Most Evil

Continuing this week is the documentary series that delves inside the minds of killers. In each programme, Dr Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at New York City’s Columbia University, considers killers and places them on his ‘Most Evil’ scale. This edition probes the murky world of cults and their followers. Dr Stone studies the cases of Mormon murderer Jeffrey Lundgren; cult leader Charles Manson; and instigator of the Jonestown massacre Jim Jones.

What makes a cult follower? How do they lose the ability to think for themselves? Dr Michael Stone is determined to use his Most Evil scale to answer these questions. He aims to show how the group mentality of a cult can lead to the “denial of personal reflection” and the “justification of evil”.

The first example of a cult turned to evil is the tiny Mormon splinter group led by self-proclaimed prophet Jeffrey Lundgren in Kirtland, Ohio. Lundgren’s followers devoted their lives to pious study. They signed over the worldly assets to Lundgren and even encouraged their children to call him ‘father’. Lundgren’s control was such that, in 1989, he was able to lead his male acolytes in the cold-blooded murder of five members of the same family. The Avery family were to be punished for their disloyalty to the sect. They were led oneby- one into a barn and shot dead.

Lundgren’s right-hand man in the murders was Ron Luff. Dr Stone travels to Ohio to interview Luff in the prison where he is likely to spend the rest of his days. Stone speculates that Luff’s rapid rise to prominence in the group intoxicated him and made him susceptible to the notion of murder. “It put a blindfold over Luff’s sense of moral judgment,” he says.

Although Luff denies the extent of his power in the group, he admits that Lundgren’s rhetoric had him believing that he was carrying out the will of God. “It wasn’t for me to determine what their fate was,” he says of the victims. Luff describes Lundgren’s brainwashing as akin to a confining box, curtailing all rational thought. “When you can’t think outside that box – that’s captivity,” he says.

For Dr Stone, the “quintessential cult leader” was California’s infamous Charles Manson. In the late 1960s, Manson manipulated members of his ‘family’ cult to murder seven people. Manson did not kill in person; instead, he used his disciple Ted Watson to oversee the slayings. “Like Ron Luff, Watson is the victim of circumstance, blinded and bullied into participating in murder by a controlling leader,” Stone says.

Dr Stone’s last case is “the ultimate example of how far the cult mind can be manipulated”. In 1978, the world was stunned by news of a mass suicide at the community of Jonestown, in the jungles of Guyana. This attempt at a utopian society was founded by Jim Jones, a radical socialist and church minister. The increasingly paranoid Jones, believing the town was about to be overthrown, ordered his followers and their children to commit mass suicide with poison. In the chaos that followed, 913 people died. To this day, it is not known how many of the victims died of their own accord. Dr Stone meets one survivor who insists that the events at Jonestown were nothing short of mass murder.

Also in this programme, Dr Stone considers scientific explanations for human susceptibility to cults. Is it possible that mini-seizures in the part of the brain used for decision-making render people vulnerable to malign influences? Another theory holds that the euphoria of group-belonging can be exploited by charismatic leaders to achieve their evil ends.

Continuing this week is the documentary series that delves inside the minds of killers. In each programme, Dr Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at New York City’s Columbia

University, considers killers and places them on his ‘most evil’ scale. This edition looks at unsolved murder cases, in particular the notorious Chicago Lipstick Killer and Los Angeles’s Black Dahlia case. Although the identity of these killers remains a mystery, Dr Stone analyses their murderous methods in order to further flesh out their profiles.

In the mid-1940s, the people of Chicago were living in fear of a vicious murderer nicknamed the Lipstick Killer. He had taken the lives of three female victims using a similar modus operandi. At one of the crime scenes a note was found scrawled in lipstick on the wall: “For heaven’s sake, catch me before I kill more. I cannot control myself.” Six months after the third killing, a 17-year-old man was arrested and charged with the murders. Bill Heirens confessed to everything, but later retracted his confession, claiming it was made under duress and was the only way to escape the electric chair.

