Most Evil: The Criminal Mind

Most Evil is an American forensics television program on Investigation Discovery hosted by forensic psychiatrist Michal Stone of Columbia University. On the show, Stone rates murderers on a scale of evil that stone himself developed. The show features profiles of various murderers, serial killers, mass murderers and psychopaths. One of the great mysteries of the human mind is the concept of murder and yet it has been seen throughout history and culture even in the Bible with the story of Cain and Able. As centuries have past and cases go unsolved for sometimes the same length, many people are troubled by this fact just as much as they are fascinated with the murder case itself. A serial killer is someone who murders three or more people in three or more separate events over a period of time with their method of killing developed into their signature. They move through society, blending in with the normal everyday and consorting with unsuspecting family, friends, lovers and strangers. Some of these murderers do it simply for pleasure, while other cases the motive is unclear leaving a stain in history concocted of pure evil, lust and perversion with the makings of some of the most infamous murders in history. The amount of crimes committed by females has grown over the last several decades even though the percentage of all crimes committed by females is small causing concern among criminologists. Female hardened criminals remain a mystery that has been studied and publicly display for years due to the novelty of women murderers which is unlike their male counterparts. The crimes of women cover the spectrum of serial killers, rapists, baby killers, embryo snatchers, attempted killers, muggers and teachers who prey upon young students. Most people learn of these horrendous crimes when the victims make national headlines due to the tragic nature of their death with some murdered by loved ones and other by complete strangers. Child killers are the lowest of all criminals even among other hardened criminals in the the prison system. Due to high profile cases such as Jessica Lunsdord in Florida and Shasta Groene in Idaho, society has passed tougher laws to punish and monitor child molesters and others that target children. Like the infamous “Hanibal The Cannibal Lector” who made everyone uneasy, cannibalism refers to any species that consumes members of their own kind. The difference between the big screen and real life is the fact that it really happens and to most seems particularly revolting and vile. Sadists are those who receive sexual gratification from inflicting pain or emotional abuse on others with the level of pain going from mild to extreme such as the BTK Killer. The sadist of the notable variety inflicted extreme pain and misery on their victims before killing them. The motivation behind the killing of child by a parent is hard to understand as some do it for greed, some to eliminate what they see as the problem in their everyday life, others suffer from postpartum depression and psychotic hallucinations. The biggest unsolved crimes which have evaded even the FBI come in the form of famous gangsters who mysteriously disappear to serial killers who remain uncaught. These open cases remain distant memories for most, while those involved remain haunted for years and true crime enthusiast write about those bad guys that got away.

Before we discuss the scale of evil formulated by Michael Stone, it is important to understand the history, science and psychology of criminology as well as society at the time it was developed. Despite the misgivings and ultimate failure of phrenology, the connection between crime and physiology persisted as Cesare Lombroso took up the research and built upon the theories of Gall. During the late 19th century, Lombroso, an Italian physician, performed hundreds of post mortem examinations on criminals noticing that many shared the same physical characteristics. Lombroso compiled a list that included receding hairline, forehead wrinkles, bumpy face, broad noses, fleshy lips, sloping shoulders, long arms and pointy fingers. Lobroso saw these as characteristics of primitive man and a condition called atavism. Its theological roots, according to Mark Gado’s Bad to the Bone: All About Criminal Motivation, were firmly embedded in Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species published in the 1870s. Lombroso saw criminals as immoral people who had not developed to the same biological level as the modern, non-criminal man. The name he gave to this primitive man was the “born criminal” who was pre-destined for criminal behavior due to his physical configuration. According to Lombroso, these men came from a “degenerate family with frequent cases of insanity, deafness, syphilis, epilepsy and alcoholism among its members.” As Mark Gado explains, Lombroso had a fascination with the practice of tattooing and its assumed association with criminality. Published in Popular Science in 1896, a famous article titled The Savage Art of Tattooing, Lombroso described his revulsion to tattoos by saying, “Certainly these tattooings declare more than any official brief to reveal to us the fierce and obscene hearts of these unfortunates.” His narrow observations of prisoners led him to assume that, “Among eighty-nine tattooed persons, I saw seventy-one who had been tattooed in prison.” Since Lombroso believed tattoos were prevalent among criminals, he concluded that criminals had a higher pain tolerance stating, “Tattooing is, in fact, one of the essential characteristics of primitive man,” he said, “and of men who still live in the savage state.” However in the end, his theories held no water as Lombroso only studied convicted criminals and did not use a control group to compare his results leading him to virtually all his presumptions. Thus his conclusions could not be broadened to the general public as a whole and became known as the “Lombrosian fallacy.” Years after, Charles Goring, an English physician decided to examine Lombroso’s theories more closely by studying thousands of prisoners in British jails against members of a military unit, the Royal Engineers. Comparing their physiological traits, Goring found no substantial difference between the groups and published his finding in a book called The English Convict in 1913. Goring proved there was no scientific support for atavism and the data gathered essentially discredited Lombroso’s “born criminal” theory.

