The Web      Powered by
powered by Yahoo!


Return to Transcripts main page


Inside The Minds Of Psychopaths

Aired May 4, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, inside the minds of psychopaths. They can seem so normal until they commit gruesome, unspeakable murders. And now experts reveal what makes them do it. And how you can tell if you have a psychopath, maybe living next door. It's next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: We have an outstanding panel, extraordinary guests and your phone calls later.

In Philadelphia is Dr. Katherine Ramsland, PH.d., forensic psychologist. She teaches at DeSales University. She's author of "The Criminal Mind." And the forthcoming book "The Human Predator." She frequently writes for Court TV's online crime library.

In Boston is Dr. Martha Stout PH.d., author of "The Sociopath Next Door," psychologist, clinical instructor, Department of Psychiatry Harvard Medical School.

In Chicago is Dr. Helen Morrison M.D., certified forensic psychiatrist, has interviewed or studied more than 80 serial killers and is author of the memoir "My Life Among the Serial Killers."

And in Washington, Greg McCrary, a 25-year veteran of the FBI, one of the world's most experienced profilers. Author of "The Unknown Darkness: Profiling the Predators Among Us" written, by the way, with Dr. Ramsland, our earlier introduced guest in Philadelphia.

We'll start with her. Dr. Ramsland, what is a psychopath?

DR. KATHERINE RAMSLAND, DESALES UNIVERSITY: Well, a psychopath is a person who essentially is without remorse and is diagnosable according to a list of 20 traits which are affective as well as socially deviant, usually manipulative, deceptive, low frustration tolerance. There's a whole list of traits. So there's not an easy answer. It's not a one- line answer to that question.

KING: Does a psychopath, Dr. Stout, fit all the traits or most of the traits?

DR. MARTHA STOUT, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: Well, a psychopath doesn't have to fit all of the traits. I think three or more begins to make you suspect that you're dealing with a sociopath or a psychopath or an anti-social personality disorder, which are three terms that are commonly used.

KING: Dr. Morrison do they all feel no remorse? If you're a psychopath, does it mean you feel no remorse?

DR. HELEN MORRISON, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: Well, essentially the worst character is the one who has absolutely no conscience. So he doesn't have to feel any remorse.

There are some -- what we call garden variety con men who may feel remorse at a certain point, but it certainly doesn't stop them from committing whatever they want to do, whether it's financial fraud to serial murder.

KING: Gregg McCrary, are all the predators sociopaths?

GREGG MCCRARY, FRM. FBI PROFILER: No, not all are. Some violent offenders are not sociopathic or psychopathic, yet probably about 20 percent of the prison population is diagnosable as being psychopathic. And they certainly commit a disproportionate number of the really violent and very heinous crimes.

KING: Couldn't we say -- and the panel can all jump in -- couldn't we say, Dr. Ramsland, that anyone who commits an anti-social act, robs something, kills somebody, is psychopathic?

RAMSLAND: No, I wouldn't say that. I think that's making it much too broad. Psychopathic has a lot more to it, especially in terms of personality traits, not just behavior. So I think to say that is to miss the idea that to diagnose someone as a psychopath is to actually have predictive value for whether they will repeat their crimes, whether their crimes will be more diverse and more violent than other people.

KING Do they know, Dr. Ramsland, the difference between right and wrong?

RAMSLAND: They know. They don't care.

KING: All right. Dr. Stout, you call your book "The Sociopath Next Door." What is a sociopath?

STOUT: Well a sociopath is a person without conscience. And I think that there may be a little confusion in terms here. There's no universally agreed upon difference between the word sociopath and psychopath. In other words, it depends on what researcher you talk to.

I use the term sociopath, because I want people to understand that we're talking not only about people who can be quite violent, but also about people who are not and never will be violent.

About 4 percent of the population is sociopathic, literally has no conscience which is an astounding figure. And an astounding thing for the normal person to try to get his or her head around.

I think that the distinction between all violence and sociopathic or psychopathic violence is a matter of that conscience, that conscience factor. Sociopathic killing is cold. It's ice cold. It's without conscience.

A great deal of violence, as we know, is very hot. It involves a great deal of heat and emotion. And that kind of violence would not be referred to as sociopathic.

KING: So socio -- you can work with a sociopath. He doesn't kill anybody, he just doesn't care about when he cuts you out of a job or cheats that guy out of a pay increase or whatever?

STOUT: Exactly. Exactly. Brutally beats his children or humiliates his employees in public, steals old lady's pensions. Sure.

