Predicting Extreme Fatal Violence
Despite the hype devoted to dangerous celebrity stalkers, little is known about what makes certain people develop an obsession so extreme it becomes homicidal. Ricardo Lopez, a suicidal man who in 1996 stalked Icelandic musician Bjork, left an obsessive 803-page journal and twenty-two hours of videotape about his evolving plan to harm her. He was driven to become a significant person in her life, and violence appeared to him to be his only option.
He was twenty-one when he sent a bomb infused with sulfuric acid to Bjork's London address, concealed in a hollowed-out book. He envisioned that when she opened the book, the bomb would detonate and spray acid in her face, killing or disfiguring her for life. He even demonstrated for himself how it would work by exploding a trial bomb against a photo of her. However, even the best laid plans can fail.
Once Lopez mailed the bomb from his Florida residence, he filmed himself committing suicide while listening to Bjork's song, "I Miss You." Decomposition odors eventually alerted a neighbor, who notified police. Thanks to the videotapes found in his residence, police learned how Lopez had assembled and mailed the bomb. They contacted Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch, whose officers intercepted the package before it came into Bjork's hands.
Apparently, Lopez believed that, in death, he would achieve his longed-for union with the singer. His detailed accounts provide a vivid picture of a hermetically sealed world, reminiscent of Brando's 'Kurtz' in Apocalypse Now.
Despite the fact that none of Lopez's relatives or friends noted the development of his extreme psychosis, he did display behaviors that flagged his intent and the likeliness that he would act. Apparently, while he once had fantasized about Geena Davis without incident, he became so obsessed with Bjork that he felt intimately connected to her. When she became engaged to another musician, Lopez was furious. Once he decided to kill her, he acted quickly, so it's fairly easy to see those aspects of his personality and fantasy life that formed a lethal combination.
Lopez was unemployed but had worked for his brother in a pest control business. He was overweight, introverted, anxious, and suffering from a severe lack of self worth. In fact, he loathed himself. Although he came briefly under the care of a psychiatrist, he was skilled at hiding his aggressive fantasies. Yet some people did realize that Lopez wanted to mean something to the singer and that he was angry over her engagement.
In terms of risk assessment, certain items stand out that are shared with other such stalkers who have used violence:
- an unhealthy level of obsession
- delusional expectations of the celebrity
- anger about something the celebrity did
- access to or knowledge about a means of punishing the target person
Growing tension in the stalker signals internal conflict that could erupt in homicidal violence: what these people often lack is insight about themselves and the explosive nature of their personal issues.