WOO IN REVIEW: Criminal Profiling Contest

After reviewing the television show Criminal Minds, I was surprised to discover how many people do not believe that criminal profiling has a value to criminal investigation better than, say, psychic detectives.

According to research conducted in the early 1990's, out of 192 cases where profilers had been called in as investigation support, only 88 were ever solved, and only 17% of that number were cases where criminal profiling was deemed a helpful element of the investigation.profiler1

It's important to remember, when examining that statistic, that criminal profilers aren't called in often, and only are when other investigation methods (such as forensics) have failed. The crimes investigated are hard to solve – harder than most.

There is also a misconception that profiles are intended to be used as evidence, or to directly lead to an arrest.

This isn't the case. Criminal profiling can be used, however, to eliminate suspects from a pool. And in order to review criminal profiling on the whole, I've designed a case of serial murder for you to participate in.

I am aware this doesn't prove whether profiling is or is not an effective tool. Much more study would have to be conducted for that. What I'm hoping to do is put you in the shoes of a profiler and find out if the possibility for an individual to help an investigation based on the type of person they believe must have committed a crime is possible.

And this is also a contest.

You, as a profiler, will be competing against all other participants for a signed copy of Conjuring by James Randi.

In order to enter, you must, in the comments, state which of the suspects you believe was responsible for the fictional crimes described below. Not only that, you must say why you believe they did it, and why you don't believe any of the other suspects did.

You must give your e-mail address within your submission, or you must simultaneously copy your submission to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You cannot just send an e-mail. You MUST post your submission in the comments as well.

You must be willing to give your mailing address. Otherwise your prize cannot be sent to you should you win.

The first person with the correct answer and the correct reasons will be deemed the winner.

Keep in mind that the crimes described are graphic. If graphic violence doesn't suit you, you really might want to reconsider entering the contest.

Also, be aware that these crimes and these suspects are fictional. The elements of the crimes described have similarities to true crimes, but are not identical.

And, as with any good contest, there is a BONUS ROUND.

If you would like, with your submission for the culprit of the crimes described, you may also participate in the bonus round.

In addition to the perpetrator of the crime described, there are individuals that you, the profiler, speak to in the course of your investigation. You believe that it is possible these individuals have committed, or will commit, other crimes. Who are they, and what are the crimes that suit them? I'm not going to tell you how many individuals there are for the bonus round. You'll have to figure that out yourself.

The winner of the bonus round will receive a signed copy of James Randi's An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural.

Remember – these crimes are designed. They are the perfect conditions for a profiler. They are manufactured crimes, and manufactured suspects.

Now. Let the profiling begin.

The Crimes

The bodies of twelve women who disappeared between 2003 and 2008 have been discovered (at various times) in the Saline Valley area of Death Valley National Park in California. The women all went missing from Las Vegas, Nevada in accordance with the following time line.

October, 2003
August, 2004
March, 2005
September, 2006
January, 2007
April, 2007
October, 2007
February, 2008
May, 2008
July, 2008
November, 2008
December, 2008

All the women were abducted from off-Strip dance clubs. Cameras, when available, show each of them having a drink with a twenty-five to thirty-five year old male wearing a fedora. Particular features are obscured, but witness accounts say that the individual was white, had dark hair, and was attractive, charming, and well-dressed. Parking lot cameras show the male in the fedora helping the abducted females into a black Honda CR-V as though they were heavily inebriated.profiler2

The Victims

All the victims are between the ages of twenty-two and twenty-eight. All are white females. All were above-average intelligence with steady, well-paying jobs. All have blonde hair and blue eyes, and their hair is cut short. All were very attractive. All attended the clubs alone. The latest victim showed rohypnol in a toxicology screening, and it is assumed that all victims were given it in their drinks and that decomposition masked that fact.

Witnesses at the clubs say that the women seemed sober for most of their interaction with the man, which lasted for up to half an hour, and that only in the last ten minutes or so of conversation with him seemed to become incapacitated despite having fewer than four drinks during the course of the night. The women all drank high-end drinks, and one even convinced a man to buy her champagne, though she was off with someone else before she finished the first drink. The women and the man who is thought to be the perpetrator did not dance together at the club, but sat at a table and talked instead.