MCCRARY: Larry, keep in mind, also that, it's not just violence, that psychopaths -- we certainly have violent psychopaths, but we can also have white collar criminals. If you think of the -- look at the local -- or the recent corporate scandals that we've had, Enron and Worldcom and so forth, those are probably white collar psychopaths.

Now, we can have subcriminal psychopaths as well, corporate psychopaths in the workplace. They don't really commit crimes, but they are very disruptive and can do a lot of damage and destruction in a company or a corporation.

KING: Gregg, how do you define predator?

MCCRARY: Predator -- Dr. Stout hit on this. And that's a good idea to keep in mind. If you talk about violence, it can be affective or very emotional on one end and at the other end of the continuum, it can be very cold and predatory.

And when we talk about a predator, we're talking about someone who quite often plans this, it's cold. We talk about cold-blooded murder. We're really talking about the predator out there who hunts and stalks and so forth. Doesn't kill necessarily in an emotional rage, but many times planning and deliberately kills, very coldly.

KING: Dr. Ramsland, you call your book "The Criminal Mind." Is there such a thing as a criminal mind? Is it born? Are you born a criminal?

RAMSLAND: Well, we're trying to look into that. I think we are finding that there are certain brain patterns that appear to be different. For example, psychopaths appear not to process emotional content in the same way that normal people do. And it could be that they simply don't feel anything the way -- in terms of being horrified by a crime they're committing or feeling how they may be harming somebody or hurting somebody.

If they don't process the emotional content, they are not empathic, they don't have any sense of what they've done to somebody. And we're finding that brain studies are, in fact, pointing to this. We don't know this for sure yet, but it may be the case that that would indicate they're born to be that.

KING: Dr. Stout, are they helpable?

STOUT: Helpable? In other words, curable?

KING: Can we cure them, help them, make them better?

STOUT: The sad news is at present, we really can't cure sociopaths. And in point of fact, they're not asking us to cure them or help them. Many sociopaths, if you interview them, they will say that they feel just fine, thank you very much. And in fact, if it's a disease, it's a disease without any dis-ease attached to it.

And no, where there is no conscience, we do not know yet how to instill one.

KING: We'll take a break and we'll ask Dr. Morrison about serial killers. We'll be entertaining your phone calls. Our subject tonight is the psychopathic mind. Don't go away.




KING: What finally spun it off?

DAVID BERKOWITZ, "SON OF SAM": Uh, there was a lot of pressures and a lot of decisions and a lot of bad choices. I felt that at this time I had regrettably -- I mean, I look back at -- just, regret. I just -- at this time, I had made a pact with the devil. I had allowed this Satanic thing to control me, and I felt these paranormal powers. I know that sounds so hard to understand, you know, but...

KING: Explain it to me. I'm open.

BERKOWITZ: ...that's what was happening. And I felt somehow invincible. I felt that I had this power and I was, unknown to me, I was slowly being led down a path of destruction.


KING: That was our interview in prison in upstate New York with David Berkowitz, the notorious "Son of Sam."

Dr. Morrison, is there a thread among serial killers? Who is a serial killer?

MORRISON: A serial killer is someone who has basically no personality structure. You can say he's the worst of the worst. No only does he have no regret, no sorrow, he has no sense of human beings as human beings. He is an individual who is exactly the same around the world. It doesn't matter what country, what social strata, what background he had, they are all exactly alike.

You asked a question earlier about, are they born? In my opinion, they are born and there are some environmental changes, because you cannot possibly have the lack of humanity that exists in these people without the common thread of genetics.

KING: Why do they kill?

MORRISON: Well, for the serial killer, they don't kill for any reason. They will talk about -- and very freely talk about -- the fact that they can be doing something such as putting dinner in the oven and have a thought, I have to go get me one. Go kill someone, come back and say, why is my dinner burned? They have no reason. There have been so many myths and so many things said about why they kill. But if you sit down for hours and talk with these people, they have no reason to kill. They just do it.

KING: So, in other words, the Son of Sam saying people were talking to him, voices, that's baloney?

MORRISON: I would say it was, yes, and if you notice also, there was absolutely no sense of responsibility that he did this.

KING: Yeah.

MORRISON: It was always something that was making him do it.

MCCRARY: I think that's a very valid point, because I -- what you find with these offenders is they commonly cast themselves in the role of the victim, that somehow they're victimized by some outside force or something like that. So, it's never their fault. They're always projecting responsibility for this off on to somebody or something else whether a demonic force or whatever it may be. That's a very common phenomenon.

