Review of How to Catch a Liar, by Steven David Lampley – 3rd Edition

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I rarely review a book whose information I use almost every day – a book that has changed my life.  This book has.

Let me tell you a short story. I was at CrimeCon 2018 and went to the lecture on How to Catch a Liar by Steven Lampley.  He has trained law enforcement professionals on the techniques of spotting deception during interviews/interrogations.  I was stunned by how simple and practical the information was.  I went back to work on used it on a video conference call during my day job.  It worked!  I was able to tell when people were being deceptive.  Steven and I became acquaintances and I was so pumped when his third edition of the book was announced a few weeks ago. He was kind enough to shoot me an early edition.

To be blunt, I wish I had gone to his lecture or read his book when my kids were teenagers.  They would have been toast!  This is the kind of information that transcends true crime and applies in every aspect of your life, be it personal or professional.  To Steven’s point, this is also a book that can screw up a marriage if used incorrectly.  With great power, comes great responsibility.

It has also enhanced my ability to watch true crime shows on TV.  When you watch interrogations on The First 48, or when officers confront suspects on LivePD, you can spot the triggers with many of them and know when they are outright lying.  The stuff in Steven’s book works!  I shared the tips with my wife and when we watched the Netflix series, The Staircase – we could spot the lies and liars fairly quickly.  It has also applies when politicians are confronted by the press.  I cannot say enough positive things about the stuff crammed into this book.

The author dispels some of the myths (like arm-crossing) and provides concrete techniques that anyone can use.  I have used these on job interviews, discussions with people associated with crimes, and at work.  They are short, simple, and powerful tips.

There are some minor nits.  There are no page numbers, and I found two minor editing errors – no biggies.  In fairness, my copy was pre-release and complimentary, so such things are to be expected.

The book is a fast read – it took me less than two hours to devour.  It is not a dry read, Lampley has incorporated a very free form style to it.

Even if you are not a true crime fan, this book is a must-have.  I use the techniques constantly at work and when doing research for non-fiction books.  Steven also has a PDF that he offers on how to spot a liar when texting – which is also fabulous and useful.  If you ARE a true crime fan, you need this book.  It immensely changes and enhances your enjoyment of watching true crime TV.

If you want to be able to start identifying when people are deceiving you, (and who doesn’t?) it is worth it.  I haven’t seen the latest book on Amazon yet – but you can be sure he will have access to it at https://www.stevenlampley.com/

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Review of Mapping the Trail of a Crime – How Experts use Geographic Profiling to Solve the World’s Most Notorious Crimes – By Gordon Kerr

Mapping

I picked this book up for research on a series of murders my daughter and I are writing a book about.  We were able to get a copy of a geographic profile of our cases and I wanted to learn more about the techniques used in geographic profiling.  As an entry level book on this subject, it hits the mark.

Geographic profiling looks at the patterns a crime creates and maps probable areas where the killers live, have familiarity, or work.  It is not an exact science (yet) and some killers’ patterns defy the technique, such as those killers that are highly mobile and cover a broad geography.

It is a highly intriguing science.  Many serial killers follow a pattern which can be conveyed on a map. Most do not strike right at their home or immediate neighborhood, there’s too much of a chance they would be seen and recognized.  The majority strike in a band further out from their neighborhoods, where they are familiar with the territory but there is less risk of them being recognized.

The book is a paperback format, heavy with maps (duh) and photographs.  A large number of serial killing cases are examined and, in most cases, it is explained where geographic profiling could have helped or did help on the case.  In a few of the instances, there’s not a lot that ties to the subject matter in a given chapter, because the cases don’t fit the model where geographic profiling can apply.

The book was pretty good, but really didn’t dive deep enough into the subject for me…but remember, I’m a true crime author and want more nuts and bolts.  There’s not a lot of books on this subject…not for under $100, so I do recommend this for the “casual” true crime reader who wants a great source of maps of murders and explains the basics of geographic profiling.  I find myself wanting to pick up some of the author’s other books, which says a great deal about his style.  I also loved the paperback format, with end flaps which mirror a hardcover book. It is a nice touch from the publisher.

