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CNN Larry King Live

Spotting Serial Killers

Aired April 24, 2009 - 21:00   ET



DR. DREW PINSKY, GUEST HOST OF "LARRY KING LIVE" (voice-over): Tonight, a Sunday school teacher accused of raping and killing her own child's friend. A clean-cut medical student, one minute planning his wedding and the next charged with a savage murder of a woman who advertised herself on the Internet.

Did anyone suspect that these everyday people might be capable of such heinous crimes?

How much do you really know about your favorite waiter, the woman at work, or the person beside you in bed? What are the warning signs of a dark, even deadly side? And what if there is no way to tell?

Can we do anything to protect ourselves from a killer among us -- next on LARRY KING LIVE.


Good evening, I'm Dr. Drew sitting in for Larry King, tonight. And we're talking killers and what goes on in the minds of people who murder. We begin today with a case in today's news -- Melissa Huckaby, the Sunday school teacher charged with rape and murder of Sandra Cantu. She was in court today for an arraignment. Let's get the latest from Jennifer Wadsworth, reporter with the "Tracy Press," who was there.

So Jennifer, what happened in court?

JENNIFER WADSWORTH, TRACY PRESS REPORTER: Well, it was only a minutes-long arraignment. She didn't enter any pleas. And I thought what was most interesting to me actually her demeanor, which was very different from the last time she appeared in court earlier this month. The first time she was very emotional. She broke down crying when she heard the charges read against her. Today she was calm, she even smiled shyly at her public defender and it was just very different.

PINSKY: Do you make anything of the change in demeanor?

WADSWORTH: I don't know what to make of it. I don't know this woman.

PINSKY: OK, how is the community coping with this? It must be shattering.

WADSWORTH: Yeah, it is. I mean, a lot of parents are really fearful of their kids' safety, because this wasn't a stranger. You know, if these things are true, then someone Sandra knew killed her. So, it is -- it makes a lot of families very fearful.

PINSKY: Can you tell us what the next case is legally in this case, next step?

WADSWORTH: The next step, well, she's going to be back for further arraignment in about a month because both sides need to review all the evidence. Apparently there are 500 pages of written evidence, there are some audio recordings, some witness statements, some things that both sides have to go through. And I don't know if she's going to enter a plea at her next hearing. And I don't even know if it's going to go to a criminal grand jury. It's all up in the air at this point.

PINSKY: Well, let's talk to attorneys. From San Francisco, I would like to welcome to the program, Michael Cardoza, he's a defense attorney. And from Miami, Stacy Honowitz, she is a Florida assistant state attorney, she specializes in child abuse and sex crime cases.

Stacy, what do you make of this case?

STACY HONOWITZ, FL ASST STATE ATTY: Well, Dr. Drew as you know, everybody around the world is horrified because they can't believe that this individual could commit such a horrific crime. And right now, as we sit here, it's everything that you just said, there is a killer among us. And do you ever know, actually who your next door neighbor is?

So, we're going to have to wait and see how the evidence pans out. Of course she's charged with raping this child on top of it all which makes the special circumstance, makes her eligible for the death penalty. And I think that is what is so horrible that most people can't even fathom, a woman pedophile committing this crime and murdering on top of it.

PINSKY: And we got to remember she is accused of these crimes, she has not been convicted of them.

And Michael do you think it is likely she is actually the perpetrator. In my experience, that's not so likely.

MICHAEL CARDOZA, DEFENSE ATTY: Well, you talk about pedophiles and women make up what five percent of the people that commit these type of crimes. So, do I think she did it? Probably. The police have taken a statement from her. And the statement is going to be very telling.

Now, the reporter that was just on talked about her demeanor in court. You know, I got to tell you, a lot of times, the jail doctors medicate them before they come to court. And I'll bet that's what's going on here.

PINSKY: That's very interesting.

HONOWITZ: I'm sure her, her attorney, because she was so distraught and they kept saying she was distraught. I think even at one point she was on suicide watch. So, Michael's right, I'm sure her attorney asked for her to be medicated or evaluated in the jail.

CARDOZA: Probably evaluated. They can't prescribe, of course.

PINSKY: Right, of course. Did you feel that the fact that she is a Sunday school teacher, herself, and mother of a young child, that this image will have an impact on the case?