MORRISON: Well, it's extremely common, especially when John Gacy talked about John and Jack, the cop who supposedly killed all these people. And people said, oh, it means they've got a split personality, they're mentally ill, they're not responsible, and that is also a bunch of baloney.

KING: Gregg, are they rough to catch because there's no motive?

MCCRARY: It's different than most homicide investigations and that is problematical, because there typically is no relationship between the victim and the offender. In most homicides, people are killed most commonly by -- were killed most commonly by people that we know. Therefore, the investigation focuses on the victim and their circle of friends and acquaintances and so forth.

With a serial murder, more often than not, there's no prior relationship that exists between the victim and the offender. So, the normal investigative techniques that work well in typical homicides really don't work all that well in serial murderer cases. So, that presents a problem. And then, of course, it depends on the individual killer himself. Their intelligence is no different than anyone else's. Some are stupid, some are moderately intelligent, a few are bright, and the bright ones and criminally sophisticated ones can present more of a problem.

KING: How do you explain, Dr. Ramsland, a killer like the accused in the BTK thing, where it disappears for 20 years and comes back?

RAMSLAND: Well, he didn't disappear exactly. I mean they did find...

KING: Well, he stopped killing.

RAMSLAND: That we know of. We don't know that he did. They just maybe haven't pinned some things on him. What was more interesting was that he stops writing letters and then suddenly started up again. I think that had to do a lot with his narcissistic personality. He saw other people writing about him. Somebody had done a 30-year retrospective in the newspaper and then "Crime Library" had done a piece on him, and suddenly he decided to take up the pen again and set people straight. So, that was actually more interesting, that he would be silent and then come back and have to tell his story.

KING: Dr. Stout, there's no drug treatment?

STOUT: There's no drug treatment...

KING: Yes, any kind of pharmaceuticals that can help?

STOUT: Short of just putting somebody out, I think not. I think, what you have to understand, as people have been saying, this is a profound condition that is very, very difficult for the rest of us to understand or appreciate.

If you take a mind that has absolutely no conscience in it, no feeling for anybody, not even one's own children, you add to that a blood lust, and what you get is a kind of gamesmanship, a kind of enjoying killing just because -- just because, with no more sense of guilt than playing Monopoly, for example.

KING: But Dr. Morrison, they pretend at a life, don't they? They work.

MORRISON: Oh, they are...

KING: You always hear from their fellow workers, he's terrific.

MORRISON: Well, you hear from their workers, their wives, their parents, their brothers and sisters, that they must have the wrong man because this person is just -- he couldn't possibly be -- he's never been violent before.

But I have to take issue about the supposed diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. The serial murders are very different than your garden-variety psychopath, because they have no personality. The people that we've studied and the data that we've collected shows...

KING: Ted Bundy had a personality, though.

MORRISON: On the surface, he had a personality.

KING: No, pleasing person. I met him. He was a delight to be around.

MORRISON: They're charming. They're delightful. They're seen as wonderful people. John Gacy used to take his clown outfit and go to the orphanages and entertain the children. They loved him. But that doesn't mean there was anything behind that. You know, most actors in the world can show different types of behaviors, but that doesn't mean that there's anything inside that means they are like that.

KING: Let me come back -- when we come back, I'm going to ask Gregg McCrary to profile for us one of these killers and how you track them down.

And we're going to get into, of course, those who attack children, and we'll be taking your calls. Don't go away.


KING: What was it like to kill someone? First time you killed someone. We all wonder about something like that. What was it like?

BERKOWITZ: Larry, I don't dwell on that much, and I don't dwell on it at all. It was a horrible thing. It was a horrible thing.

KING: You hated it while you did it?

BERKOWITZ: Yes. I felt that, looking back, I mean, I know that God has healed so much in my life and healed those memories, and everything. And I'd do anything if I could go back and change it all and have prevented it from happening.




KING: What did he do with the animals?

LIONEL DAHMER, JEFFREY DAHMER'S FATHER: Well, he examined them and he cut into them, cut them open to examine the insides of the animals. By the way, a lot of people have been telling me that they've done the same thing, but they didn't turn out like Jeff. But there was one thing that was different with Jeff. He did what most all of us young males do when the hormones kick in tremendously. And he was doing something sexually with them. And I think the neuronal connections made contact and sort of hard wired Jeff, so to speak.


KING: It was the late Jeffrey Dahmer's father. Jeffrey was killed in prison.

