Monday, November 23, 2015

Davey Blackburn and the Complicated Arena of Human Behavior

This morning three men were arrested in the rape and murder of Amanda Blackburn, the wife of Pastor Davey Blackburn. Many (and this would probably be a very high portion of people who have been speculating on the Internet) are quite surprised that Amanda Blackburn's husband actually did not have a hand in her murder because they found his behavior and statements following (and prior to) her death to be extraordinarily bizarre for a normal human being and indicative of guilt, that he either personally killed his wife or he hired someone to do it. Others, especially Christians and those from the pastor's church are feeling vindicated and are saying that those who thought the pastor guilty of the horrendous crime of murdering his wife had rushed to judgment and didn't understand a man of faith's reaction to a terrible event.

I think this case is quite fascinating and I plan to use it in future teaching of law enforcement about statement analysis and how it should be used as a tool within investigation, how to understand the results within the context of the totality of evidence. Also, how to determine if what the person-of-interest does or says is truly an indicator of guilt or is out of character or is representative of other issues - like a personality disorder or culture or subculture. Human beings are complicated and analyzing what they say and do is complicated as well.

There are some rules which should be followed when approaching the matter:

Physical or extremely convincing circumstantial evidence should ALWAYS back up behavior and verbal evidence before convicting a person of a crime. Two cases come to mind in which men were convicted based on almost entirely behavioral and verbal evidence, cases in which the majority of the public are pretty sure the right person was convicted but, in reality, we could be looking at seemingly guilty behaviors but not necessarily guilty men. One case is Drew Peterson who recently lost an appeal in his conviction of the murder of his estranged wife, Kathleen Savio, who was found dead in her bathtub. There was no physical evidence connecting Peterson to her death, not even proof that he was in the vicinity of her home on the night she died. Yet, he was convicted on hearsay testimony, his very psychopathic behavior, the fact his present wife went missing and circumstantial evidence, and the fact he is the most likely person to want Savio dead. In reality, someone else could have killed Savio and Peterson been perfectly fine with that (oh, lucky me!); someone could have saved him the trouble. I personally think he is guilty of the crime as his behaviors and statements seem to support, but I am not sure if I were on the jury I would have handed down a guilty verdict just because he is a psychopath and he SHOULD be the guy who did it.

The other case is that of Michael Skakel who recently did get an appeal in his conviction of the murder of Martha Moxley. I am glad he got his appeal because this was a travesty of a case in which a man got convicted on absolutely no physical evidence and very weak circumstantial evidence. In fact, Michael Skakel got convicted solely on a couple of statements he made as a teen decades ago and because the jury didn't like him. A good analysis of the crime actually points AWAY from Michael Skakel and there were far better suspects than him (which the police were much more interested in at the time), but Skakel got convicted because the jury found him creepy.

Which brings me back to Davey Blackburn. "Creepy" was the Number One adjective given by almost all following this case. People were creeped out by his sex sermons, creeped out by his demeanor, creeped out by his seemingly upbeat acceptance of his wife's brutal demise, creeped out by his talk of "good things" coming from her murder...I could go on and on. Regardless of what some Christians and those in his church feel about Pastor Blackburn, that he somehow represents a man of strong faith, I will say as a criminal profiler who has spent many years in Christian churches and known a number of pastors, Davey Blackburn's behaviors and statements have all the hallmarks of a narcissitic personality disorder. Lay people speculating on the case were not off in left field to feel something was odd about his demeanor, that his reactions to the murder were not normal for the average person. But, his behaviors actually were not totally inconsistant with a narcissistic personality disordered individual who may have a problematic marriage who has difficultly connecting with others or feeling empathy for them, and who has chosen a vocation in which a narcissistic personality disorder can be an asset. His response to his wife's murder may well have been a mix of a crisis of faith (his version of faith in which he has set himself up to be a favored son of God), a relief as an answer to dealing with a difficult marriage, and a business opportunity which he can capitalize on.

Which brings me to this point: what you are before a crime occurs is who you are after a crime occurs. We are actually NEVER "out of character" and this is what the detectives need to determine when they analyze a crime. Is the man who kills his wife when he finds out she is having an affair committing a "crime of passion" or has he always had a borderline personality disorder and her betrayal was too much for his ego to stand? He didn't go from being an emotionally healthy indivdidual to a killer overnight; a person without a personality disorder will be upset about infidelity but not kill over it. And what happens when a psychopath's wife is murdered by someone else? Since a psychopath has no empathy, he might be mad someone took his toy away, but he might be ecstatic that he got a bunch of money from the life insurance policy he forced his wife to get and he may be out dating other women the following weekend. He might seem totally guilty of killing his wife (and he might actually have thought about it, maybe even planned it for the following month!) but have nothing to do with her death. Yet, red flags will go up for the investigators because of his behaviors and statements. This is the kind of stuff they have to deal with. Sometimes, though, a psychopath or narcissist will have odd behaviors and statements but in the interview actually so no signs of deception, so in spite of his oddness, the detectives will be following other leads.

This may well have been true in the case of Pastor Blackburn. He may have raised the detectives' hinky meter but came across truthful in his actual interviews and the evidence pointed away from him. Or they may have been keeping an eye on him while pursuing other leads.

