PSWA Newsletter March 2012


Editor: Marilyn Meredith,

This is your newsletter, please contribute articles, your news, book reviews, or anything else you think might be of interest. It is also open to the public, so it’s a great place to share your expertise.











* * *


PSWA is pleased to announce that since the beginning of the year we’ve welcomed many new members.  Since our membership includes writers from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests, it’s not always possible to know just what accounts for a jump in membership numbers.  It could be that in some cases it’s what all of us who work out at a gym see every January.  People who have been putting off finishing that manuscript or even starting that manuscript have resolved that, by golly, this is the year I’m actually going to do it!

It also may be due to the fact that the association was mentioned in an article in the New York Times about a writing program at the Chicago Police Department.  Good publicity obviously never hurts membership.

In addition to new members, we’ve also seen a rise in renewals.  That tells us that those who are taking advantage of the many benefits of membership have found their opportunity to network with other members a positive and encouraging experience they want to continue.

Certainly some membership gain always occurs as a result of the timing of the writing competition.  Each year participation in the competition grows as entrants realize the value, not only of being able to claim the distinction of award winning writer from a prestigious national organization, but also benefit from the feedback they receive from the contest judges and encouragement from fellow members.

Other new members have told us they’ve heard great things about our annual conference and are eager to attend in July.

Whatever their motive for joining PSWA, we welcome our new members and hope they find the relationship beneficial and rewarding.  If you haven’t yet acted on your resolution that this is the year to really get serious about writing, maybe this is the time.

And, about that exercise program you’ve been putting off…..

Marilyn Olsen


Public Safety Writers Association

* * *


by Keith Bettinger

The Orleans Hotel rate is scheduled for $35 a night weekdays and $80 a night Friday and Saturday. Add to this resort fees and taxes. When registering at the hotel use this code assigned to the PSWA: A2PSC07

We are guaranteed the lowest rate available at the time of our conference, so if room rates go up we get the rates I quoted above. If they go down, we will receive the lower rate. On Thursday, when you check in, I will be at the conference registration desk. If you have any problems with prices contact me ASAP so I can deal with it through the business office.

The hotel has guaranteed these rates for a week prior to the conference as well as a week after the conference. There is more to Las Vegas and Nevada than casinos. Take the opportunity to visit and see the beauty of Red Rock Canyon, The Valley of Fire, Hoover Dam, Lake Meade, Mt. Charleston, The Pahrump Winery, Grand Canyon, cruises on Lake Mead, etc. etc.

Please let us know who is attending the conference with you. We need to make up a name tag for you as well as your guest. We have a number of reasons for the name tags. The first is name tags are an icebreaker. They are a self introduction. We would like to include on it, your home state. That way, rude former New Yorkers like myself don’t walk around asking, “Who are you and where are you from, and are you a member?” We also need to do this for security purposes. Please work with us. The hotel is a very busy place and filled with guests. We do not want uninvited people dropping into our events and creating any problems for our guests. We believe name tags will eliminate such a problem. We certainly wouldn’t want someone to get up to look at the books for sale or to grab a cup of coffee and come back to find something missing from their table.

The name tags will have colored symbols on them showing what you and your guest are entitled. As an example; a gold star entitles the attendee to the conference, Thursday night reception and luncheons.

A red symbol on the name tag of an attendee’s guest, would entitle them to participate only in the Thursday night reception. Three blue symbols would allow the attendee’s guest to attend all three luncheons. A green tag would show the attendee’s guest has paid the coffee fee and is able to drop in and have a cup of coffee with the registered attendee.

After all, it isn’t fair that conference attendees pay for the conference and non-attendees drink the coffee or eat an attendee’s meal. Meals and coffee are ordered way in advance and changes cannot be made. As the conference continues to grow logistics and security needs increase as does the number of attendees.