Gregg McCrary, veteran of the FBI, can we profile a serial killer, someone who does what a Dahmer or others do? Is it true to say -- I think we've had only one black serial killer in America, right, was the guy in Atlanta, right?

MCCRARY: No, we've had one in Baton Rouge. And we've had -- and that's sort of a myth that it's a white male. I mean, there are a lot of white males that do this. But I think that every racial group we've had Hispanic and Oriental, black, white.

KING: Then profile them for me. Is it a he?

MCCRARY: No. That's the issue. We have women, we have teams of women, women alone, women with men. There is no cookie cutter profile. And that's the dilemma and that's the problem of trying to profile. People ask me, what's the profile of a serial killer. And the short answer is there is none because they're so diverse. And we have to take each case on a case by case basis and look at it that way.

And I'd like to revisit this narcissism issue for just a second. Whether we're maybe debating labels here, but a lot of these individuals want to be smart -- or feel that they're smarter than law enforcement. And they want to taunt and write letters and so forth. And that's a very good thing from an investigative point of view because sooner or later, they're going to trip up and they're going to make a mistake. And we love it when they communicate. And if you think about Ted Kaczynski, he wrote letters for years to the FBI telling us how stupid we were and all of that. Once he wrote that 35,000-word manifesto, that was the key to solving the case.

We had it with BTK. The same thing with the Beltway snipers in D.C., their communications led to their downfall. So that's -- they think they're invulnerable, they think they're invincible but they really weren't.

KING: They were black, too, the Beltway snipers.

MCCRARY: That's correct.

KING: Dr. Ramsland, can we say there's a woman criminal mind?

RAMSLAND: Well, there certainly are female serial killers and there certainly are female criminals. And I think that they often take advantage of the idea that women aren't as aggressive or violent as men. They take advantage of that. They use social camouflage, so that people don't accept the idea of a female criminal mind. But yes, I think there is. Is it distinct, it overlaps with the male criminal mind certainly, but there are distinct qualities for females as well.

KING: Dr. Stout, the danger is how do we spot them, and if you think they're going to turn out that way, what can you do when they haven't done anything yet?

STOUT: That I think is one of the most fascinating questions facing psychology these days. What do you do if you can diagnose sociopathy?

You know in advance that someone has no conscience and is likely to hurt other people, what do you in a free society with information like that. Not only do psychopaths like to fool law enforcement, they have begun to like to fool people in the mental health establishment as well. There's a kind of gamesmanship that goes on there.

And Berkowitz, if we look at your interview of David Berkowitz, he was saying more or less what we would have had him say to convince us to be on his side, if you will, to convince us that he was starting to be cured. And I think that it is sometimes difficult to sort that out from the mental health establishment's wish to cure such people, and such people's ability to sound like anything they want to sound like.

KING: Dr. Morrison, can you spot things in a 5-year-old that would concern you?


KING: No, too young?

MORRISON: No, you can't. I think the myth has been that in order to become a serial killer you have to kill animal, set fires and wet the bed. And that was a very ancient idea. And statistically -- and you know, we're doing a research project. We are not law enforcement. We are not trying to do anything other than find out why these people become who they are. We have absolutely found nothing in the people that we have studied that would statistically say, oh, this will predict it. But to get back to -- our legal system is never going to allow us to put someone in jail for what we think or what somebody might do. We have to wait. And our job is basically to try to stop these people before they kill more people, not to put people in jail who possibly could be sociopaths.

I mean, I'm in prisons all the time. And I can tell you it is more than 4 percent in the prisons of sociopathic personality disorders or psychopaths. So you know, we have to say, look, we've got to focus our energies on stopping more of the killings, not identifying them and putting them in jail before they even kill.

KING: We'll take a break. And when we come back, we'll find out where in this picture someone like a Scott Peterson comes, who apparently led a good life a kind of a rogue, and then suddenly, according to that jury kills.

We'll also include your phone calls. We'll re-introduce the panel as well. I'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sixteen life sentences, not enough retribution for the sister of one victim.




KING: We're back. The mind of the psychopath.

Our guests are Dr. Katherine Ramsland, ph.d. -- she's in Philadelphia -- author of the forthcoming book "The Human Predator."

Dr. Martha Stout in Boston, author of "The Sociopath Next Door." She's a clinical instructor at Harvard.

Dr. Helen Morrison is a certified psychiatrist. Her book is "My Life Among the Serial Killers."

