Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods



Roy Hazelwood
Roy Hazelwood

Former FBI agent Roy Hazelwood was among the original profilers in the Behavioral Science Unit at the FBI. His specialty for over two decades was sexual crimes. He transformed the investigation of aberrant sexual offenses into an integral part of the FBI training. Based on his extensive experience, he has written or co-written numerous articles and books, notably, "The Lust Murderer", with John Douglas, Practical Aspects of Rape Investigation, and The Evil That Men Do. His books help readers to understand the various mindsets of different kinds of rapists and to be educated on how they can protect themselves.

The following interviews are based on the material in The Evil That Men Do and Dark Dreams as well as on recent work that Hazelwood and his colleagues have done with women who have become involved with sexual sadists.

How did you originally get involved with the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit?

I'd been in Binghamton, New York working the Mafia and I'd been re-assigned to Quantico to the Management Science Unit. They dealt with topics on how to be a good supervisor and things like that. After a year in that unit, I saw an opportunity in the Behavioral Science Unit. They were looking for a sexual assault investigator, and I had taught that while I was in the army military police. (For three years, I was in charge of the army criminal investigations division training for new agents.) So I made myself available. They looked at me and said, "It's a no-cost transfer." I was right there at Quantico, so they moved me over and I got into that in January, 1978. That was just when things were starting to meld. Profiling was still in its infancy. There was Howard Teten, Bob Ressler, John Douglas, Dick Ault and myself. I went in to Howard Teten, who with Pat Mullany was the grandfather of profiling, and said that I was interested in what they were doing. He said, "Well, sit down." So I received my training on the other side of the desk from Howard Teten. It was conversation training. It wasn't structured.

With so little formal training, didn't you feel like you were going out on a limb by profiling a crime?

What Teten said to me made sense. I was already teaching sexual assault and sexual crimes. When we started profiling, it was merely for people in our classes. They would come up to us and say, "I've got this interesting case and it's unsolved. Would you be willing to take a look at it?" So we'd sit down, and on one piece of paper, give some characteristics and traits, without any explanation. Just something like "White male, 21-25 years of age, single, never married," things of that nature. We'd give them the piece of paper, they would leave and tell other people, and we'd start getting letters. Eventually it grew to such a volume that the unit chief said, "We need to start capturing all the time and effort that you're putting into this work. You're here to teach and you're spending all this time on these crimes." So he suggested to John that he coordinate it, and Douglas said fine. Howard Teten had left by then. So that's how it happened.

The case that you say inspired you to go into this area was that of Harvey Glatman, the Lonely Hearts Killer. He was a sexual predator in the 1950s who posed as a photographer and met women through ads. He would tie them up and take pictures both before and after he killed them. He killed three before his fourth intended victim turned his own gun on him and held him at bay until the police arrived. Can you tell us how this case influenced you?

Harvey Glatman (UPI/Corbis)
Harvey Glatman

When I was a second lieutenant in the military police corps, in basic training for officers at Fort Gordon, Georgia, one of the presentations in this course was the Harvey Glatman case. That case caused me to become interested in violent crime. He was the first person in modern times that I'm aware of that kept his victims in captivity for a period of time, engaged in bondage, and took photographs. He also practiced dangerous autoeroticism at a young age. So I asked the instructor why Glatman tied these women in a variety of positions, why he took pictures, and why he didn't destroy the pictures, because they were used against him. I was told that information wasn't important. All that was necessary for me to know was that this man had killed three women. So I decided that if I ever got in a position where I could learn more about this type of offender, I was going to do so. He was one of the original modern serial killers in America. He did a lot of the things that we now look at as being commonplace, but at that time it was unusual.

