Monday, January 28, 2008

Dr. Cynthia Lea Clark, Forensic Psychopathologist

Please join me in welcoming our guest blogger today, Dr. Cynthia Lea Clark. Not only is she knock-em-dead gorgeous, but she’s spent years studying the criminal mind. So, she should fit right in here at Killer Fiction! Take it away Cynthia…

Thank you, Gemma. Hi, I’m Dr. Cynthia Lea Clark a Forensic Psychopathologist as well as a writer. Like many of you, I have done a myriad of jobs. The interesting thing is that sometimes one of those short term jobs aids me in Forensics. It’s cool because you never know what knowledge will be of use to you later.
Among the things I do as a Forensic Psychologist is profiling. Who is the mastermind behind the series of crimes? Who is robbing those banks? Who is that Judge
in your traffic Court and how can I win that ticket? Well you get the picture.
How do I or any profiler profile? Here are the basic steps:

We look at the crime Scene information:
Police reports
Location of body
is anything missing?
Is the scene neat or messy crime scene?

This information gives us some insight into the type of person we’re looking for. For example, if the scene is messy you may be looking for a disorganized killer or someone who acted in haste or passion. Now that is not always true, but you go with your initial impressions and then refine your profile as you obtain more information.

Next you check out the neighborhood composition
Rural or urban
Hidden or open body
Buried or out in open
in home, etc.
Composition of area (neighborhood)

This can tell us whether we are dealing with gangs, a serial killer, as well as more information as to who our killer is or who our “perp” is.

When the crime involves a death we ask to see the medical Autopsy for the
Mode of death

This tells us a lot of things. 30 stab wounds tell us rage, anger. Strangulation could tell us multiple things – rough sex, murder by hand, by an item in the home such as a belt or scarf. Or was it his belt? Or if killer a she, her belt? And in Gemma’s case, a high heel – these items could tell us that our vic disturbed a robbery in progress or maybe she was the target of a hit. We are still thinking of theories at this point.

We now look at the crime investigation:
Fingerprints, etc.

What did the CSIs find? DNA is great if found. Fingerprints are hard to find in real life. Many surfaces just do not hold them. Then we have to wait for processing which in the real world takes way longer than TV’s hour.

Once we have checked out the scene, evidence, death, we look at the victim or victims themselves. Who are they (were they). This helps us figure out in the case of a serial killer, his/her pattern. In the case of a single murderer, the why. Sometimes the why is not straight forward and we get the why to the best degree we can.
Who is/was our victim?
What are their physical traits:
Physical Description (height, weight, hair, eyes, etc.)
Clothing last worn

Clothing is important because it gives us a clue to what the victim had been doing just before the murder. Lack of clothes gives us more clues – sex crimes clues. Missing clothes gives us clues as well. What is missing – panties versus jacket.

Then we look at more personal information:
Marital Status:
Adjustment - happy, problems, etc.
Divorce, current or past
Friends, enemies

Marital status, because we look to the spouse current or divorce since so many do commit crimes against their partner. We check to see what people thought of them. This gives us more insight not because we want to think less of say a street walker but because a street walker could be killed by a john or pimp, a high class hooker could be killed by a rich john like a politician or pimp and we need a direction to look, We also need any known enemies, always a good place to start. A known stalker -- good suspect or good witness.
And we have to probe deeper into their life Style:
Alcohol, drugs
Normal daily activities
any recent changes

Drugs, obviously a deal gone badly. Alcohol, well she could be a victim of a GHB rape gone badly, things like that. And of course, if she went to the gym everyday, but a week ago stopped, I would want to know why. That becomes suspicious behavior not on her part but on her life and maybe someone at the gym.

Then we look at their interests

We learn more about our victim. Who they were. How/where their path crossed with their murderer.

Of course we need to check out their occupation:
Special training

More of who were they. But it also tells us if their work took them into gang territory, if they were a DA, or had a dangerous job, had been with the CIA, or some such. Frequently, that plays into the crime. But not always. Sometimes they were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

How much education do they have?
Years in school
Schools attended
Intelligence (IQ)

This gives us a feel for them. Were they a Doctor or a secretary? Could they have met their killer in school?

Then we delve into their demographics:
Past residences
Neighborhood composite

What kind of neighborhood? Gangs? Problems with neighbors or landlords? There could be suspects here.

What is our victim’s medical history?

This gives us an overall picture of our victim. More of who they were. Any terminal conditions that might have led to suicide?

