Inside a Killer's Head

By Smith, Craig | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 8, 2009 | Go to article overview

Inside a Killer's Head


Smith, Craig, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Lawrence Likar worked for the FBI for 23 years, supervising the Pittsburgh office's Violent Crime/Major Offenders Squad and coordinating the Greater Pittsburgh Fugitive Task Force, which arrested more than 1,000 fugitives.

He was team leader during the successful investigation of the Dec. 31, 1986, fire at the DuPont Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which killed 97 people and injured 150 others, the second worst arson/homicide in U.S. history.

He's been a crisis negotiator and worked with local, state and federal agencies in investigations involving unusual, bizarre and/ or repetitive violent crime.

Now retired, Likar teaches at LaRoche College.

We spoke Wednesday after George Sodini, 48, a member of the LA Fitness center in the Great Southern Shopping Center, started shooting inside an aerobics class, killing three people and wounding nine others before turning a gun on himself.

Q; What makes someone gun down a dozen people?

A: Well, that type of behavior actually falls under the classification of mass murder. ... In general, if you had to have one single, outstanding characteristic ... it's a huge, tremendous sense of inadequacy -- almost to the point of being in despair over it. And where you see some differences is there is normally development of anger. ... They will find external sources of why they feel this way, and this causes a buildup of emotion in some cases toward particular types of people, and those individuals become kind of a focus.

Now there's usually a trigger in most mass murders. There is something that happens relatively recent that kind of sends someone over the edge completely. ... Is it possible for them to be delusional or hallucinating in some cases? That has happened. But in other cases there is a disorder of some type there, but they are often very functional.

Q: They can go along fairly normally, and then the trigger hits?

A: Usually you are going to see something that causes them to snap. ... It's an emotional process in the brain that basically causes them to snap. They can't override it and then they commit an act that they've been thinking about.

I read his blog. There didn't seem to be any type of initiating event: He didn't lose his job all of a sudden. He didn't have someone turn him down about a date. ... He had this plan; it was fixed in his mind. In fact, his anger and his hatred are like many of the mass murderers'. This anger becomes not an impulsive part anymore; it's actually part of the way they think. They don't intellectualize. In fact, it's just their normal process, and that's when they start fixating on certain people and finding reasons for the way they feel.

Q: Are they looking for fame or notoriety?

A: Well, the desire for getting some type of solution for the feelings that they have. ... In almost all cases there is deep inadequacy of getting a solution to that. Being remembered in some cases, yeah, that's possible. …

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