What can I tell you about our hotel, THE ORLEANS. If you attended last year you know we had a wonderful room and the food was out of this world. Well this year the meeting rooms have all been refurbished. Lynn and I took a tour and the found the rooms now far surpass what we experienced last year. The guest rooms are spectacular. The food is phenomenal. There are plenty of restaurants to eat in around the clock. The hotel is a short cab ride from the airport. The hotel does not supply shuttle service from the airport, but it does provide shuttle service to the Las Vegas Strip and other resort properties they own in Las Vegas.

This is a free service.

This is a lot to take in but I will provide you with more information in the near future. Until then – hoping to see all of you in July.

Keith Bettinger Keith Bettinger is a retired Suffolk County, NY Police Officer.  He’s been writing for law enforcement publications for over 25 years and has received 16 awards for his articles, stories and book.  He has a Master’s Degree in Human Relations with a major in Clinical Counseling.  During his career he received the department’s Bravery Medal, Silver Shield Award, Meritorious Police Service Award, Special Service Award, Professionalization Award, Department Recognition Award, 5 Headquarters commendations and six Precinct commendations.  He also was a field training officer and an instructor on Post Shooting Trauma and Critical Incidents.

Keith has written two books, Fighting Crime With “Some” Day and Lenny, and End of Watch, Charity, True Blue, To Protect and Serve, Dad’s Bow TieHe also shares with Jack Miller, the screenplay Master Cheat. Keith lives in Las Vegas, with his wife Lynn

* * *


by Tim Dees

Sometime this year, as with all years before it since the advent of personal computers, someone will send me a message or post to the listserv that their computer crashed and they lost all of their files. For a writer who composes electronically, this is a catastrophic event, and one easily prevented.

Contacts and email

Many people think to preserve their manuscripts and such, but don’t give a thought to their email, contact lists, calendars, etc. There is no one strategy for this, because there are so many different ways of filing and retaining this data.

Many people hate it, but I’ve been using Microsoft’s Outlook application for email, contacts and calendar for many years. I don’t think it’s always the best way to manage contacts and communications, but it is one of the few methods where all of your data is in one place, and easy enough to back up.

Outlook maintains its data in a file with an extension of “*.pst.” By default, the file is named “Outlook.pst.” If you don’t change it from its default location, it will be found in one of these four locations:

Windows 7 and Vista:

drive:\Users\user\Documents\Outlook Files\Outlook.pst


Windows XP:

drive:\Documents and Settings\user\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\Outlook.pst

drive:\Documents and Settings\user\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\Outlook.pst

In the above examples, drive represents the drive letter where the files are stored (C: for most users) and user represents the User Name for your account on that computer. When you log on to Windows, the user name appears above the icon you click on.

You don’t have to store these files in the default locations, and there are some good reasons not to. When most people use some backup strategy, they backup their data file folders: My Documents, My Pictures, My Music, etc. If you leave your *.pst files in the default location, the backup will ignore them.

I create a folder under My Documents called “Outlook Files” and place all my *.pst files there. I say “all my *.pst files” because I archive anything older than three months into an archive folder so my Outlook.pst file doesn’t become so large as to be unmanageable. At the start of each year, I export everything from the previous year, including calendar and contacts entries, to a *.pst file named for that year, e.g. “archive 2011.pst.” This makes for some duplication, but that’s what backups are all about.

With that folder a part of the My Documents (or, in Windows 7, the Document Library) structure, backing up the standard My Documents folder catches it and puts a copy away for safekeeping.

Of course, if you move a *.pst file, you have to tell Outlook where you moved it to. There is an article on how to handle that in Outlook 2003 here, and one on Outlook 2007 or 2010 here.

Backup strategies

There are two major categories of backup strategies: on-site and off-site. On-site backups usually require a little more time and diligence on the part of the user, because it’s always easy to say, “Oh, I’ll backup everything tomorrow.” If you believe you can be disciplined enough to back up your files regularly, all you need is an external hard drive. You can find these at places like Costco and Best Buy, and unless you have some absurdly large volume of material or a lot of music and pictures (which take up the most room, file-wise), you don’t need a huge external drive. To get an idea of how much space you might need, open Windows Explorer, look down to “My Computer,” and right-click on the drive letter where your data is stored—C:, for most users. In the context menu that appears, choose the last option, “Properties.”