Even with Lombroso’s research disproven, the belief that scientists could identify the criminal type successfully continued. During the late 19th century, sociologist Richard Dugdale, published The Jukes: A Study in Crime, Pauperism, Disease and Heredity investigating the hereditary line of a family in upstate New York called the Jukes. Hundreds of descendants were traced through successive generations going back to the Colonial times allowing Dugdale to study 709 persons with the same name. Those that married into the family, 169 total, were excluded as they were not a part of the pure Juke lineage. If Dugdale were able to track every single member of the family, the total would of exceeded 1,200 people. However the 709 he did study, resulted in some interesting data with 180 in the “poorhouse” or on public assistance, 140 were criminals or offenders, 60 were “thieves,” 7 were murder victims, 50 were prostitutes and 40 women had a sexually transmitted disease. Dugdale estimated that the Jukes had cost the State of New York $1.4 million to house, institutionalize and treat the family. A follow up study conducted in 1915 by Arthur H. Estabrook involved 2,820 Jukes and found similar results on a larger scale, Gado notes. Estabrook explains: “Children grew up in an atmosphere of poverty, crime and licentiousness. The girls and young women of these families were very comely in appearance and loose in morals.” These women attracted non-Juke men from nearby towns and produced offspring belonging to respectable families, according to Gado. “In this way, syphilis has been spread from these harlots to the good and virtuous wives in the nearby community.” A similar project conducted by psychologist Henry Goddard was published in 1912 titled The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Hereditary of Feeble-Mindedness. Goddard studies two separate lineages one from Martin Kallikak, a Revolutionary War soldier and feeble minded bar maid, and a second lineage from the same Martin Kallikak and a Quaker girl from Philadelphia.  The first union produced 480 descendants with more than half being deviants or criminals, while the second union revealed that the union led to 496 descendants with no criminal behavior and only three defined as abnormal. Unfortunately, Goddard’s work was highly questionable and some critics believed that the entire study was fictitious, an invention by Goddard to promote his radical views and distaste fro the “feeble-minded.”

Eventually, the study of criminal families like the Jukes and Kallikak led to widespread public belief that there had to be a “criminal” gene passed from one generation to the next. Dugdale and Goddard’s research was found to contain major flaws leading to many to challenge it publicly, however even so, their ideas became part of societal ideology. Goddard also held to the idea of selective breeding for humans declaring in his book, The Kallikaks, that “they were feeble-minded and no amount of education or good environment can change a feeble-minded individual into a normal one, anymore than it can change a red-haired stock into a black-haired stock.”According to Gado, Goddard worked hard to publicize the idea of improving people by improving the quality of genes also known as eugenics. Fueling the movement was the public support and belief that criminal behavior could be controlled by genetics with harsh racial undertones as eugenics became accepted in America and endorsed by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Mark Gado, Bad to the Bone: All About Criminal Motivation, notes:

“In the Supreme Court decision Beck v. Bell (274 U.S. 200, 1927), Holmes wrote in defense of forced sterilization: ‘It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for their crime…society can prevent those persons who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.’ The Beck v. Bell ruling was used as the justification to forcibly sterilize thousands of American citizens against their will. This process continued until 1942 when the Supreme Court declared the practice unconstitutional in Skinner v. Oklahoma.

But Goddard’s work, flawed and baseless as it was, was destined for a much more ominous role in history. The Kallikak Family was published in Germany in 1914 and again in 1933 when the Nazis, led by the demonic Adolph Hitler came to power. The similarities between ideas expressed in Goddard’s research and Hitler’s twisted vision of an Aryan race are striking.”