HONOWITZ: Well, I mean, listen, when she's in court and she is there with her lawyer, of course, if this goes to a jury trial they are going to try to say, boy she really doesn't fit the profile. But, as we all know, both Michael and I have been practicing a long time, there's a lot of people that walk into court that are accused of certain crimes that you can't believe fit the so-called profile.

So, will they try to use it as sympathy for her, because she is a Sunday school teacher? Well, the other side to that if she's a true pedophile, this is just a great way for her to get close to kids. So, it really cults both ways.

CARDOZA: But Stacy, that really goes to her mental state. That really speaks volumes to that, because is this the type of woman that could commit a first degree murder? I mean, this crime shows that her thinking is certainly off. Will she get off on not guilty by reason of insanity. Probably not, because the child was put in a suitcase and was hidden. And that shows that she did know right from wrong.

But did she have the wherewithal to commit a first degree murder, could she do with malice of forethought (ph), willful, deliberate, probably not.

PINSKY: I understand that. Michael, I have to ask a question and that is, you know, Women that I have dealt with that have pedophilia sort of tendencies don't, in my experience, usually create violent crime. I have to wonder if perhaps she's covering for someone else. We don't know the facts of this case. And why isn't anyone talking about that?

CARDOZA: Well, what is going to be important is what did she tell the police, here. And they're certainly keeping that under wraps. That is going to be all telling. What did she say? What did she say she did? And her attorney has gotten to her by now, Stacy, and if you're protecting somebody, give it up time to think of yourself now. So, I really doubt if she's protecting somebody else at this stage of the game...

PINSKY: That would have been public that we would know that, in fact?

HONOWITZ: Yeah, well the police, you know, were very, forthright when they came on and they said she is the only suspect that we have, we are not investigating anybody else, we have probable cause to arrest her, and we haven't heard anything since then.

Now, you're right, most people would probably think is she capable of committing such a horrible crime or was there somebody else involved? But again we don't know what the statement is. We haven't heard the evidence. I believe there's a gag order in place. They're keeping it very close to the vest. We are going to have to see what pans out from here.

CARDOZA: But look at the people we've had, look at Scott Peterson. Did he appear to be the type of person that would kill his wife. Did he act that way? Of course not. Nobody knew before it happened. Look at what's going on back in Boston, was that medical student, the type to do it? No, everybody says, gosh, we are so shocked by this. You know, what are the telltale signs? Are there any? I don't think so.

HONOWITZ: I don't think so either. That's what I am saying. You never know who's living next door or what they're capable of. And that's why lots of times when people say that, they fit the profile, many times they don't. I see plenty of people come in into my court, who are charged with sex crimes that you wouldn't in your wildest dreams ever think that this person is capable of it. Yet it happens.

CARDOZA: Well, what is going to happen...

PINSKY: Go ahead, Michael, finish.

CARDOZA: What's going to happen is that people will come out and they'll talk about all the telltale signs, they'll do that "20/20," and say oh, remember when he did this or remember when she did that, there was a telltale sign. No, there is no way to tell in most of these type of cases, as witnessed by what is happening in Boston, what is happening here, what's happening -- or what happened with Scott Peterson. How can we tell?

PINSKY: Yes, Michael. Thank you, Michael. And we will be discussing that in far greater detail. I will tell you, there is one thing about these people we have been discussing. They're men and this is a woman on trial. And that does make it a little bit different. So, thanks, Michael and Stacy.

How can you know if there is a killer next door? That's what we're going to address. Some answers when LARRY KING LIVE returns.


PINSKY: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Dr. Drew sitting in for Larry. Thank you, Larry. We were discussing the killer among us. Welcoming now to our panel, Dr. Michael Welner, he's a forensic psychiatrist, associate professor of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine. He has developed something called the "Depravity Scale."

Also, Dr. Robi Ludwig, psychotherapist, author of "love, marriage and mind of the killer spouse." and dr. Martha stout, author of "Till Death Do Us Part: Love Marriage and the Mind of the Killer Spouse."

And finally, Dr. Martha Stout, psychologist, author of "The Sociopath Next Door."

Martha, let's stay with you. What do you make about the Cantu case, what's most striking about that?

DR MARTHA STOUT, PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, what's most striking to me, given my work is the reaction that people are -- that other people are having to hearing this news, just what you had been talking about, that we don't expect a woman, let alone a woman who is a Sunday school teacher, let alone a woman, someone that we know to commit such a horrible act. And it raises all of our fears and all of our confusion. And I -- this has been a fascinating thing for me to watch.

