Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Female Sex Offenders

Not So Smart

Pamela Smart
Pamela Smart

Pamela Ann Smart, who still claims to be innocent (albeit indirectly complicit), is serving a life term at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York for being an accomplice in first-degree murder. She was accused of seducing a 15-year-old boy, getting him so involved that when she threatened to leave him if he did not kill her husband, he agreed to do it. By the time he killed the man on May 1, 1990 in New Hampshire, involving three of his friends, he was 16. Upon his conviction, he received a 40 year prison term. Smart had met him at Winnacunnet High School where she was the media services coordinator. They had both volunteered at an event, and the attraction grew, despite the eight year difference in their ages. (In an interview, she insists that she's not as culpable for this situation as a teacher might be, since she was not in a position of authority.) Some claim that Smart's part in this murder was misrepresented, but she has exhausted her appeals and in 2005 was denied a pardon.

One thing stands out in this case and those that follow: the women are generally self-centered and needy, in contrast to caring about the children's vulnerability and probable inability to make adult decisions about sex. These women seek their own goals and many seem unable to comprehend what they are doing to the child or to their own families. Most, in fact, were married when they decided to sexually abuse an underage minor. Afterward, they often describe how good it felt to be admired by these boys.

Dr. Patrick McGrain
Dr. Patrick McGrain

Dr. Patrick McGrain, assistant professor of criminal justice at DeSales University and an expert on sexual deviance, says that such women often suffer from low self esteem. "Something's missing from the puzzle and they're looking for it," he commented. "You won't find abuse in their background, such that you could say they're in that cycle of abuse where they then become the abusers. Often they're controlled in some aspect of their lives, like in their marriage, so they're looking for a way to control someone else. Some of them are sexually immature and it's probably just a need to feel desired. These boys will compliment them all the time and make them feel sexy. They don't consider what might be at risk; they're looking for something, whether it's to 'create' a young person into an adult or just trying to fill in something that's missing, they'll think only about their own goals."

A recent case appears to support the notion of sexual immaturity. 

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