Women, since 12 year old  Hannah Occuish was hung for the murder of a 6 year old in 1787 in New London, Connecticut, has spawned their own brand of criminality with many of the theories only applicable to females and not the male population. During the 1990s, several murder cases to the delight of the public and press used pre-mentrual syndrome or PMS and post-partum depression syndrome or PPDS to explain the motive for murder. Although the perception may be different, according to Gado, PMS has long been used as a factor in female crime. In the late 19th century, Lombroso assumed a basic misconception that female criminality correlates to hormonal factors and chemical imbalances due to the menstrual cycle. People at the time believe menstruation could cause conditions like migraines, epilepsy, kleptomania, pyromania, suicide and homicide. The belief continued through the century and well into the 20th century. However, current research does not support this relationship and many of the conclusions made during the earlier studies were based on stereotypical attitudes and over generalize assumptions of the female sex. Post-partum depression has also come under scrutiny since the tragic murder case involving Adrea Yates, 36, who drowned her five children in Houston, Texas on June 20, 2001. At the trail, her attorney, George McCall Secrest told CNN,”The jury is going to have to focus not only on the facts of the actual offense on trial but they’re going to have to understand the mental state of mind of the accused.” Secrest had previously defended a Texas woman who killer her 4 month old baby because she believed the child was possessed by a demon. The woman was found not guilty by reason of insanity, however Andrea Yates, in March of 2002, received life in prison after being found guilty of the five murders. Another example of post-partum depression homicide happened in New York in 2001 when 38 year old Susan Mooney murdered her 7 month old son by covering his mouth. At the trial, a doctor testified that Mooney, “was confused, and being driven by internal stimuli that were not part of reality.” Like many other homicides involving new mothers giving birth, the post-partum explanation was offered and rejected by the jury who are reluctant to accept any excuse for murdering a child. Although women make up 51% of the population, they only make up 10% of serial killers. A recent study revealed female serial killers are older than their male counterparts and more likely to be drug abusers and alcoholics. Women suffer from many psychological disorders, while men were found to be sociopaths. Female serial killers will poison or smother their victim who often is familiar to them. While men will stalk their prey, women like Aileen Wournos and Louise Peete will lure their victim to their death. In another study of 14 female killers, all were found to have suffered from abusive relationships in dysfunctional families making it a trademark of sorts for all female killers, according to Gado.

Brain irregularities or physical trauma may play a role in some cases as research indicates brain damage can cause a sudden change in personality. On August 1, 1966, a troubled ex-Marine Charles Whitman, 24, climbed to the top of a 307 foot observation tower at the University of Texas in Austin, just a few hours after stabbing his mother to death and shooting her in the head, bringing an arsenal of weapons with him. For two hours, Whitman used a high powered rifle to randomly shoot 48 people, killing 18. The day before Whitman left a note: “After my death, I wish an autopsy on me to be performed to see if there is any mental disorder.”During his postmortem exam, doctors found a severe brain tumor which was never proven to have caused Whitman’s murderous rampage. In another case, a head injury might of transformed a man into a serial killer. During an ocean voyage to America in 1945, Raymond Fernandez, 30, was climbing the steps to the ship’s main deck and received a blow to the top of his head by a hatch cover causing him to remain in a coma for a week with a serious concussion. When he woke up from his trauma, Fernandez had undergone some changes to his personality that made him argumentative, uncontrollable at times and quick to anger. Over the next few years, he murdered 17 women with the help of his girlfriend, Martha Beck, until they were caught, tried,  and executed at Sing Sing prison in 1951. Another case, that mirrors if not exceeds the controversy and increase racial tensions of the Zimmerman trial today, was the story of NYPD Officer Robert Torsney. On Thanksgiving Day in 1976, a white police officer named Torsney shot and killed a 15 year old black youth on a Brooklyn street for no apparent reason leading to an indictment and charge of murder. At trial in November 1977, Torsney’s attorney believe his client had suffered a rare form of “psychomotor seizure” causing him to black out for a few seconds resulting in total memory loss. The condition called “Automatism of Penfield” was so rare no one had heard of it before the trial and led to the acquittal of Torsney by reason of insanity. He later, as Gado notes, spent less than two years confined to a mental institution where he was allowed to go home on most weekends. While Torsney’s case is the exception, it is not the rule as courts will not accept brain damage or head injury as an excuse for murder. Head injuries or trauma victims for the most part do not go out and commit crimes immediately, but mental instability in all forms has been used in courts for two centuries to explain why people commit crimes.

Using Sigmund Freud’s psychological concepts, psychological theory assumes that a crime is a result of poorly conditioned behavior or a dysfunctional personality. Freud believed psychoanalysis was the key to understanding human behavior by probing the innermost thoughts of the individual. Freudian psychologists believe a dysfunctional personality comes from a wide array of causes such as improper learning or early childhood trauma resulting in an adult mental imbalance. In an extensive study of serial killers, researchers found they suffer from varying degrees and types of trauma in their youth. Psychologist say that childhood psychological disturbances can be so overwhelming leading to deviant behavior later in life such is the case in many modern day serial killers such as Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and David Berkowitz. Many will produce painting and drawing in prison that display further evidence of emotional scares as some would say. The psychopath or sociopath is a personality characterized by cruelty, egotism, impulsive conduct, no remorse, selfish and an inability to give love or affection, while true loyalty, warmth and compassion are foreign to a psychopath and they do not respond to kindness. They are often pathological or compulsive liars with antisocial personalities and dysfunctional behavior that to them seem normal. Often they feel persecuted by society. Some sociopathic personalities of note include O.J. Simpson, Ted Bundy, Charles Manson and Captain Jeffery McDonald known as the Green Beret doctor who murdered his family in 1970. They will continue their careers through their lives unlike others that will burn out as they get older causing them to frequently come in contact with the police and land in jail or prison. It is estimated, Gado notes, that up to 30% of the prison population can be classified as sociopaths.