On the other hand, I worked a case where the detectives did a great interview of a man who "found the bodies" but because they jumped to a conclusion that the crime was a gang killing, they ignored the very odd statements the man made during the interview. Now, mind you, he was a psychopath and a drug dealer and because of this, they just tossed off whatever he said as, well, you know, guys like this say weird things, but, in reality, he was confessing to the crime in his twisted statements, deception was rampant, and the physical evidence at the crime scene indicated he was lying and supported his role in the murders. Statement analysis was very useful in pointing to his guilt, but the detectives failed to do any analysis of his words and simply interviewed him as a witness and filed the report.

Good investigation keeps analysis in proper perspective and continues to view the totality of the evidence in making investigative choices.

For a last example of how one must take all the evidence into account and rule things out or in, the door to the house was unlocked. Was Pastor Blackburn responsible for leaving the door unlocked? If not, then this is not suspicious. But, if he did, the detectives have to determine if this was regular behavior (maybe both he and Amanda were not big on locking doors) or if this was a one-time behavior and if it was, why? Was he distracted and accidentally left it unlocked? Is he feeling horribly guilty over that Or, if he is a narcissist, not feeling any guilt at all? Or, did he leave it open on purpose so someone could enter and kill his wife? The police have to consider this. They have to make sure he did not know any of the men involved. He could have met them through the gym or throuugh evangelizing. Who knows? The detectives have to rule out all possibilities. And, if they have ruled out these possibilities, then we have a man whose statement analysis threw up a dozen red flags and suggested possible guilt but, in fact, what we really were dealing with was a man with a likely narcissistic personality disorder whose mission of church building and love of the spotlight made him appear guilty of a crime he did not commit.

To sum up, statement analysis and behavioral analysis is an excellent tool for investigation but it must be used in conjunction with solid crime scene analysis and physical and cicumstantial evidence. All of these tools together make for a successful investigation, a proper arrest, and a solid prosecution. True justice lies in getting all the pieces of the puzzle to fit in place without forcing them, to solve the crime accurately, not just close it for the sake of putting it to rest.


Anonymous said...

You're knowledgeable and gifted, Pat. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

Boston Lady said...

Thanks Pat! I was on the fence with this one and with each statement the Pastor made. Now I need to find a way to stop thinking about how horrible this was for Amanda. She must have been so frightened and so worried about the safety of her 15 month old. I do wonder why the dog didn't alert or go after the murdering scum. And for sure I wonder about the door being left open. Still some unanswered questions when I watched the police update. They were asked about Davey Blackburn's involvement..if he was cleared and they said "It's fair to say there's no reason to say that's not the case". The person speaking did look back at the police behind him. It wasn't a direct "yes, he is cleared". Or is that just police speak?

lostribe said...

Good points. The element of narcissism and flippancy that followed the murder of Darlie Routier's children (remember the Silly String?) was what fueled so much controversy on that case. That plus her family standing behind her and keeping media on it for so long. Some people thought the blood evidence was inconclusive, but what I read of it seemed conclusive enough. It's still controversial here in Texas, where she was from.

I just read the Washington Post on this Pastor case. Sounds like one of the guys confessed, but what do you think these days about confessions, Pat? It used to be fairly common to coerce one. Do you think confessions are more or less reliable than, say, 30 years ago?

Tania Bowman said...

Your analysis of the Blackburn case is right on target Pat; I never thought it wouldn't be. I am a CHI (certified handwriting analyst) and I did a short analysis of Pastor Blackburn's handwriting/printing from one of his sermon notes. Of course, we usually base our findings from more than one piece of handwriting. However the one sample of handwriting I saw, it revealed that Davey Blackburn (provided this was truly his and I have every reason to believe it is) doesn't always abide by the law. He is a rule breaker. This is shown by the vertical red lines on the left where his handwriting goes beyond the boundary. To what extent he breaks rules is not known to me but his handwriting doesn't lie.

Pat Brown said...

Thank you, Anon 11:40

Pat Brown said...

Boston Lady,

Yes, it could be just the way police speak...believe me, sometimes it is very convoluted because they are trying to keep information about the case out of the public eye for the most part and so it is hard to say whether they are saying he could be a suspect or they are simply saying he really isn't a suspect but they still won't talk about it.

Confessions are still a problem. I had one detective actually tell me that 70% of the confessions he got were from innocent people. He actually bragged. One of those people was a man whose fiance was murdered and he was coerced into confessing. When I interviewed him and analyzed the crime scene evidence, it clearly wasn't him.

So much about confessions comes down to how the interrogation was handled. The subject shouldn't be led into giving answers or exhausted into a confession or threatened into a confession. It helps to have audio or video/I prefer video so one can see exactly what happened from the time the subject was brought into the room until the time he leaves. This way you know nothing squirrelly is going on.

Confessions should also be supported to some extent at least by physical evidence. The man that supposedly killed Etan Patz in NYC many years ago gave a rather questionable confession and there is not a shred of evidence to confirm he is telling the truth and isn't a nutter. I think the jury had the same issue which is why there was a mistrial when they deadlocked.

