Robert Ressler and Ed Kemper in May
When you write these blog style websites you are told to include keywords. So basically you try and put out enticing morsels to the internet so that your writing is noticed when people search online. I do some of that as I want my website noticed. This article is not one of those though, it is a side piece noting that Mr Ressler was a great advocate of the law.
I have a deep respect for Robert Ressler who died on 5th May 2013. He along with John Douglas were pioneers of profiling suspects and basically introduced a new ‘ out of the box’ way of hunting down monsters. On 7th May 1972 one of their subjects of study committed a double murder. Years later he became a useful contributor to this innovative work. So here is a tribute to one of FBI’s most forward thinkers against the backdrop of one of the worst killers to have blighted the USA, Ed Kemper.
The Brief Circumstances
The Behavioural Science Unit of the FBI (BSU) was formed to try and analyse crime scenes in a new way. The idea was to look at signature signs that could not only lead cops to an arrest but could feed in to the system and prevent serial killings in the future.
Many of us know that traumatic and chaotic child rearing can create dysfunctional and sometimes violent individuals. Abuse through sexual assault, neglect or physical cruelty can make a monster of a child. Most poor individuals don’t turn out to be Ed Kempers. From my own experience I would say it tends to lead to to self destruction in most cases. What tends to follow is alcoholism, drug abuse and petty crime. What Ressler and Douglas (and many others over the years) did best in my opinion was highlight the cause and affect of terrible people. These people then in turn make their child into miserable and occasionally terrible adults.
The TV series Mindhunter might be a good place for you to start if you are new to this line of thinking. It dramatized the early years of the Behavioural Science Unit.
In California on 7th May 1972 the giant Ed Kemper ( 6ft 9 inches) picked up two hitchhikers. For those of you under 40 you might, understandably, wonder at this culture of hitchhiking. I know now it seems really dumb. As a driver you pick up someone who you don’t know and who could be violent. As a hitchhiker you get in a car with a stranger who could be violent. Crazy right?
Back in the day though most people didn’t have cars, it was a courtesy thing. The culture was very much more a case of feeling you had a community duty to help people. If you had a car you should share the fortune. Also, for example, in 1972 it was a new era of widespread travel brought about by influences that suggested nothing but love was in the world. It was a time of naivety about just how bad people could be.
The media was more local and folk were more local in their view. As the world opened up financially to allow more freedom the crazies like Kemper had nothing but opportunity afforded to them.
Mary Ann Pesce, and Anita Mary Luchessa were 18 when Kemper picked them up in Berkeley. They were students of Fresno University and they were going to the Stanford University campus that day. Kemper said he would drop them off but of course he didn’t. He drove to Alameda and found a wooded area. He murdered both of them, first Ms Pesce and then Ms Luchessa. His barbarity is a thing in itself and I have created a link if you are interested in him and his sort. As an idea of what sort of man he was he not only had sex with their corpses later, after severing their heads, he had sex with the heads.
He was caught in April 1973 and charged with eight such murders. This was his second time in gaol for murder. As a teenager he had killed his grandparents. He will never leave gaol and is 72 years old at the time I write this.
The Behavioural Science Unit was formed in 1972 and the best source for an insight is probably from Robert Ressler’s book ‘Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI’ with Tom Shachtman in 1992. My memory of reading that, and fellow profiler John Douglas’ books, is that the development of profiling came largely from a very bright idea. If you want to hunt criminals of the like of Kemper in the future who better to interview than the like of Kemper. Between 1976 and 1979 Mr Ressler and other agents interviewed dozens of killers who were in prison. Ed Kemper was particularly useful as he liked to talk and is highly intelligent. The methods killers used, why they selected their victims and planned their attacks were documented. Also in there were indications as to why they became what they were.
Robert Ressler was also a pioneer of cross referencing intelligence. The VICAP system eats up the information from unsolved murders across the USA and identifies similarities. As students of serial killers will know the vastness of the USA and the thousands of police jurisdictions are advantageous for a travelling killer. VICAP was designed so that even if a murder takes place across other states and then a cluster of similar crimes occurs five years later in Florida, VICAP may well link the lot.
Profiling developed (and is known in popular culture) because a skilled law enforcement agent can look at crimes and predict many features of the killer. It has had astounding success particularly for those that were operating from the beginning like Robert Ressler.
I believe that profiling is such a skilled art that it has one big failure. In recent years studies have shown that it is the expertise of the profiler more than the system itself that yields results. It is a sound, logical and astounding development in the area of criminal detection. It is something that is only astounding when used by someone that is an outstanding detective.
In one consultation Robert Ressler not only sorted out murders from three different places in South Africa and identified one of the likely suspects, he also predicted the actions of the suspect in the remaining killings. This was the case of the A,B,C murders in the mid 1990s. It was not his only success by far but a great illustration of his skill.
Take away the mystic of profiling what you have is an innovative intelligence gathering line of thought. Robert Ressler was pivotal in thinking ‘outside the box’ and then bringing back a Sherlock Holmes style of thought to investigation. Ed Kemper was portrayed as almost likeable in the series Mindhunter. He was a monster in reality. However clever he was, Kemper, was just the ground that Mr Ressler turned over as part of this process. My respect to him.