Thursday, October 11, 2007

Criminal Profiling Topic of the Day: What do Duck Killer Scott Clark and Mass Murderer Tyler Peterson have in Common?

Scott Clark, an auditor for the Inspector General's office in Denver ripped a duck's head off while he was a guest at the Embassy Suites in Minneapolis. Yes, you read that right. Clark was staying at the hotel while in Minnesota on business and thought it perfectly within his rights to grab a duck out of the atrium duck pond and tear its head off. He then proceeded to cart the duck's body off to his room. However, when the police arrived, they found the body of the duck in the elevator, the head in the pond, and blood and feathers from the poor bird strewn around the lobby. Clark was arrested.

His response? "Why? Because I killed it out of season? Big deal, it's just a (insert word) duck."

Reminds me of John Wayne Gacy who stated he should only have been charged with running an illegal cemetery when all those boys' bodies were found in his crawl space.

Which brings me to a problem many people have when they know someone who behaves like this. They minimize the behavior. Even though what Clark did is creepy and a hallmark of psychopathy, he will probably still have friends to hang out with, a girlfriend, and a mom who will invite him to dinner the very next Sunday; they will find excuses for his frightening behavior. They will say he was drunk (yes, he was but even if I were drunk, I wouldn't be beheading pets), or he just thought it was funny (funny?), or he was having a bad hair day (but not as bad a day as that duck had).

Then, if Scott Clark shoots his ex-girlfriend down after she breaks up with him, will everyone say they didn't see it coming. Is this possibly true of Tyler Peterson in Crandon, Wisconsin? To methodically stalk and kill six friends, Peterson must be pretty pathological in his thinking; he could not have been an emotionally healthy person and then turned around and done this. He did not "just" snap. My guess is we will eventually hear quite a bit about previously concerning behaviors that most who knew him simply shrugged off.

If you know a Scott Clarks or Tyler Peterson, keep your eyes open and don't minimize sick actions or things they do that make your uncomfortable. Ripping heads off of hotel ducks is not acceptable behavior and anyone who does this is someone you should want to be very wary of. Remember, the next head ripped off may be your own.

Criminal Profiler Pat Brown


Preraph said...

I saw your aborted comments on Dr. Phil yesterday. Do they WANT a profiler to speak or not? Time constraints, I guess. He soft-pedalled it as far as holding people accountable, I thought.

Certainly there are multiple signs that all girls should be taught by the time they're in high school that may help them avoid getting involved with a potential stalker and/or stalker turned killer. Does that mean everyone who exhibits those signs will kill? Of course not. But it is a pretty good indication they will become an enormous pain the ass at some point. They may WISH you were dead if they ever have to deal with one of these guys. I wrote an article geared to teenage girls on the subject which if any of you are interested, you can find at my rant blog at the page listed as my URL in this post. It is a difficult subject to explain, but I kept it as simple as I thought I could and still convey what needs to be understood on the subject.

Ms. Brown, absolutely correct that people overlook what is alarming behavior in their friends and family. Young people think just because a person has a nice side, that they can't really be bad. And parents blind themselves to their childrens' shortcomings. I suppose it's a good thing in the long run, a survival technique, but it also causes problems. Growing up, I witnessed, time and time again, boys bullying their little sisters and torturing animals right under their parents' noses. I watched my family doctor's eldest son deliberately break his little sister's arm (who was my friend).

I was completely incensed about the Virginia Tech shootings because two girls had reported Cho's stalking, and no one did a thing about it, even though the Virginia laws provide that a pattern of harassment constitutes punishable stalking. It could and should have been prevented. I do not necessarily fault the school but the general refusal of law enforcement to prioritize locking up stalker types. This sort of nonaction on an issue filters all the way down. You'd think after a couple of decades of alleged education on the subject in police academies in addition to the widespread state stalking laws enabling them to do something about it, they would find it difficult to simply ignore the cries for help and opt instead to wait until someone gets killed and then start pointing fingers away from themselves. I try to tell myself it all goes back to the prison/court resource shortage, but in my heart, I believe it is also a product of decadent sexism, men not willing to punish people for something they, too, may have felt like doing, have done, or may wish to do in the future. I recently had a female police officer offer this as her sole take on why no one was enforcing stalking laws. I was surprised to hear her be so candid and also dismayed that that, to her, was the obvious reason.

