Friday, November 19, 2010

Author and Criminal Profiler Pat Brown ~ Interviewed

Pat Brown is a nationally known criminal profiler, television commentator, author, and founder and CEO of The Sexual Homicide Exchange and The Pat Brown Criminal Profiling Agency.

Pat has provided crime commentary and profiling and forensic analysis in over one thousand television and radio appearances in the United States and across the globe. She can be seen regularly on the cable television news programs, CNN, MSNBC and FOX, and is a frequent guest of the Today Show, the CBS Early Show, Larry King, Inside Edition, Nancy Grace, Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell, Joy Behar, and America's Most Wanted. For four seasons, Pat Brown profiled crimes on the weekly Court TV crime show, I, Detective. Criminal Profiler Pat Brown is the host of the 2004 Discovery Channel documentary, The Mysterious Death of Cleopatra. In the spring of 2006, Pat went inside one of Florida's maximum-security prisons to interview a child murderer for the Discovery Channel series, Evil Minds. In 2010 she profiled a new Jack the Ripper suspect for Investigation Discovery's Mystery Files. She is the author of The Profiler: My Life Hunting Serial Killers and Psychpaths (Hyperion Voice 2010) and Killing for Sport: Inside the Minds of Serial Killers (Phoenix Books 2003), and is a contract writer for Crime Library. Pat contributed special feature content included in the 2005 home DVD edition of Profiler: Season Two and the 15th Anniversary Edition, 2006 DVD release of Quentin Tarantino's crime classic, Reservoir Dogs.

What motivated you to take your unique a criminal profiler and/or as an author?

I was shocked at how some police detectives were unable to recognize a good suspect, unable to understand psychopathy, and fail to move the case forward properly. I wanted to bring a better understanding and training to law enforcement and get serial predators off the streets. As for the becoming an author, my first book was, Killing for Sport: Inside the Minds of Serials Killers. I wrote that one to knock down the Hollywood myths (fun though they are in a move or television show) and help people understand how serial killers really think, how they commit their crimes, and how investigations actually work. The Profiler: My Life Hunting Serial Killers and Psychopaths has a three-fold motive: one, I wanted to show people how profiling SHOULD be done and help them understand it is not a profession that can only be done by geniuses and FBI gods of profiling. It requires logic and training. Secondly, I wanted to show how profiling CAN solve cases but if the profiler comes in too late, when the case is cold, then it is not going to be prosecuted. Sad, but true. Finally, I want to inspire people to take on the challenge of making a difference in the world. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how rich you are or what race you are, you can do a lot if you just go out and start doing it! I started my criminal profiling career in midlife with no background and, quite frankly, no support. I just sort of went blindly into the mire and here I am today, still mucking around in it!

What are some of the most overdone or cliched "bad guy" behaviors/characteristics that you run across in fiction or film? Why?

The worse offense scriptwriters make (well, people like it but it isn’t realistic) is that serial killers are always committing their murders to resolve a particular bad memory from childhood or from their romantic life. So, if Mr. Serial Killer’s ballerina girlfriend was found in bed with his best friend, then he goes out and kills dancers while they are kissing their boyfriends in the car, or if Mr. Serial Killer’s dad went to prostitutes and the whorehouse made the clients were red slippers, the killer offs men who represent his father and puts red slippers on their feet. In reality, serial killers simply tend to by losers who are angry at the world for dissing them and they get back at the world and get a sense of power and control by picking a victim they can overpower and do them in. Women are preferable because they are easy to control (you are going to win most of the time) and they can represent precious possessions of society (which is why most victims are quite cute and thin) and you can have fun raping them. Often a serial killer is portrayed as choosing prostitutes for victims either because his mother was one or he wants to cleanse society of bad women but the real reason is they are convenient and the police take a while to notice there is a serial killer out there because prostitutes/drug users often vanish or move of their own accord.

If an author wants to create a truly believable killer, what might be a surprising characteristic or two that you've discovered from your experiences?

They tend to be boring people! Really, no kidding! They don’t usually have a fascinating job or any hobbies to speak of. They go to some low-level job, go home, watch videos. Snore.

They lie, a lot. They lie for no reason other than to see if you buy it. They are rarely all that suave; they just learn a few tricks that work on naïve people and that is how they can coax a victim into their car or get a girlfriend.

What surprising or unique common characteristics have you discovered in victims?

Most victims aren’t very streetwise. They think they are safe when they should realize there is no reason to feel safe. A woman alone is simply not safe. They tend to be too nice. This is why you rarely see a tough street girl be the victim of a serial killer. He doesn’t want a nasty fight; he wants a pushover. He doesn’t want to risk losing as that would be humiliating.

Are there any very common characteristics (true-ish stereotypes) in types of killers/psychopaths?

Very narcissistic and totally lacking in empathy. This allows them to do whatever they want in order to get power and control in their lives. They also tend to not understand how people see them and they tend not to care. This is why they can blithely lie and then when caught not even look concerned.

Is there a crime that you are intrigued by that you feel you can't pull apart to your satisfaction? What is the element that most frustrates you?

I often feel when I go to a police department to work on a case, that I am going to read the files and study the evidence and come up with nothing. I worry that I will just have to say, “Sorry, can’t figure anything out.” Interestingly, I have never actually had that happen! Once I get the evidence in hand, I am amazed at how the crime scene develops in front of me. It always is astonishing how much the evidence does tell us about what happened. On the outside, without access to the evidence, I can only give some general thoughts about what happened; the true profile is in the details. Oh, one kind of case that IS sometimes hopeless is the “dead woman in a field” kind of case when the skeletonized body is found in the middle of nowhere. If there are suspects who were last seen with her, there is a chance of solving the case, but if the girl was hitchhiking across the country, good luck if no DNA is on her body to run through CODIS.

What percentage of your skill is science, what percentage is gut? Which one usually wins out?

GUT does not enter into it. This is one of the biggest battles I fight in getting people to understand what profiling really is. Oddly, even people who read my book, The Profiler, and see how I analyze each piece of evidence in the cases, will say, “Oh, it is just Pat Brown uses her gut and guessing!”

But, no, gut is not acceptable as part of profiling. One should go in with an open mind and start at the crime scene with the crime scene photos, and sketches, police reports, and autopsy photos and reports. Then one examines the blood spatter patterns, the injuries to the victim, all the pieces of possible evidence in a room (like a credit card that doesn’t belong to the victim lying on a table or the fact nothing was taken or a violent case of overkill yet nothing in the room is disturbed). I study each piece of evidence and reconstruct what occurred. I do not guess. I make sure I have valid reason for everything I conclude. Gut is what gets police detectives in trouble and why I end up profiling the case later. They guessed wrong about the motive and went down the wrong road, ignoring the actual killer and all the evidence linked to him. If they had reconstructed the crime FIRST, THEN they would have developed a motive and a suspect from what the evidence tells them.


Kelly Klepfer said...

Thanks for sharing your expertise with us, Pat. Fascinating.

She Wrote said...

Thank you. As someone who spent nearly 30 years in the criminal justice/corrections business, I strongly believe writers have the responsibility to teach readers how the system really works - not the Hollywood version. Some readers become jurors. Even readers of mystery/crime fiction.

Aggie Villanueva said...

Kelly, thankx so much much for this. I usally don't bother reading interviews because they are just the same ole same ole. But Kelly, this is One of the most intriguing Uthor interviews I've read in ages, and Pat, your insights are fascinating. Thank you both so much.

Judy said...

FBI gods of profiling

Pat, I think this choice of words/remark is in very poor taste and if I might dare say: catty. The FBI teaches these techniques to others. They don't keep their knowledge as a "precious secret".