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Who Killed? Crime Scene Profiling Part 3

Updated: Jan 20

#CSP #Profiling #serialkiller #killer #rapist #FBI

This week I’d like to continue the topic of the FBI and crime scene profiling. Last week I mentioned that the FBI method was not scientifically proven. Nevertheless, science is not flawless itself. Theories can be proposed and tested, then accepted only to be rejected. For example, in medicine, a pill once proclaimed healing might be proved harmful years later. Thus, claiming that this is not scientifically proven is not necessarily an argument.

Yet, intuitive profiling has been successful in several high-profile and dangerous individuals being arrested. Psychology itself is a relatively new scientific discipline, however, using reversal psychology makes a lot of sense in the context of hard-to-resolve cases (Ainsworth, 2006).

Michaud and Hazelwood (1998) explain the dichotomy of organised and disorganised crimes. Organised is compared to a craft wolf (a thinking criminal) and disorganized to a wild dog (a not thinking criminal). However, there is also a mixed category.

Ted Kaczynski, Unabomber represents a mixed category. He was intelligent and organised but did not care about appearance, he was a paranoid schizophrenic. Ted Bundy who committed 27 sexual homicides also represented a mixed category.

Yet, Ed Kemper a disciplined perfectionist, chatty, with an unthreatening look, who never left a messy crime scene is an example of an organised criminal. Still, it was not the police who found him, but he was the one who called the police and admitted to a crime.

Furthermore, some mentally ill individuals stay in the psychiatric ward and have chaos in their heads but outside they have ordered. Thus, when committing chaotic crimes, they are urged for order (e.g., taking five green peas from a stomach and putting them in order on a plate) (p.89). Liebert (1989) in Turco (1990) states "superficial behavioural scientific profiling that rigidly reduces serial murder to a few observable parameters can lead an investigation astray. It is better to search for what distinguishes any given serial murderer in its uniqueness than build a profile of a potential suspect against the psychopathology of the narcissistic or borderline personality disorder, particularly the severe form" (p. 149).

The empirical world constantly changes, and the demographic material is not consistent with the comprehensive scientific view-relativity that changes in theoretical constructs.

There are changes in medical-surgical techniques, also, there are changes in offenders' behaviour. For example, offenders change their car, and clothing styles along with MO Some offenders can read sophisticated journals to learn what investigators "expect" offenders to do. The psychiatric analysis might be helpful but must be aligned with the police analysis.

It can be argued that profiles might be of value only after the apprehension of a suspect. Yet, an ability to ‘read' crime scenes and provide data in plain language would be useful to detectives. For example, when a nude, sexually molested, shot woman of age 21 was found lying face up in her home, a comparison of similar crimes enabled to make a profile of a young, athletic man, a casual abundance of victims, no-psychotic, organised, smooth talker, with good relationships with women on a superficial basis, who divided women for good (friends) and bad(victims). Analysing phone records in the geographical vicinity and interviewing the suspect and his girlfriend led to his arrest. He called his girlfriend ‘just to talk' after each murder. He was an intelligent, good-looking psychopath (Turco,1990). This proves the effectiveness of profiling.

Linkage analysis

Michaud and Hazelwood (2000) see offenders' behaviour features as a fingerprint or DNA. It is visible in cases where MO and ritualistic characteristics come to a point that was never seen before. For example, if we analyse cases where victims were 21 years old, white women, bitten on the breast and struck in the face four times a linkage between cases is visible. Similarly, a homicidal paedophile, Werner Ferrari's MO was very distinctive. He was careful and moved around unseen without leaving any physical evidence. Ferrari was making intervals between three weeks to 24 months and did not act in a geographic cluster. He strangled young victims, before puberty with their stockings. All killings happened nearby places where Ferrari lived in the past. After each murder, he was changing his place of living, quit his job and broke up with a girlfriend. The linkage between many crimes of Ferrari is visible. Ferrari had a criminal history and while in jail he was diagnosed as a paedophile, likely to commit sexual offences against children but realised. His ex-girlfriends' described him as a humourless, friendless loner who eschewed physical sex with them, but enjoyed watching them undressed, and resting his head on their unclothed chest or stomach. Ferrari's MO is distinctive, and his crime scene behaviour reflects his personality characteristics. For example, in his confession, he stated that he ‘only' wanted to put his head on the victim's chest. These examples prove the behavioural consistency theory.

