Facts About Psychopaths

Psychopaths (from the Greek root psyche and pathos meaning “sick mind” or “suffering soul”) have always been with us, among us and, some might argue, in us. But what if they are of our own making? What if we are the parent of a psychopath–think, Leopold and Loeb (and the senseless murder of Bobby Franks), or Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold’s partner in the Columbine massacre? The uneasy truth is that it is possible we may not know our own children, that our children may be unknowable to us, may not want to be known, and sadly — may be the stranger we fear.

Even scarier is that many so-called psychopaths in fact display no signs or symptoms in early childhood— think Ted Bundy, who hid, as he did in adulthood, behind a “well-cultivated mask of normalcy.”
Truth: 1 in 100 people are psychopaths who blend into Life like cold-blooded chameleons. A good 15-20 percent of the prison population, at least 70 percent of repeat violent offenders and the significant majority of serial killers and sex offenders are psychopaths. But we already suspected this. Did you know that though they rarely seek out treatment they are also 3 times as likely to be released or paroled faster than their non-psychopathic counterparts?

The prospect of a child psychopath is almost unbearable and the parent’s loss, catastrophic. Dylan Klebold’s mother writes in her book, “A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy,” that her grief came in waves as she mourned the loss of her dead son, the dead children he murdered, and the pain of knowing she never really knew him. When asked what she would say to her son now, she wrote, “I would ask him to forgive me for being his mother and never knowing what was going on inside his head.”

The brains of psychopaths are atypical; hallmark traits and behaviors that make them chillingly unique include (from the Youth Version of the Psychopathy Checklist):

  • Glibness
  • Superficial charm,
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth,
  • Pathological lying,
  • Cunning/manipulative,
  • Stimulation Seeking
  • Lack of remorse,
  • Emotional shallowness,
  • Poor Anger Control
  • Callousness and lack of empathy,
  • Unwillingness to accept responsibility for actions,
  • A tendency to boredom,
  • A parasitic lifestyle,
  • A lack of realistic long-term goals,
  • Impulsivity,
  • Irresponsibility,
  • Behavioral problems in early life,
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Promiscuous sexual behavior
  • Lack goals
  • Unstable Interpersonal Relationships
  • Criminal Versatility
  • But frighteningly, children with these traits also display a “perfect mask of genuine sanity, a flawless surface.” And so, we may never know until it’s too late who are children really are.

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    This week I spoke with Dan Zupansky, host of True Murder Podcast, where we discussed the case behind one of my earlier books, A Socialite Scorned.

    In this podcast, we discuss the case of Gary Triano, a millionaire real estate developer from Tucson, Arizona who was killed in Tucson by a pipe bomb explosion.

    His ex-wife, Pamela Anne Phillips, a model, real estate agent and socialite, was charged with orchestrating her ex-husband’s death. In a sensational trial nearly 18 years after Triano’s murder, Phillips was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to life in prison. Phillips, who is now incarcerated, claims that Triano’s death was a mob revenge killing. This case was touted as one of the most complicated, difficult investigations of our time, garnering media attention precisely because of its “story behind the story” of greed and power.

    Listen below!

    Listen on BlogTalkRadio

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    Chicago Magazine likely knows a thing or two about the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club. Journalist Adam Morgan sat down with Big Pete, the subject of The Last Chicago Boss, to chat about the impact of TV motorcycle gangs on biker culture.

    One of the worst things that could ever happen to motorcycle clubs was Sons of Anarchy. Jax, the main guy, he’s not a biker. He’s a serial killer.

    Plus, Big Pete shares misconceptions about biker clubs, the legal ramifications of The Last Chicago Boss, how to choose the perfect bike and more.

    Read the full story, “Life Inside the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club” from Chicago Magazine here.

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    If you find true crime documentaries as captivating as I do, take a look below at some of my favorite stories and cases detailed through films and documentaries. I’ve included each synopsis so you can get a sense of just how crazy these stories are. Then, let me know your favorites in the comments.

