The movies paint femme fatales in sultry tones. Black widows luring men into Double Indemnity with their Body Heat. Investigation Discovery’s Deadly Women throws cold water on female thrill killers, who usually have “more complex, long-term reasons” for murder, according to their official site. Airing since it began as a miniseries in 2005, the series investigates motives and modes of the killers, what led them to their tipping point and why the dumped are so dangerous.
“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” the official site reminds us, and FBI Profiler Candice DeLong Faces Evil on an almost daily basis, without blinking. Over the past 22 years, the internationally recognized homicide expert has been the good face on some of the FBI’s most headlining cases. She helped bottle up the Tylenol murders and issue the final manifesto on the Unabomber case. Beyond profiling, she even went undercover as a mob moll, according to her best-selling memoir, SPECIAL AGENT: My Life on the Front Lines as a Woman in the FBI.
Before she was in the bureau, DeLong was Head Nurse at Northwestern University’s Institute of Psychiatry in Chicago, but she was no Nurse Ratched, throwing off the ice of cold cases to pose as a Madame in a call girl ring sting. An equal part Clarice Starling and Donnie Brasco, DeLong was one of only seven female recruits accepted when she went to the FBI training academy in Quantico, Virginia, in 1980. She was the profiler who noticed Scott Peterson spoke of his wife Laci in the past tense before her body had been found, sealing his fate as a suspect.
DeLong uses the skills she honed in practical situations to get into the heads of history’s most fascinating female killers in Deadly Women. For five years, she talked with convicted killers in prison interviews on the spin-off series Facing Evil With Candice Delong, where she profiled Jennifer Reali, Jennifer Hyatte, Susan Grund, Belinda Van Krevel, Patricia Olsen, Celeste Beard, Dawn Silvernail, Ashley Humphrey, Jill Coit, Rachel Wade, Shirley Jo Phillips, Tyonne Palmer, Jennifer Bailey, and Melissa Vanover.
Candice DeLong was on hand at IDCon 2018, where Investigation Discovery presents its best evidence, and spoke with Den of Geek about the criminal profiling process and how her skills could be used to elicit confessions.
Den of Geek: How long from when you get the crime scene report does it take to determine what a person is at the criminal trial?
Candice DeLong: Because what criminal profiling is, is when you don’t know who your suspect is. You’ve got a crime scene, and your pictures, autopsy report, crime scene photographs, lab reports, and that’s what you study. If it’s a serial crime, it’s a serial rape, a serial murder, every crime leads to more, and more insight, and it also can establish a pattern. Generally speaking, one murder unless it’s very, very bizarre it’s hard to establish a pattern.
Let’s say you have all this material in front of you, you’re studying it, reading it, looking at it, and then you’re applying, I’m gonna say me, I’m applying everything I’ve ever learned about murder, people, all kinds of things. I was in clinical psychiatry for 10 years when the FBI recruited me so I worked with people who had committed crimes, and now were talking about it, which was psychiatric crimes. Not exclusively, most of patients weren’t criminals, but those that were in the psych unit because they did kill someone, pretty unusual crimes because this was Northwestern University Hospital not an institution. They might be sent there for 30 days of observation, and treatment before being held at a jail, until their trial. It can take, there’s certain things I see in a crime scene I know instantly whether it’s a stranger, or the killer knew the victim.
What tells you it’s a stranger?
Often times, but not exclusively, when someone is stabbed in the face, or beaten in the face, the person that did it is so full of rage at them. Our face is our essence, eyes, voice, everything, and so stabbing someone in the face, or punching them very, very personal. You can’t get that angry at someone unless you know them, right? I mean I suppose you can, I had to get out of my cab today because the cabbie was picking a fight with another cabbie that he thought cut him off. So I guess you can get that angry at a stranger.
I can get that angry at my shoes.
Right, but if you were angry at your shoes, and it maybe you tripped over it, you’re just gonna kick the shoe out of your way. If you’re angry at a person, and you wanna kill them, and it’s someone that you know, you’re probably gonna be looking at them, and striking out at the part of them that is their personality, and that’s our face, generally speaking.
Now aside from identifying people, do you also have anything to do with their confession?
Yes, I’ve had people confess all kinds of things to me.
Okay. Should I be worried?
Do you get that question all the time?
No, you’re the first person to ever ask me to tell you the truth. One thing is for sure we were just talking about the Unabomber case that I worked on, and I spent the afternoon with Kaczynski while we were searching his cabin. That’s one confession I wanted I didn’t get. He was real intelligent, and he knew his rights, and he knew not to say anything.
What are your mechanisms to get him to confess? How do you get him to trust you?
Well, it takes time. It does. I had an interview show called Facing Evil for five years where I interviewed people convicted of murder. Excuse me, half the people I interviewed were admitters, and half of them were deniers. I liked talking to admitters. I’ve been told for years I’ve just got one of those faces, people just talk to me. I think the more, the better reason, or the most important reason is my interviews are more clinical and therapeutic than accusational, and confrontational. That doesn’t get you anywhere.
Deadly Women recently concluded its 11th season on Investigation Discovery.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.