Witnesses say that the women were extremely social before meeting the man, and danced with quite a few people. They were flirtatious and charming, yet seemed like strong women who were getting more than they were giving.

The abductions all occurred between 10 PM and 2 AM.

All the victims were well-dressed at the time of their abductions, and their clothing was found neatly folded beside them at the dump site, and had no bloodstains. All the bodies still had on jewelry. All the bodies were found nude, all had been raped with a foreign object that was not found at the scene. All the victims were suffocated to death with what forensic analysts believe was a plastic bag though no bag was found at the grave sites. All the bodies were buried in shallow graves. All the victims had severe pre-mortem facial wounds that appear to have been inflicted with a hammer.

There are at least five more women who fit the victimology of this crime and went missing within the past year. Police are still searching missing persons records to see if there are more.

You, The Profiler

Police work has built a suspect pool, which has been narrowed because of witness constructed sketches of the perpetrator. All the following ten people own or have access to black Honda CR-Vs. All had the ability to commit the crimes. It is up to you to decide whose personality fits the crimes.

You are FBI Special Agent Blank, and you work for the Behavioral Analysis Unit as a criminal profiler. You have been called in to interview the ten people in the narrowed suspect pool. You do not solve crimes, and the profile you give will not be considered evidence. It will only further narrow the suspect pool, and give the police direction in their interviews. However, after interviewing the ten individuals and those close to them, you believe you know who did it. And you have reasons to back up your claims.

Read the list of ten people and their stories, then, in the comments, submit your answer along with the reasons you believe the individual you have chosen was responsible for the crimes.

1. Jeffrey Gacy – Jeffrey is a Las Vegas native, is twenty-six years old, and loves extreme sports. He rock climbs, paraglides, and has taken courses in survivalist camping. He owns an ATV, and often rides it in Death Valley. Jeffrey is not currently employed. He is the son of rich parents, and lives mostly off his trust fund (a fact that he doesn't mind proudly sharing). Jeffrey says he survives on Power Bars and Gatorade. He had a serious girlfriend for a while, but she caught him cheating and broke off the relationship. Now he just has a series of one-night stands, but doesn't mind because it frees up his time for travel and also frees him up for “special encounters” with bikini babes when he visits the beach to surf. Jeffrey went to school at the University of Texas at Austin, and majored in art history. He never graduated because in his third year he left school to pursue a more philosophical lifestyle. He tells you that murder isn't really the killing of another soul, but an attempt to absorb the power of the universe. Jeffrey's friends don't have a lot to say about him beyond superficial things, like that he enjoys listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival and often talks about his exercise regimen. When Jeffrey meets with you, he is wearing bike shorts and a muscle shirt and has a pedometer wrapped around his ankle and sunglasses perched on his head. A background check reveals that Jeffrey once had a complaint filed against him for domestic abuse. The complaint was filed by his ex-girlfriend, who Jeffrey says started the dispute after she caught him cheating. He claims that he shoved her, and she slipped and fell and broke her wrist. The complaint was never acted upon, and Jeffrey has no actual record. Jeffrey's parents say that he is a free spirit, and would never intentionally hurt anyone.

2. John Wayne Zodiac – John is thirty-five years old and works as a clown at Circus Circus hotel and casino. He is unmarried and does not have a steady girlfriend. When he meets you, he is wearing a black shirt, black jeans, and a Barry Manilow hat, which he insists he wears as a joke. Even though the topic of conversation is very serious, John can't help but make jokes often. He says he is never really off the job. John attended Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Clown College, and went on to tour with the circus for three years. He decided he wanted a more stable life, and moved to Vegas. He says that Circus Circus is a great place because it's one of the few remaining casinos that has a family-friendly theme. John admits to sometimes gambling too much (he loves blackjack), and is a recovering alcoholic. He has a record for driving while intoxicated. He says he has been alcohol-free for six years, but you contact Holly, his last girlfriend (from four years ago), and she claims that John continued to go on drinking binges until the end of their relationship. She worked as a cocktail waitress at Circus Circus, and claims that John would often go to off-strip clubs to avoid being seen by their acquaintances when he was drinking. Holly also says that John would claim that he was going camping in Death Valley, but would just as often go on binges in Pahrump, a nearby town, and also obtained the services of prostitutes while there (it is, it should be noted, legal for him to do so). John came from a single-parent household – his mother, a receptionist, struggled to support him while they were living in California. John and his mother have since lost contact, and according to her, John was always the picked-on child in school and never got over it, using his clown act as a way to compensate for his sadness. John has no record.profiler3

