Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Criminal Profiling Topic of the Day: How to Get Labeled a Psychopath

Sometimes when I am doing crime commentary on one of the network news shows, the host will toss out, “So you are a criminal profiler, Pat Brown, what kind of guy do you think this is?” I am being asked to label a person of interest in psychological terms based on his behaviors and at times I have identified that individual as a psychopath. In fact, I have been accused by some of tossing this label out awfully quickly without the benefit of doing a clinical analysis. These critics would be right. I have made a determination in a matter of minutes. But, truthfully folks, sometimes it doesn’t take that long to figure out what kind of character we are dealing with. Take the case of missing Michigan wife, Tara Lynn Grant, who disappeared on February 9, 2007. Her husband, Steven Grant, claims his wife returned from a business trip that day and then around 11 PM that evening, he overheard her talk to someone on the telephone and then he sees her walk out of the house and get in a dark-colored sedan. She hasn't been heard from since.

Steve Grant doesn’t bother to report his beloved wife and mother of his two young children missing for five days. He claims he wasn’t worried. He figured she would show back up. Meanwhile, he has been spending time emailing an ex-girlfriend and saying how he would like her to give him a sponge bath and do a naked modeling session with him. During those emails he notes how he “doesn’t care about being married” probably due to “that no conscience thing” he has and how marriage is like speed limits; meant to be broken and the only issue is to not get caught.

The police check into that phone call his wife supposedly made and to no one’s surprise neither her cell phone or home phone records have any phone call made at the time hubby claims he overheard her conversation. Since Tara disappeared, her cell phone and credit cards remain unused. Meanwhile, Grant refuses to turn over the home computer because he probably has a lot of incriminating behavioral evidence (I am guessing lots of pornography and emails as he was likely trolling the net for sex - the stuff he wrote to the ex-girlfriend is predator language).

So, while this criminal profiler cannot say Steve Grant is a psychopath, I will copy the language style of the Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel who said Grant isn’t a suspect but his behavior is “suspect.” Steven Grant may not be a psychopath but he sure behaves like a psychopath. He claims he has no conscious which is a hallmark of psychopathy, he doesn’t care if he breaks rules, he lies, he manipulates, and he has a lack of affect and a lack of empathy, all more signs of being a psychopath. So, if Steve Grant isn’t a psychopath, he is doing a fine job imitating the behaviors of one. Grant is whining that he is being over focused on as a suspect in his wife’s disappearance. Well, tough luck, Steve. If you don’t want to be a suspect in a crime, don’t act so suspicious. Oh, wait, I forgot. Blaming others is yet another behavior of a psychopath. Keep racking ‘em up, Steven!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Criminal Profiling Topic of the Day: “DNA Evidence”

Almost everyone is familiar with the term “DNA evidence” used in criminal investigations. But just what is DNA, and why is it used for evidence?

DNA is found in the cells of every living thing. In humans, a DNA molecule contains 23 pairs of chromosomes. One chromosome from each pair comes from your mother, and the other comes from your father. Because no two individuals’ DNA is exactly alike (except for identical twins), it can be used to identify perpetrators and victims of a crime, and it can link them to each other or to a specific crime scene. DNA extracted from the cells of blood, body fluids such as saliva or semen, or tissue are some of the samples that can be used for identification of an individual. Since a single piece of DNA is too small to be analyzed, a process called Polymerase Chain Reaction, or PCR, allows us to make enough exact copies of the same piece or sequence of DNA until we have a sample large enough to identify the person it came from. This is referred to as DNA amplification and output analysis.

In PCR DNA amplification, several types of materials and equipment are necessary to copy a specific segment of DNA. In the first step, a DNA mixture is created by adding materials to the extracted DNA and applying heat to unwind and separate the two strands of the ladder like structure of the DNA double helix. The “rungs” of the ladder are complimentary paired together in a sequence unique to only that particular piece of DNA so that each strand then becomes a template used to make an exact copy of its matching strand. Approximately 3 million base pairs of DNA vary from person to person. The remaining steps consist of heating, cooling, and adding enzymes and other materials to the DNA mixture in order to synthesize the correct complimentary base pairs, creating a new corresponding strand that will bind with each of the original separated strands. This cycle is repeated approximately 30 times with each cycle doubling the number of template DNA produced from the previous cycle. Now there is enough DNA in the PCR output to examine and identify as belonging to a specific person. This is done by injecting the amplified DNA into small wells containing a special gel and applying electrical current. This causes the DNA fragments to be separated by size, which forms distinctive bands on the gel. The exact sequence of the bands produced by PCR from the target DNA is then compared to the DNA sequence extracted from a separate sample known to belong to a particular person.
Besides the valuable contribution DNA amplification and output analysis has made to forensic science, it is responsible for significant advances in other scientific areas as well, such as to diagnose inherited disorders, treat disease, and genetically modify crops.