An interesting note to that story is that the homicide detective assigned to that case was a guy named Pierce Brooks. He said to himself, "If he's killed this many women here, he's bound to have killed women in other places." So he went to the library and did a paper search, looking for similar killings. Then he went to his police chief in Los Angeles and said, "Look, I think we need to buy a computer, enter these kinds of cases, and see if we can't match these cases together." The chief scoffed at the idea, because a computer at that time would cost one million dollars and take up a city block. Then in the early eighties, Brooks got the Department of Justice to host a conference at Sam Houston State University, and that's when VICAP, the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, was born. Glatman's case started that whole process. It was decided that the FBI would run it out of Quantico and in 1985, we hired Brooks to become the first director of VICAP, because it was his idea. So I got to meet him, and I said to him, "You worked the Harvey Glatman case." He was surprised. "No one knows that," he said. I told him I'd studied it. He ended up giving me the original photographs that Glatman took. It even had Brooks's initials from the day he seized them as evidence. So all those years later, from 1960 to 1985, Glatman came full cycle in my life.

You were also interested in auto-erotic fatalities and co-authored the only book on the subject. In your book you talk about the way people bind their necks or hang themselves to temporarily diminish the flow of oxygen to the brain to achieve a heightened sexual euphoria. Sometimes they die by accident and it appears to be a suicide. How did you become so fascinated with this kind of behavior?

In the same course where I learned about Harvey Glatman, they also showed auto-eroticism. I asked them what was going on and was told, "Well, they hang themselves when they masturbate." I asked, "What else?" They said, "That's it. That's all you need to remember." So again, I said to myself that if I ever got the chance, I was going to study it. The chance came when I was in the Behavioral Science Unit, because it was mandated that we do original research. So you've got Ressler and Douglas talking about serial killers, Dick Ault talking about terrorists, and I thought I'd do research on auto-erotic fatalities. As a result of that work, I think law enforcement and mental health became more fully aware of what was going on in this area. It was a topic that no one wanted to deal with. Number one, it dealt with sex, and number two, it dealt with aberrant sex, and number three, it dealt with death. I do think the research made a contribution.

Did anything about this phenomenon surprise you?

I was surprised by the variety of means in the ways they died. It wasn't just hanging. We had nitrous oxide. We had suspension around the abdomen, in which they suffocated. We had one kid who slipped into a garbage can. The neighbors thought they heard a dog howling all night long and it was actually him in this garbage can. There were simplistic ways, such as lying down beside a chest of drawers, pulling out the lower drawer, laying it across your carotid artery, and dying in that passive position. And then there were violent ways, with things like electrocution. I had one guy who drove out to a park in the middle of the night, undressed, redressed in female clothing, got into the back seat, and played Russian Roulette. He died.

Another killer that you studied who had autoerotic practices was Gerard John Schaefer, a one-time Florida police officer suspected in twenty-nine murders. The press dubbed him the "Sex Beast." What was his story?

We believe that he would arrest his victims and then take them out to the swamps. We think he fed them Ex-lax and made them drink beer, because he liked to watch them defecate and urinate. Then he would have them mount a ladder and he'd hang them. When they were dead, he'd bury them, and then he would come back and have sex with the bodies.

Here's the frightening part. When he couldn't get a victim, he would play the role of a victim himself. He'd cross-dress and hang himself, and he took pictures of it.

Then there was James Mitchell DeBardeleben, from the East Coast, who was a sexual sadist/serial rapist. We believe he murdered several women. He would also cross-dress. When he tortured his victims, he had a script for them to follow. When he couldn't get a victim, he would go on tape himselfI have these tapesand in a high falsetto voice, go over the script that he'd force his victims to say. He used himself as a prop for his sadistic fantasies.

Fantasy is a fascinating area, and most people [in law enforcement] don't have time to look at it. They say, well, that's an area of mental health. However, it's extremely relevant in criminal investigations. It gives us a better understanding of the offender. That's where it begins.

You are the one who came up with the distinction, which is now widely used in law enforcement, between an organized and a disorganized killer. How did that come about?