Agreeing that there could be some truth to Heirens’s story, Dr Stone creates a picture of the Lipstick Killer by analysing his methods. His first victim had her throat slashed and her wounds sealed with adhesive tape. His second victim had been shot and stabbed in the neck. Both of the bodies had been bathed and washed clean of blood. The third killing was the most gruesome of all – the severed head of a six-year-old girl was found in a sewer. The rest of her dismembered body was found shortly afterwards. From these details, Dr Stone concludes that the killer would most likely display psychopathic and schizophrenic traits. These tendencies put the Lipstick Killer extremely high on the scale of evil – at 18 out of 22.

To see whether Heirens fits this image, Dr Stone interviews him in prison, where he remains incarcerated to this day. After questioning the inmate on his upbringing and the circumstances surrounding his arrest, Dr Stone concludes that “it’s unlikely that Heirens would ever have been capable of the things done by the Lipstick Killer”.

In Los Angeles, former police detective Steve Hodel has been conducting his own investigation. He thinks the Lipstick Killer is also responsible for Los Angeles’s most famous unsolved murder – the case of the Black Dahlia. In 1947, the body of aspiring Hollywood actress Elizabeth Short was found bisected across the waist and laid out on a vacant piece of land. At the time of the murder, Hodel was just a young boy, but the horrific crime returned to his mind when he joined the police force in the 1960s. “This was not a butcher or a meat-cutter,” Hodel says. “This had to have been somebody highly skilled in medicine.”

When he discovered a chilling photograph amongst his deceased father’s possessions, Hodel’s interest in the case grew. The photograph was a black and white image of a nude woman who bore a striking resemblance to Short. Could George Hodel, a talented physician, have been involved in the Black Dahlia killing? Determined to find out, Hodel set about compiling a profile of his father – a man he says was “larger than life”.

A gifted child, George was an accomplished pianist at an early age and had an IQ one point above that of Einstein. But his confidence faltered when, at age 14, he started university and became a social outcast. Isolating himself from his peers, he developed an obsessive interest in drugs, sex and violence. In later years, George achieved success as a doctor in a Hollywood sexual health clinic. This meant that he rubbed shoulders with some of the art world’s biggest stars, and enjoyed a high profile in the community. “We worshipped him,” says Hodel. “He was almost godlike to us.”

In Dr Stone’s opinion, if the killer is indeed George Hodel, his ‘God complex’ and sexual motives could shoot him right to the summit of the scale of evil.

Continuing this week is the documentary series that delves inside the minds of killers in an attempt to find out why they kill; how they get away with their crimes; and how they rationalise their actions.

In each programme, Dr Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at New York City’s Columbia University, considers killers and places them on his ‘most evil’ scale. In this edition, Stone focuses on serial killers who have suffered from extreme delusions and schizophrenia – including a man who believed he could prevent earthquakes through the act of murder, and a woman who believed she was being stalked by an imaginary nemesis who worked for the Nazis.

Many killers have acted on irrational impulses and paranoid beliefs often triggered by psychotic episodes. One such killer was Herbert Mullin who murdered 13 people in a four-month killing spree in the early 70s. Mullin believed that he was hearing voices commanding him to kill – including that of his father – and that his actions would prevent earthquakes. He enjoyed a stable, healthy childhood and showed great promise as a student before a tragic event when he was 18 changed the course of his life. His best friend was killed in a car crash, which saw Mullin spiral into paranoid beliefs and delusional behavior. “It is not uncommon for the stress of a traumatic event to aggravate a predisposition to mental illness and bring about symptoms that are yet to emerge,” notes Stone.

Mullin became a political malcontent in the late 60s, registering as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam war and experimenting with hallucinogens. In the early 1970s he turned against his earlier convictions and began to formulate an irrational philosophy based on telepathic messages he was receiving. He drew the conclusion that he could prevent earthquakes via murder. Among his victims were a homeless man, a priest and four teenage campers. After being rejected by the marines for service in Vietnam due to earlier drug offences, he killed the friend who had sold him the hallucinogens years earlier. Mullin was eventually arrested in 1973 and is still serving life imprisonment.