PINSKY: And Dr. Wellner, you're a forensic psychiatrist, is this unusual, both that this person should have such a bizarre alter and that we should all be so shocked by the fact that she appears to be so normal?

DR MICHAEL WELNER, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: Well, let me assure the public that we're shocked because we should be. Because, you shouldn't fear your neighbor next door. And in my professional opinion I think there is more to this story.

We don't know enough about Huckaby, what we do know is she's charged and we understand from the police that this occurred in a church. My experience tells me that when you don't know much about the person, look where the crime happened. And there may be more answers there.

PINSKY: Dr. Robi, I think what Dr. Welner is referring to is that this kind of behavior is a sign of psychopathology. It may have been sudden onset, but the fact is if we really knew the clues, we'd find them, is that right?

WELNER: Well, actually I'm not really saying that...

DR ROBY LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Well, we really don't know a lot about this woman...

PINSKY: I'll get back to you, Mike.

LUDWIG: When I first heard the story, my first thought was, gee I wonder if she was a victim of sexual abuse, somehow lost it, and actually discharged her aggression towards her daughter's friend as a way to somehow save her daughter. But it's true, we don't have all the information. So, it's very hard to make an assessment.

But if she is in fact guilty of this crime, something is severely wrong and it's very possible that certain major signs were missed. And it is always easier to see signs in hindsight, which we know.

PINSKY: Dr. Welner, I said that this may be a sign of psychopathology and you disagreed with that. What were you saying?

WELNER: Well, we haven't seen any psychopathology, it may be there. What I am saying if the killing was anyway associated with a church, especially with someone whom we understand to be religious, then there are clues there about the crime, about the motivation, about others who may be involved, and about a potentially much bigger picture here, that we can speculate about, but it wouldn't beep fair. But you learn not only from what you know about the person, but also the place.

PINSKY: And Dr. Martha Stout.

STOUT: I think that that's absolutely -- that's absolutely true that the...

PINSKY: Martha.


PINSKY: OK, you've written a book about sociopaths. Would you agree that the Philip Markoff case is more in the category of sociopathy, potentially, that's the case of the clean-cut medical student who has killed prostitutes, maybe a gambling problem, maybe there was robbery gone bad. Was that sociopathy? Is that what they're looking at here?

STOUT: Well, you know, I think we shouldn't leave the first one quite so quickly, because I think there is a chance, a chance for both of them. And clearly we don't know whether either one of these people is guilty. And I can't diagnose someone that I have never met. But, if I speak just conceptually and look at the behavior on both sides, and what we do know about these two people, one could make an argument for it. We're talking sociopathy/psychopathy.

What we're really talking about is the absence of conscience, which is a very, very difficult thing for those of us who are normal to be able to get our heads around. Most of us imagine that everyone, somewhere deep down has a conscience. It turns out this is not true. And once you realize that, then the idea that someone was a Sunday school teacher and committed a murder takes on a whole different kind of meaning that maybe she wasn't necessarily the victim of childhood abuse or maltreatment, maybe she simply has no conscience.

Maybe he is not acting out anything that -- that happened to him in childhood, maybe he simply has no conscience and is playing a game with Craigslist and people who are extremely vulnerable, including, for example, his fiancee. That it's all a game to him...

PINSKY: Thank you, thank you, panel. I would like you guys to stand by for me, if you would. Now look, if ever a killer acted like an everyday guy, it's Scott Peterson, a look back in 60 second.


PINSKY: Can you imagine liking, even loving someone who turns out to be a killer? Did anyone have a clue that Scott Peterson was capable of murdering his wife Laci and their unborn child? Coming to grips with the ugly truth was really tough for Laci's mother. Just watch this.


LARRY KING, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Sharon, from all you knew, is this a very happy marriage, the Peterson marriage?

MARY ROCHA, LACI PETERSON'S MOTHER: Oh, yeah. They are just -- they are really trulien love with each other. They do everything together, they're partners, they're a team, they love each other. They plan together, they play together, they're always smiling. They're just very happy, well-adjusted couple. There has never been any indication. I've never even heard Laci say that she was even angry with Scott for any reason at all.

I love my daughter so much. I miss her every minute of every day. My heart aches for her and Connor. I literally get sick to my stomach when I allow myself to think about what may have happened to them. No parent should ever have to think about the way their child was murdered.

KING: Do you hate Scott Peterson?