Michael Stone, a sort of expert in evil, is a forensic psychiatrist and professor at Columbia who has cataloged and classified evil acts into a 22 point scale for the Discovery Channel show Most Evil. As Big Think editors explain, Michael Stone Explains His Scale of Evil, the profiles range from justified homicide to prolonged rape, torture and murder including some of the most notorious, high profile criminals in history such as Ted Bundy, Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer. In his interview on Big Think:

“Dr. Stone explained the breakdown of his scale of evil, which loosely mirrors the structure of Dante’s circles of Hell in ‘The Divine Comedy.’ The first group, after justified homicide, covers impulsive murders by those who are not actually psychopaths; the middle of the scale includes those with a degree of psychopathic qualities including grandiosity, superficial charm, glibness, manipulativeness, deceit, callousness, and lack of remorse; and numbers 17-22 deal with the truly psychopathic, especially those involved in sexual serial homicide and torture.”

Stone gives the public insight into the mind of a serial killer as more than 90% are psychopaths and sadists however what drives them to kill can be very different. Two groups not on Stone’s scale, but have had increase media attention in the past decade, are terrorists and corporate criminals. As Stone explains to Big Think:

“What constitutes an evil act is different during wartime, and since the terrorists see themselves at war with the West, their status is complicated. ‘But I think it’s pretty obvious, when you subject a human being to intense suffering, even for these so-called political purposes, that you’ve committed evil,’ says Stone. And while white collar criminals like Bernie Madoff don’t directly kill others, their actions lead to untold suffering and maybe even suicides.”