The Delphi Murders – A Cold Case That is Solvable

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When we went to CrimeCon, Victoria and I attended two sessions about this case and it is one that sticks with you once you know something about it.  As we approach the second anniversary of these senseless murders, I thought I would highlight it on my blog.  Please share this…because this case screams to be solved.

On February 13th 2017, the day before Valentine’s Day, Abigail “Abby” Williams and Liberty “Libby” German were dropped off by Libby’s sister at a local park in Delphi Indiana.  They were let off near an abandoned railway bridge that was part of a relatively new park, the Delphi Historic Trail.  It was 1:00pm in the afternoon, in broad daylight.  The girls were 13 and 14 respectively and the park was considered safe.  Delphi is a small community after all, with a population of under 3,000.

As I recall from my notes, school had been cancelled unexpectedly that day, so there was no reason for their killer to expect them to be in that park at that time.

By 5:30pm in the evening the girls were reported as missing.  A search by locals found their remains the next day, some 50 feet from Deer Creek, about a half mile from the railroad bridge.  Authorities have not revealed the exact cause of death of the two girls to the public.

The real shock about this case is that Libby’s phone contained an image of their suspected killer and a recording of his voice, saying “Down the hill.”  He is suspected to be between 5 foot 6 and 10 inches tall, weighing 180-220 pounds with reddish brown hair.  There is little doubt that Libby managed to capture her killer both audio and video.  Despite this, there have been some false leads and suspects, but their killer remains at large.

What struck me, as an author of cold cases, is as follows:

  • This is a small community.  Clearly this is an outsider, making this a crime of opportunity on his part.  Is he a passing truck driver who stopped in the community and came across the girls, or someone who was passing through for some other reason?  To me, it makes sense to check truck stop videos nearby or weigh stations for their records. I passed on that suggestion to one of the family members at Crimecon, though I’m sure the authorities would have already checked these out.
  • The girls were not supposed to be out of school that day.  Did he know that school was out that day or is it sad happenstance that they were in the park to begin with?
  • With two victims – the question must be asked…did he act alone?  It is possible to get and maintain control of two victims, but it is more difficult.  Libby clearly got images and audio of their killer, why didn’t they flee?  Did he get control of one of them to compel the other to stay there?
  • The authorities are keeping quiet how these victims were killed – which is prudent and frustrating at the same time.  Clearly there is something in the method of the murder which somehow factors into this.
  • The killer’s clothing and hat are clues because chances are, this isn’t the first time he wore them.  These appear as “comfort clothing.”  While the video is blurry, the police composite is pretty clear.  Someone knows this man, or knows someone matching his description that was out of town (in Delphi) at the time of the murders.  Do you know someone who wore that kind of hat and jacket who stopped after July of 2017, when the images were released?

The police site has the audio of his voice as well.  Take a listen to it. Does it sound like someone you know?

Indiana State Police Site

You may hold the key to solving this cold case.  The families deserve justice and the victims have given us the best clues as to who this killer is.  Please contact the Indiana State Police if you think you might know something.

A Review of Killing Season – The Unsolved Case of New England’s Deadliest Serial Killer by Carlton Smith

Killing Season

As most of you know, I am an author of cold case true crime books so this one caught my attention. With cold cases there are two things that get the reader engaged. First is the crimes. Second, is, “Why did this case end up not getting solved?” It is in this second topic area that this book soars.
Starting in 1988 a serial killer struck in the town of New Bedford MA, killing wantonly and dumping bodies along a highway. The town itself is a character in this book, you get a feel for the grit and the drug culture that makes you feel like you want to take a shower after you read some sections.
This is not about the serial killer as much as a story of a prosecutor gone wild. It is about individuals that may have been (likely) wrongly targeted and a search for facts to back that up, rather than the pursuit of the murderer. If you ever wanted to read a book to learn why most cold cases don’t get resolved – this is the book for you! The author takes a very complicated story of grand juries, bumbled investigations, and outright wrongful prosecution and weaves it into a dark tapestry of lies, deceit, and hollow justice.
Carlton Smith has done a masterful job of guiding the reader to form their own opinions; though we will all end up at the same place…it is just a matter of when and how we get there. It is not a riveting book, but one that infuriates you that the justice system has failed these victims so completely and utterly.  Any book that can make you furious is one worth reading.
I highly recommend this true crime tale that has me marking off New Bedford as a city I never wish to visit. I need to look at what other true crime books this author has to offer.