You can see from the graphic display above that my 1 TB (terabyte) data drive is almost exactly half full. I recommend that any external hard drive you purchase for backup be at least twice as large as the file accumulation you have on hand.

If, God forbid, your house burns down or floods, you’re going to be out of luck unless you thought to beat feet with the external hard drive, or you bought one of these monstrosities:

Pictured here are two ioSafe Solo external drives that, in addition to functioning like any other external hard drive, will also survive most fires and floods. They weigh a ton, require their own power supply, and give me great peace of mind knowing that they will probably prevail if my house doesn’t. You can purchase them at Costco or, among other places.

Your other backup strategy is to subscribe to an offsite backup service. Mozy charges $6.00 per month to back up 50GB of data, $10.00 for 125GB. I use another service you may have heard advertised on the radio: Carbonite. Carbonite charges about $60.00 per year per computer, with some discounts if you sign up multiple computers or subscribe for multiple years. There is no limit to the size of the backup Carbonite will handle for you, although they say that your backup speed will be reduced substantially after the first 200GB.

With both solutions, you install an application on your computer, sign in to your online account, and let the program do the rest. By default, the program will back up everything in your “My Documents” files, not including music or video files. If you specify you want music and video backed up, too, if will do it. Just be prepared for a little lag time initially. My initial backup of 116GB required six weeks to upload, with the computer running 24/7. Now that most of the files are in place, the software looks for any new or changed files every day and loads them onto the Carbonite servers.

Another advantage to Carbonite is that I can retrieve any of my backed up files from anywhere through a web browser or even an iPhone app. I log on with my user name and password, choose the file I want from a folder structure that mirrors the one on my hard drive, and download the file I want.

As in law enforcement, the critical issue here is not to become complacent, thinking nothing will ever happen to your work. Computer drives are human-made devices; they will all fail eventually. When yours does, don’t let it take a lifetime of work with it.

–Tim Dees is a retired police officer and the former editor of two major law enforcement websites who writes and consults on technology applications in criminal justice. He can be reached at

* * *


by John Wills

As we age we sometimes have more difficulty processing information and comprehending things we used to quickly understand. The aging process takes a toll on the entire body, to include our brain. In law enforcement it’s imperative that we are able to immediately assess a situation and make a decision on a course of action. If we lose that ability, or it becomes somewhat diminished, we put ourselves and our partners in jeopardy.

One way to ameliorate the aging process is through exercise. In addition to keeping our bodies strong and healthy, there’s an added advantage: exercise has been proven to enhance memory and cognition at any age. That’s right, according to a recent study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers found that student athletes were quicker thinkers than their non-athlete fellow students. In our business, that ability to think quickly could mean the difference between life and death.

Many of us exercise regularly, knowing that it’s part of the job. We aren’t desk jockeys, we’re on the street every day and are often called upon to do battle with thugs who have no problem injuring or killing us. I know many of our colleagues, myself included, who have survived traumatic injuries because they kept themselves physically fit. Regular exercise affords many benefits beyond keeping one in shape. Exercise is a proven stress reliever, helps reduce depression, allows us to get a better night’s sleep and makes us better lovers.

Now, exercise has been proven to boost our brain power, too. I’ve often thought this was true before I ever knew about research in the field. I recognized that people who included exercise in test preparation, allowing them to relieve stress, often scored higher than those who burned the midnight oil cramming for exams.

It occurred to me that if people who exercised created large muscles, might it be possible for our brains to grow as well if we worked them out? A recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine indicates that just might be the case. The study focused on a group of 74-year-olds, breaking them down into two groups—those who had high levels of exercise and those who exercised very little. The study found that the group that exercised vigorously had the lowest percentage of developing any cognitive impairment compared with the group who had limited exercise. If you have aging parents or grandparents who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, you know how devastating it can be when a person has a diminished ability to think and remember things.

