An understanding of the criminal mind is one of the most useful tools in solving crimes, which becomes apparent in these five famous cases cracked by forensic psychologists. Although techniques are becoming more sophisticated every year, forensic psychology has a long and storied history.
1. Ted Bundy
A psychologist could spend a lifetime examining the twisted mind of Ted Bundy, one of America’s most notorious and charismatic killers. Luckily, several forensic psychologists used their expertise to crack this famous case. Over time, Ted Bundy’s brutal attacks and killings became less careful and more frequent. Their psychological profile, which benefited greatly from a former girlfriend’s information, eventually ended the nationwide manhunt for Bundy and even linked him to other unsolved murders.
2. John Wayne Gacy
Although complaints and suspicions from neighbors were ultimately what ended “killer clown” John Wayne Gacy’s shocking killing spree, forensic psychologists ensured that the culprit in this famous case didn’t go free on a bogus insanity plea. Through a series of interviews, psychologists on the case were able to determine that Gacy’s murders involved premeditation and a detailed plan to hide his victims bodies. Without forensic psychologists assistance in this case, traumatized families may have never experienced the satisfaction of seeing Gacy punished for his crimes.
3. Explosions at Radio City Music Hall
An ongoing series of bombings at New York City’s famed Radio City Music Hall is an intriguing case that’s often forgotten these days. This case, which involved more than a dozen explosions between 1940 and 1950, proved so problematic for police that it was one of the inspirations for the development of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Psychologist James Brussel was able to determine that due to the intricacy and knowledge of the explosive devices, the bomber was almost definitely an engineer, most likely at Con Edison. This profile directed the police towards George Metesky. The remarkable accuracy and efficacy of the forensic psychologist’s profile increased the demand for these experts across the nation.
4. Aileen Wuornos
The case of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who you might know as the inspiration for Charlize Theron’s mesmerizing performance in “Monster,” may have never been solved without a famous use of forensic psychology. Psychologists were able to determine a consistent motivation for Wuorno’s killings–her intense fear of losing her relationship with her long-time partner Tyria Moore. This profile proved to be incredibly accurate when each of Wuornos’s killings was later linked to rocky periods and short-term separations between the lovers.
5. Andrei Chikatilo
Andrei Chikatilo’s reign of terror had Russian police mystified for more than two decades, until it became one of these famous cases cracked by forensic psychologists. To date, Chikatilo has been linked with the murders of 53 Russian women and children. Growing frustrated with the lack of promising leads, Viktor Burakov, the case’s chief investigator decided to employ a new method. He enlisted Dr. Alexander Bukhanovsky’s help in compiling a psychological profile for the killer. This information proved invaluable in narrowing down their list of suspects down to Chikatilo himself, who confessed to his horrific crimes in 1990.
The Ongoing Importance of Forensic Psychology
Although many people probably think of Clarice Starling in the movie “Silence of the Lambs,” when they think of forensic psychology, it’s not just a plot device in a movie. The real-life psychological profiles from these five famous cases that were cracked by forensic psychologists were the difference between letting a case go cold and capturing a criminal.