Neurological studies suggest that sufferers of schizophrenia can lose up to 25 per cent of brain tissue, robbing them of the ability to distinguish between real and imaginary voices. Stone believes the delusional nature of Mullin’s illness contributed greatly to his deeds, so only places him at 13 on his scale of evil.

Stone’s second case study tonight is that of Diana Dial, a middle-aged mother of two who murdered her flatmate, believing him to have poisned her. After a normal childhood and a healthy marriage, Dial’s life fell apart after she suffered a miscarriage in 1979. “The intense pain [she] experienced may have brought about a psychotic episode that developed into a mental illness,” remarks Stone. Her husband left her after she became “anxious and irrational”, believing she was being stalked by Nazis and, in particular, a shadowy foe named Cheryl Thompson, who was hellbent on ruining Dial’s life. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia but neglected to take her medication, considering herself to be perfectly sane.

Dial’s delusional behaviour reached its apex in 1997 when she shot dead her flatmate Jack Ferris, believing him to have poisoned her. Fearing for the safety of her children, she felt she had no choice. Stone visits Dial in prison where she is serving a 60 years-to-life sentence, and is shocked by her articulate assertions that her suspicions were far from imaginary. “[Ferris] was offered a billion dollars to poison people that Cheryl Thompson and her dad didn’t like,” maintains Dial. Stone, taking into account Dial’s medical condition, judges her to be at seven on his scale of evil.

Also in this episode, Stone examines the case of insurance salesman Eric Bieshline, a psychopath whose condition was exacerbated by heavy drug abuse. Bieshline murdered a number of elderly victims before being jailed in 1994.

Continuing this week is the documentary series that delves inside the minds of killers in an attempt to find out why they kill; how they get away with their crimes and how they rationalise their actions. In each programme, Dr Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at New York City’s Columbia University, considers killers and places them on his ‘most evil’ scale. In this edition, the makings and motives of stalkers are analysed. What turns an innocent fantasy into a murderous obsession?

The stalkers featured in this programme all went on to kill. One of them is Robert Bardo, who pursued the object of his affection for three years before ending her life. Bardo first saw actress Rebecca Schaeffer in a television commercial and felt an instant connection with her. Dr Stone observes that “fantasy is at the core of all stalking”. Bardo suffered from manic depression, an offshoot of which was that he could not distinguish between fiction and reality. He truly believed that he knew Schaeffer, but the only way he could actually possess her was to murder her. Due to his psychotic tendencies, Bardo was not aware of the consequences of his actions, so Stone gives him a low ranking on the scale of evil – only a level six. Bardo’s mental illness may have helped fuel his unhealthy infatuation, but mass murderer Richard Farley’s involvement with Laura Black started out just like any other romantic crush. The two worked at the same company and Farley admired Black from afar. But when his interest became obsessive, Black had no choice but to take out a restraining order against her co-worker.

Unable to handle this blow to his ego, Farley snapped. He went to the office armed with eight guns and shot dead seven people while Black watched. Stone points out that, unlike Bardo, Farley did not just commit a crime of passion. “This wasn’t an impulsive mass murder,” he says. “This was a drawn-out plan of deadly desire.” Stone ranks Farley at 14 on the scale of evil, because he was an “egocentric schemer” who not only wanted to physically harm the object of his affection but mentally scar her by having her witness innocent people die.

People may become stalkers because they are mentally ill or violently egotistiscal, but another dangerous trigger also exists. Dr Stone presents Mark David Chapman as an example of a killer with an addictive personality. In 1980, Chapman murdered John Lennon while he stood outside his New York apartment. His actions shocked the world and the question was posed: who would want to commit such an act? Dr Stone attempts to answer this question by peering into Chapman’s past. He had a history of drug and alcohol abuse, and had displayed obssessive behaviour in the past. “For Chapman, religion and music became his fixations,” says Dr Stone, “and he would do anything to protect them both.” So when John Lennon declared that the Beatles were more popular that Jesus, Chapman could not cope with this conflict of ideas. The solution for him was to eliminate the source of his mental confusion – Lennon. Dr Stone places Chapman relatively low on the scale of evil, giving him a score of seven, because unlike Farley, he only killed one person.