Donna Weaver

Monday, February 26, 2007

Criminal Profiling Topic of the Day: The CSI Effect

The CSI Effect: A Serious Distortion of Reality

I was reading my readers’ comments the other day as any author will do, enjoying a sense of pride when I get kudos and praise, and wincing when I am called an idiot or a moron - or worse, a fraud. Good and bad, these opinions are par for the course when you are in the public eye. However, some of the anger was directed at my supposed lack of competence based on what folks are “learning” from fictionalized television (and this includes “true crime” and “forensic” shows like Body of Evidence and I, Detective). The result of viewers believing what they are watching is called the “CSI Effect,” and these misperceptions gleaned from television are having an influence on how we think crimes are committed and solved. Take for instance, one comment a reader of my book, Killing for Sport, made about a television appearance in which I said that the killer was in a hurry to get home and wash his clothes: “Anyone who watches Forensic Files or CSI knows that all blood does not wash off and can also leave traces in the sink, pipes, washing machine.” This led this woman to conclude that Pat Brown “knows less than the average person on the street” and that she is a “con artist.”

The lady has half her information correct; CSI does teach its viewers that washing your clothes, even with bleach, is not a sure-fire methodology of removing all biological evidence. Advanced DNA techniques indeed may find DNA even after materials have gone through the wash cycle and because of this, more criminals today have chosen to burn their clothes after committing a violent crime. On the other hand, an awful lot of DNA does get destroyed with soap and bleach and the tests may come back inconclusive, so if you haven’t got a faraway dumpster to lose the clothes in or a match handy, washing the items may not be such a bad idea.

With DNA, are you familiar with other chemicals that destroy DNA? YES. What are they? HEAT, LIGHT, UV LIGHT, HIGH HUMIDITY, DIRT, SOAPS, BLEACH. Is it protocol to clean the work area with bleach so it doesn’t contaminate the area? YES.


Furthermore, not all criminals are all that smart and many are not even worried about DNA testing. Some still do go home and wash their clothes. Why? Because their first concern is not whether all the blood will wash out to the point that DNA cannot be detected but that it washes out well enough that their mother or their wife or their girlfriend can’t see the blood on it.

Here is a bit from the story of serial killer Joe Kondro:

By then, the killer had covered his tracks. He had washed his clothes, showered, and thrown away his shoes. Police searched his home and questioned him, but came away empty-handed. “I knew they didn't have any solid evidence," he says. "I knew they didn't have a body.”


In other words, if the police don’t see anything terribly wrong, they aren’t going to be able to get a search warrant and tote your stuff to the lab. Even if they can get a search warrant, not all police detectives do the job as thoroughly and cleverly as CSI would have one believe. From a trial transcript we have this exchange:

Did you see the washing machine? YES. Look in the machine? YES THERE WAS A LOAD OF LAUNDRY. Did you do any test on the laundry? I DON’T RECALL. Did you and Agent Lewis discuss testing the laundry? I THINK SO. I DON’T RECALL IF WE DID A TEST ON LAUNDRY.


So, washing your bloody clothes may be good enough. The detective may ignore the washed clothes because there are piles and piles of them or because they were washed and then put back with all the other clothes in the closet. It isn’t so easy figuring what is worth taking and what tests you can make the lab do. “Hey, guys, I have fifty shirts and thirty pairs of pants I need you to luminal for blood” …Real life, folks, real choices. This holds true for both the cops and the killers………because life isn’t a television show. Life doesn’t have script writers and editors making sure everything is brilliant and wrapped up by the end of a thirty or sixty minute time frame. Don’t believe everything you see on the box. Shows are made to be fun and interesting and sell advertising; the producers aren’t overly concerned that the contents are accurate or conveyed in a totally truthful manner…………because a television show isn’t life.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Criminal Profiling Topic of the Day: Judging Larry

I agree with you, Pat, on the questionable morality of the individuals involved in the life and death of Anna Nicole Smith. From what is known so far regarding her physical condition and a fever of 105 just before she died (according to the statement made by her bodyguard), and because of the suspected cause of her son’s recent death, I also agree that this death should be approached as a criminal investigation. It will be no easy task to uncover the facts in this case for even the most experienced of investigators.