3. Charles Bundy – Charles is a thirty year old waiter who works at Peppermill, a twenty-four hour diner on the Strip. He is married, and his wife's name is Melinda. Melinda says that Charles often spends all day and all night reading, and that his favorite author is Voltaire. For their anniversary, which was last week, Charles and Melinda went on a nature walk in Death Valley. They had planned to go on a cruise, but could not afford it as Melinda recently discovered she is pregnant and the money is going instead to doctor visits and building a nursery in their small apartment. Charles is frank with you about his money issues. His parents were both schoolteachers, and he believes that the most important thing to a child is having a household full of love rather than possessions. He says that books are cheap, and that's enough for him. Charles and Melinda make a point of going out on the town separately from one another once every two weeks in order to keep their relationship fresh. Charles says that he has never had an impulse to cheat on Melinda, though you didn't ask. Charles' schoolteacher parents tell you that Charles had quite an imagination as a child, and was always reading above his level, sometimes to a worrying point – Charles read the works of Lovecraft at a young age, and his mother found it unsuitable but didn't want to stifle his learning. Charles says that thanks to his parents, he was allowed an imaginative life and now puts all his reading to work. He writes short stories in his spare time, and hopes to one day be published, though that hasn't happened yet. Charles is interested in the crimes you are questioning him about, and he tells you it could be great inspiration for a story. Charles never went to college, but has taken online courses in creative writing to broaden his skills. He has no record, and has few friends.

4. Jack Manson – Jack is a twenty-eight year old bouncer from the club LAX, located inside of the Luxor hotel and casino. He is married and has two children, but says that in order to do his job well, he has to pretend to be single at work. Jack's job includes finding the “party girls” in the crowd waiting to get into the club, and he says he is good at it. His wife is named Debbie, and she works in public relations at the Wynn. Their two children are four and two, and Jack shows you a family photo from his wallet. When he meets with you, Jack is dressed in a designer suit with the knot of his tie pulled out a bit. His hair is a mess, as though he has been up all night, and Jack says that he has. Jack says that he thanks God for two things – McDonald's and treadmills – because he couldn't survive without either. He laughs and adds that, of course, he also couldn't survive without his family. Jack went to UNLV and majored in political science, but says the major applies much more to regular life than politics. He says politics teaches you how to deal with people, and that's important in his job. In fact, despite being threatened occasionally by drunks, Jack has never been in a fight at work. He says that working for the FBI must also take a political mind, and asks you about employment opportunities there. He has taken the kids on picnics in Death Valley before, but says he doesn't know the area very well. He says that he doesn't want to take the kids beyond the touristy parts of the park because he has no sense of direction. Debbie says that Jack is a great father and a hard worker. He has been at the Luxor in some capacity for six years. She says that sometimes Jack will go out drinking with his buddies, but that for the most part he is a homebody. He likes to watch action movies, and hates the taste of beer, but will sometimes drink wine. He got a taste for fine wines on a trip they took together to Martha's Vineyard. Jack has no record.