John Douglas and I wrote an article in 1980, "The Lust Murderer," in which we first set forth the distinction between organized and disorganized homicides. I had noticed that in a number of cases, there were some that seemed to be well thought out and others that were highly spontaneous. I went to John and told him my ideas. So we sat down and came up with the characteristics of each type. But then the members of the Behavioral Science Unit told us it would never fly. It won't stick, because it was too simple. They said we had to add something like "Organized Asocial" and "Disorganized Nonsocial." So in the article we tacked those terms on. But what happened? You go anywhere in the world in law enforcement, and among criminologists and mental health workers, and you'll hear that there are two broad categories of killers: organized and disorganized. So it did stick.

What was your most challenging case to profile?

I don't think there's an answer to that. The Donna Lynn Vetter case was the one that brought a lot of glory to the Unit from the Bureau's administration. [Donna Lynn Vetter had worked at the FBI's San Antonio office and she was found raped and murdered in her apartment. This case is detailed in The Evil that Men Do.] It certainly endeared us to the number two man in the FBIwho then became our guardian angel at headquarters. It was challenging in the sense that we were sent down there without having any of the necessary data. We objected and said we can't go down there and we were told, "The Director says you will." So we flew down. We got there at five in the afternoon and had to have a profile by nine a.m. the next morning for seventy-six people. These people had never heard of what we were doing, so it wasn't easy. We had no crime scene photos, so we had to go to the morgue to look at the body. At the scene, we could only walk so far because the forensic people stopped us. We had to stay along the edge of the wall. We were able to see into the room, but not directly down at the crime scene. It was challenging to do, but we did it, and it turned out to be 100% accurate.

What was your involvement in the Atlanta child murders case?

I went down after the seventh body. The chief of homicide had heard about me through one of our former students. He checked around and found out I had a decent reputation, so he invited me down. When I got down there, there were three black detectives assigned to the case. They were in a room that had two chairs, one desk, one filing cabinet, and one telephone. I wanted to see the files and there were only six inches of files on these seven murders in total, so I asked to see the crime scenes. I was down there about a week and a half, and I called back to the BSU and told them that this was a big case. We had a serial killer going and it was going to explode publicly with the media. I said that I needed some help, and they said, "Yeah, okay," but nothing happened. I was down there three more weeks on my own. I spoke to the Special Agent in Charge at the Atlanta FBI office, who was black. His name was John Glover. I told him he'd better get someone involved because it was going to blow up on him, so he sent over an energetic agent to work as a liaison with the Atlanta police. After the seventh week, they sent John Douglas down, and then John and I did the profile together. When we presented the profile [in which we speculated that the killer was an African American male], everyone in the room was black, except John and I and a homicide detective. They were relieved to hear that we thought the killer was black. They didn't want a racial situation. We flew back, they caught him, and when it came time for the trial, John went down to help with that.

What traits do you think a profiler needs?

That's easy. Common sense. Another term for that is practical intelligence. An open mindyou have to be able to accept other people's suggestions. Number three is life experience. Number four is an ability to isolate your personal feelings about the crime, the criminal and the victim. Number five would be an ability to think like the offender thinksnot get into his mind. I don't believe all that crap. All you have to do is reason like he does. You don't have to get into his mind. When John and I were in Atlanta, the black psychiatrist at our briefingand this was on another case, not the Atlanta child murderssaid, "You're describing a paranoid schizophrenic." And we said, "That's right. We try to think like him." He said, "If I were to give you each a test, could you take it the way you think this offender would take it?" We said yes. (That's when we had a lot of time.) We spent four hours in separate rooms taking that mental health test. Both of us came out as paranoid schizophrenics. The psychiatrist was astounded. We sat there and tried to take the test as we thought the guy we had in mind would take the test. It was kind of fun.

I used to be in charge of the training for police scholarship. We would give them a reading list, and unlike most academic institutions, ours was not limited to textbooks. We put in novels, too, because you can learn from reading those. I use Crime and Punishment, The Angel of Darkness, The Alienist, and An Instance of the Fingerpost. I also recommend true crime books like St. Joseph's Children. That's about a serial killer of kids. I worked on that case. Every time the police got close to him, he'd go into a mental institution. I also recommend All His Father's Sins. One of the texts I strongly recommend is Robert Hare's Without Conscience. He has the most valid measuring instrument for psychopaths.