“Live by the sword, die by the sword” may to some extent, explain how Anna Nicole Smith's death has become as much a mockery as her life was. It’s as if these characters in the legal battles over Anna’s body, her child, and her assets have opportunistically cast themselves in what has virtually become a 24/7 reality TV show. Anna Nicole may not have exhibited much self-respect when she was alive, but this does not justify the actions of others now. Personally, I find the twisted fascination of the media and the viewing public disturbing and offensive, but I am most horrified at the behavior of two persons in particular.

The first is Broward County Circuit Court Judge, Larry Seidlin. Like many others, I believe that Judge Seidlin’s behavior while presiding over this case was, in effect, an audition for the “Judge Larry” show. The inappropriate statements made during last week’s proceedings, such as “this body belongs to me now. For the moment, this body is staying right here.”, and “that baby is in a cold, cold storage room, it’s not decaying so fast. I’m not rushing — we’re gonna spend a lot of time together”, were nothing less than revolting. Then came Thursday’s performance of sobbing in front of the TV cameras as he announced that he wanted Anna Nicole to be buried in the Bahamas along side her recently deceased son, Daniel. Yes ladies and gentlemen, it took six days for Judge Larry to come to this conclusion. I can’t help but wonder how this waste of time and resources must make all of those waiting to be heard in Broward County court feel. It’s been reported that CBS has approached Larry about a possible project. My verdict is that Judge Larry’s “audition” merits the old stage hook, but without the “keep your day job kid”.

The second person I refer to is Virgie Arthur, Anna Nicole’s mother. Perhaps mother is not the right word. I have a hard time believing this woman has ever acted with her daughter’s best interests at heart, because she certainly isn’t doing so now. Her courtroom tears seem about as genuine to me as those of Judge Larry. What kind of mother allows her child’s body to decompose and be the center attraction in a 3-ring circus in front of the whole world, instead of laying her to rest? Furthermore, why did she not fight so energetically to have a loving relationship with her daughter while she was alive? To be fair, I have no idea the true reason why mother and daughter were estranged Still, it should be easy for Virgie to figure out (as it is for anyone else who has turned on their TV in the last 2 weeks) where Anna Nicole would wish to be buried, which is with her son. I feel sad for Vicki Lynn, the little girl who became Anna Nicole Smith. If she was treated and used in life, as she is now in death, by those who were supposed to love and care for her, I wonder if little Vicki Lynn ever had a chance. Most of all, I feel sad for baby Dannielynn, who will only know her mother through the words and actions of others, and she will one day know that these same people fought over her too, with more greed than love.

Donna Weaver

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Profiling Topic of the Day: Anna Nicole Smith and the Flies Buzzing Around Her

Okay, if I have to say something as a criminal profiler about Anna Nicole Smith’s circus and the clowns in the show (the freak of a judge, "woe is me" Larry Seidlin, the creepy "ployfriend" Howard K. Stern, the "obviously I don't know what a condom is", Larry Dickhead - oh, I am sorry, Birkhead - the "now she cares mother-of-the-ho" Virgie Arthur, and Zsa Zsa's "boytoywannabeAnna'snextoldmantoy" Fredric von Anhalt, (take a deep breath) I will. I feel hardly any sympathy for anyone involved. I guess that might make me coldhearted, but if I have to spend my emotional energy feeling sadness for someone, it will be for the innocent victims of crime and war, not for this irresponsible, drug using, manipulative embarrassing representation of the female sex and the equally morally and ethically challenged relatives, friends, lawyers and judges in the ring with her. The only one at this point I feel sorry for is the baby who is no doubt going to be stuck with one of the bozos of Anna Nicole’s bedroom trysts and raised as a sideshow act, albeit a rich sideshow act. Anna Nicole lived a sleazy life and died a sleazy death and she has no one to blame for her choices but herself. She lived the way she wanted and she died the way she expected. Whether by her hand or someone else’s, the old adage “if you live by the sword, you die by the sword” is an appropriate way of viewing Smith's life and death. The only question left standing in my book is a matter of whether a crime has been committed. Now, if one has committed a crime against Anna Nicole and/or her son or dealt drugs to them, then we need to get a killer or drug dealer off the street. I will, I admit, be curious to know what Anna Nicole died from. Her symptoms resemble an overdose of the illegal drug PMA (paramethoxyamphetemine), a deadlier form of Ecstasy popular in the Florida nightclub scene. Taking too much of the stuff will cause an increased heart rate, raised blood pressure, and an escalating body temperature and then the user may have difficulty breathing, start vomiting, run a temperature as high as 108 degrees, go into a coma, and die. Kind of sounds like the last hours of Anna Nicole’s life but we will have to wait and see what the toxicology report has to say.