5. William George Tylenol – William is a twenty-five year old pharmacy technician at CVS who is putting himself through school at UNLV. He says that it is very stressful balancing work and school, but hopes to get a degree soon. He is in the premed program. William is putting himself through school rather than depending upon his parents because, frankly, he does not know who his parents are. William was a foster kid, and the home he was placed in was full of other foster kids. He thinks that his foster mother was more interested in checks from the state than supporting him and the other children. William does not have a girlfriend because he doesn't have time, though he did recently go to the movies with a girl from one of his classes. He hopes that he'll have more time for relationships, but doesn't see it happening any time soon. William doesn't have many close friends, but you speak with Josh, his study buddy. Josh says that William is always on the verge of a breakdown, and it's true that when you meet William, he is looking a little harried. He is wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt that has holes in it. William says that he recently bought a set of relaxation CDs, but that they don't seem to work very well. You contact Kelly, the woman William went to the movies with, and she says that William was so worried about an upcoming paper during the movie that he barely watched it at all. Afterward, on the walk home, he realized he had forgotten about a quiz the next day in Biology and burst into tears. William ran into his dormitory without kissing Kelly, or even saying goodbye. William occasionally goes out to Death Valley to look at the stars when he is feeling particularly stressed and doesn't have any due dates coming. He says it puts things in perspective. William's professors call him a hardworking student, and say that he always seems lost even though he knows all the answers. William's boss from CVS says that William is never late and never calls in sick. William has no record.

6. Green River Ramirez – Green is a thirty-four year old stage magician who has a show at the Hilton Las Vegas hotel and casino. Green married his assistant, Elizabeth, last year. She is his third wife. Green moved to Las Vegas when he was seventeen years old to pursue a career in magic, and a magician who had a show on the Strip at the time helped him get his start. Green never attended college, and refuses to talk much about his parents, saying only that they were “your standard middle-class family.” The stagehands for Green's show tell you that Green has a crippling sense of self-doubt despite his success as a magician, and that Green often has sexual intercourse with his female fans. Elizabeth tells you that Green's transgressions are not a reflection on his view of their marriage, but on his self-image. When you tell Green about the crimes you are investigating, he marvels at how, outside of magic, disappearances can be such solid events. He says he could never be a policeman, because he would always be convinced that missing people would immediately reappear. Green occasionally drinks to excess, and tries to dodge people who recognize him despite wanting to be recognizable. According to Green's manager, the show at the Hilton is doing very well, and yet at times Green seems unsatisfied. When Green meets with you, he is wearing a tuxedo, having just finished his show for the night. When you ask him if he likes performing magic, he says that it isn't a real profession. Green sometimes rents a cabin in Death Valley during vacation season, as he had another childhood dream he never fulfilled – he wanted to be an explorer. Green says that on some level, his trips into Death Valley fulfill his desire for adventure. Green has one complaint of sexual harassment on his record.

7. Gerard Wuornos – Gerard is a twenty-six year old gas station attendant. He has a steady girlfriend, whose name is Jeanine, and they live together in a small apartment off the strip. Jeanine also works at the gas station, which is owned by Wuornos' father. Gerard has a good relationship with his father, and says he chose to work at the gas station as soon as he was old enough in order to stay close to his family. His mother suffers from leukemia, and Gerard often goes to visit her at the family home and reads her Little House on the Prairie books. Jeanine says that Gerard is the kindest man she has ever dated, and that he will often be waiting at home with takeout Chinese food when she gets off a long shift. Gerard and Jeanine have been dating for four years, and he hopes to propose to her as soon as he saves up for a nice enough ring. Gerard and Jeanine own a dog named Jolly, and Gerard often takes Jolly out to Death Valley so he can run around free. Since they live in an apartment, Gerard feels that the dog might suffer if not allowed to stretch his legs every once in a while. Gerard goes out alone every now and again to have a few beers, and when you meet him, he is wearing a Budweiser t-shirt and jeans. Gerard's father says that his son is a reliable employee, and that he never complains about the fact that he works in a gas station. Gerard likes to watch sports, and he and Jeanine host barbecues for their neighbors on a camping grill that they set up in the parking lot of the complex. When you tell him about the crimes, Gerard says things like this are the reason he watches sports and not the news. Gerard has no record.
8. Ted Schaefer – Ted is a twenty-nine year old blackjack dealer at Monte Carlo hotel and casino, and has been employed there for the past two years. Before that, he worked at four different casinos dealing various games since he turned twenty-one. He started at Caesar's, worked at Wynn briefly, then Mirage, then Hilton. His co-workers say that Ted is a good dealer, and is always very professional, though one ex-co-worker from his time working at Wynn remembers an incident where an affluent young woman yelled at him over a bad hand and he left the table without notifying his pit boss. Ted has a steady girlfriend named Linda, and he often surprises her at her job (she is a consultant for a legal firm) with gifts, including a pair of earrings from Tiffany's that she proudly shows off to you. Linda also says that Ted has brought her and her co-workers homemade meals, including a really delicious vichyssoise. Linda tells you that Ted never talks himself up – not about his cooking or his looks, even though he is very handsome. He doesn't seem to realize how great he is. He and Linda have taken trips to Death Valley and camped there, and Ted seems relaxed there and even more affectionate than usual. He says he finds the desert calming. Your talks with Ted reveal that he originally applied to school at Harvard, but wound up attending UNLV after he interviewed at Harvard and found the woman who interviewed him to be a “stuck-up snob.” His career at UNLV was short-lived, though. He found his classes (he was majoring in volcanology) to be boring, and wanted to spend more time with Linda. Ted seems professional, charismatic, and interested in the investigation. He has read up on psychology as a hobby, and wants to know what you think of the killer from a psychological standpoint. Ted comes from poor roots – his mother was a casino cocktail waitress, and his father drove a delivery truck. Ted has a sealed juvenile record, which he says was from a time when he stole a magazine from a convenience store. You have no way to check the story.