ROCHA: I have no feelings at all for Scott Peterson, for the Scott Peterson that's in prison. I feel that that Scott Peterson murdered my son-in-law also.

KING: Really?

ROCHA: Uh-huh.

KING: Do you want him to die?

ROCHA: I want him to feel the pain that he has inflicted on all of us.


PINSKY: Wow, you have to wonder how we can get it so wrong. And Scott Peterson is on death row at San Quentin. His former father-in- law, Ron Grantski, joins us with more insight from those who actually know the killer among us.



KARLA FAY TUCKER, CONVICTED OF MURDER: That night was a spur of the moment decision to go over there. And unfortunately, two people were killed.

KING: And brutally killed?

TUCKER: Brutally.

KING: Did you enjoy the violence?

TUCKER: I said I did. I was -- at that time in my life I was very excited about doing different, crazy, violent things, yes. It was a part of me that was used to fit in with the crowd that I was hanging around, to be accepted. That lifestyle was so crazy. I don't think I can explain it, except to me, I was so spaced out on drugs, all the time, that it really didn't seem real to me.

KING: Did you walk around with any guilt?


KING: None?

TUCKER: I not only didn't walk around with any guilt, I was proud of thinking that I had finally measured up to the big boys.


PINSKY: Chilling. And that was Karla Faye Tucker talking with Larry King in a 1998 Emmy Award winning interview. She was ultimately executed by the state of Texas that same year for the 1983 year murders of Jerry Dean and Deborah Thornton.

My panel stays with me in the wings and joining me, as we said, is Ron Grantski, Laci Peterson's stepfather. I think it needs no introduction, the history of that case. Obviously, Laci's husband, Scott is on death row.

Ron, thanks for joining me. Your wife there in the footage we saw, initially reported their marriage in very positive terms. Do you think in retrospect that you missed some signs?

RON GRANTSKI, LACI PETERSON'S STEPFATHER: Well, you have to be looking for signs of violence or murder, No. 1, so if you look at it at face value, it looked exactly like she said, they were a loving, in love couple.

PINSKY: So, even in retrospect, as you know who Scott is now, as you sort of, I imagine you must have scrolled through this in your mind a thousand times. What did I miss, what might I have seen? Were there things in retrospect? Or still just he was so good that there was no way to detect this?

GRANTSKI: No, there were things. I mean I can -- depending on how far back. No. 1, he said he liked to fish and it took me forever to take him fishing. So, we went fishing only once and then he would never go again. And then he left his fishing pole at my house and never even came by to pick it up. And this is supposed to be -- and so things like that kind of bothered me.

And then, I remember this was -- Laci and Scott were coming over to our house for dinner. I think it was her 7-1/2 to eight month and I mentioned to Sharon that Laci must be getting nervous it's getting close, because that wasn't their norm, they never came over. And Sharon said no, this was Scott's idea. And at first I thought, well that is kind of strange. Why he would -- but, then I thought, well here again not thinking badly that maybe he was truly concerned about Laci, but he was creating alibis, what I think.

PINSKY: I am sure. But boy, Ron it's, you are burdening yourself too much if you think you should have jumped from those kinds of little clues to the idea that this is a killer you were dealing with.

GRANTSKI: No, no. How do you?

PINSKY: Well, that's what we are trying to discuss, here. Laci Peterson and heavily pregnant disappeared on Christmas Eve in 2002. A little more that a month later, Scott Peterson was interviewed by ABC's Diane Sawyer. Just take a look at this.


DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: Did you murder your wife?

SCOTT PETERSON, CONVICTED OF MURDER: No, no, I did not. And I absolutely had nothing to do with her disappearance. And you use the word murder. And right now, everyone is looking for a body and that is the hardest thing, because that is not a possible resolution for us. And you use the word murder, yeah, I mean that is a possibility. It's not one we're ready to accept and it creeps in my mind late at night and early in the morning and during the day all we can think about is the right resolution is to find her...


PINSKY: Well, in retrospect The word creep does creep into one's mind, doesn't it? Ron, was there one moment at which the denial sort of broke down, you thought oh my goodness I am really seeing this now what's going on. Was it long after he had been incarcerated. At what point did you really start to see things more clearly?

GRANTSKI: It was -- I would say it was probably a couple weeks later. And I don't really want to go into some of the details of why, but things did not sit right. He was avoiding me in particular and a lot of other people that -- and I was naturally hearing things from the police and friend about the strange things he was doing, which naturally nobody has gone through a murder, I'm sure he was confused and whatever, but it wasn't normal. It wasn't the way a person would act if their wife was murdered.