The programme also includes scientific analysis of the minds of stalkers. Anthropologist Dr Helen Fisher tries to shed some light on obsessive behaviour using her study into the brain activity of jilted lovers. “Rejection is one of the most powerful human experiences on earth,” she says. Feelings of humiliation, shame and abandonment “trigger the rage system”, according to Dr Fisher. And if that rejection occurs time and time again, the rage becomes unmanageable in some people. By profiling exactly who might be likely to have such an extreme reaction, science can help determine what is an innocent crush and what may turn out to be a dangerous infatuation.

most evil
deadly desires (6/6)

This documentary series delves inside the minds of murderers in an attempt to find out why they kill. In each programme, Dr Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at New York City’s Columbia University, considers killers and places them on his ‘most evil’ scale, which he has devised to categorise murderers. In tonight’s series finale, Dr Stone explores the cases of killers with the most evil desires, including Jerome Brudos, Jeffrey Dahmer and Westley Dodd.

Tonight’s programme attempts to understand the motivation behind some of the world’s most deviant killers – men who committed the most unthinkable crimes, including torture and murder. The first case under Dr Stone’s microscope is that of Jerome Brudos, who killed four women in Oregon in the late 1960s and strung them up in his workshop to assault their bodies.

Dr Stone maintains that Brudos’s actions stemmed from a childhood shoe fetish, which was brutally suppressed by his mother. “By punishing her son, she made the objects more tantalising for Brudos,” says Dr Stone. Brudos developed a full-blown shoe obsession, before turning his attention to the women who wore them. Before long, his dark fantasies led to acts of violence and, finally, murder.

Another of Brudos’s traits was his penchant for keeping his victims’ body parts as souvenirs. “In Brudos’s mind, the victim’s body is an object, a forbidden trophy to collect – just like his first pair of shoes,” Dr Stone says. This habit of collecting souvenirs eventually helped secure his conviction.

The second killer under the spotlight is Jeffrey Dahmer, another deviant murderer whose insecurities developed in childhood. In 1991, Dahmer confessed to killing, dismembering and eating the flesh of 17 young men – most of them in a four-year period. Police only became aware of Dahmer’s killing spree when one man managed to escape his clutches.

Dahmer’s gruesome desires were hatched out of feelings of abandonment when his parents divorced. He murdered his first victim at the age of 18, then waited a further nine years before launching his killing spree. Dahmer’s methods included boiling the skin off his victims’ heads and retaining their skulls as trinkets. “I just wanted to have the person under my complete control and keep them with me as long as possible, even if it meant just keeping a part,” Dahmer said in an interview before his death in jail. He also conducted experiments on his victims by pouring acid into their skulls, in an attempt to create zombie-like sex slaves.

Dahmer pleaded not guilty on grounds of insanity, but the jury found him sane and guilty, and he was sentenced to 15 life terms in 1992. The disturbed killer pledged to talk to doctors who might be able to discover what drove his deadly desires. “I did what I did not for reasons of hate,” he said. “I hated no one. I was sick or evil, or both.” For the unimaginable suffering that he inflicted on his victims, Dahmer wins the highest rating of 22 on Dr Stone’s scale.