9. Richard Dahmer – Richard is a thirty-three year old manager of an off-strip Motel 6. He is a widower, and has not dated since his wife died five years ago in a car crash. Richard does not have any close friends, and his customers say that he is very polite, but a little lonely. He has a tendency to try and engage his customers in personal conversations when they do not feel it is necessary. Richard lives alone in a small apartment, and watches black and white musicals. He particularly likes ones starring Fred Astaire. When you meet him, Richard is wearing a polo shirt and khaki pants that look like they are a few years old. He says that he goes out to clubs sometimes, but that he doesn't know how to talk to women as well as he used to. Richard says that his wife was a very faithful churchgoer, and that the women he talks to in clubs aren't that type. Richard says that he understands why God would call His faithful home, but that he wishes his wife was still alive so he wouldn't be so lonely. When you tell him about the crimes you are investigating, Richard laments the loss of life. Sometimes Richard drives out to Death Valley so he can see the mountains and desert and stars and think of his wife looking down on him. He says she was the kindest person in the world. Richard's family lives, for the most part, in Arizona, and he doesn't see them very often outside of holidays. His parents are still married, and have been for forty years now, and he always feels a little envious of their happiness. Richard has no record.

10. Clifford Heirens – Clifford is a thirty five year old taxi driver for Executive Taxi in Las Vegas. He is married and has one child. Clifford's wife, Emily, is a stay-at-home mom. Clifford says he loves his job because it allows him to meet people from all over the place, and hear stories about all the places he hopes to travel. Emily and Clifford are living in Clifford's father's home (the father died eight years ago), and he inherited some money that they have been slowly adding to so they can travel. They did tap into the money last year to visit a resort in Florida. Their five year old son had a great time building sand castles, and Clifford doesn't care that he'll have to work a little harder to save. He plans to save everything he can and retire fast. Emily says that Clifford is upbeat all the time, and that sometimes it wears her out since she doesn't always feel that way. But his mood is infectious, and Emily often winds up smiling despite herself. Clifford never planned to go to college – it just wasn't something he wanted to do. He prefers to be mobile, and to have a job where he can engage in conversation all the time. When you tell Clifford about the crimes, he wonders if he ever had the perpetrator in his taxi and spoke to him. Clifford wonders what a killer would talk about in a taxi, and looks at you like you might know the answer. Clifford goes out to Death Valley sometimes when he gets tired of the conversations – which he says isn't often. He likes the solitude as a break from the Strip, but always wants to get back to the lights of Vegas. Clifford has no record other than a parking ticket from when he was working.