PINSKY: I understand. Let me ask you this, then. Let me ask sort of a different question, which is now that you have come to terms with this, do you sort of see murderers everywhere? Do you accept anything is a possibility? Has it changed how you see people?

GRANTSKI: I -- no, no it doesn't. I have to admit, I am a little more guarded. And I'm definitely on guard for my family, so I would look to make sure that they're all -- all taken care of. And if they need any help or service they come to me and we're a closer family because of it. But, no, I don't see the devil everywhere.

PINSKY: Well Ron, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I really appreciate it. And I have to tell you, I've worked in psychiatric hospital for several years, many years, and I have come to just expect anything. People, you know, people are capable of a lot and we have to really address, are there killers among us, are they sociopaths, are they psychopaths or are they just evil people? We're going to sort that out, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


KING: After you would commit a crime and you would go back to wherever you lived, was there any remorse, any feeling of this was wrong?

DAVID BERKOWITZ, CONVICTED OF MURDER: I knew it was wrong, but at the time, you see -- when -- when -- when -- when somehow to me, when a mind is captured, like by Satan, and the mind, you can't, you can't look at things and evaluate things in their right perspective. Something else takes...

KING: I'm asking a logical question that you can't answer logically, right.

BERKOWITZ: That's right.

KING: I'm Because there's no logic dealing with it.

BERKOWITZ: No, there isn't.

KING: So what would you feel?

BERKOWITZ: I was just empty. As I said, I was a blank. I -- there was like a void.


PINSKY: That was Son of Sam Killer David Berkowitz. Again, more chilling footage. His dog made him do it. He was talking to Larry King in 1999. He's serving multiple life sentences for a deadly series of 44 caliber shootings carried out in New York City in '76 and '77. I remember that one.

Now Dr. Robi, a lot of people seem to expect or believe that they should be able to tell in some way whether some one is a sociopath or psychopath or killer. Is that realistic?

LUDWIG: I think it is an unfair pressure to put on oneself. I think that we should all learn to trust our instincts. If we don't feel comfortable with somebody, it shouldn't matter if they're a doctor, a Sunday school teacher, a lawyer, because a person's profession has nothing to do with their character.

But I think if somebody really has a very self-centered view of the world, and basically does not bond with other people, or has a history of violence, or somehow has a violent background, that's certainly reason to be concerned.

PINSKY: But it certainly can be difficult. They some times are very carefully shrouded in a veneer of making everybody feel good.

LUDWIG: Absolutely. PINSKY: Yes. Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer -- going to look at some footage here -- gruesomely murdered 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. He cannibalized some of his victims. Larry interviewed Jeffrey's parents in 2004. His father talked about what Jeffrey was like as a teenager. OK, look at this.


KING: What was he like as a teenager?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had a small circle of friends. Who liked to play gags and joke around a lot.

KING: Practical jokes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes. Jeff played on the tennis team. A friend of his played with him on the team. And instead of playing, you know, seriously, they would just joke around. And his opponents couldn't understand why they were laughing so much.


PINSKY: Dr. Welner? Well, interesting, doctor, do you have any react, to that?

WELNER: I think the biggest difficulty that confronts television in translating these people is that we are always going to see their best face put forward. I would remind the viewers that the most dangerous, destructive and maniacal person alive today was a guest on this very show and looked like the guy next door.

And I'm talking about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Imagine, we're talking about one person dying, and we're speaking about somebody who intends to wipe out Israel, take over Egypt, take over Iraq. And look how normal he looks.

And I would point out that people like Berkowitz, even Dahmer, they look normal because ours is not a profession of veneer and appearances. It is about a person's actions and probing thoughts and motivations, which is what makes forensic psychiatry so difficult.

PINSKY: Also, Dr. Martha Stout, isn't it the case that it really is only in certain circumstances really that people's -- I know we were talking about the word evil here -- that those sorts of behaviors really come out. It's not as though they're always bad, always evil, always murdering. It is certain circumstance, under certain conditions. Is that not the case?

STOUT: Right. And I think also, now that we are talking about evil, it seems to me that, as a society, what we are going to need to do perhaps is to redefine what we think of as evil.

PINSKY: Absolutely. Absolutely.

