Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Criminal Profiler Shares Some Secrets of the Trade

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Criminal Profiler Shares Some Secrets of the Trade

Article excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO -- In 1956, frustrated by their inability to apprehend the "Mad Bomber" who had been terrorizing New York City for 16 years, police detectives paid a visit to Dr. James A. Brussel, a noted psychiatrist and a criminologist. As he examined the evidence, Dr. Brussel developed what he called a "portrait" of the bomber.

The bomber, he predicted, would be suffering from paranoia. He would be a loner with no friends. He would be precise, neat, and tidy. He would be heavy, Catholic, and foreign born. He would be unmarried, and possibly living with an older female relative in Connecticut. Oh, and one more thing, Dr. Brussel said. When apprehended, the bomber would be wearing a doublebreasted suit, fully buttoned.

It's arguable whether Dr. Brussel's pioneering criminal profile helped the police apprehend the bomber. The bomber's anonymous letters to newspapers contained enough clues regarding his grievances with utility company Consolidated Edison that police were able to identify George Metesky (heavy, Catholic, and foreign born).

When he was apprehended at his home in Connecticut, where he lived with his two elderly spinster sisters, he answered the door wearing pajamas. Told to get dressed for his trip to the police station, he soon emerged from his room dressed neatly in a double-breasted suit, fully buttoned.

While accounts of Dr. Brussel's profile of the madbomber tend to highlight his correct predictions, in fact, he made more incorrect predictions than correct ones, said Steven E. Samuel, Ph.D., at the annual meeting of the American College of Forensic Psychiatry.

This is typical, said Dr. Samuel, a clinical psychologist in Philadelphia who, together Dr. Timothy J. Michals, a forensic psychiatrist at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, often is asked to help law enforcement agencies develop profiles of criminal offenders. …

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