Criminal Profiling Post of the Day: Psychopathic Corporations

Hey, good news, Donna! I actually got back the $1500 Gold’s Gym stole from my bank account! Of course, the bad news is, there is no penalty, no punishment, for them doing so. Isn’t that a sweet deal for crooked companies? Check this out! A company like Gold’s Gym can simply charge a person’s bank account some outrageous sum (in my case $1500 for personal training services I didn’t sign up for) and if that individual can’t figure out how to fight it, it is theirs to keep. If the person does fight back (and I did through my bank’s so-called fraud unit), they are only required to return the money (some six months later). There are no criminal charges filed against them as the police told me this is purely a civil matter and neither the bank nor VISA even so much as slaps them on the hand. They also are not required to return the money with interest even though they prevented me from having use of that money for months. Good thing I wasn’t a poor student who needed the money for rent or a single mom trying to put food on the table for my kids. I asked my bank, “Isn’t this pretty much the same thing as my walking into a store, shoplifting a television, and if the security tape finally identifies me as the thief half a year later, I won’t be arrested, only required to return the used item? In response, the bank man muttered something unintelligible or unintelligent, I can’t remember which. I told him this was a pretty slick game the bank, VISA, and crooked corporations had going as all of them benefit from this massive consumer fraud. He said something even more stupid. Perhaps this is why Mr. X, as I called him, refused to tell me his last name. He either is embarrassed to be connected with such an organization or fears retaliation from the clients that his bank and their accomplices screw. I guess I could move my money to another bank but I have a feeling there isn’t one out there with a much better set of ethics. Our society seems to have accepted being bilked by corporations and given up the fight against these big fat psychopathic monopolies. Can anyone say Cingular? They tried to rip me off for $5000, but, oh, never mind…..I will leave that rant alone for today. I am feeling too good for having gotten back my $1500 from Gold’s that I don’t won’t to ruin my temporary Pollyanna bliss by reliving my two year fight against the “new AT&T”! I’ll post on that another day.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Criminal Profiling Topic of the Day: "The Departed"


The Departed (Warner Bros., 2006), directed by Martin Scorsese, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and Ray Winstone, is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture, for this year’s upcoming Academy Award ceremony. A remake of the popular Hong Kong crime thriller, Infernal Affairs (Miramax Films, 2002), The Departed is founded on actual events involving the FBI and Boston’s criminal underworld. The character Frank Costello, played by Jack Nicholson is largely based on James "Whitey" Bulger, a real life Irish-American mobster, who was indicted in 1995 on federal racketeering charges but fled just before his arrest, and has been on the FBI’s Most Wanted list ever since. Bulger is also charged with 19 murders. Matt Damon's character, Colin Sullivan, is derived from real life FBI Agent, John Connolly. Connolly is presently serving a 10-year prison sentence, convicted of racketeering charges in 2002 stemming from his relationship with Bulger and his partner, Steve “The Rifleman” Flemmi. Flemmi is currently serving a life sentence for 10 murders. In 2005, the former FBI Agent (pictured here during a recent Miami Court appearance) was himself charged with murder. It is a story about what the U.S. Congress has called “one of the greatest failures in the history of federal law enforcement”.

Head of the FBI's Boston organized crime squad in the late 1970s and early '80s, John Morris supervised agent John Connolly and oversaw the cultivation of Whitey Bulger and Steve Flemmi as confidential informants. Granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony during 1998 federal court hearings in the mishandling of the CIs, Morris confirmed the allegations of FBI misconduct, admitting that he had alerted Flemmi and Bulger to an investigation targeting bookmakers in 1988 and had asked a federal prosecutor to keep them out of a 1979 indictment for fixing horse races. Morris further admitted that he told Connolly about an informant who had implicated Bulger and Flemmi in a murder, fully expecting this valuable tidbit of information would get back to the FBI’s star mobsters. The informant was subsequently murdered. It was further discovered that John Morris accepted $7,000 in payoffs and some wine from Bulger and Flemmi two weeks before coming to South Florida in 1984 to head a Special Administrative Investigation into the criminal activity of another notoriously corrupt former FBI agent, Dan Mitrione, Jr. …Chummy little group.

