Forensic psychology is sometimes just a fancy way of describing the common methods we use to manipulate one another. And abusing this method is something some criminal who proved it’s easier than it sounds. Whether it’s faking a mental or physical illness, trying to talk your way out of trouble, or trying recognize the guy who has stolen your lunch twice before as the most likely suspect in “Lunch-Thief 3.0” are all ways of utilizing forensic psychology.
Almost every hardened criminal has used, abused and distorted forensic psychology to his or her advantage. It may have been to trick an unsuspecting victim into willingly accompanying the criminal into the jaws of death. Or, it could be a criminal’s attempt to appear insane so that a lesser sentence will be given as a consequence to heinous crimes. Forensic psychology is a corner of psychology which can not only be applied to the world at large, but, if studied correctly, can possibly do more than just help authorities catch serial killers — it may be able to prevent such terrible crimes in the first place. Granted, this would come at a time when the computers from 1984 are constantly watching you, zapping children’s lives into oblivion the moment they cut a head off a doll or squash a firefly. Anyway, here are some awful criminals who escaped the zap and abused forensic psychology to their advantage.
A recent movie called Snowtown details the life and crimes of John Bunting, a murderer renowned as Australia’s worst serial killer. It’s a solid film worth a watch, especially because its “based on a true story” pretext gives way to an accurate, fact-filled portrait. The only downside was the long and dwindling ending which left a lot to be desired. The real Bunting inspired the same feelings, also accompanied by shock and disgust. Bunting was highly adept at manipulating others, and his “crime ring” of degenerate friends spoke volumes in support of that.
Along with a group of his friends, Bunting would target people that they already knew, kidnap and murder them. His choices were based on whom he suspected of being a homosexual or a pedophile, and he would keep an elaborate list of names pinned to the wall of his home upon which he had fancied a giant woolen spiderweb. Bunting convinced his friends, who were living in low-income projects with Bunting, that his victims were worthless deviants who didn’t deserve to live. The mob mentality took over and Bunting was assisted in ten of his eleven murders. One of Bunting’s closest consorts was only a teenager. Jamie Vlassakis was the son of Bunting’s girlfriend, so he began to look at Vlassakis as a father figure. Once he confided that he had been molested by his stepbrother, Bunting recruited Vlassakis to have the boy, named Troy Youde, murdered. Although Bunting convinced his murderous friends that their victims “needed to die,” most of them were people who were targeted merely for being mentally disabled. Bunting’s sickness reached new heights when him and his friends murdered their last victim, cooking and eating some of the body parts.
Andrei Chikatilo, The Red Ripper
Andrei Chikatilo was a notorious Russian serial killer who snuffed out the lives of over 50 women and children, all of which were sexually abused before getting brutally murdered. Chikatilo’s sordid criminal history began when he lured a 9-year-old into his house, hoping to rape her. When she fought against him, he stabbed her and ejaculated during the stabbing. From then on, Chikatilo claims he was only able to reach orgasm through the murders of females. Chikatilo could have stopped there — evidence linked him to the crime. However, authorities royally screwed up when they convicted — and executed — an innocent man for the crime. Chikatilo was therefore allowed to continue his horrific spree of murders.
Chikatilo, formerly a teacher who was often mocked and disrespected by students in the classroom, would convince transients or runaway teens to leave bus stops and ride with him instead. They would be taken to a nearby forest and murdered. His abuse of forensic psychology came about when he was finally on trial for these crimes. It was surreal, to say the least; Chikatilo was kept in a locked cage in the center of the courtroom, locked away from hysterical family members who wanted nothing more than to murder him themselves. During the trial, he would say nonsensical things and refuse to answer questions from defense or prosecution. He would sing songs or blankly stare into space. At one point he even exposed himself to the crowd, laughing. Many people think he was abusing forensic psychology, or utilizing a tactic called malingering. Malingering is nothing short of being a big fat fraud, crying wolf and pretending that something is physically or mentally wrong where no such problem actually exists.
Chikatilo may have been faking his insanity to try and garner a lesser sentence from the judge. There’s no doubt that a person with the capacity to gleefully commit such terrible acts must be pretty crazy, but Chikatilo was an intelligent man who successfully coaxed women and children into believing he was trustworthy enough to accompany alone. He was a manipulator, and a good one at that. His possible malingering at trial was just another tactic he used to get what he wanted.
Ted Bundy was an excellent abuser of forensic psychology. Eventually convicted of the rape-torture-murders of 30 women, it’s widely believed that his body count was significantly higher. Bundy would abuse forensic psychology from the beginning of the relationship between himself and his victims. To gain the trust of women and lure them into his grasp, he would sometimes participate in a different type of malingering — faking an injury and claiming to need help. Other times, he would claim to be an authority figure. He would then lure the girl to his car and beat them over the head with a crowbar or similar object. Only one of his victims had a skull which did not show evidence of blunt force trauma.
Bundy was such an excellent manipulator that he even won the judge’s heart during his trial, despite being given the death penalty. Bundy had acted as his own attorney, cross-examining witnesses and giving a convincing argument. During sentencing, the judge said:
“It is ordered that you be put to death by a current of electricity, that current be passed through your body until you are dead. Take care of yourself, young man. I say that to you sincerely; take care of yourself, please. It is an utter tragedy for this court to see such a total waste of humanity as I’ve experienced in this courtroom. You’re an intelligent young man. You’d have made a good lawyer, and I would have loved to have you practice in front of me, but you went another way, partner. Take care of yourself. I don’t feel any animosity toward you. I want you to know that. Once again, take care of yourself.”