But exercise doesn’t just help older folks, young people benefit from regular exercise as well. At the 2011 Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, a study was presented which involved grade school children. A group of kids who exercised while studying geography lessons had increased state test scores from 55% to 68.5%. The takeaway: exercising while learning equals better test scores. Next time you see someone on the stepper or treadmill studying a text book you’ll understand the method to their madness.

It may be a result of the baby boomer generation creating a large senior segment of our population, but regardless of the reason there are a multitude of studies being conducted on aging and how it affects the brain. One such study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicates exercise increases brain size. The study involved adults ages 55 thru 80 who regularly included aerobic exercise in their lifestyle for a period of one year. The researchers concluded that the study group increased the size of their brains in the area of the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and spatial navigation.

Recently, an article in the Chicago Tribune by Ellen Warren reinforced what the above studies concluded. In the article, a Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. John Ratey, said: “Exercise keeps your brain from eroding. Exercise is the one thing we’ve proven again and again that prevents the ravaging of aging on our brain.” Ratey went on to explain that the Mayo Clinic’s recent review of more than 2,000 scientific papers concluded that exercise is the one thing you can do to prevent the onset of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

If you are one who exercises, by all means keep doing it. But what about those who don’t exercise, is there any hope for them to boost their brain power and stave off diminished mental capacity? According to Dr. Ratey, yes. In fact, the doctor advises people who are not presently exercising to begin doing so immediately. Ratey said, “You get the most bang for your buck if you haven’t been exercising. The biggest changes are seen there.”

The results from exercise aren’t limited to improved intellectual capacity. Ratey advises that our emotional regulation improves as well—we become happier, less anxious and stressed. And, these improvements can be found in both adults and children. The more intense and the more time spent exercising results in an even bigger payoff. Got kids who are not exercising and getting average grades in school? Start them on an exercise program—today. Are you in a rut, depressed, fed up with your boss?—start exercising.

What better resolution can there possibly be than to improve your life by beginning something as simple and inexpensive as regular exercise? When you consider all the benefits from an activity that young and old people alike can partake in, why wait one day longer?


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise

Archives of Internal Medicine

Pediatric Academic Societies

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Chicago Tribune

–John M. Wills

John M. Wells

* * *


by Jack Miller

If you are like me, I like cheap especially in the marketing of my books. Actually I prefer free.

I have self published all five of mine and of course they are all trade paper book because E-Books had not been invented until recent. So I decided that I would increase circulation by offering my books as E-Books. I searched and the best I could find was companies that would prepare my E-Books for $50 each.

Last week I hit upon They offered to put my books into the right format, use my covers and put them on Amazon; Barnes and Nobel; Sony; Google; Scribd; Kobo; Books on Board, and/or Overdrive. FREE!!!

I followed their instruction and they have accepted my books. Now I know I’m a wonderful guy and I deserve this but really I don’t think they are doing this just for me. Actually I’m almost waiting for the other shoe to drop because that are not taking a percentage either. They are really very easy to work with too.

You might want to check them out if you are cheap as I am.

John “Jack” Miller, Special Agent Ret/ AFOSI and NSGCB

Author of Cold War Warrior, Cold War Defector, The Master Cheat, The Medal, Operation Switch, and soon to be released, The Peacekeepers.

* * *

Pete Klismet is a full-time Professor of Criminal Justice and is retired from the FBI, where he was selected to be one of the original group of Criminal Profilers. He is the founder of Criminal Profiling Associates, on the web at  (He is pictured on the right, not the left!).

SERIAL KILLERS“What’choo mean they’re not crazy?”

Virtually every time I’ve done a “Criminal Personality Profiling” school or college class over the past 25 years, I’m often reminded of an old TV series, “Different Strokes.” A star of the show, the late Gary Coleman, gained considerable fame with the phrase, “What’choo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”  (For the record, I heard him say it hundreds of times, and laughed every time).  In talking about serial killers, I’ve heard similar comments from my college students and police officers in schools I continue to teach. “What do you mean they’re not crazy?”  Usually followed closely by, “Don’t they have to be crazy to kill all those people?”  And then, “But if they’re not crazy, why do they do it?”