STOUT: There is no face of evil. There is no face of evil. Evil may, instead of being some quantity that gets into some body and makes them do horrible things, it is probably the case that evil is something more like an absence. It is an absence of conscience. It is an inability to feel the kinds of warm and linked emotions that most of us feel, which seems to leave in the human brain nothing but a wish to play games, games with other people, the worst of which, and perhaps the most powerful of which, is to take the life of another person.

But, yes this is not shown in all circumstances. In fact, someone who is sociopathic or psychopathic can sometimes be the most charming person that you ever met and can fool anybody, even a professional.

PINSKY: Of course, something we may have perhaps not pointed out explicitly, which is we're talking people who are often the product of severe childhood abuse experiences. It is the case that early experiences have a disproportionate effect on everything else that is to follow. That's how we get brain disorders and behavior disorders like we are talking about tonight.

Why are so many accused killers placed on suicide watch? Are they inclined to kill themselves once they're caught? We'll talk about it and be right back.



MARK DAVID CHAPMAN, KILLER OF JOHN LENNON: John came out and he look at me. And I think he recognized, here is a fellow that I assigned the album earlier. And he walked past me. And I took five steps toward the street, turned, withdrew my 38 and fired five shots into him.


PINSKY: That was Mark David Chapman talking to Larry King. Chapman is serving a 20 to life sentence in Attica for the 1980 murder, of course, John Lennon.

Want to reintroduce our panel. We, of course, have Ron Grantski staying with us, Laci Peterson's step father. Dr. Martha Stout remains. She's a psychologist and author of "Sociopath Next Door." And I welcome to the studio, Dr. Daniel Amen. He is a physician, psychiatrist and brain imaging specialist, medical director of the Amen Clinics and author of "Change Your Brain, Change Your Life." Also, Pat Brown. She's a criminal profiler, founder and CEO of the Sexual Homicide Exchange.

Pat, I want to go to you first. Anything that strikes you about these two cases? The Cantu and the Craigslist case, yes.

PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: I think people are saying they couldn't believe that these two could have committed such a crime -- any of the families are saying that and the fiancee. I think what they're -- they're tending to minimize a lot of what they have seen over history. Nobody just develops into a psychopath in one day. So we are looking at somebody growing up and they have this developing psychopathy. It's a little bit different than just narcissism. We know a lot of people who are pretty narcissistic, but they don't have that anger and contempt for society, that hatred. When you kind of combine the narcissism with the anger that they want to get back at society, that's when they're slipping into psychopathy, and they don't have any empathy for anyone and they want to get over on everybody, and really, pretty much, do them in.

Not just, I'm a great person. Look at me. I'm wonderful. I don't really care. I'm not worried about you guys. It's really, I'm the only person that matters and I hate all of you guys, and I want to eventually be the winner, and all of you have to be the losers; that's when you have serious psychopathy. It always shows up along the way. People ignore all of those signs.

PINSKY: Let me ask you this, how are they able to hide in plain sight for so long? All of these killers, John Wayne Gacy, BTK Killer, Ted Bundy, you can list them. They've all able to get on for quite some time before being detected? How do they do that?

BROWN: They're not hiding. They're out there doing their regular thing. Everybody has to live. They have to have a job. They all want things like sex. They want to have food for dinner. They're going to do the things we all do. And they will run into people and people will say, that guy creeped me out, or yes, he took advantage of me. I don't trust him. That will go on, all the time.

But the thing is they can still exist doing that, because everybody, you know, in our society tends to do these things to some level or the other. Until they actually cross over a line, breaking the law, or, you know, in this particular case, killing people, a lot of times you just accept -- you shrug your shoulders and say well, nobody is perfect. But they're going to be there and they're going to be acting out in some ways until they act in such a way that they get caught.

PINSKY: Dr. Martha Stout, are the percentage of sociopaths and psychopaths really increasing amongst us?

STOUT: Well, it's a little difficult to tell whether they're increasing or we are just noticing them more. But what has been speculated is that our society, Western society in general, has values and precepts that pretty much parallel the symptoms of sociopathy, so that if one is born with predisposition to be sociopathic, one is supported in the Western world by everything that you see everything that goes on around you.

PINSKY: Dr. Stout, let me interrupt for a second. Interrupt and say that, you know, in my work, we see a growing incidence it seems of various kind of abuse in childhood. I think it is growing. Dr. Amen, you do brain images on these people. Do you think we are seeing an increase in psychopathy or even sociopathy?

