Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Clairemont Killer

The Next Stage

What Douglas anticipated during the first few months of the murder spree proved to have been correct, as three more victims turned up in the next several months at two separate scenes. While it was unfortunate that the killer had succeeded three more times, it provided more of a basis for analysis. (At first the profilers had only five crime scenes, but a sixth would turn up as well.)

The victims all fit a similar type: white, attractive, and physically fit. Most had been brunette and five had been between 18 and 21. (The 42-year-old mother looked much younger, and might also have come into a scene already happening.) The killer had entered each residence via an unlocked door or window, all of them had been stabbed, and five were killed around the same time of day. All were left face-up on the floor of their homes, nude or mostly nude. Three lived in the same apartment complex and three used the same fitness center. Jewelry was removed from three of the victims, but most telling was the way the deepest stab wounds had been concentrated in the chest area, revealing a focused and controlled rage. Only Holly Tarr had a single wound, but that crime had been interrupted. In five of the cases, the knife used was from the residence.

The profilers utilized the FBI's unique VICAP computer matching database, entering information about the race of the victims, their geographic location, the MO of entering their homes, the use of a knife, the time at which the murders generally occurred, and specifically the signature — the tight circle of puncture wounds left on the chest area. The results of the analysis indicated that there were no other crimes, aside from these six, anywhere near this area, and none around the country with this particular type of wounding pattern.

Douglas explained to a reporter that his method relied on intuitive guesses about a killer's age, educational background, occupation, type of vehicle driven, type of residence, and the possibility of a military background or a psychiatric incarceration. There are both offsite and onsite procedures for profiling, he said. Onsite analysis involves going to the crime scene. Offsite requires detailed photographs and reports. Both require data from the crime scene, such as physical evidence, location, accessibility, body position, patterns of evidence, and whether or not a weapon was taken or left at the scene.

There are also significant factors that must be established from the crime scene such as time of the crime, duration, weather conditions (if outside), whether the body was moved, and the social environment around the crime scene. Certain critical factors in a crime scene help to clarify how the offender thinks and thus how he directs his behavior. The type of wounds made and evidence of sexual behavior—especially deviant—offer many clues. This includes lab reports from processing evidence, such as toxicology and serology analysis, and autopsy details on cause of death and sequence of wounds. This also includes police reports, witness statements, and any other avenue of information gathered beyond the actual crime scene.

From elements of the crime scene, a profiler can determine some aspects of the offender's behavior that could inspire crime: whether he has been snubbed or under stress; is unemployed or might be separated from a significant person; abuses drugs or alcohol; has access to firearms; is physically strong; and possibly served in the military. Did he use surveillance? Did he try to blend in? They studied each aspect of the crime to determine how the offender was thinking about the crime.

The profiler was looking for evidence of whether the offender approached the victims with cunning and manipulation, via mere opportunity, or with a blitz-type of attack. After getting a victim subdued, the offender's method of keeping her under control was instructive: Did he bind her, kill her right away, allow her to see him, use a drug, or rely on corrective force? Did he use only what force was necessary or more? In this case, the offender had used overkill, an indication of sexual stimulation from the act of stabbing.