And Gregg McCrary, a 25-year veteran of the FBI, one of the world's most experienced profilers, and he's author of "The Unknown Darkness: Profiling the Predators Among Us," written with Dr. Ramsland.

Gregg McCrary, who are the people who harm children?

MCCRARY: Well, there's -- again, there's no cookie-cutter profile. We have any number of people -- if we look at the global problem, the younger the child is, the more likely it is to be a parent or a caregiver or someone close. This makes us very uncomfortable. We're more comfortable talking about the stranger predator and the child abductor who comes in and sort of a Richard- Davis-Polly-Klaas sort of case, where a stranger comes in and abducts the child and all of that...

KING: You mean, you're saying it is more likely to be a family member?

MCCRARY: Yes, and the younger the child is, the more likely it is to be a family member or a caregiver, rather than a stranger. Our fear is with stranger-danger, but we take our eye off the ball when we're looking at that. I mean, that's a problem and it does exists, but a lot -- quite often, it's people close to the child, and especially the younger the child the more likely it is to be a family member and caregiver.

KING: What about those who are not? What about predators like the priests, who don't kill but sexually abuse? What's the read on them?

MCCRARY: Right. Well, certainly these are child molesters and, again, they run a continuum. We're talking about the preferential sort of child molester. He may have hundreds or thousands of victims over a lifetime. That's -- and what you have there is sort of a pairing of a paraphilic or sexual disorder like pedophilia, and if you pair that with psychopathy or sociopathy, where they have no empathy, you're almost guaranteed you're going to have a guy molesting many, many kids. And it's that combination that presents a -- presents a real problem.

KING: Let's include some calls. Sarnia, Ontario. Hello.

Caller: Good morning -- good afternoon, Mr. King, or good evening.

KING: Hi, sure.

Caller: I want to know, what does Scott Peterson fall under, and is there something wrong -- was he born with something lacking in his brain? I'll hang up and listen. Thank you.

KING: Let's ask, because apparently for most of his life, he was a model kind of kid. Dr. Ramsland, how do we explain that kind of killer?

RAMSLAND: Well, it's very hard to diagnose somebody that you haven't met. I watched the trial, but I wouldn't say he's definitely a psychopath or something like that. He showed psychopathic types of behaviors in the kinds of lies he told and the sense that he had that he didn't seem to know how he hurt other people, that he murdered somebody to apparently just get out from under the burden of fatherhood and being a husband.

But I wouldn't want to diagnose him and put a label on him without having met him at all and put him through the proper kinds of tests. These diagnoses are usually fairly complex deals. You can't just decide somebody is a psychopath.

KING: I see. Dr. Stout, so we don't know if Scott Peterson is a psychopath?

STOUT: We don't know, and certainly I can't diagnose somebody I've never met. I can tell you that, certainly, a lot of his behaviors, if he's guilty, as he was convicted, appear to be cold and sociopathic. In fact, in a sense, he's kind of a textbook case.

And, to answer the question about the brain versus learning, and how could somebody have something wrong with his brain and look as good as Scott Peterson did, what we know about the brains of sociopaths is fascinating. And it is -- we're beginning to understand that there's not the same kind of reaction to emotional stimuli as there is in the normal brain. That doesn't necessarily mean an urge to kill, that just means that the sociopath is not attached to other people the way you and I are.

So, that Scott Peterson didn't kill before because he didn't need to kill before. And when it came time for him to need to kill, he did it so apparently with ice water in his veins. That was one of the things that I believe even the jurors commented on, that they felt he was guilty. They decided he was guilty when they realized that he was having no emotional reaction at all to these horrible things that were being said in court.

KING: Lorraine, Ohio, hello.

Caller: Hi. I would like to know -- I have a question about men who go after children. How do they pick -- the mother of their intended victim, what does the mother look for, what should she look for and what kind of personality is that? And I'll hang up so I can listen.

KING: Gregg, you want to take that? MCCRARY: Sure. Some offenders do access kids through a mother, and they come -- and I think we just had this in one of the Florida cases where the child-killer was dating the mother. A lot of times they will approach. If that individual is psychopathic, it can be very tough for the mother to pick it up because he'll be charming. He'll be -- they'll love the attention and the affection that he's showing, but he's doing it to manipulate the parent in order to get access to the kid. So, it's a real issue. Just looking at the background, I think, and being aware of lies and deceits and any of that.