Retro Review – Helter Skelter (TV Show and DVD) 1976

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Holds up to the test of time strangely enough

This is a bit of a retro-review.  Back in 1976, CBS ran a mini-series (I seem to remember two episodes) of Helter Skelter, based on the book by Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor on the Tate-LaBianca murders in 1969.  When it ran, it was the 16th most watched TV film.  Subsequently it was released in movie theaters as well.  I remember watching this on TV when it came out and, at the age of 12, I remember it scared the hell out of me.  Steve Railsback played Manson and, while a little tall for the role, was incredibly compelling and gave me nightmares.  Nancy Wolfe’s version of Susan Atkins was creepy as all hell.  Because of this, the book came into our house and I read it.  For me, it was one of my first steps on the journey to being a true crime author.  (Another being the Lindbergh Kidnapping Case starring Anthony Hopkins – which is also available now on DVD.)  

 

I recently found Helter Skelter on DVD on Amazon.  A part of me wondered if I would find it cheesy after all of these years.  After all, it was a TV made for movie.  My expectations were pretty low. 

 

Is it true to the book?  Mostly – ish .  Clearly there is more in the book than can ever make it to the screen. It is clear that the screenwriters did what they could to stick to the facts.  

Well, for the most part, the series has stood the test of time.  I was still impressed with Railsback’s version of Manson, he hit the nail on the head from what I’ve seen of interviews with Charlie before his death.  From a story-perspective, it is hard to tell the entire story of the Manson family and the horrible murders they committed, but this does a good job. 

 

There are a few minor nits I have.  The spots for the commercial breaks are many and can disrupt the flow.  There’s no way around that.  The production quality is 1970’s television, so things you will see that are not up to the special effects we have today.  I am not a big fan of Vince’s character breaking the 4th wall and talking to the viewers, but it does help fill in some narrative on a complex case. 

 

Some of the acting of the minor characters is marginal, but I have to admit, it was still pretty gripping to watch.  Quinten Tarantio is coming out with a Manson-related film next year, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but that doesn’t seem to fit the bill for me. 

In an age of TV networks dedicated to true crime, the original 1976 Helter Skelter series is worth picking up and re-watching.  It didn’t give me the nightmares it did the first time, but it was entertaining enough.  

Review of The Case Files of the East Area Rapist / Golden State Killer by Kat Winters and Keith Komos

East Area

 

When I was at CrimeCon 18 I saw this book and purchased the Kindle edition when I got home.  I notice today it is not up on Amazon, but that could be either a bug with Amazon.com or the authors working on a new edition.  I would hope they would keep this one in print because it is useful.

As a true crime author, I wanted some details on this case and this book is all about the details.  It covers every single crime related to the Golden State Killer.  Some of this was clearly compiled from police reports, while other incidents seem a little lighter, perhaps from media sources.

This is not a casual read…there is a LOT of material here.  My hates off to Kat Winters and Keith Komos for the staggering amount of research they did for this.  I wanted this level of detail in a book.  As a true crime author my level of curosity is at the nuts and bolts level and here, this book doesn’t disappoint.  If you want an overview level of the cases, there are some great books out there.  This one takes you through every single crime.