In May 2005, John Connolly was charged in the 1982 murder of John Callahan, an accountant for World Jai Alai in Miami. Morris and Connolly allegedly supplied information to Bulger regarding Callahan being questioned in the 1981 murder of World Jai Alai's recently deceased owner, Roger Wheeler. Callahan was shot to death, his body, with a dime placed face up on his chest, was found in the trunk of his car parked in a Miami parking lot

As part of Whitey’s plan to branch out in Florida, Callahan had been skimming profits from World Jai Alai. Wheeler suspected Callahan was cooking the books and ordered an audit in 1981. Before the audit was completed, Wheeler was shot and killed. Another retired Boston FBI supervisor and boyhood friend of Whitey Bulger, H. Paul Rico was employed by World Jai Alai as a security consultant at the time. Rico was alleged to have set up the hit on Wheeler, but in Jan. 2004, soon after his indictment for Wheeler’s murder, Rico died in prison just days before his trial. The triggerman employed by Bulger in the Callahan and Wheeler murders was Winter Hill Gang hit man, John Martorano.

Unfortunately, the mishandling of confidential informants in Boston is a cancer that has grown untreated within the FBI for more than thirty years. I am not suggesting that all FBI agents are like Connolly, Morris, Rico, et al; because they are not- I even met a good one once. However, there are more allegations of misconduct in related cases in other areas of the country. But that’s a story for another time. For now, it is time for the DOJ to acknowledge the existence of this cancer, and its consequences. To say they need to do much better is an understatement, but the only way to do better is to figure out what you did wrong.

Hats off to Mr. Scorsese and the brilliant performances by the cast of The Departed for helping to further public awareness, and hopefully, inspire public outrage. For the truth is, our leaders, protectors, and others in positions of public service are only as honest, accountable, and deserving of our trust as we insist that they be.

But it is difficult for an oblivious public to muster outrage. It’s a good thing we have movies, because the predominantly spineless news media in South Florida has yet again failed to cover this important story unfolding within its midst. More recently, they were slower than the old Pony Express to break the story of Anna Nicole Smith’s death happening in their own backyard. That is, all but my fearless heroes at the New Times weekly news magazine. Thank God for heroes.

While reading a recent article in the Miami New Times, The G-man and the Snitch (Tamara Lush, February 8, 2007), I followed a link in the article to John Connolly’s website, Connolly’s web site contained page after page of repetitive and infuriating bull crap. For example, this excerpt:

"The question that one cannot help but pose is: How does one conspire to commit a murder with alleged co-conspirators, who never even told the person accused, that they ever killed anyone in the first place?"

So this is some kind of "don't ask, don't tell” defense? Is that the best you can do? You have got to be kidding me. There are plenty of ways to conspire to commit murder- just ask any organized crime boss. Even your everyday garden-variety type murderers conspire to kill people they have never met in order to protect a good thing they have going. Happens all the time

Here are a few questions for John Connolly that I “cannot help but pose”.

1. How can you claim you had no clue that your CIs were murdering people? If other FBI agents and supervisors were, in fact, also aware of the homicidal tendencies of your CIs as you claim, isn’t that conspiracy to commit murder?

2. If John Callahan’s murder was a result of information you provided to your CIs in order to protect them, why are you then not guilty of murder? Did you think your CIs would send Mr. Callahan on an all-expense paid vacation to the South Pacific?

3. Why did you dismiss Mr. Halloran’s information for “lack of evidence”? After Halloran was murdered, and with the addition of the murders of Callahan and Wheeler did you consider this still to be a lack of evidence?

4. Why did so many missing person and homicide cases (despite the best efforts of the real cops), including the Callahan murder, remain unsolved for so many years? As these missing and murdered victims were all involved in some manner with your CIs, did you not see a pattern there?

5. Are you incredibly stupid, or are you incredibly arrogant?

6. Did your former FBI boss, the bribe-taking John Morris, become involved in any way with the Callahan murder investigation while he was in Miami in 1984 supervising an internal FBI investigation into the criminal activities of former FBI agent and drug smuggler, Dan Mitrione? Why hasn’t Morris also been indicted for John Callahan’s murder?

7. How many people would still be alive if you had not betrayed the public’s trust?

And last, but not least…

8. How do you sleep at night?

Justice will come, John. Justice will most definitely come.
I’d get used to that view from where you’re standing now if I were you.

(Photo of John Connolly courtesy of Miami New Times)

Donna Weaver