If there is anything we can agree on, it would be that the acts of a serial murderer are, to say the least, a great departure from what we think of as normal.  To put it mildly.  Clearly, most normal people don’t wake up one morning, have some coffee, read the paper, check eMails, and then decide, “Hmmm…..what am I going to do today?  Awww, what the heck, I think I’m going to start killing people.”  And off they go to their new adventures.

Two striking pictures of the same man.  Ted Bundy

We are all driven to seek answers and explanations for odd behavior.  We want to understand why a seemingly mild-mannered, quiet man like Gary Ridgway (“The Green River Killer”) could kill at least forty eight women in Seattle.  What creates a monster like law student Ted Bundy, who roamed from Washington State, to Utah, Idaho, Colorado and finally Florida, brutally killing and maiming women along the way, eventually killing thirty three women that we know of.  And how do you explain Jeffrey Dahmer?  What could have caused him to strangle seventeen young men and boys in Milwaukee, eat body parts so they’d be “a part of me,” keep their corpses in his apartment for days, and then dissolve their bodies in acid inside his apartment?  And they all performed sex acts on some of their victims after killing them.  If for no other reason, that would seem to be a huge clue that they simply have to be crazy…but are they?

The face of a serial killer?  While many believe they must have a certain ‘look,’ they actually look no different than any of us, or “Green River Killer” Gary Ridgway who pled guilty to 48 murders in Seattle in 2004.

Jeffrey Dahmer’s attractive appearance lured his victims into his lair.  No one could have predicted he would kill 17 young men in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

There are a lot of questions posed at this juncture, so let’s take a look at some facts, beginning with the commonly-accepted (except in Canada and England) definition of the term “Serial Killer.”  A serial killer was defined by the Behavioral Science Unit (now the Investigative Support Unit) in Quantico, Virginia, and combines three basic factors:

  1. A person who kills three or more victims (most often one victim at a time)
  2. The killings occurred over a period of time, usually days, weeks, months or years.
  3. There is a cooling off period between the killings.

The latter point (cooling off) is what separates a serial killer from a mass killer (Columbine, for example, where all killings occurred in a single event), and a spree killer (where there might be a continuing and sometimes connecting series of killings in different locations over a day or several days, but no cooling off period).  With these killings, there is often a long period of seething anger which eventually boils to a point of deciding to take some form of violent action.  Many people, particularly the media, want to say they simply “snapped.’  It makes it so much easier to understand then.  But nothing could be farther from the truth.  The anger has typically welled-up in them for months or even years, much like a pressure cooker on low heat.  And eventually the pressure builds up to the point where they are seemingly unable to control themselves from doing what they do.  It’s nothing like suddenly and impulsively deciding to go to their workplace or school and kill people who they believe have treated them unfairly.

Yet again, we can pose the question, “Are mass killers crazy?”  And the answer to that is also no.  A more likely explanation is that they finally reached the boiling-over point with anger and frustration and could see no other way out of their dire situation.  What they eventually did was something akin to an irresistible impulse they couldn’t control.  But they certainly aren’t crazy.

If that’s the case, then we should review what the term insanity means.  In medical and psychiatric terms, the word insanity is avoided in favor of specific diagnoses of particular mental disorders.  The presence of delusions or hallucinations is more broadly defined as psychosis.  Most courts in the United States accept a potential insanity defense when experts can identify a major mental illness (psychosis), but will not accept the numerous and less-than-psychotic personality disorders.

Personality Disorders are a separate classification of mental health disorders which include such issues as Borderline Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder (of which, “Psychopath” is a sub classification), Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, and Histrionic Personality Disorder (this is only a part of a much more exhaustive list).  Commonly-diagnosed mental health disorders such as Bipolar Disorder, Generalized (not chronic) Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, Schizophrenia, and Depression are among the classification of mental health disorders termed “Axis I” disorders.  None of them meet the criteria for psychosis.