According to the NPR staff on the NPR site, On The Scale Of Evil, Where Do Murderers Rate?, here is a breakdown of the 22 levels of evil Dr. Stone employs to evaluate and decide where someone falls on the scale and piece together the profile of a the evil that exists in our society. So here we go:
1. Justified Homicide – The least malevolent: Those who have killed in self-defense and do not show psychopathic features.
Cheryl Pierson – “Long Island native Cheryl Pierson had been repeatedly molested by her father after her mother died. He was a domineering man with rigid and bizarre rules — for example, he insisted she eat three items on her dinner plate incrementally in a clockwise rotation; if she didn’t he would become violent. In desperation at age 17, she paid a classmate $400 to kill her father. She was sentenced to six months in jail for what was, in Stone’s words, ‘in effect a self-defense killing.'”
(People who are not really psychopaths, not subject to routine unspeakable acts without remorse. “Ordinary people that get caught in some terrible situation,” Stone says.)
2. Jealous Lovers, Non-Psychopathic – Though egocentric or immature, evildoers in this category committed their crimes in the heat of passion.
Jean Harris – “School director Jean Harris led an exemplary life before she became romantically involved with ‘Scarsdale Diet’ doctor Herman Tarnower. But when she found another woman’s panties in his dresser, she snapped. Harris shot her lover to death in a crime of passion — and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.”
3. Willing Companions Of Killers – Still far from psychopathic, some have antisocial traits and an aberrant personality. They’re often driven by impulse.
Cindy Campbell – “Jack Olsen’s 1987 book Cold Kill describes Cindy Campbell as a manipulative, chaotic woman. She claimed she was the victim of incest and was accused of enlisting her lover, David West, to kill her parents in their sleep. Both she and West were convicted of murder.”
4. Provocative “Self-Defense” – These people kill in self-defense, but they aren’t entirely innocent themselves; they may have been “extremely provocative” toward their victim.
Susan Cummings – “A shy, tomboyish daughter of a billionaire arms trader, Susan Cummings fell in love with an Argentine polo player, Roberto Villegas. But after two years together, they fought: She was stingy and began to refuse sex; he would get angry and verbally abusive. Finally she shot him to death in her kitchen in 1997. Originally charged with first-degree murder, she was ultimately convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 60 days in jail.”
5. Desperate Measures – These are traumatized, desperate killers of abusive relatives or others — but they lack “significant psychopathic traits” and are genuinely remorseful.
Susan Wyche – “Susan Wyche was a topless dancer who married and had a child with Jeff Wright, a successful carpet salesman from Houston. He used cocaine, had affairs, gave Susan herpes and was physically abusive. In 2003, she reached a breaking point, and in a fit of rage stabbed him 193 times. Portrayed as a battered wife by the defense and a vicious seductress by the prosecution, she was given a relatively light sentence: 25 years. A new punishment hearing is set for October.”
6. Hot Heads – Killers who act in an impetuous moment, yet without marked psychopathic features.
Issei Sagawa – “Born in Japan, Issei Sagawa was pampered by his mother, but became highly irritable and prone to tantrums. In high school, he developed cannibalistic fantasies, and in 1981 he was accused of carrying one out in Paris. His victim: a Dutch student named Renee Hartevelt. He lured her to his apartment, shot her to death, sexually assaulted the body and then began eating her muscle tissue. He was declared legally insane in France and sent back to Japan, where he was released from a mental institution in 1986. He’s now a minor celebrity and has written books and magazine articles about his experience.”
7. Narcissists – Highly narcissistic killers who are often possessive, not distinctly psychopathic, but “with a psychopathic core.” They typically kill loved ones or family members out of jealousy.
Prosenjit Poddar – “In 1968, college student Prosenjit Poddar met Tatiana Tarasoff at a dance class in California. They dated briefly but she rejected him. Poddar then told his therapist about wanting to kill her. His therapist wanted to commit him to hospital, but Poddar convinced campus police he was not dangerous. In the summer of 1969, after she returned from a vacation, Poddar stabbed Tarasoff to death with a kitchen knife. Poddar was convicted and deported back to India after his conviction was overturned. Her parents sued the campus police for failing to warn that their daughter was in danger. This led to the famous Tarasoff decision, which ruled physicians now must warn potential victims of a psychiatric patient.”
8. Fit of Rage – Non-psychopathic people, who live with an underlying, smoldering rage, then kill when that rage is ignited.
Charles Whitman – “In 1966, ex-Marine Charles Whitman gunned down his wife and his mother, then ascended a tower at the University of Texas and began shooting people with a rifle. He killed 14 people and wounded 32, before being shot and killed by police. His early life was plagued by physical abuse by his father. A UT psychologist who met with Whitman before the murders described him as ‘oozing with hostility.’ An autopsy revealed that he had a brain tumor, which may have contributed to his rage.”
Those who show a “fair number” of psychopathic traits — grandiosity, superficial charm, or general lack of remorse.
9. Jealous Lovers, Psychopathic – The scale’s first foray into psychopathic territory, these killers are jealous lovers but with marked psychopathic features.
Paul Snider – “Paul Snider ‘discovered’ Dorothy Stratten when she was working at a Dairy Queen at age 17. He became her manager and steered her to Playboy magazine, where she became Playmate of the Year in 1980. They married, but their relationship soon deteriorated, and she became involved with film director Peter Bogdanovich. In a jealous rage, Snider lured her to his apartment and shot her to death with a rifle before killing himself. Bob Fosse made a film about her tragic life, Star 80.”
10. “In The Way” Killers, Not Fully Psychopathic – Killers of witnesses or people who are simply “in the way.” These evildoers are egocentric, but not totally psychopathic.
John List – “Born in 1925, John List was described as rigid, joyless, angry and a neighborhood crank. A failed accountant with poor executive ability, he kept losing jobs, yet bought a big house for his wife and three children — which he couldn’t afford. Caught between his indebtedness and his monstrous pride, he decided to kill his family. In 1971, he shot and killed his mother, wife and children, and fled to Colorado under an assumed name. He was at large for 18 years, until an image constructed by a forensic anthropologist was broadcast on America’s Most Wanted. He died in prison in 2008 at age 82.”
11. “In The Way” Psychopaths – Psychopathic killers of people “in the way.” Premeditation is not usually a major factor in their killings.
Jeffrey MacDonald – “An Army Green Beret doctor named Jeffrey MacDonald began showing signs of violence and hatred of women in his adolescence. In 1970, was accused of killing his wife and daughters, and then staging the scene to look like a cult slaying in the mold of Charles Manson. MacDonald was convicted of murder, but his case — the subject of the book Fatal Vision — has dragged on for four decades. In August 2010, his lawyers filed a brief in federal court asking for a new trial and claiming that DNA evidence could prove MacDonald’s innocence.”
12. Power-Hungry And Cornered – Power-hungry psychopaths who kill when “cornered,” or placed in a situation they wouldn’t be able to escape with their power intact.
Jim Jones – “Born in 1931, Jim Jones was attracted early on to a Pentecostal religious group that practiced ‘speaking in tongues.’ He later became a charismatic leader of the Peoples Temple. Grandiose and fanatic, as well as psychopathic and paranoid, he gathered a large group of followers and moved with them to Guyana. In 1978, U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan and his entourage went to Guyana to investigate; he and four others were shot and killed. Cornered, Jones told his followers to commit group suicide. In all, 914 people died, 276 of them children. He also took his own life.”
13. Inadequate And Rageful – Murderers with shortcomings that follow them throughout life, who also express psychopathic impulses and are prone to rage.
Karla Faye Tucker – “Karla Faye Tucker was born the illegitimate daughter of prostitute and abused drugs since she was 9. She married at 16 — by which time she had already had a hysterectomy for pelvic inflammatory disease. She divorced at 20. In 1983, she and boyfriend Daniel Garrett invaded the apartment of Jerry Lynn Dean while the two were high on methadone, valium, heroin and alcohol. Tucker and Garrett killed Dean and the woman he was with, using a hammer and pickaxe. After 14 years on death row, she was executed in 1998. She was the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War.”
14. Schemers – Ruthlessly self-centered and psychopathic, schemers stop at nothing to deceive, con and steal.
Sante Kimes – “Sante Kimes was born in 1934 and soon became a self-trained con artist. Briefly married to Lee Powers, she had a son, Kenny. Many more thefts followed, along with use of numerous aliases. She made her son into a kind of slave; the two became ‘grifters’ — accomplished at stealing. In 1998 she and her son conned their way into the good graces of Irene Silverman, a wealthy Fifth Avenue widow in New York City. They got her to sign over her property and then killed her, disposing of her body. Kimes is a classic psychopath, and is considered responsible for other murders besides that of Silverman. She and her son are serving life sentences.”
15. Cold-Blooded Spree – Murderers who kill multiple people calmly and with a psychopathic motive. Often pathological in their denial of guilt or inability to confront reality.
Charles Manson – “Charles Manson was born in 1934 to a troubled family. At a young age, he began stealing, ending up in reformatories then jail and prisons. In his 30s he began to attract a following of waif-like women who were in his thrall. Then in 1969 he had his group invade the home of pregnant actress Sharon Tate, killing her, her unborn baby and four friends. Later they killed Rosemary LaBianca, scrawling ‘Death to Pigs’ in her blood around the house. He received the death penalty, later commuted to a life term in Corcoran Prison in California.”
Fully psychopathic by every modern definition.
16. Vicious Psychopaths – Those who commit multiple vicious acts that may also include murder, rape or mutilation.
Miyazaki Tsutomu – “Born in 1962 into a wealthy Japanese family, Miyazaki Tsutomu had a congenital hand defect, such that he was unable to hold his hands palm-up. He was ostracized as a child and began to lurk around young girls, stalking them. In 1989, he kidnapped and murdered four young girls, mutilated their bodies and drank the blood of one victim. When his crimes were discovered, his father committed suicide out of shame. Miyazaki coldly regarded that as ‘just punishment’ for not raising him correctly. He was executed in Tokyo in 2008.”
17. The Sexually Perverse – Serial killers with some element of sexual perversion in their crimes. In males, rape is usually the primary motive and killing follows to hide the evidence. Torture is not a primary motive.
Ted Bundy – “Ted Bundy was born in 1946, performed well in school and was acutely shy. His sexual homicides began in earnest in 1974, near his alma mater, the University of Washington. He worked his way down to Florida, luring, raping and killing at least 28 girls en route. He escaped from a Colorado prison in 1977, and continued killing until identified and apprehended (thanks to bite marks that matched his teeth) in 1978. He was executed in Florida in 1989.”
18. Torturing Murderers – Though psychotic, they do not typically prolong their torture. Murder, not torture, is their primary motivation.
Gary Ridgeway – “Gary Ridgeway, a.k.a the ‘Green River Killer,’ grew up in Washington state. He was troubled by his sexual attraction to his mother and of his feelings of lust and humiliation. He’s one of the serial killers showing the famous childhood  ‘triad’ of bed-wetting, fire-setting, and animal torture. He began serial killing of prostitutes in earnest after a third divorce in 1982. Some investigators believe he may have killed as many as 90 women, subjecting some to bondage or necrophilia. He’s now serving 48 life sentences plus 480 years.”
19. Non-Homicidal Psychopaths – Psychopaths who fall short of murder, yet engage in terrorism, subjugation, intimidation or rape.
Gary Steven Krist – “Gary Steven Krist had served prison time for robbery and fraud in three different states before he was 18. Out of prison in 1968 at age 23, he planned a ransom kidnapping. His victim was Barbara Mackle. Krist buried her underground, allowing her to breathe using a tube, while he awaited a $500,000 ransom from her father. She was rescued after 83 hours buried alive. He was sentenced to life in prison, but was paroled and later convicted of importing cocaine into the United States. He’s in a federal prison in Florida, with a planned release in November 2010.”
20. Murdering Torturers – Psychotic (legally insane) and primarily motivated by their desire to torture.
Joseph Kallinger – “From a young age, Joseph Kallinger’s foster family abused him so severely that at age 6 he suffered a hernia inflicted by his foster father. He was psychotic and schizophrenic, and when he married and had children, he was equally brutal. In 1972 he was held on charges of child abuse but was later released. In 1974, he and his 13-year-old son Michael began to break into houses in Philadelphia, Baltimore and New Jersey, where they terrorized and tortured four families, and then sexually assaulted and killed a 21-year-old nurse. Finally arrested, he was sentenced to life, and then sent to a mental hospital where he died in 1996 at age 59.”
21. Pure Torturers – Not all torturers murder. These psychopaths (evaluated to be in touch with reality) are preoccupied with torture “in the extreme,” but never convicted of murder.
Cameron Hooker – “Cameron Hooker was born in 1953. As he grew older he read pornography, particularly that which portrayed women being tortured. He married his wife, Janice, in 1975. He fantasized about having his own sex slave and allegedly reached an agreement with his wife that she could have a baby if he could have a sex slave. After the birth of their child, Hooker kidnapped 20-year-old Colleen Stan in 1977 and kept her captive for seven years. She was whipped, strangled, burned, electrically shocked and raped. For much of that time, she was locked inside a box for 23 hours a day. She and Hooker’s wife fled together in 1984. He was convicted and sentenced to 104 years in prison.”
22. Psychopathic Torture-Murderers – Defined by a primary motivation to inflict prolonged, diabolical torture. Most in this category are male serial killers.
Jeffrey Dahmer – “Born in 1960 in Milwaukee, Jeffrey Dahmer was sexually molested by a neighbor when he was 8. At 10, he was decapitating animals and mounting their heads on stakes in the backyard. At 17 he committed his first murder, a male hitchhiker whom he bludgeoned, strangled, dismembered and buried. After a failed stint in the Army, his serial killing began in earnest in the late 80s, ending up with at least 17 victims — all males, some homosexual, like Dahmer. Finally arrested in 1991, he was convicted the next year of 15 murders and sentenced to 936 years in prison. In 1994, another inmate at the Columbia Correctional Institution in Wisconsin bludgeoned Dahmer to death with a bar from a weight machine.”