Tyler and Cho perhaps have more in common than some of the earlier school spree killings. It seems to me both Tyler and Cho were pretty consistent in their pre-killing signposts. It's just that there is a long, indeed ancient, history of jealous behavior being minimized and excused and often pandered to as lovesickness. This is a bubble that we need to burst IN OUR SCHOOLS NOW. I have even heard tales of girls who knew their exes were dangerous but whose parents didn't do anything, writing it off as lovesickness, even pitying the boy, sometimes even allowing him to use them to get to the girl. We must educate people.

Then we need to demand that politicians and law enforcement stop ignoring the laws that are on the books and doing things like what they just did in my town, which is decide not to allocate any of the new budget to new prison facilities but to use some of it for "diversionary programs" instead. They simply don't want to spend the money on locking people up, no matter what the public wants, because it would cut into them spending the money on bending over to special interests. If politicians and law enforcement would lead the way, the public would be much quicker to take the matter seriously. Instead, all they see if tongue-clucking and finger-pointing on the news. They are led to believe that there is no way any of this could be prevented, and that is the big lie. We need their leadership.

Then too, how can we expect the parents of teens to understand what seems to me like fairly obvious ideation when even the esteemed Dr. Phil seemed to somehow miss all the behavior connections? Of course, psychologists have long been the bane of profilers, whose findings do not alway fit neatly within the bounds of classical psychiatry, whose proponents seem loathe to view profiling as cutting-edge research within their field. But that's another subject.

Criminal Profiler Pat Brown said...

Truly excellent post comment! You have really brought out exactly how behaviors are not taken seriously. It seems our society of accept anything and everything has lowered our standards of behavior so badly that we accept and promote indecent behavior. If girls and women were not in such a rush to include males in their personal circles and families felt a responsibility to the well being of their communities, then good behavior would be expected for boys to court girls and eventually (after a long time) have the opportunity to date them. Schools and libraries and clubs and families would expect excellent behaviors of young men and this would lower narcissim and entitlement and, if there were still some defiant boys, they would stand out like a sore thumb.

But, with dismal behavior accepted by just about everyone, it is near impossible for people to identify concerning behavior.

BTW, where did you see my aborted comments on Dr. Phil? I missed the show myself and I didn't realize what I said was cut.


preraph said...

I can't remember exactly what you were in the middle of, but you would be mid-sentence and he would cut you off to go to another speaker, before letting you get the full thought on the table. I wish I still had it on the recorder, but I already deleted it. I guess he had time constraints to get everyone in. You weren't the only one he cut off before the thought was complete. But then he gave the guy over the school security ample time to speak.

One of the questions was whether the situation could have been predicted, but he never really gave anyone a chance to answer it well.

That show will likely be shown again next Friday on an affiliate. I will record it and hope that is the time it should come on and maybe transcribe your part of it. I think they rerun it a week from run date but at night on an affiliate. It's worth a try anyway.

Entitlement certainly is a big problem. I know one theory why the US has so many serial killers is entitlement, but then you see this wife killing stuff over the centuries in many cultures. So I guess entitlement is all relative. I recently read Hirsi-Ali's book Infidel, and entitlement is just out of control in the several cultures she had written about, resulting in widespread child and domestic abuse and a generational pattern of sociopathy. If you haven't read it, it's an excellent book. Her goal is to fight genital mutilation in participating Muslim cultures. It was very enlightening to me from the standpoint that the culture produced not only abusive men but apathetic sociopathic women, due to the cycle of abuse in a male dominated culture supported by religious doctrine.