Pat Brown said...


Oops, my response to your question about confessions is above under Boston Lady! As to Darlie Routier, she is guilty as hell but, over time, she has managed to get a fan club and get people to believe she is innocent. Not only did her statement analysis send up red flags of guilt but the physical evidence supported her involvement.

Pat Brown said...


Thank you. As to being a "rule breaker", it is interesting to note that Davey seems to admit that he is, albeit in a roundabout way. He had to have controls about porn...why? Because he was breaking the biblical commandment of lusting after someone other than your spouse. He speaks a lot about having to work on this and that mostly because he has difficult it would seem staying within lines. I don't think he really cares that he breaks rules but he wants others to believe he does.

Anonymous said...

Hi pat, interesting points being made, this was to a key problem in the 10 rillington murders? Leading to a very bad mistake about confessions under stress or trauma? Noted that evans had no symptoms of being a dishonest man, just couldnt read or write which added problems over what was being said, and how trauma effects the memory process, and feelings of guilt in such situations, does not mean their guilty of a crime, but blame themselves for being fooled.

Anne of Port Charlotte said...

Your article is very well written and thought out except for one thing, Pat: Pastor Davey Blackburn was never investigated by LE from day one. On day one, LE announced that he was 100% innocent. Is that a fact!

How could they know this, since he was never polygraphed, his cell phones were never confiscated and searched, (nor were Amandas'), his (at least) two computers were likewise never confiscated or searched, his video sermons wherein he complains loudly about his wife and how unhappy he was in his marriage, including sexually with his wife; were never taken, down to him using pseudo gun violence and threats in at least one of his sermons just days before her murder, the two porn sites he had to have monitored to keep him on the straight and narrow were also never looked into; his lies that were even pointed out by Amanda were never analyzed; yet LE clears him carte blanche 100% and you agree? Things are not always what they seem? Well, sometimes they ARE!

Pastor Davey is under the leadership and the long arm of a big money making machine pastor whose annual income is in excess of 34$MILLON per year, who sits back and protects/defends his young protégé who he has bankrolled, and you are SURE there is nothing to hide? Well, there are quite a few of us 'Christians' who have not fallen for his 100% innocence quite so fast. Not saying you are; but I just thought you'd like to know that not ALL of us Christians are so easily deceived. Thank you for listening!

rob said...

On another site, some of the commenters have researched that the accused and the pastor have a facebook friend in common, and on that friends site it shows that he is a gangbanger, so the pastor is not thinking he is another good Christian. All links have to be followed up, cause this guy is sending me a message that something just ain't right.
(and that is not to say that a pastor should not befriend a gangbanger, but there can only be so many coincidinces)

I do believe, even if there is a middle man, and he has no direct link, when the prison time or DP starts looming over them, they will tell what they know.

Anonymous said...

Great article but...

Don't you have spellcheck?

throuugh = through
narcissitic x2 = narcissistic
conjuction = conjunction
cicumstantial = circumstantial
indivdidual = individual
inconsistant = inconsistent
sermans = sermons
heresay = hearsay
statments = statements

Sorry, I was a teacher in a former life.

Pat Brown said...

Anon 9:23

Ipad sucks for writing blogs, so I am finding out. There is no spell check (supposedly I can download something but I just switched over from my laptop) and I probably wrote this when I was tired. Not paid for blogging, so I don't drive myself crazy with perfection. If you would like to volunteer to edit all my work, be my guest!

Anonymous said...

Davey Blackburn left the door unlocked, but according to a neighbor, Amanda had expressed concerns about the safety of the neighborhood just two weeks prior to her awful demise. I'm sure she expressed those concerns to Davey as well. The neighbor was interviewed by a local t.v. station. I believe Blackburn had her killed. I believe he planned it for several months. He stopped posting on Instagram Aug 31, 2015 and didn't start posting again until January 2016. I also believe he had friends to help plan and make connections with the killer. I don't think the killer knows D. Blackburn, I think he was given orders to kill her by the lead gang member. People often say, everybody grieves in different ways, but at the end of the day grief is an unavoidable pain that cannot be masked. Even if you're not bawling your eyes out there is still an overwhelming sadness that overtakes your soul. It becomes obvious to everyone around you. I saw his interview and there was not 1 ounce of pain or hurt present in his soul. Those goons waited for him to leave per orders from their leader. I pray to God Blackburn will one day be exposed.

Anonymous said...

This case sounds so familiar:) But I hope he doesn't get away with it. Of course he didn't check on his baby boy because he knew Amanda was the target.

Anonymous said...

Update Nov 14, 2017: Davey is engaged. 2 yrs after Amanda Blackburn's murder, her husband is engaged to someone he started flirting with at a gym a year and a half ago (when Amanda had been dead for just around 6 months).

Maybe when THIS wife ends up dead Dateline will finally profile Davey.

Anonymous said...

Davey Blackburn and his wife dressed as burglars for Halloween (and posed for an Instagram pic right in front of the actual ladder that was lying next to a dying Amanda) all on the day that one of the robbery/murder suspects was supposed to be sentenced. As a profiler, does this raise any red flags?