While the diagnostic criteria and the multiplicity of possible disorders and psychoses can become a bit confusing to non-trained professionals, the key issue from a legal standpoint becomes relatively simple – did the person charged with the crime have the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, and did he know the behavior he engaged in was against the law?  This is the difference between someone being legally sane vs. insane.

However, evidence and testimony from mental health professionals as to those issues must be clearly presented to the court or jury to make that decision.  And herein lies the crux of the matter when we’re considering serial murderers.  Conjecture, speculation and comments such as “Well, he just acted crazy all the time,” or “He was odd,” won’t work.  The word “crazy” doesn’t exist in the legal or psychiatric arenas, but the word “sanity” does.

A few specific cases can serve as a reference point. Several years ago, a woman in San

Antonio, Texas, killed her baby and ate parts of the baby including its brain. Most of us would call that crazy.   After lengthy psychological evaluation, this woman was diagnosed with a psychotic disorder. The woman believed the devil made her mutilate and dismember her newborn son.  She was subsequently found not guilty of the crime by reason of insanity, and was committed to a mental institution until deemed to no longer be a danger to herself or others. In a similar case in 2001, Andrea Yates, of Houston, Texas, was shown to have been suffering from postpartum psychosis and, in this psychotic state, drowned each of her five children.  She later explained that Satan was inside her and was trying to save her children from going to hell. She was found not guilty by reason of insanity by a jury, and committed to a mental institution.

In 1982, John Hinkley, Jr., was found to be not guilty by reason of insanity after attempting to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. Hinkley had a long history of psychiatric care when he was younger, and his statements made it clear he did not have his psychological act completely together. Hinkley has been confined to a mental institution in the Washington, D.C. area for nearly 30 years.  While he’s gained some privileges, it is doubtful he’ll ever be completely free and on his own.  Hinkley will probably never become a person who can function in society on his own.

Police and Secret Service agents grapple with John Hinkley who shot President Reagan.  The picture on the right may have given a clue to Hinkley’s dark and foreboding delusions, but only he knew of his true motive – an intense love for actress Jody Foster, who he’d never met.

So, you might ask, how are the two women noted above different from Jeffrey Dahmer?  It certainly seems they did similar things.  Dahmer killed seventeen people, strangling most, drilled holes in their heads to inject acid in the process of making sex zombies (by his own admission).  He dismembered and disemboweled his victims, ate body parts, saved others, collected skulls and dissolved their bodies in a huge vat of acid.  And he’s the one who is NOT psychotic!  Or crazy?  How on earth can that be true?

Here’s the difference, and why Dahmer was found to be sane, despite the manifestly ‘crazy’things he did.  Dahmer showed planning and premeditation in every one of his killings, and the prosecutors skillfully pointed this out.  A psychotic person does not have the cognitive (or mental) organization to create the detailed plots and plans that Dahmer created.  He hunted for his victims in gay bars only, and sought victims who were light-skinned black males, younger and slender.  Very specific criteria and not random victims.

Thus, he wasn’t a killer who would simply murder anyone who got in his way, although some serial killers have and do.  Ted Bundy was similar to Dahmer in his selectivity, as most of his female victims had long dark hair, parted in the middle, and we later learned, looked a lot like a girlfriend who had dumped him several years before.  Bundy also brought items he’d need to gain control of the victims with him, and would commonly use an arm sling or crutches to make his victims feel immediately safe.  All of these things require some thinking and planning, which a psychotic person could not typically accomplish in his delusional state.

Dahmer constantly fantasized about and was obsessed with killing over and over. His obsession developed into a compulsion and then a need, and he eventually became addicted to killing.  Yet he could compartmentalize that secret part of his life and create the image that he was perfectly normal.  He fit well into society. He was attractive, dressed well (some suggested ‘dressed to kill’) and used this to his advantage in luring potential victims.