The third featured murderer in tonight’s episode is Westley Dodd, who molested numerous children over the course of 13 years, before committing three murders. Like Jerome Brudos and Jeffrey Dahmer, Dodd had unresolved issues from childhood. “The crimes of Westley Dodd are so cruel, so meticulous and brutal that he’d be considered as one of the most deviant, most evil killers,” says Dr Stone. Because Dodd targeted children and subjected them to prolonged torture, he too earns a place at the highest end of the scale of evil.

most evil
psychotic killers (5/6)

This documentary series delves inside the minds of killers in an attempt to find out why they kill. In each programme, Dr Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at New York City’s Columbia University, considers killers and places them on his ‘most evil’ scale, which he has devised to categorise murderers. In tonight’s edition, Stone focuses on psychotic killers, exploring the stories of Ed Gein, Arthur Shawcross and Gary Heidnik. “

At some point in his life, Ed Gein lost touch with reality, which led to particularly gruesome and twisted acts.” So says Dr Stone of the notorious serial killer whose horrendous crimes inspired a number of modern horror tales. In order to explore the reasons behind Gein’s behaviour, Stone looks back into his history and examines his whole life. Was the killer aware of his actions when he committed his crimes and, if not, what pushed his mind into madness?

Born in Wisconsin in 1906, Gein was dominated by a devout and stern mother who was convinced that men were lustful creatures, driven to sin by their desires. Despite her severity, Gein was devoted to his mother and was left devastated and alone by her death when he was 39. Already shy, aloof and schizoid, Gein “became grossly psychotic and remained so for the rest of his days”.

Gein became convinced he could bring his mother back to life and began to steal body parts from graves. He then turned to murder. When police entered his house in 1957, they discovered a grisly monument to death and depravity, including bowls made from human skulls, the decaying faces of nine women and a shoebox full of noses. “He would dress in dresses made of human skin,” explains Dr Stone. “I don’t know of anybody else who can make that claim.”

After his arrest, Gein was diagnosed with mental illness and declared incompetent to stand trial. He spent the remainder of his life in a mental hospital, until he died of cancer in 1984. It is the killer’s mental state that leads Dr Stone to rate him relatively low on his scale of evil –at just 13 out of 22, despite his heinous crimes. “I always put the men who are clearly psychotic on a lower number,” he explains. “The most shocking killers are not necessarily the most evil.”

Between 1972 and 1990, Arthur Shawcross killed 13 people in upstate New York, often mutilating and cannibalising his victims. He claimed he suffered from out-of-body experiences and was unaware of his actions while committing the crimes. “I can look back at it like a movie,” says Shawcross now of his killing spree. To get to the bottom of Shawcross’s claims and to see if he deserves a place on the scale of evil, Dr Stone carries out a face-to-face interview with the killer in prison. “The thing I’m most interested in probing him about is the ‘why’ question,” says Stone. “In other words, what prompted him to do the things that he is on record as having done.”

The interview with the killer reveals a dark, disturbed past full of abuse and anger. “It is clear to me talking to Shawcross that his tortured childhood contributed to his later violence,” says Stone. But the killer was never diagnosed as psychotic and Stone believes that he was aware of his criminal behaviour. He therefore ranks Shawcross at 17 with other sexually perverse – but not psychotic –serial murderers.

Dr Stone’s scale of evil ranks murderers according to the level of depravity they exhibited when committing their crimes. At the highest level of the scale is a man whose crimes would overshadow the horrors of both Arthur Shawcross and Ed Gein.

In March 1987, Philadelphia police uncovered the odious crimes of 43-year-old Gary Heidnik. In his basement, Heidnik had developed a laboratory of torture in which he abused, raped, electrocuted, murdered and cannibalised a number of women who he kept chained up. “This is a guy who was consumed by systematic, prolonged torture,” says Dr Stone. “It was truly the kind of thing that sickens anyone who hears the story.” For this reason, Heidnik is placed at 22 on the scale of evil.

most evil
partners in crime (4/6)

This documentary series delves inside the minds of killers in an attempt to find out why they kill; how they get away with their crimes and how they rationalise their actions. In each programme, Dr Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at New York City’s Columbia University, considers killers and places them on his ‘most evil’ scale, which he has devised to categorise murderers. In tonight’s edition, Dr Stone assesses an unusual group of murderers: couples who conspire to kill. What drives two people to join forces and work together in such a disturbing fashion?