Furthermore, Douglas et al. (1992) in Alison, Barret, and Almond (2011) say ‘The crime scene is presumed to reflect the murderers' behaviour in personality in the same way as furnishing reveal the homeowner character' (p.21). However, Alison (2002) argues that ‘personality traits' from observation of crime scenes are in opposition to recent ideas of conditional patterns where individuals' behaviour depends upon specific situations. Hollin (1996) states that Eysenck's theory emphasises the interaction between biological, environmental, and psychological factors thus integrating this theory into criminology brings individual factors into more socio-situationally oriented views of crime (p.59).

Pinizzotto and Finkel (1990) in Davis (2016) presented a previously solved murder and rape cases, in which the outcome was already known, to five different groups: (1) "expert profilers" (instructors in the FBI's BSU); (2) "trained profilers" (law enforcement investigators who had undergone training from the BSU); (3) police detectives with no formal training in profiling; (4) psychologists; and (5) university students. The expert and trained profilers wrote longer and more detailed offender profiles, and their profiles were ranked higher in overall usefulness by an independent panel of detectives. Thus, profiling has a future.

Also, Palcu and Goldis (2016) see fighting against criminality in the 3rd millennium as orientated to the interpretation of criminal human behaviour. Interpretation of the reasons, intentions, reasoning, habits, logic, meaning, and organization of criminogenic behaviour to make a psychological profile of the personalities in the pool of suspects to apprehend the actual culprit.

What's new?

Fox and Farrington (2012) link offenders' traits, criminal history, and CS features in the case of burglaries. The distinct 4 criminal history groups, 4 offender types, and 4 offences styles. That categorisation is based on a finding from LCA (latent class analysis) of 405 burglaries committed between 2008-2009 in Florida.

Burglary is the most common and mostly unsolved crime (UN Survey Trends, 2004) in the US 2.5 million burglaries happened in 2008, with only 12% solved (FBI, 2008).

In England and Wales, there were 117,000 burglaries in 2016, with only 11.8% solved (, 2017). Thus, there is huge money lost, numerous victims and free to commit more crimes criminals left behind those crimes. This is a big urge for action and profiling might be an answer.

Fox and Farrington (2012) classified burglars into Opportunistic – no forced entry, no tool, motive- interests, excitement; Organized - bringing a tool, premeditation, taking the tool away, focused on high-value items, no forensic evidence, daylight, successful; Disorganized - no planning, leaving evidence, forced entry, unoccupied target, daylight, commercial. It looks like a typology and profiling in the context of burglary sheds a light on the most common offender groups. Additionally, based on burglary crime scene type offenders' traits might be read, this includes not only age, race, sex, body build but also hair and eye colour.


The FBI intuitive profiling is sometimes considered of having a ‘Hollywood' syndrome. This is due to movies such as ‘Silence of the Lambs/ Millennium & Profiler. Also, the lack of empirical evidence and access to the FBI's research data rising reasonable doubts about the validity and reliability of this method. The question is why the FBI does not like to share their findings, is there too much statistical failure? Still, the FBI is a precursor of profiling and proved to be effective in unsolved cases. Typologies of offenders and crime scenes as well as linkage analysis seem to be too logical to be rejected. Experience, training, and knowledge have been proven essential in many fields not only profiling. Subjectivity and intuition are also prevalent at least to some level in all aspects of life, and this also applies to scientific fields. Intuitive profiling, although modified is employed in many countries worldwide.

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