Posts Tagged ‘sociopathy’

By Stephanie Pappas

Thirty-two years after his last murder, the Golden State Killer may be behind bars, according to California authorities.

Local and federal law enforcement arrested Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. on Tuesday, saying that DNA evidence shows him to be responsible for 10 murders and at least 46 rapes from the 1970s to 1986. According to the Los Angeles Times, DeAngelo, now 72, has been married since 1973. He and his wife have three children.

DeAngelo’s apparent quiet suburban life may not be unusual for serial killers, experts say. There is no foolproof estimate for how many such criminals are living in communities, uncaptured, but Thomas Hargrove, the founder of the Murder Accountability Project, argued that there are as many as 2,000 serial killers at large — and that financial woes affecting city services could be making the problem worse.

The FBI defines a “serial killer” as someone who murders two or more victims, with a cooling-off period between crimes.

Hargrove, a retired investigative journalist, arrived at his estimate of about 2,000 at-large serial killers by asking some contacts at the FBI to calculate how many unsolved murders linked to at least one other murder through DNA were in their database, he explained to The New Yorker last year. Those officials determined that about 1,400 murders, or 2 percent of those in the database, met that classification.

However, not all murder cases involve DNA evidence, and not all cases are reported to the FBI, so that 2 percent is a low estimate, Hargrove said. Two thousand is a ballpark figure, but the numbers shouldn’t be a surprise, he said.

“There are more than 220,000 unsolved murders since 1980, so when you put that in perspective, how shocking is it that there are at least 2,000 unrecognized series of homicides?” he said.

The most prolific serial killer of the modern era was probably Harold Shipman, an English doctor who may have murdered as many as 250 patients with fatal doses of painkillers. The 2,000 theoretical killers don’t have to meet such a staggering standard, considering that killing a minimum of two victims in separate incidents meets the FBI definition of serial killer.

By a far more conservative method of accounting, there are about 115 serial killers dating back to the 1970s in the United States whose crimes have never been solved. That estimate comes from Kenna Quinet, a criminologist at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. It’s based on linkages between cases made by journalists or law enforcement, and includes a slightly different metric than Hargrove’s estimate: The killer had to have murdered at least three victims, not two.

In the same time period as Quinet’s estimate for unsolved serial murders, there were roughly 625 solved serial murder cases, she told Live Science. There aren’t many differences between unsolved and solved cases, geographically or in terms of factors like the type of victims, Quinet said. But her database doesn’t include cases where no one has ever made the link between murders. If a serial killer killed a person in one state and then drifted off to the next to kill two more, for example, the crimes might have never been flagged by anyone as related and thus wouldn’t appear in Quinet’s count.

“Somewhere in between my number and Thomas Hargrove’s number is probably the right number,” she said.

According to research by psychology professor Mike Aamodt at Radford Universityin Virginia, there were likely about 30 active serial killers operating in the United States as of 2015.

Serial killings peaked in the 1980s, Quinet said. Aamodt estimates that an average of 145 serial killers (under the two-victim minimum definition) were active in the 1980s each year, compared with an average of 54 each year between 2010 and 2015. There doesn’t seem to be any single reason for serial killings’ decline, Quinet said. People engage in fewer behaviors today that make them a target — hitchhiking is far rarer now than 30 years ago, for example — but the decline has largely tracked with an overall drop in the homicide rate since the early 1990s, a drop that criminologists cannot fully explain.

Why serial killers avoid capture

The biggest reason that killers of two or more people can still live free is the problem of “linkage blindness,” Hargrove said. Homicide detectives are assigned single cases, and unless one happens to chat with a colleague who has a very similar case on his or her docket, those cases are unlikely to be linked, he said.

“If the murders occur at separate jurisdictions, such conversations never happen,” Hargrove said.

Despite an advent of forensic DNA databases, there is still no central clearinghouse for homicide cases or serial killer cases, said retired FBI profiler Mary Ellen O’Toole, who worked on several serial killing cases during her career.The FBI collects data through the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP), O’Toole said, but it is not mandatory for local law enforcement to report their cases to that program. If it were, she said, it might be easier to connect homicide cases.

In the Golden State Killer case, proper storage of forensic evidence plus advances in technology seem to be the key to cracking the murders. It’s possible to process very old forensic evidence with new methods, O’Toole told Live Science.

“The case itself may be cold, but forensic evidence doesn’t die,” she said.

Unfortunately, if technology opens new doors for solving serial murders, a lack of money may slam them shut. Insufficient funding for detectives and technicians keeps police from solving many murders, Hargrove said. According to FBI estimates, only 59 percent of homicide investigations in the U.S. have resulted in an arrest, much less a conviction. The numbers are even worse for rape (36.5 percent) and robbery (29.6 percent).

The rate for cleared homicide cases is “the lowest in the Western world,” Hargrove said.

Other reasons may also explain the low rate of arrests, including a high bar for making an arrest as well as what some call an increasing no-snitch culture, especially among some minority groups who are reluctant to come forward as witnesses, according to experts interviewed by NPR.

“The problem is,” Hargrove said, “everything’s going the wrong way.”

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By Jane Ridley

Four years ago, Lillyth Quillan cowered behind a padlocked door as her teenage son, taller and stronger than she is, paced back and forth in a rage.

Suddenly he went quiet. “Don’t let me hurt you, Mom,” he said, his voice sounding chillingly calm.

It was the first time the high school freshman had used that particular tone, but he continued to deploy it as he menaced his mom and dad.