    Soaked in Bleach: The Death of Kurt Cobain
    Soaked in Bleach is an American docudrama detailing the events leading up to the death of Kurt Cobain, as seen through the perspective of Tom Grant, the private detective who was hired by Courtney Love to find Cobain, her husband, shortly before his death in 1994. It also explores the premise that Cobain’s death was not a suicide.

    The Witness: A Documentary About Kitty Genovese
    The name Kitty Genovese became synonymous with bystander apathy after The New York Times reported that 38 witnesses watched her being murdered in Kew Gardens, Queens, New York – and did nothing to help. This version of events went largely unchallenged for half a century. The horrifying implications of the Times story reached across the city and the country, and would eventually impact lawmakers and lecture halls across the globe. At home, determined to prove he wasn’t like the witnesses who watched and did nothing, Kitty’s younger brother Bill Genovese, who was quite close to his big sister, volunteered to serve in Vietnam where he would lose both his legs in combat. More than 50 years later, The Witness follows Bill’s dogged search for the truth as he attempts to find out for himself what actually took place that fateful night of March 13, 1964.

    The Central Park Five
    In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers were arrested and charged with brutally attacking and raping a white female jogger in Central Park. News media swarmed the case, calling them a “wolfpack.” The five would spend years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit before the truth about what really happened became clear. With THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE, this story of injustice finally gets the attention it deserves. Based on Sarah Burns’ riveting book and co-directed by her husband David McMahon and father, the acclaimed doc filmmaker Ken Burns, this incendiary film tells the riveting tale of innocent young men scapegoated for a heinous crime, and serves as a mirror for our times.

    Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills
    Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills is a 1996 documentary film directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky about the trials of three teenage boys who came to be known as the West Memphis Three in West Memphis, Arkansas. The teenagers—Jessie Misskelley Jr., Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin—were accused of the May 1993 murder and sexual mutilation of three prepubescent boys.

    Child of Rage: A Story of Abuse
    This documentary tells the story of a six year old girl, Beth Thomas, labeled as “The Child Of Rage,” tells her story of healing from Reactive Attachment Disorder as a result of being sexually abused. This is a bone-chilling story with scenes that you will never forget. The film features footage of Beth revealing to her therapist that she has tortured animals and sexually abused her younger brother. A consequence of the abuse she endured as an infant. Her road to healing and recovery is recorded in this fascinating documentary.

    The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer
    Richard Kuklinski was a devoted husband, loving father–and ruthless killer of over 100 people. You’ll meet him in this powerful documentary that features one of the most vivid and disturbing interviews ever recorded–taped behind the walls of the prison where Kuklinski is serving two consecutive life sentences for multiple homicide.

    Monster: The Joseph Fritzl Story
    Interviews with family members, doctors and victims of 73-year-old Josef Fritzl, who held his daughter captive in a basement for 24 years and fathered seven children with her.

    The Confessions of Thomas Quick
    This chilling film tells the gripping story of the making of a modern Swedish serial killer – taking us to the very heart of events that terrified a nation. Horrific and intriguing in equal measure, this is real Scandinavian noir, a dark tale of murder and lies.

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    Pete knew that one day he’d be a big part of the Chicago Outlaws.

    Each decision he made throughout his young adult life was carefully calculated to benefit his eventual place in the Outlaws inner circle. And even as an outsider, he knew that there were better ways to run the club.

    I always wanted to be an Outlaw. In 1995 when I first came on the scene, the Outlaws were doing everything they could to take on the Hells Angels. A lot of them went to prison. A lot of them are doing life, and the Angels are still here. I understood why they did that, but I looked at it and said I can’t do the same thing. It wasn’t working.

    Penthouse writer Seth Ferranti takes a deeper look inside the Chicago Outlaws motorcycle club before Big Pete was their leader many years ago.

    Read the interview here.

    Penthouse’s Review of The Last Chicago Boss:

    A riveting and gripping account that details what life in the Outlaws was like and chronicles his rise through the ranks of the infamous club to become a modern day Godfather in biker culture.

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