DR. DANIEL G. AMEN, BRAIN IMAGING SPECIALIST: I do and I think it is actually going to get worse, because we are raising a whole generation of people who need more excitement, more stimulation, in order to pay attention at all. We are really not taking care of the front part of the brain. We are actually increasing the incidence of addictions and trouble by what we allow our kids.

You have to ask yourself, why is there "Saw One," two, three, now five. What is that about that people get excited, stimulated by watching this horrific violence.

PINSKY: Watch out for Dr. Amen and I. We're going to use words like Prefrontal Cortex and Amigdella (ph) in just a couple a minutes. This is Amigdella we're talking about here. He's got a brain in front of us. We'll talk a little about that. And next, murderers in their own words. Back in 60 seconds.


PINSKY: They may look and sound like the rest of us, at least in certain circumstances. But listen to some murderers and you will see what sets them apart from you and me. Here they are in their own words.


SUSAN SMITH, MURDERER: I would like to say to who ever has my children that they please, I mean, please bring them home.

SANTE KIMES, MURDERER: The biggest injustice is that there is no crime. They don't know where the woman is. They manufactured a crime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that correct, Mr. Peterson, you're pleading not guilty to two charges of murder?

SCOTT PETERSON, MURDERER: That's correct, your honor. I am innocent.

DENNIS RADER, MURDERER: I had never strangled anyone before. So, I really didn't know how much pressure you had to put on a person or how long it would take.


PINSKY: Oh, my goodness. More on the killer among us after this.



LESLIE VAN HOUTEN, MURDERER: Manson came back, and I believe Tex did too. Anyway, bottom line is, he looked in the car and he pointed at Pat and I, told us to get out, and go do what Tex said. He said to Tex to make sure that everybody did something. And so I went in and Mrs. Labianca was laying on the floor and I stabbed her.

KING: Where? HOUTEN: In the lower back, around 16 times.


PINSKY: That was Leslie Van Houten, former member of the murderous Charles Manson Family, talking with Larry King in 1994. She is serving life for the brutal 1969 murders of Leon and Rosemary Labianca.


PINSKY: Our panel is still with us. Ron Grantski, stepfather of Laci Peterson, has been with us across this program. Ron, you are the one who has actually had the killer amongst us. You have had him in your family. Does the effect of it linger?

GRANTSKI: Dr. Drew, yes, at times. You know I have a question if I could ask you.

PINSKY: Please.

GRANTSKI: Scott was a very, very good liar. I always wondered why he would never take the lie detector test. From your experience of one of the panel, are sociopaths or psychopaths good liars, and could they pass lie detector tests?

PINSKY: They are masterful liars, the likes of which you will never see anywhere else. However, my understanding is they do not pass lie detector tests. Pat Brown, is that accurate?

BROWN: That's correct. They're good at manipulating people and throwing out lives, because they do that all the time. They're pathological in doing it. But when it comes down to the actual test, they're answering those specific questions, they may be lying, but they know they're lying, and they still have that effect in their systems. Not that there haven't been some who have gotten away with it, but most of them can not pass it, no.

PINSKY: Ron, Dr. Amen is actually a brain biologist, and he has an opinion about this.

AMEN: That's actually why they don't admit them often in court, because sociopaths have low activity in their frontal lobes, and they have low sweat gland activity. So sociopaths actually have low levels of anxiety. So they often pass them, which is why there's less relied upon them.

PINSKY: So Ron, it is, in fact, the case that it's possible he could lie so well his biology would not belie the lie, and he would get past that test. Dr. Amen, you have done more than 70 convicted murderers' brain scans. PET scans, I assume?

AMEN: We do Spact. It looks at blood flow and activity patterns in their brain.

PINSKY: What have you had found? AMEN: Well, murder is not one thing. There are compulsive murderers that show too much activity in their brain. And then there are impulsive murderers that show low activity, especially in the front part of their brain. But many people who murder have brain disorders that when you treat their brain problem, they actually become a lot less violent.

It's very exciting. We scanned over 50,000 brains over the last 18 years. And many of them are budding murderers, people who hurt their animals, hurt other people. And when you look in their brain, often, not always, but often you can see the trouble.

PINSKY: And is that trouble -- we've been talking a lot this evening about lack of empathy and the tendency towards aggression and violence. They are two different things, in terms of what you see in the brain biology, right?