Several interviews conducted by Max Miller in 2010 for Big Think, gives the average person some more insight into the concept of evil and its applications to the criminal mind, according to Michael Stone himself. He points out that the word “evil” has been used for thousands of years in the religious and philosophical sphere, however people tend to use the term all the time in ordinary life, journalists, prosecutors, judges, etc. Is its usage justified and legitimate? This inspired Michael Stone to create his scale of evil, according to the interview entitled “What is evil?,” covering 22 categories with 21 being evil and one being justifiable homicide using his extensive knowledge of the serial killers he interviewed and true crime books. Michale Stone, in response to the question asking “Are serial killers born or created?, explains there is not simple answer as there are few serial killers, six or seven in his series, who were adopted at birth and never abused or neglected. There are men examined by Stone who came from good homes or normal homes, but suffered head injuries that affected key areas in the frontal lobe such as Richard Starett in Georgia who killed 10 women after marrying and having a daughter. He suffered two bouts of prolonged consciousness when he fell from a jungle gym and things like that when he was a kid causing a dramatic and swift change in his personality. The same applies to Phil Garrido who had a normal childhood, but fell off his brother’s motorcycle at 14 and within days of being unconscious and having a brain operation, he began to develop rape fantasies that lead to a number of rapes and the kidnapping of Jaycee Dugard who was kept for 18 years and had two children by him. In this case, other areas of the brain in the limbic system connected to the frontal lobes and involving the temporal lobes on one side have to do with sexual responsiveness e.g. what we respond to sexually. If these areas are damaged, according to Stone, it can cause people to turn to pedophilia or abnormal desires for inappropriate objects. Stone believes this is what happened to Garrido after the head injury. There are about 30% of serial killers who have experienced some form of serious head injury making it an important factor to consider. The bulk of them, however come from horrible homes where the early damage and misery of their home became a motivating factor for revenge against people who hurt them plus the way they were raised causes them to lack social skills to cope well in their relationships and with their past.

