Hawaii police officers were recently arrested in Las Vegas for possession of marijuana. The officers, Kevin Fujioka, a seasoned officer of 13 years, and Shayne Souza, a 20 year veteran, were in town for a police and firefighter softball tournament when they were nabbed by their peers.


When approached by the Vegas cops the off-duty offenders sped off in their white van, leading the local boys in blue on a short pursuit. Fujioka was charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of a narcotic. Souza was also charged with resisting arrest. He was also on the receiving end of a blast of pepper spray during his attempt to resist. It’s not known if the Hawaii department will be invited to return for the 2010 games.

Boo Hoo – A child began to cry while riding a mall carousel. The ride operator then attempted to pacify the distraught child, but an off-duty Chicago police officer had a better solution. He lifted his shirt and displayed his pistol to the employee and said, “Do you want me to take care of the problem for you?”

The officer failed to identify himself as a police officer and that he was joking. So…the ride operator called the police, who promptly arrested the gun-brandisher. The incident is currently under investigation by Internal Affairs. Oh, the off-duty knucklehead was riding a carousel dolphin at the time of the offense.

Reach For The Sky, Rover – A task force consisting of FBI, DEA, LAPD, and the LASD raided a California medical marijuana growing operation. During the raid officers arrested the owner, detained patients, and employees. They used sledgehammers to break sheetrock, searching the interior of the walls for cash and other evidence. Officers also shot the business owner’s dog. The activity took place beneath the watchful eye of police air support.


Move Over Soccer Mom, Tazer Moms Are Taking Over – A New York police officer deployed his Taser on a young woman while her kids sat in the car watching. The officer stopped the female driver for talking on her cell phone. She says she wasn’t using a phone and can prove it. The officer then stated the woman was speeding, another offense she denies.

The woman, anxious to express her feelings about the situation, and to hopefully see the video, got our of her van. The officer ordered her back inside. She climbed back into her vehicle and then he ordered her out, grabbing her arm. After pulling the woman outside, the officer fired his Taser, twice.


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* Congratulations to our good friend and loyal GYS reader, Janet Irvin. Janet recently sold a story to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Janet was also the winner of one of our short story contests that was judged by literary agent, Verna Dreisbach.