AMEN: Right. What we often see with lack of empathy is problems in what's called the prefrontal cortex, or the front third of the brain. It's the most human, thoughtful part of the brain, called the Jiminy Cricket part of the brain, the conscience. Often, the violence comes from one of usually the left temporal lobe.

So if there's problems in the Amigdella, which you mentioned earlier, that predisposes people to have these violent attacks. And on some anti-seizure medicines, they do so much better. There are actually studies with medicines like Depakote (ph) that find it decreases the propensity for violence.

PINSKY: Pat Brown, are these facts finding their way into the court room? Should we be concerned about that? Are people who are killers getting off because they have a brain problem?

BROWN: I have to say, to some extent, I'm not totally sold on this. I don't entirely buy it. I do think there can be some changes in brain patterns and chemistry over time, as we all have -- as our behaviors affect us. But I just don't see that there's a necessarily scientific proof that brain -- there's a brain problem that's causing us to commit these crimes. I just don't buy that. I don't think it's scientifically founded at this point in time. Interesting, but not to the point of proof.

AMEN: Well, there are many very interesting studies looking at violence versus nonviolence. We published a study last year with 40 of our murderers, showed very significant differences. And if we don't look at the brain, we're going to stay stuck in the 17th century with Rene Descartes, who separated the mind from the brain. Descartes was wrong.

PINSKY: Interesting. So what do you do if you think somebody is a danger to you, or anybody, for that matter? Some advice after this. Don't go away.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KING: You don't feel like a murderer. Why not?

ERIK MENENDEZ, MURDERER: It's -- you know, it's not who I am. I never was, and I never will be. I didn't do this crime because I'm a bad person. That night, even 15 years later, I remember the horror I felt at that moment. I truly believed I was going to die.

You know, I'm not justifying it. I've never tried to justify it. Even an hour later, I collapsed in grief. I did not want this to happen. I never wanted this to happen. And I will spend the rest of my life regretting that this happened.


PINSKY: Fascinating. That was Erik Menendez, speaking to Larry by phone in 2006. Erik and his brother, Lyle, were convicted of the 1989 shotgun murders of their parents, Jose and Kitty. They are serving life without parole sentences. We'd like to go back to our panel. Ron, I want to go to you, if you don't mind. Ron is Laci Peterson's stepfather. How is your wife, Sharon, doing?

GRATSKI: She's doing pretty good. She stays awful busy. As a matter of fact, she gives her regards. She's working on the Laci Counter Search and Rescue Fund tonight. They're having a board meeting. So she keeps herself busy. And I lost my son last year to an aneurysm. It was on Good Friday, as a matter of fact, last year. It's kind of ironic how our lives have joined in so many ways. We both have to -- we comfort each other.

PINSKY: I'm so sorry, Ron. Is that some sort of not-for-profit organization? Is that a charity that she works for?

GRATSKI: It's -- yes. We help -- we help people get equipment that they need, those people who are qualified search and rescue people, who have problems buying certain equipments, such as dog training or rafts, snowmobiles for wintertime. And due to her fund, we've actually helped find, I believe, 16 people who have now been found that wouldn't have been. But these search and rescue organizations throughout the country asked for equipment. We were able to provide it.

PINSKY: In the studio with us is Dr. Amen, Daniel Amen. He's a physician, psychiatrist, brain-imaging specialist. And we have spent the last hour raising people's anxieties, scaring people. What can we do to protect ourselves?

AMEN: You know, I often say the best predictor of behavior is behavior. How you've been is likely how you're going to be, unless you get help. So notice when people aren't right. Notice what's happening in your gut, if you will. If your intuition is telling you there's trouble, you want to pay attention.

PINSKY: I think that's the important point here. Intuition, instinct, that really does tell us something. If we see thing, think we see thing, keep paying attention. It will tell us more than anything else. It's as though as we've gone too far, it seems like, in the PC direction, where we've put such a value on political correctness, that we've maybe made ourselves vulnerable.

AMEN: And I say for people whose behavior is erratic, at some point, somebody should be looking at their brain. If you don't look, how do you know? I can spot someone who is vulnerable to violence. I can't tell you they're going to be violent. But if they're vulnerable, then you can get them help.

PINSKY: Thank you very much. I'd like to thank my guests for joining me tonight. And I want to specifically and specially send my thanks out to Larry. Thank you so much for letting me sit in here for you. It's a thrill. I really appreciate the opportunity to be here. These are big shoes to try to fill. I hope I did you -- I hope I did you well. Now time for Anderson Cooper and "AC 360."