And playing -- I mean, Dr. Stout's book, she makes a very valid point about one of the characteristics is playing sort of the role of the victim or -- I forget how you phrased it there. The pity, the pity approach. And that's very common I've found in these individuals who elicit sympathy. They play the role of the victim and they become sympathetic characters, and women want to be nurturing and they bring this guy in and look after him. It is all a ploy.

KING: In other words, they're good at this?

MCCRARY: They're exceptionally good at this. They're -- I think psychopaths are the best natural psychologists out there. They read vulnerabilities, they read people and they can exploit those things fairly well.

Just as a side issue from the criminal point of view, you may recall, I'd worked organized crime in New York for a number of years, and Chin Gigante (ph), Vincent Gigante (ph), the head of the Genovese family, had fooled some of the top mental health professionals in the world, for years.

KING: Playing sick.

MCCRARY: Playing sick. Dementia. How can a guy run an organized crime family and be demented? It just doesn't work that way, but yet he was very convincing in doing it. So, they're very persuasive.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more calls. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ridgeway never flinched when family members called him a monster. It was the act of compassion by the father of Linda Ruehl (ph) that broke the composure of serial killer Gary Ridgeway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've made it difficult to live up to what God says to do, and that's to forgive. He says to forgive all. So, you are forgiven, sir.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KING: What's the plot? In other words, why you?

SANTE KIMES, CONVICTED OF MURDER: OK. First, we were at the wrong place at the right time. Second, how would you like, on the second day of your arrest, to have the mayor come out and say you were guilty? On international television.

KING: He said you were guilty?

KIMES: Oh, yes. Not only that, they put a poster of us on the third day saying we were guilty.

KING: Posters where?

KIMES: On every street corner.

KING: What do you mean?

KIMES: Pictures of us like we were guilty...

KING: Who?

KIMES: this disappearance. Then they even had vans driving around broadcasting our names. This is three and four days into this.

KING: Who is they?

KIMES: The police. I guess the city offices. They had arrested us on a little check charge.


KING: That was Sante Kimes. Earlier this year, she and her son Kenneth were sentenced to life in prison for killing a California business man. When we were talking to her, she was in New York, previously convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder every of an 82-year-old New York socialite, Irene Silverman.

Albuquerque, New Mexico. Hello.

CALLER: Yes. Thank you, Larry. I would like to ask your panel if this tends to run in families? I've been working with the family. And in four generations there have been seven murderers and four child molesters. And I was just wondering if there's any pattern that runs in a family?

KING: Dr. Ramsland, do you have any knowledge of that?

RAMSLAND: She saying this -- this you mean?

KING: Could it run in families?

RAMSLAND: You mean psychopaths?

KING: Yeah. Psychopath, sociopaths, murderers? Could you inherit it?

RAMSLAND: Well, it's hard to say if it's inherited or it's role models and family legacy issues and socioeconomic conditions. It's hard to pinpoint exactly that. But there does seem to be some genetic influence in that.

KING: Dr. Morrison?

MORRISON: There isn't in the plain -- as I call garden variety psychopath, there definitely is some type of genetic closure that comes in those families. However, that does not hold true in a serial murderer.

The serial murderer has absolutely no family history going back three, four, five generations of serial murderers. And that's why we think it's a genetic aberration that occurs prenatally.

But in the sociopathic families, and there are tremendous generational changes, but it's never brain or behavior or environment. It's a combination of those factors in those people. It's role modeling.

If you go back to old psychology which people have tended to throw out with all this new science and supposedly solving everything. We do know that the formation of conscience and the formation of various types of behavior come in what we call a preconscious level. And we've not been able to tease those factors out. But we know in the plain garden variety sociopath there definitely is a family link.

KING: Gregg, what about children who kill? Columbine?

MORRISON: Oh, yes.

MCCRARY: Right. Yes. Some of those are young psychopaths, there's no doubt about it.

And again, psychopathy, or if you want to use anti-social personality, a lot of these folks surface around 14. They come into contact with the criminal justice system in the early teen years -- 13, 14 years of age. But they've had problems all along -- you know, many times all along. And then you have this sort of an event that, you know, takes place.

Sort of the good news with the school shooters and this sort of thing is there's a lot of leakage, a lot of indication that they're going to do it. And I think people are much more sensitive to that now in reporting these things up. And a lot of these things have been prevented because of that.

KING: But they are sociopaths?

MCCRARY: Some of them are, some of them aren't.

KING: Some of them aren't (INAUDIBLE)

MORRISON: Medically we're not allowed to even diagnose a personality disorder of an anti-social type in any adolescent. I mean, they may have traits, but we can't say they have the personality.