Looking at the neurobiology of evil, Michael Stone reveals the apparent differences between somebody who does violent acts and what is considered a normal person. In the last 15-20 years, the ability to image the brain has led to better understanding of how the brain works due to Magnetic Resonance Imaging technology. It has allowed researchers to take pictures of the brain while the person looks at pictures or hears certain words and showing how the brain blood flow differs from moment to moment. Scientist have discovered that a number of areas of the brain affect social decision making and moral attitudes. The more primitive parts of the brain that deal with emotion is called the limbic system and other parts of the brain deal with arousal versus sleep. In the limbic system, the amygdala registers not only emotion but can recognize when someone else has a fearful face or is in a state of fight or upset. In cold hearted murderers, the amygdala doesn’t function properly causing them to dimly recognize these signs. They may show some concern, but not the same as a normal person would. The amygdala functions in a different way as research has shown over the last 10-15 years. For example, Stone explains a child lost at a department store would concern most people, but someone who has this abnormality would recognize this fact and take advantage of the child. Another significant area in the front part of the brain is the lower front part called the orbitofrontal cortex. This area is involved in the moral decision making of what is right or wrong that people learn when growing up or influenced by parents and teachers. The orbitofrontal cortex is kind of a braking system that will put the brakes on a though or desire that may precede the act which is against the law. If this system is not working correctly, the person would just go ahead and do it. This confirms the interactions between the amygdala and the frontal cortex which in a sense protect the individual from committing a crime when working properly. In this respect, the anterior cingulate acts a jury before the message is sent up to this part of the brain. It acts as a mind of its own, Stone explains, where the message can be stopped before it reaches the frontal cortex. However, if the message is weak and gets transmitted to the frontal cortex, the frontal cortex may then act upon the desire. If the brain receive the message from the anterior cingulate that it’s not a good idea, then the brain will most likely not do this. These areas are the most important areas in the brain that deal with whether we behave morally or whether we break the law with impunity.