I agree with your statements about how society contributes to the entitlement problem getting worse all the time. But I have to admit there is a built-in entitlement which still exists simply because men cannot become pregnant and are the physically stronger sex. I was hoping that gap would close much faster than it has with the advent of birth control,education, and women in the workplace, making women less dependent. Unfortunately, for the time being, it seems there has actually been two steps backwards and an enormous backlash. It's a narrow path to walk for parents, because entitlement can be borne equally of giving too much and not giving enough. We are plowing new ground, and it is going to be rocky for some time.

Ronni said...

Excellent discussion on a very interesting topic.

I think that, if parents have equality in their marriage, their sons feel less entitled. They see a healthy interaction between parents, discussion of issues, and agreement by consensus. If Mom dominates, the son feels contempt for his father and decided that no woman will "run" him like Mom "ran" Dad. If Dad dominates, he just grows up thinking that's the way it's supposed to be.

I also think that kids gain contempt for their parents when they get away with lying, when parents are not consistent in discipline, and when parents are caught in transgressions such as lying and cheating.

As well, children are not born knowing that others have feelings of equal value with their own. They have to be taught. My mother's favourite saying was, "How would you feel if somebody did that to you?" I heard that whenever I did anything that would hurt another living being.

With both parents in the workplace for the entirety of their childrearing years, this generation was raised by day care workers, sports coaches and teachers. They are taught to be politically correct, but not necessarily empathic to their fellow man.


preraph said...

So true. I also think TV figures in more heavily than we'd like it to. It's the neglected/abused kids who often have the worst entitlement issues, and some of that is coming from being deprived and not taught values and then measuring themselves against the American dream as portrayed on television and coming up short, which makes for very bad self-esteem, which is at the root of a lot of the criminal behavior. Mix that with a failure to develop empathy from a bad childhood, and you have the recipe for our worst criminals. That's why I say entitlement can be spawned both by giving too much and giving not enough. Of course, seeing the "perfect" families on TV may be a positive as well so that a kid in a really bad household at least sense that their situation is not the norm, and something good can come of them modeling some from that or rebelling against their upbringing and maybe breaking the cycle. It's not a simple problem and there is no simple solution, but the key is education and breaking the cycle.

Ms. Brown, I went to and if you are interested, you can download a transcript of that show that aired Friday there for $6. You can order a DVD as well, just fyi. I would like to see what's in that brochure the guy in charge of school security was touting.

Ronni said...

I am hoping for a trend away from McMansions. I think that simple little houses that could be affordable on one income would free parents up to spend more time with their children. I think many people treat children as pets, with nary a thought beyond providing the things that society thinks they should.

Nobody with 2.3 children needs three "living areas," a formal dining room plus a breakfast room, or a three storey foyer. The old standard 3 bedroom 2 bath home would be sufficient.

Not every mother wants to stay home with her children, but many do that can't because of the size of the house payment.

Of course, I'm talking about the professional middle class, here, and not the disadvantaged.

Preraph is right, I think, in saying that entitlement occurs at both ends of the economic spectrum. We need to make our kids earn what they get, over and above the basics.

Just because a person can afford to give their children everything they want, doesn't mean they should.

preraph said...

I agree. I used to work in the McMansion model homes, and I couldn't believe how many twenty-somethings came in feeling this should be their first house. Of course, they just lose the house eventually.

I was watching Secrets that Sell on HGTV and it looked like they had such a couple. They had bought a new 3500-sq-ft home and then you could tell they couldn't afford to even furnish it. So they were trying to sell it for what they owed on it, having not been in it long enough to build any equity, so they were wanting someone to pay $60,000 more than they would for a new home in the same area, in other words, pay what they paid plus interest. Well, no one is going to do that. If they sold, they would take a loss, and if they stayed there, they'd eventually lose it. People don't think before they go do those things, and I do think for about the last 15 years, we've been seeing that end of the entitled youth spectrum. My feeling is that if these people had any genuine self-esteem, which, for one thing, comes from earning praise and reward, that they wouldn't need the big prestigious purchases to make them feel worthy. But to a parent, they just think I'm going to give them everything I can and don't consider that that isn't the best thing to do. They're giving them material things and forgetting about what's inside.