“One might assume,” begins Dr Stone, “that two people that conspire to kill share the same motive. But if you look at the Barbie and Ken killers… you see that one literally dominates the other. And for that reason, I’ve placed them on different parts of the scale”. Toronto-based couple Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka were nicknamed the Ken and Barbie killers by the Canadian media due to their young and beautiful ‘all-American’ image. Who would imagine that such people could be responsible for rape and murder?

Bernardo’s behaviour can be traced back to his childhood, where a harsh upbringing taught him to victimise rather than become a victim himself. At college, he developed a taste for violent, sadistic sex and had a string of abusive relationships; his fantasy was to own and dominate a ‘virgin farm’. According to Dr Stone, “Bernardo focused his psychopathic energies towards dominating others”. He then looked for a partner who would not only allow this behaviour, but help him carry out his deviant acts.

From the moment a 17-year-old Karla Homolka met Bernardo, she showed that she was willing to do vicious things to please him. He beat her and controlled every aspect of her life, and when it became clear that she would do anything for him, things got brutal. Between 1987 and 1990, Bernardo raped 13 women in his neighbourhood, often with Homolka’s help. In Bernardo’s world, she was the perfect partner in all ways but one – Homolka was not a virgin.

Bernardo demanded his partner provide him with a virgin – Karla’s 15 year-old sister. Homolka spiked her sister’s drink with horse tranquiliser and, once she was unconscious, the two raped her. Unfortunately, the girl choked on her own vomit and died, but the death was ruled accidental and the rape went undetected. “Her tragic death was the turning point for the couple. It gave them a taste for joint murder,” says Dr Stone.

The couple went on to kidnap, torture, rape and murder two more girls. Then, when DNA evidence linked Bernardo to the crimes, Homolka turned on her lover and confessed everything to the police. Dr Stone rates Paul Bernardo at 22 –the very top of his scale of evil. “Paul Bernardo is one of the most depraved sexual serial killers of our time,” he concludes. Homolka is harder to rate as she was clearly under Bernardo’s influence. Dr Stone places her at 16, but says that her case poses a major question: how far can an average person be coerced into committing evil acts?

Responsible for a string of attacks in New Mexico from the 1950s until his arrest in 1999, David Parker Ray was one of the most extreme sexual torturers in US history. He tortured and killed over 40 female victims –who he called ‘packages’ –for days at a time in a specialised storage container he called his ‘toy box’. But shockingly, Ray did not act alone. Dr Stone travels to New Mexico to visit Cindy Hendy, who helped Ray kidnap victims and watched as they were tortured. Before he rates Hendy on his scale of evil, Stone interviews her to discover what could motivate somebody to be a killer’s accomplice.

Also profiled in tonight’s programme is the fascinating partnership of two dominant personalities –those of Charles Ng and Leonard Lake, who kidnapped at least 25 men, women and children while carrying out a bizarre, apocalyptic fantasy of domination.

most evil
murderous women (3/6)

This documentary series delves inside the mind of killers in an attempt to find out why they kill; how they get away with their crimes and how they rationalise their actions. In each programme, Dr Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at New York City’s Columbia University, considers killers and places them on his ‘most evil’ scale, which he has devised to categorise murderers. In tonight’s edition, Dr Stone assesses a relatively rare type of murderer: the female killer. With 93 per cent of murders in the USA committed by men, what drives the few female killers to homicidal acts?

Most women who kill are placed on the lower levels of Dr Stone’s scale of evil, which is reserved for crimes of passion and other impulsive acts. Those who climb higher, Dr Stone has discovered, follow similar patterns to each other – the majority killing people in their intimate circle, such as their spouses, sexual partners, children or parents.

Marybeth Tinning was one of these killers. Living in Schenectady, New York, with husband Joe and young children Barbara and Joseph Junior, Marybeth was devastated when her father suddenly died. A few months later, the family was hit by another tragedy when their new baby, Jennifer, died after being diagnosed with meningitis. Nearly three weeks after this, Marybeth brought two-year-old Joseph Junior to the hospital, claiming that he had suffered a seizure – but doctors sent them home. Marybeth brought Joseph back to the hospital just a few hours later, and he was pronounced dead, cause unknown.