“He used the kind of language of abusive husbands — manipulating and controlling,” says Quillan, who had installed locks on every door in her house except her son’s bedroom. “I was terrified of what he was going to do next.”

The boy — whom Quillan chooses to call Kevin in her interview with The Post in reference to the unnerving Lionel Shriver novel “We Need To Talk About Kevin” about a school shooter in upstate New York — was out of control.

After years of cruel and violent behavior plus multiple suspensions and expulsions from school, psychiatrists finally diagnosed the then-14-year-old Kevin with “conduct disorder,” which, in its most extreme form, can be a precursor to psychopathy.

Psychopathy, which is often used interchangeably with the term sociopathy, is believed to affect 1 percent of adults. Key attributes that sociopaths and psychopaths have in common include a disregard for laws, social mores and the rights of others, a failure to feel remorse or guilt and, in some but not all cases, a tendency to violence.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) dictates that people under the age of 18 cannot be labelled psychopaths. However, in 2013 the American Psychiatric Association decided to include the condition “conduct disorder with callous and unemotional traits” for children ages 12 and over.

According to a 2001 report published in the journal American Family Physician, approximately 6 to 16 percent of boys and 2 to 9 percent of girls meet the diagnostic criteria for conduct disorder — only a fraction of which have the “callous and unemotional” label that can potentially lead to psychopathy in adulthood.

More than 50 studies have found that kids with the latter diagnosis are more likely to become criminals or display aggressive, psychopathic traits later in life. It has been reported that Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who allegedly shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last month showed classic signs of the disorder as a child, including abusing animals.

“Psychopaths don’t just appear when they are 20. They are always different from an early age,” Kent Kiehl, a psychology professor at the University of New Mexico and the author of “The Psychopath Whisperer,” tells The Post.

Characteristics to look for — as detailed in the widely used Hare Psychopathy Checklist Youth Version considered by clinicians and researchers to be the “gold standard” in assessing psychopathy — include lack of empathy, lack of guilt and regret, pathological lying, grandiose self-worth and failure to accept responsibility for actions such as fighting and bullying.

“Individuals who score high on those traits are more likely to produce further violence,” adds Kiehl. “If they are sanctioned but continue on the same path, it’s not a perfect indicator, but it’s enough to cause concern.”

Kiehl notes that research has shown that psychopathy is hereditary roughly half of the time. But his own breakthrough was the discovery that the psychopathic brain has a different structure than a “normal” one.

In 2014, he conducted a major study that found at least two abnormalities in the brains of adult psychopaths. There was a lack of gray matter in the section involved in processing emotions, while the area that reacts to excitement and thrills is overactive. Although the research has not been carried out yet, the pattern is likely to also occur in the brains of “callous and unemotional” children. “Brain science has helped us understand what is different about these kids,” adds Kiehl.

At the moment, there is no such thing as a “cure” for psychopathy or conduct disorder. But early intervention can be key for harm reduction, even with children as young as 2 or 3.

Paul Frick, a psychology professor at Louisiana State University and the author of “Conduct Disorder and Severe Antisocial Behavior,” recommends a range of therapies, most of which revolve around rewards systems rather than punishments.

“There are so-called ‘emotion coaching’ techniques that parents and therapists can employ to help children pay attention to the feelings of others,” he explains. “We find that they miss the cues that another child is upset.

“By saying: ‘Can you see how Johnny is feeling?’ [when a toy is snatched from him] and getting them to respond correctly, you can motivate them. You give them a star or a sticker as an incentive.

“Even though it doesn’t come naturally to them, they can learn others’ perspectives.”

Experts can identify a callous and unemotional child when they are as young as 3 or 4. Faced with a crying peer, typically developing children either try to comfort them or take flight. But those with the mental condition remain in place, showing apathy and coldness.

Remarkably, the psychology department at King’s College London has been able to trace the characteristics back to infancy. They tested more than 200 babies at 5 months old, tracking whether they preferred looking at a person’s face or at a red ball. The tots who favored the ball displayed more callous traits two and a half years later.

For Quillan, hindsight is 20/20, but she distinctly recalls the first signs that Kevin had behavioral issues at the age of just 8 months.

“He had teeth and would bite me while he was breast-feeding and he would laugh. He thought it was hilarious. I tried looking very sad and mimicking crying to show it was hurting me, but he would only laugh,” says Quillan, who ended up having to put him on formula.

“It didn’t occur to me until much later that this was a child for whom the amusement of my reaction when he bit me was a greater reward than food.”

Now 18, Kevin, who has had numerous run-ins with police, including for shoplifting, was made a ward of state and no longer lives with his parents. He lives in a residential school for “at-risk” youth in California, where he is on a waiting list to receive treatment, such as therapy, to build empathy.

“Because there is no real treatment for conduct disorder. All you can do is wait for your child to be arrested and enter the juvenile system and hope they get better,” says his 40-year-old homemaker mom.

“Luckily, Kevin is no longer violent and is actually cooperative.”

He is doing so well that he is about to receive his high school diploma, recently won an award for wrestling and has encouraged his mother to tell his story.

Now Quillian, who has no other kids, is focusing on advocacy and encouraging parents facing similar nightmares to hers. Three years ago, she formed a support group for families with kids with CD that has 420 members worldwide. More recently, she launched the Society for Treatment Options for Potential Psychopaths to bring awareness and to campaign for treatment for these children before they cause serious harm.

Adds Quillan: “As every news article came out about Parkland and Nikolas Cruz, I thought: ‘My God, this could easily be one of our kids.’”

https://nypost.com/2018/03/07/how-to-tell-if-your-child-is-a-future-psychopath/