He hunted only on Friday nights, because if he was successful, he would have the victim for a couple of days, and then would have time to do what he wanted to do with the body.  He never used a car, because he knew he could be identified by the type of car he drove.  He installed extra locks and a security camera on his apartment to thwart anyone from entering.  But he also presented a normal side when talking to his parents, the police on a couple of occasions, and people he worked with.  He was able to hide in plain sight, appear perfectly normal, and no one would have imagined it was him committing the horrible crimes he did.  An insane person couldn’t begin to accomplish all of those things.

On the other side of the coin are several serial killers who were probably insane, yet were adjudged to be sane in court.  Richard Trenton Chase, for example, killed several people in Sacramento, California, eviscerated at least one victim, and sat beside the victim drinking her blood from a cup.  Chase had a long psychiatric history, and told investigators he was drinking blood because space ships from other planets were sending radiation down to earth which was turning his blood into powder.  Like Dahmer, he had body parts in his refrigerator, and had used a blender to chop up other human organs, mixing them with blood.  While all of that doesn’t sound like the acts of a sane person, one never knows what will happen when a case goes to court.  Chase was adjudged to be sane despite considerable evidence to the contrary.  I’ve researched this case, and still am clueless how he was found sane.

Dubbed “The Sacramento Vampire,” Richard Trenton Chase drank the blood of at least one victim, and kept body parts of others.  Despite a prior psychiatric history, and delusions about space ships, Nazi’s, and other equally odd subjects, Chase was found to be sane.

The idyllic beach town of Santa Cruz, California in the early 1970’s seemed to be one of the most unlikely places to become the murder capital of the U.S.A.  Edmund Kemper was a prime contributor to the high murder rate, picking up hitchhikers in the area, killing them, and dismembering their bodies.  But Kemper’s issue was not insanity, it was anger, due in large part to his dominant and verbally abusive mother.  Since he couldn’t violently strike back at his mother, he could against other women, which is exactly what he did.  But investigators and prosecutors were able to show the planning and premeditation Kemper went through to both gain control of his victims and dispose of their bodies.

The 6’ 9”, 325 pound Ed Kemper, on the left, had a university parking sticker on his car, which made coeds and hitchhikers feel at ease.  Herbert Mullin, on the other hand, had no plan  involved in his 13 killings.

While Kemper was terrorizing Santa Cruz and keeping investigators busy, another killer, Herbert Mullin, was on an even worse killing spree.   Mullin had a lengthy psychiatric history, as far back as his early teen years.  His father sought counseling and had him committed, but as it seems to happen, after each period of evaluation, he was then released on the belief that he was no longer a danger to himself or others.  Let’s say that diagnosis wasn’t entirely accurate.  As Mullin’s psychosis deepened, he developed an obsession with earthquakes, and of course California is prone to have them occasionally.  Mullin then added a delusion to the obsession, namely that he could prevent earthquakes from occurring if he killed people.  He randomly selected victims who, in his delusional state, he believed were telepathically telling him to kill them and the problem of earthquakes would stop.  His victims were simply unfortunate people who appeared on his radar screen on any given day, male and female, and even some children.  There was no pattern or logic to what he did or the victims he chose.  This is the antithesis of Dahmer’s and Bundy’s process of victim selection by certain well-established and defined criteria.  Mullin was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and was committed to the state mental hospital after his trial.  Kemper, on the other hand, offered an insanity defense, but was adjudged sane and received a life sentence which he is currently serving.

The cherubic face of what could have been a choir boy belied dark fantasies of murder in the mind of David Berkowitz.  Named “Son of Sam,” he claimed to have gotten his orders and instructions to kill from a dog  named Sam whose body was inhabited by Satan.  He remains in custody at Ossining (Sing Sing) State Prison in New York.