When the same thing happened with four-yearold Barbara, it meant that all three of Marybeth’s children had died inside 90 days. Over the following years, each of her subsequent children died, prompting concerns that a genetic disorder could be to blame for the tragedies. However, when an adopted child also died, the concern gave way to suspicion. It was only when three-month-old Tammy-Lynn died in 1985, that police brought in Marybeth Tinning for questioning. She confessed to smothering three of the nine children to die in her care, but denied harming the six others.

Dr Stone believes that Marybeth’s past, in which she was denied attention by a cold father and had few friends, could be a factor in her later behaviour. “It may have been a tragic attempt to get the attention she always craved,” he suggests, placing her at seven on his scale: a highly egocentric killer who murders loved ones for narcissistic reasons.

Although many female killers target those close to them, Cathy Wood and Gwendolyn Graham preyed on strangers. Working together as nurses’ aides in a Michigan nursing home, the pair developed a deep bond which turned into a sexual relationship. They enjoyed playing practical jokes on patients and fellow staff, and eventually hatched a sadistic plot to kill some of the home’s elderly residents – spelling out ‘Murder’ with their victims’ initials. Dr Stone puts the pair at number 16 on his scale, as they killed for joy and to solidify their bond.

The highest levels of Dr Stone’s scale are reserved for sadistic murderers, who inflict prolonged torture on their victims. Few women are in these ranks, says Dr Stone, as females are less likely to be sadistic. Rare examples however include Theresa Knorr, who tortured her six children, murdering two of them, and Jessica Schwartz, who was found guilty of the prolonged abuse and second-degree murder of her stepson AJ.

The programme also examines the case of Susan Smith, who claimed her two sons had been abducted before confessing to their murders; and serial killer Aileen Wuornos, whose story was dramatised in the 2003 film ‘Monster’.

most evil
cold-blooded killers (2/6)

This documentary series delves inside the mind of killers in an attempt to find out why they kill; how they get away with their crimes and how they rationalise their actions. In each programme, Dr Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at New York City’s Columbia University, considers killers and places them on his ‘most evil’ scale, which he has devised to categorise murderers. In tonight’s edition, Dr Stone examines some of the most infamous serial killers in American history, such as Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy Jr, using his revolutionary scale to compare the work of these murderers and decide what drove them to commit their horrible crimes.

It is thought that psychopaths such as John Wayne Gacy Jr, Ted Bundy and others share defining characteristics such as lack of remorse, fearlessness, and a cold-blooded detachment from typical human emotions. “We must be dealing with something that impairs the ability of the individual to experience normal compassion and empathy with other people,” Dr Stone says. Ted Bundy, who shocked America with a string of gruesome murders in the 1970s, certainly fits this profile. He was a surprisingly eloquent and charming man who even defended himself in court after he was charged with the murders of 30 women. His defence was unsuccessful, however, and he was sent to the electric chair in 1989. “He was callous and unmoved by the emotional terror he inflicted,” says Stone, who rates Bundy at level 17 on his 22-point scale.

Psychiatry professor Kent Kiehl of Yale University has tried to get inside the minds of psychopaths to see what makes them different to normal human beings. Putting subjects through MRI brain scans, he has flashed up sets of words with contrasting emotional resonance –such as ‘peace’, ‘friend’ and ‘love’ versus ‘hurt’, ‘maim’ and ‘kill’, to see what electrical responses are provoked in the brain. His discoveries are shocking. “What it suggests is that they understand the book meaning of the words but they don’t understand the deeper significance,” says Kiehl. “They know the words but not the music.”

Another serial killer who fits Stone’s profile is Tommy Lynn Sells, who was convicted of murdering 70 people across America over two decades. His victims were targeted indiscriminately, and his crimes did not follow any set patterns. He killed woman, men and children, sometimes slaughtering entire families at once. In a disturbing and deeply harrowing scene, Stone travels to meet Sells in prison and interviews him from behind a glass panel. “He’s the most coldblooded killer I’ve ever met,” says Stone. “In fact he got a rush, actual pleasure from seeing people suffer. For that reason, I would place him on level 22 of my scale.”