MCCRARY: It's conduct disorder. Again, I'm not -- I'll leave to it the doctors to get into the medical labeling here. It is conduct disorder. We're talking about the same sort tendencies, the same sort of behavior is in place early on.

KING: Portland, Maine. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. I have a question for Dr. Morrison.

KING: Yes.

CALLER: What serial killers have you interviewed? And have you ever feared or been intimidated by any of them.

KING: She interviewed more than 80, right?

MORRISON: More than 80 that were in the book around the world. And more since including John Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer. The people that you know and the people you've never heard about. And have I ever been intimidated? Once.


MORRISON: Someone -- by Richard Masik, who was considered a small serial killer. The Mad Biter here in Chicago, who obtained my telephone number. And John Gacy also who obtained my home address when no one knew it and sent various communications.

But that's the only time. They've taught me a lot. And one of the things is don't underestimate them.

KING: They were behind bars, though, right?

MORRISON: Oh, they were behind bars, yes. They definitely were.

KING: But they still were frightening.

MORRISON: They were still frightening in the context of how much they can engender in the sense of control and in the sense of how they're able to gather information better than I think any of us are. And I think your FBI individual said, you know, these people are phenomenal. They are natural psychologists. They know what buttons to push.

KING: John Gacy used to write on a regular basis to this program. We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over the years, Aileen Wournos was called the Highway Hooker and the Damsel of Death. She was convicted of murders six middle aged men in North Central Florida in 1989 and 1990 and received six death sentences. EILEEN WOURNOS, CONVICTED SERIAL KILLER: I killed those men. I robbed them and I killed them as cold as ice. And I'd do it again, too.



KING: Toronto, Canada, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hi panel.

KING: Hello?

CALLER: Hello?

KING: Yes, go ahead.

CALLER: I wanted to ask about dismemberment. I don't understand -- and maybe it's good I don't understand -- is how they can do this. How they can cut up a person and even the cannibalism? And I mean, we've had a lot of these gentlemen -- I hate to call them gentlemen -- but Ed Gain, Ed Kemper, Elvis Fisher, Jeffrey Dahmer. Can you explain to me why you think they do these things?

KING: Dr. Morrison, what is that?

MORRISON: Well, one of the things that we've seen is that their ability to...

KING: I think we lost Dr. Morrison. Gregg McCrary, how do you explain it?

MCCRARY: The caller mentioned a number of cases. Let me bring a Canadian case in, the Paul Bernardo in --near Toronto, just outside Toronto. I was involved in that. He dismembered one of the teenage victims, a young girl named Leslie Mahaffey. Cut her up, put her body pieces in cement blocks put the cement blocks in a reservoir. For -- in that particular case, Bernado was trying to dispose of the body so it would never be discovered -- never be found. It didn't work out that way. But there are any number of reasons that they might do it. Some may do it for practical reasons like that.

But again, keep in mind, no empathy, no guilty, not conscience. It's nothing to them to do that.

KING: But Dr. Morrison...


KING: How can you do it? How can you dismember a person?

MORRISON: Well, how can a butcher cut up a side of beef? It's the same thing to a serial killer. It has absolutely no meaning. We're horrified. We're horrified when we found out that Ed Gain (ph) was making certain body parts part of his belt. We were horrified when we saw what Jeffrey Dahmer was doing. We were horrified. But the problem is we're human, they're not. So them, it's nothing.

KING: They're not human?

MORRISON: It doesn't mean anything. No, they are not human.

KING: Kansas City, Kansas. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, I have a couple questions. First off, isn't it true that the events that happen when you're a child can -- like beatings or sexual abuse, whatever, can cause problems later? And maybe cause some of this?

And also on to Scott Peterson, everyone said he had a privileged life, but if he's used to being spoiled, then, you know, if he wanted her gone, then that's what he wanted to do.

KING: Dr. Stout, do you want to comment on both questions?

STOUT: Yes. Because I think one of the most interesting things about sociopathy in general is that, we're having a very difficult time finding any particular child rearing practices that correlate with it. Everybody's first guess, of course, is child abuse. But as it turns out, sociopaths as a group are no more likely to be abused as children than any other group. And furthermore, people who are abused at children do not by any means all grow up to be sociopathic. And so I think our tendency to feel compassion and pity, although it is a very positive thing, is misguided in this particular instance.

KING: In the Peterson case, could that just be an extension of being spoiled?

