Criminal Minds Season Opener Entertaining, Plausible But in the End Real Life Offers The Unexpected Twists

Posted: September 24, 2010 in Criminal Minds, Pat's Gallery of Killers
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The Prince of Darkness killed for three decades, finally committing suicide by cop in this year’s opening episode of Criminal Minds. In spite of his extremely unusual style of killing – massacring a family but leaving one victim alive and committing his crimes in every one of the fifty states – he isn’t brought down until he revisits California and has a mental breakdown of sorts, going on a spree and reliving his earlier days. With a signature like that, one would think those Criminal Minds could have caught him earlier in his killing career. But, I can’t be too hard on them. It took law enforcement over thirty years to catch up with Dennis Rader, the so-labeled BTK Strangler, and more than thirty years to arrest Gary Ridgway, The Green River Killer.  Fiction is not so far from the truth with The Prince of Darkness being able to avoid capture for such an incredibly long time.

But, there is a difference; The Prince of Darkness killed indoors, committed brutally violent crimes against families and much evidence had to have been left, protected by the house from the elements. He left live witnesses. He drove from state to state. There should have been ample evidence to bring him down quickly. The Green River Killer, on the other hand, went after runaways and prostitutes who vanished into thin air, killing them out in some isolated spot in the woods or countryside; some of their bodies still have not been found.

More recently, a serial killer in Los Angeles, Lonnie David Franklin, Jr., The Grim Sleeper, has finally been caught.  He started killing in the eighties, picking on prostitutes, killing close to a dozen over the next few years. Even though all the women were murdered within a relatively small area, police never figured out who the killer was. Then, for reasons unknown, he went quiet until he started up again in 2002 killing more ladies of the night.

How to catch a killer who has been out for so long? The Criminal Minds BAU decide to talk to The Prince of Darkness in a manner similar to that used in hostage negotiations, empathizing with him and getting him to feel compassion for the child he had kidnapped, attempting to get him to feel sorry for the child by linking the child’s fear to the fear he himself had experienced in childhood. It works. The Prince of Darkness lets the child go.

Would this happen in real life? I could make a bet and win most every time that by the time the speech was over, the kid would already be dead. The serial killer would use the time the negotiator spent trying to reach out to him as an opportunity to get a head start on his escape. And he would eliminate the excess baggage and witness.  In short, and in reality, he could care less about about the poor child. Serial killers don’t ever get to a point they feel remorse, so no one is going to convince them to feel empathy for anyone or to do the right thing.

How did they bring The Grim Sleeper down? Pizza! They had DNA from one of the earlier crimes and they ran it though the CODIS DNA bank and got a close hit, a familial DNA hit. That felon in the system was the killer’s relative and that felon just happened to link back to the neighborhood where all the Grim Sleeper victims lived. His daddy was just the right age to be the perpetrator. The police followed the felon’s father into a pizza joint and grabbed the pizza crust he left behind on his plate. Bingo! The DNA from the pizza matched the DNA from the serial homicides.

Both Criminal Minds and the LAPD did a great job bringing down a serial killer who had racked up too many victims.  The LAPD, however, used a more successful technique, and, in real life, you go with what works best.

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