Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Buddhist Temple Massacre

The Investigation

Sheriff Agnos considered what the profilers had told him, and upon their recommendation, he set up an 800 number for citizens to call who might have seen something or who had good ideas. He'd never dealt with such a high-profile case, or one involving so many victims, so he had to update his data processing capabilities fast. 

Aside from looking for offenders who might make immediate mistakes, such as bragging, carrying their weapons around, or showing off their stolen merchandise, he had to take the investigation into another direction.  Agnos mulled over several possible approaches:

1.) Looking up other crimes that might have links

2.) Learning more about the victims

3.) Consulting other experts for more opinions

4.) Asking Thai officials about similar crimes in their country

He did not pursue options 1, 3 and 4 for the following reasons:

Since there had never been such a crime in the state of Arizona, it would be fruitless to attempt to link it with others, especially since mass killers tend to engage in such incidents only once.  However, if they escape alive (most don't), they might kill again in a less sensational manner, so it's important to find such people quickly.

Buddhist Monk, victim
A Buddhist monk, victim,
unnamed

Getting second opinions is generally not done in criminal investigations unless the leads already suggested fail to pan out or unless the investigators suspect that the original opinion is off the mark.  Sometimes people with no crime scene or law enforcement experience offer themselves as "profilers," because they teach psychology. Using unqualified "profilers" has derailed investigations and squandered resources.  So in such cases, a second opinion is in order, but since they already had experienced FBI profilers on the scene, they would not – at this point – seek additional expertise.

Also, the U.S. government had assured the Thai government that everything was being done to ensure justice. To now go back to ask Thai officials about similar crimes might not only be insulting but could alarm them that the Arizona investigators had turned up nothing. 

Buddhist Monk, victim
A Buddhist monk, victim,
unnamed

Agnos focused on option 2, acquiring more knowledge about the victims. This is known as victimology.  It's possible that something in the background of one of the victims would generate more leads or even connect that person with someone who fit the profile.  In fact, they discovered that the monks had worn jewelry, which was missing, and potentially could be traced if sold or pawned.

As for victim information, investigators learned that all of the victims had been Thai citizens, but some had been in the U.S. longer than others.  None were being investigated for suspected illegal drug trading. It was difficult to follow up rumors about an affair without having names.  The description of the car or truck seen the morning of the crime was too general to be useful.  Other people involved in the temple were questioned, but none had any idea as to who might have done this brutal act.  Neighbors appreciated the monks' generosity and people in the congregation attested to their willingness to listen to problems and to help at almost any time.  The doors were always unlocked, and what little they had they willingly shared.

Buddhist Monk, victim
A Buddhist monk, victim,
unnamed

Among the dead, the temple abbot was 36.  Most of the other monks were in their 30's and 40's, although the nun was 75, and the teenager was related to her.  The temple helper who was killed was 21.  All of the victims had lived in the temple.  Each had a room with a single mattress on the floor and few possessions.

In short, there was nothing in their backgrounds, collective or individual, that appeared to elevate their risk for becoming victims of violence.  They were doing nothing to attract it and they had no known enemies.   In fact, their lifestyle was entirely contrary to violence.

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