Joining Sells at the highest level is John Wayne Gacy Jr, a seemingly model citizen on the surface, who tortured and killed 33 people in the 1970s. Up to his execution in 1994 Gacy maintained his innocence –despite the fact that police discovered 29 bodies buried underneath his house. Stone investigates Gacy’s upbringing to find clues to why Gacy committed these murders. Gacy was constantly ridiculed and humiliated by his alcoholic father as a child, who taunted him for not being manly enough. “Gacy may have been predominantly a homosexual, who was deeply shamed by his intolerant father,” explains Stone. “This humiliation stirred up a tremendous anger, both at his father and at the homosexual part of his psyche. Later on, he directed this hatred toward his victims.”

Tonight’s programme goes on to examine the brutal rampage of Gary Ridgway, the ‘Green River Killer’, who murdered over 50 people in the Seattle area in the 1980s.The documentary also examines some intriguing recent studies into how psychopaths do not deal with fear in the same way as most people.

most evil
killer lies (1/6)

This brand new documentary series delves inside the mind of killers in an attempt to find out why they kill; how they get away with their crimes and how they rationalise their actions. In each programme, Dr Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at New York City’s Columbia University, considers killers and places them on his ‘most evil’ scale, which he has devised to categorise murderers. The first programme in the series examines murderers who utilise deception as an integral part of their crimes, and manipulate the people around them. Why is deception such a dangerous weapon in the hands of a killer?

The murderers profiled in this first programme all had the skills to cleverly fool those around them. One of them is John List, an unemployed New Jersey accountant who was convicted of murdering his wife, mother and three children in 1971. After killing his family, List calmly cancelled the papers, post and milk, left his gun in a filing cabinet with detailed instructions to ‘contact the authorities’, cleaned up the scene – and disappeared. After a few years the authorities gave up searching for him – but he turned up 18 years later, three states away in Virginia, with a new wife, house, job and identity. List’s meticulous planning and clever disappearing act prompt Dr Stone to place him at 14 on his scale: a ruthless, self-centred psychopathic schemer.

Killers like John List unravel our sense of trust, employing complex lies to create alibis, change identity and start new lives. Another killer on Dr Stone’s scale is Nathan Bar-Jonah, who lived in the sleepy, isolated town of Great Falls, Montana. In 1999 he was charged with kidnapping and murdering ten-year-old Zachary Ramsay back in 1996, but he was never tried for the crime. He was, however, convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting two other boys, and had served time in his home state of Massachusetts for the kidnap and attempted murder of two more –a fact of which the authorities were unaware.

A search of Bar-Jonah’s home turned up disturbing finds, such as lists of names including Zachary’s; coded journals containing cannibalistic recipes; and fragments of an unidentified child’s bones buried in the garage. Bar-Jonah denies abducting and murdering Zachary –the case was eventually dropped –but retired cop Sergeant John Cameron does not believe him. “He needs to step up and tell the truth,” he says. “I don’t expect him to.” When Dr Stone visits Bar-Jonah at a maximum-security facility in Montana, he is unconvinced by stories of abuse and torture that the prisoner allegedly suffered as a child. “His capacity to evade the truth and dance around reality is very impressive,” he notes. Dr Stone puts Bar-Jonah at 18 on his scale: torture-murderers with murder their primary motive.

Tonight’s programme also profiles Susan Smith, who lied about her two sons being abducted when she had actually killed them; and the so-called ‘BTK’ killer, aka Dennis Rader, who took deception to a terrifying extreme. He lived a double life as he deliberately and systematically murdered ten of his neighbours over 17 years – earning himself the highest postion, 22, on Dr Stone’s scale: psychopathic, scheming torturemurderers. In all of these killers’ hands, deception was a lethal weapon – and one which enabled them to carry out their horrific acts.

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