An interesting question asked of Stone, “What makes good people do evil things?,” made for some interesting revelations according to what has been discussed so far. Stone explains the distinction between an evil act where a person not typically prone to do evil things does a one-off considered evil and an evil person who is prone to do evil things and act upon these desires. Something to considered when evaluating this question is the brain changes the person might of experienced where their braking system is not good. People need to realize that young people have a poorer braking system than people in their 20s, Stone believes, this is why the voting age was 21 at one time then changed to 18. Around 22 or 23 years old is when the frontal part of the brain that deals with this moral decision making and braking system is fully developed. This may explain impulsivity and impulsive crimes of violence, etc. that many adolescents become involved with that many adults never experience. This may also explain why some may go bad, but were okay as kids and become okay again when they reach their late 30s and 40s, according to Stone. In addition, the brain changes in adolescence might be harder to pick up as they mature as those parts of the frontal lobe develop their full complement of fatty tissue or myelin sheathing preventing the wires from being crossed. Some children called callous unemotional youths are rare and some children become psychopaths as they become older. The rule is that not all psychopaths start out as callous unemotional youths, but practically all callous unemotional youths end up as psychopaths. These children are those, Stone explains, that are heartless and are capable of terrible things e.g. “they are kids who can throw a kid off the roof at school because they were annoyed at him.”  The following is the story of one of these children told by Dr. Stone:

 “I got called by the mother of such a child, a twelve-year-old, in the midst of my doing my Discovery Channel program, who had been born when she was a young woman and she was having an affair with an ex-con in one of the southern states.  So the boy, you know, was… had some genes probably from that ex-con.  When he was 12, by that time she had remarried to a nice man, they had a nice daughter, but the boy had the famous triad of bedwetting—he still wet his bed at 12—fire setting, and animal torture, which is usually a prelude to violent crimes, especially sexual ones as you get older.  He also stole, he bullied kids in school, and he tried to strangle his own sister.  So, he was unmanageable at home.  And I was personally helping that family to get him into an institution, which is where he is now.  But the point is, that’s a callous-unemotional youth and for sure there would be some brain changes that you could pick up then. The problem is, what do you do with a callous-unemotional kid?  Very little.  So that’s the kind of kid, if you spot him really… you really, the therapy that we have available today really doesn’t reach them very easily because they don’t have the emotional machinery in their brain, you know, to feel compassion for other people.”

Dr. Stone in response to the question, “Is there any way to treat these callous-unemotional youths?,” had this to say to Max Miller:

“Well, this fellow is in a particular institution where they may be able to give him medications that would lower the tendency to act impulsively, like mood stabilizers and so that would be to lower the irritability, for example.  They might also try to institute some kind of behavioral treatment where they gradually teach him that if there’s certain things you do it has bad consequences, even if he doesn’t feel in his heart that it was wrong.  He might feel, ‘Well if I beat up this other kid, what’s the difference?’  And you don’t make him feel compassion.  You don’t try to educate him to feel compassion because it wouldn’t work, but you might educate him to say, ‘Well, okay so you don’t really feel in your heart of hearts that what you’re doing is unacceptable, but accept the fact that it is unacceptable and if you get caught, you could end up in jail or in very unpleasant circumstances.’  So from the cost/benefit analysis that these people are capable of carrying out, it’s not to your advantage.  So that some of them can be deterred from doing what they want to do, thinking of the consequences not because they suddenly develop a full flower of compassion for their fellow human being.”

Understanding the criminal mind is an evolutionary process that will continue as crime is a vastly complex, poorly understood phenomenon with no absolutes in human behavior. Accord to Mark Gado’s, Bad to the Bone: All about Criminal Motivation, crimes can never be packaged under one heading as the motivation or causes differ greatly from demons to bumps on the head to genetics to DNA to food allergies to phases of the moon even brain injury or a package of Twinkies. Theorists do agree that many factors blended together contributes to a crime such as environment, hereditary considerations and psychological development that form the need to commit the crime. However, new theories of crime causation seem to pop up whenever possible. Some criminologist, psychologists and researchers have found interesting links between weather and crime rates even certain crimes like larcenies and burglaries happen in accordance with the seasons. Department of Justice stats confirm most property crimes are committed in the warm summer months, while violent crimes seem to follow no seasonal path. However several studies have tried to find the connection between phases of the moon and deviant behavior. The possibilities are never ending and will be never ending as long as crime plays a major role in the daily dealings of society.

2 thoughts on “Most Evil: The Criminal Mind

  1. Anonymous says:


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