Virtually all serial killers are found to have been sane at the time they committed their crimes.  David Berkowitz, the infamous “Son of Sam” killer who paralyzed New York City for over a year, tried an insanity defense, as many have.  Despite claiming a satanic demon inhabited the body of a dog next door, and that the dog spoke to him with instructions on what to do and how to kill people, Berkowitz was found to be as sane.  Kenneth Bianchi, one of the “Hillside Stranglers” in Los Angeles, claimed a multiple personality, and that the “Bad Ken,” was the one who did the killings.  Confronted by a psychiatrist who told Bianchi that people with Multiple Personality Disorder usually had at least three distinct personalities, Bianchi promptly came up with a third one.  That didn’t work, and Bianchi is currently on a full-ride scholarship in a Washington state prison, having also been convicted of killing two women in Bellingham, Washington after his nefarious murders in Los Angeles.

Kenneth Bianchi (on the left) and Angelo Buono, “The Hillside Stranglers,” in Los Angeles.  A rare pair of ‘team killers,’ they tortured and killed 14 women, most of them at Buono’s upholstery shop in Glendale.  Both are serving life terms.

In conclusion, very few serial killers even come close to meeting the exceedingly strict criteria for insanity.  The challenge to investigators is in discovering those things in their lives they did which displayed their true sanity.  They are not crazy as we’d like to think.  A very small percentage of those we’ve identified over the years qualified.  Every year we identify more of them, and the certainty they face is the death penalty or a life in prison.  The next article in this series will attempt to explain a far more difficult topic, “Why do they do it?”

* * *


John H Briant’s “Adirondack Detective Series” consisting of seven books and his autobiography, “One Cop’s Story:A Life Remembered” for a total of eight books are now available on NOOK and KINDLE.

* * *

Vincent Casale’s  has a new book out, The Coparazzi, and it will be available on and Barnes and

* * *


John Bray’s  latest book: CODE NAME: CALEB

Young and penniless Johnny Madigan lied about his age to become a Union Soldier. And after surviving serious injury on the Civil War’s most notorious and blood-soaked killing fields, was recruited to work under cover to infiltrate Confederate spy rings.

In this sequel to the acclaimed Ballad of Johnny Madigan, Johnny – older than his years, but much younger than believed by the army, battle-hardened and a master of espionage – is sent back to New York to penetrate an underground counterfeiting gang supplying forged US currency the enemy South.

His assignment takes him to Canada where a murderous Confederate spy ring is plotting an armed uprising to take over New York City and hold it hostage.

Johnny’s dream is to return to childhood sweetheart, Deidre, who kept him alive as a destitute youth in the city’s slums, but there is more than the daily risk of sudden death keeping him from her as he enters the very heart of the conspiracy. Suspected by some plotters, he is seduced by a beautiful woman – herself a key member of the gang – whose orders are to expose him.

Will the war-toughened, but still romantically naïve, Johnny see through sexy Letitia’s love ploy to complete and survive his vital mission and to be re-united with Deidre, or can the conspirators lower his guard with Letitia’s wily help, make their bold, history-changing plan succeed … and see Johnny dead?

John Bray’s immaculately researched and race-paced ‘Code Name: Caleb’ thrusts the reader into the murky depths of intrigue, plot and counter-plot that became the dark underside of the War Between the States. 


John Bray


Published by BeWrite Books Available as an e-book

On Nook, Kindle, I-pad  And ready to download to your laptop or PC

* * *


From Steve Hughes–

Last September I had the pleasure of announcing my historical novel, The Sign of the Eagle, had been accepted for publication by Sunbury Press ( Although the novel is still approximately three months away from release, the novel can now be pre-ordered through the publisher (see the URL below). You can order it as a trade paperback or ebook (Kindle and Nook). If you wish, you can wait until it is available and order it through websites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble or at your local brick and mortar bookstore. Once it is available I will be conducting book signings at stores around the Pacific Northwest and the San Francisco Bay Area. Arrangements are pending book release.

For those of you who are not familiar with the story, The Sign of the Eagle, is an historical action/suspense novel set in ancient Rome, 71 A.D. The central character, Macha, is a Celtic woman married to the Roman officer, Titus, who is wrongfully accused of treason. She must almost single-handed prove his innocence. For more details check my website or the below URL. I will send out another notification once the novel is released by the publisher.

 Steve Hughes

The End

Click here for archived issues