STOUT: Being spoiled? No, I think that, you know, if you're talking about something as profound as looking at a human being and having no more of an emotional reaction than you were looking at a chair, that it' very difficult to explain that by calling in the spoiled child theory.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more moments and more phone calls. Don't go away.


JEFFREY DAHMER, CONVICTED SERIAL KILLER: Your honor, it is over now. This has never been a case of trying to get free. I didn't ever want freedom. Frankly, I wanted death for myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before Jeffrey Dahmer got his wish, apparently at the hands of a fellow prisoner, he had killed more than a dozen people and eaten some of them in his Milwaukee apartment that was literal house of horrors.



KING: Vancouver, British Columbia, hello. CALLER: Hello, Larry. I love your show.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: I wish you had a two-hour long show with no commercials.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: I'm thinking about this serial killer in Ohio who was very wealthy, and he went out in the middle of the night killing homosexual males. How come his wife didn't know anything was wrong? I mean, If I was married and my husband was getting up in the middle of the night, I would think something was wrong. And she didn't know? Like I don't get that. The same with the Green River murder. Thank you.

KING: Dr. Stout, why don't you try that one? Dr. Stout.

STOUT: You would know that something was wrong, but would you guest the reality. The reality is just too astonishing. It is just too incomprehensible for people to -- even somebody who is very, very close. A sociopath can fool anybody. Anybody.

KING: Dr. Ramsland, would you agree?

RAMSLAND: I think that's true. I think that they have ways to make you buy into the picture they want you to buy. And they know you, they know your triggers. They know how to manipulate you. And they have arranged their life the way they wanted. And they've figured out a way to maneuver you, the spouse into it.

KING: Bethany, Connecticut. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. I just want to tell you I think you look great. How's it going? My question is -- my question to the panel is how come with seemingly like almost 100 years of experience between all three of them, it's so quick -- they so quickly turn off this whole idea of spiritual involvement. I mean, the body, the mind. I'm not a psychologist, but I went to college. The body -- we humans are made up of a lot of different factors. One of which is spiritual. And I just -- I can't understand how quickly they want to move away from the idea that, you know, alcohol and drugs and other -- all types of other mind influences can contribute to the -- the last guy that spent time with Ted Bundy was James Dobson, Dr. Dobson. Let me tell you something, there's a very big insight in the spiritual realm to what these people are doing.

KING: All right. We're running close on time about. I didn't mean to cut you, sir, but Dr. Morrison, does he have a point?

MORRISON: No, he doesn't have a point. Spirituality is important, but it doesn't cause or prevent serial killers. Drugs and alcohol, again, are not involved in serial killings. These are myths that people have. And nobody's ignoring spirituality. But what we're talking about here are individuals who are often the personification of what we call evil. KING: Because Gregg McCrary when Ted Bundy died, he said that it was pornography that caused him to do it.

MCCRARY: That's debatable. If anything, he's trying to project blame off on some -- to project blame and responsibility off of himself and on to anything else, which is commonly what we see. If it was pornography, we'd have a lot of serial murders because it's a billion dollar business, and a lot of folks are watching it. So...

KING: Is it -- is it my read, Gregg, that it's getting worse or has it always been around?

MCCRARY: It's always been around. We go back to medieval times in villages where they'd find some villager horribly killed and mutilated. That gave birth to the myth of werewolfs and vampires that would come out at night and do these things. In fact it was probably serial murder in their village. And they couldn't believe anyone was capable of such horrific violence. We know better now. I don't know that it's any worst. I think we're getting better at identifying it and getting it out in the open and talking about it like we are tonight.

KING: And also we have so much news coverage in so many areas that we get more attention, right.

MCCRARY: Twenty-four/seven. CNN, these 24/7 news channels, they're all over a case like this. I mean, the Beltway sniper when that was going on, as you know, the minute they stopped covering it, the ratings dropped. So, they'd get right back covering it again whether there was anything new to talk about or not. So, that brings a lot of attention to it.

KING: We're going to do a lot more on this. And I thank you all for an illuminating hour. Dr. Kathleen Ramsland, Dr. Martha Stout, Dr. Helen Morrison, and Gregg McCrary.

Tomorrow night, we have an extraordinary night for you. I will not be the host tomorrow night. The host is Jiminy Glick. You know him as Martin Short. Jiminy Glick takes over LARRY KING tomorrow night. Lauren Bacall on Friday.

Now, Aaron Brown, host of "NEWSNIGHT," you top that. Do better than Jiminy tomorrow.


International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.