Who were they psycho sexually?
Sexual history

More information as well as clues to whether this is a sex crime.

We look at their court history if any:
Past court cases
Pending cases?

Again, any obvious enemies.

To the best that we can duplicate, what were the last activities of victim?

Where were they?
School? Home? Work? Shopping?
Route taken (if not home)?
Friends, acquaintances?
Social activities?
What does the residency look like?
Where is the crime scene?

With all of our victim information, we can profile our victim. With evidence, a feel for our victim, and a dash of intuition we can make our declarations on both the victim and the perpetrator.

Armed with this info and your basic characteristics we can profiler your criminal:
As to their:

Age range
possibly race, but not necessarily
Employment history and type can be surmised
Arrest record or whether they probably have one
Predicting whether "he" will strike again and possibly where or the
Type of location he/she will hit again
Sex of the offender
marital status
Sexual history
how and sometimes even where to catch him/her

I have made references to murder but the same process works for arson, burglary, stalking, or any crime. The process is the same.
Education, work experience, and intuition make for an excellent profiler. In the beginning of this Blog I mentioned that having a myriad of jobs can be helpful. True. As a former cocktail waitress I can talk booze with witnesses if need to get better information. As an EMT/Paramedic I know when someone is not telling me the truth medically, or enough to question something that does not make sense, or medications – what they are really given for versus what someone claims they take the meds for. Many of my jobs give me a place to just bond with someone and that bonding gives me more information than questions. But each case is different and each case is decided right then and there as to which direction of investigation will be used.
Profilers can use their expertise to profile any person as a study, as I mentioned in the beginning for example in court – to know how to present a case in a way more likely to win. How to choose a jury. To know if a person is telling the truth.

Forensic Psychology can also involve testing, evaluation, expert witnessing, suicide autopsies, life strategy, and child custody.
I have given expert testimony in a capitol case, been involved in cases with serial killers on death row, mass murderers too. I have been involved in cases to release two individuals from prison, who a) one should never in my opinion been there, and 2) had served a fair sentence and was now serving an overkill sentence. Both have been released!
I have conducted suicide autopsies, worked in child custody cases, and have indeed worked for defendants in traffic court!
Generally, I work to reinforce those who are on death row although I have taken some cases where I thought there had been a miscarriage of justice, I have also profiled serial killers as they were killing and their identity was unknown.
The one I had the most “fun” with was one who was getting ready to get caught. You can tell that by changes in the scene, sloppiness, etc, So, I predicted that he would be caught on a Tuesday, in a public way, daylight – I even went further to say around noon, and he would be he own undoing. Now, there were certain clues to some of that, but not all, not noon. He had killed 5 at that point. Then 2 more. And then it was Tuesday. Everyone looked to me. I said wait. And, at approximately, 8 minutes after noon he mooned a police station, threw out beer bottles and drove off. The police went in pursuit of the mooning drunk to catch out serial killer. Tuesday, around noon, in a public way and place.
Now when it comes to serial killers it’s not that easy usually. You have to factor in their pattern and their trigger. Their trigger -- that’s one for another day ;). But a trigger for a serial killer is an event that begins their rampage like the death of their mother or some such.
If you have any questions feel free to email me….
And if you attend this year’s RWA Conference in San Francisco, check out my Sociopaths vs. Psychopaths and Serial Killers seminar and say hi!


Dr. Cynthia Lea Clark, Psy.D.


Estella said...

I love the info in this blog!

Anonymous said...

Wow! This was great info. Thanks so much, Cynthia.


Christie Craig said...


Thanks for joining us here at Killer Fiction today, and thanks for sharing all this great information with us! I'm going to print this out and save it. You know, it's scary that we're so interested in psycho killers. LOL

Crime Scene Christie

Blondie0409 said...

Okay, I didn't get to read all of that (but I will!), but when I read the introduction it pulled me in immediately! This is what I want to study as well, and I find it so ironic that your also a writer because that is my other passion. I just thought I'd throw in my two cents and thank-you for you information.

Anonymous said...

You all are welcome! Always willing to share info!

catslady said...

Oh I found that all very interesting and I for one was amazed at all the information that goes into it all. I'm afraid too many people do believe it's as easy and quick as they see on TV.

Gemma Halliday said...

Awesome info, Cynthia! Thanks so much for being here!


Anonymous said...

Detailed information is the best kind. I enjoyed your blog today. Thank you.