What was strange was that after I read it (nightly for four weeks – it’s that big) I started to blur the cases together in my head.  Perfect.  That meant there was a very distinct pattern that you see emerge with these crimes.  It is incredible how the murderer (suspect Joseph DeAngelo) followed a pattern of how to approach the target homes, entry, things he said to the victims, his methods of immobilizing them, etc.  I knew this going into the book, but not on the incredible volume of cases.  What you are led through, chronologically, is the evolution of madness this rapist/killer went through.  You can read clearly how he honed his horrific skills.  The amount of work that went into this book is something I respect as a researcher and author.

We knew that the Golden State Killer called his victims, but I was surprised at how much he tracked and called them.  He used the phone to stake out when the houses were empty and when certain people were at home.  This kind of stuff is golden (no pun intended) for a true crime fan like me.

The book has a conversational tone in some areas where the authors ask the readers questions about what they see.  I’m not a huge fan of that, but it didn’t ruin the book for me.  It is a style of writing and you don’t have to be a fan of every style.  There were some editing mistakes, but I’m in no position to cast stones on that front.  Sidebar:  That stuff happens and the people that make a big deal about it are often would-be writers themselves who believe the English language is composed of hard and fast rules that cannot be pushed or broken.  There hasn’t been a book I’ve read in the last decade that hasn’t had some minor hiccup when it comes to grammar.  Let it go people.  End Sidebar

There is remarkably little about the investigation.  This is, per the title, the “case files.”  For some true crime fans that is going to be something they will struggle over.  There is no narrative that weaves all of this together.  It reminds me of Dragnet’s infamous line, “Just the facts ma’am.”

With DeAngelo’s case front and center with the media, this is a great go-to book in the coming years.  Everytime something has come up on TV about the case, I’ve done a search on my Kindle copy to check references.

I give this 4 out of 5 stars for the casual true crime reader.  For someone wanting to know each and every case, it is 5 out of 5 stars.

 

 

Washington DC Has A New Serial Killer On the Loose

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My daughter and I are working on a new book on a serial killing cold case.  Imagine my surprise this week to learn that DC has another serial murderer.  You would think this would have made more headlines than it did.  A part of the reason you may not have heard about it is that the Washington DC police are downplaying it as much as possible.

In April of this year, the skeletal remains of three women were found in the Congress Heights neighborhood when construction workers enlarging a crawl space at an apartment building uncovered the first body.  A search of the wooded area adjoining the house uncovered the remains of two other women buried in the same shallow grave.

The three victims, Jewel Marquita King, 48; Verdell Jefferson, 41; and Dorothy Jean Butts, 43 all showed signs of foul play.  Ms. King and Ms. Butts had been shot, where Ms. Jefferson showd signs of being bludgeoned.  All three disappeared from the same neighborhood where they were found at different times.  Police did not disclose if bullets had been recovered, but it is a safe bet given the advanced stage of decomposition of the remains.

According to the Washington Post, Police Chief Newsham was open to the thought of a serial killer being responsible.  “We would always consider that to be a potential in this case.”  Really?  While I commend the effort that the Metropolitan Police are putting into this case at this point in time, I think it s more than safe to say that we have a serial killer on the loose.  These women all disappeared in 2006, not at once but over time.  According to the FBI, a serial killer is someone who commits at least three murders over more than a month with an emotional cooling off period in between.  Clearly these crimes are connected.

The Washington DC police have done a great job in using DNA to identify the victims.  What has been glossed over is the fact that three women disappeared in the same neighborhood and no one connected the dots to see that they might be connected.  This automatically puts the Metropolitian Police playing catch up with a killer that struck years ago.  It does make on wonder, did the killer operate in other nearby neighborhoods and his other victims haven’t been found yet?  What other murders are tied to these cases?  What evidence has been gathered?  How did the ball get dropped up to this point?  What other community law enforcement agencies have been engaged in these cases?

DC and surrounding communities have a long history of unsolved murder sprees that qualify as serial killings.  Look at the Suitland Slayings in the 1980’s where a number of victims were found in Suitland Maryland and their cases never resolved.  There’s the Freeway Phantom case – and others.

These victims and these cases cannot be treated lightly or glossed over.