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    Det. John J. Baeza1; Michael McGrath, MD2

Title: "CBLRP: Review of 'Reliability, Validity, and Utility of Extant Serial Murderer Classifications'"

Reference: Baeza, J. & McGrath, M., "CBLRP: Review of 'Reliability, Validity, and Utility of Extant Serial Murderer Classifications'," Journal of Behavioral Profiling, May, 2000 Vol. 1, No. 2


1John J. Baeza is a retired sex crimes detective formerly with the New York City Police Department in the Manhattan Special Victim's Squad. He has sixteen years of experience in law enforcement. He is currently serving as Chair of the Ethics Committee for the Academy of Behavioral Profiling, and is a member of their Board of Directors. He can be reached for comment or consultation by contacting: jbaeza@profiling.org

2Dr. Michael McGrath is a Board Certified Forensic Psychiatrist, licensed in the State of New York. He is Medical Director at Park Ridge Chemical Dependency Program and a supervising physician for the Sex Offender Program at the Evelyn Brandon Mental Health Center, both in Rochester, NY. He is also an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the P.R.C.D.P., E..BM.H.C. or the U.R.S.M.&D. He is currently serving as President of the Academy of Behavioral Profiling, and is a member of their Board of Directors. He can be reached for comment or consultation by contacting: mmcgrath@profiling.org


Purpose & Rationale
The purpose of the Criminal Behavior Literature Review Project is to examine and critically review in a deliberate and consistent fashion any widely referenced and/ or seminal work published in the areas related to criminal profiling, criminal behavior, and criminal investigation. It is the short-term goal of this project to provide objective and informed reviews of published works to the professional community. It is the long-term goal of this project that the result will be a database of reviews from which conclusions about the overall quality of the published literature on a given subject may be drawn.

This project is being undertaken by the Journal of Behavioral Profiling due to the apparent lack of consistent, detailed peer review of published work within other venues in the professional community, and the widespread publication and referencing of unreviewed material by students and professionals alike. The benefits of this project include the provision for an informed readership and a mechanism for critical feedback into the professional community.

Procedure
Each review will include an assessment of the work being reviewed utilizing a uniform criteria, in order that potential biases and influences may be blunted. While not bound to any particular structure, each review includes consideration of the following issues:

  1. Is the nature of the work made clear by the author(s) (opinion piece, editorial, original research, validation study, literature review, technical note, etc.)?
  2. Is the training, education, and/ or experience of the author(s) related to the subject matter of the work?
  3. Is the work written in clear, understandable language?
  4. How does the author(s) establish any behavior that is being studied or discussed?
  5. What is the reliability of the data used by the author(s)?
  6. Does the author(s) clearly operationalize their terms of study or discussion?
  7. To what extent does the author rely upon media accounts or works of true crime for data?
  8. Are the appropriate controls utilized?
  9. Are the appropriate citations utilized?
  10. Does the author(s) present inductive hypotheses as deductive conclusions, or do conclusions flow clearly from the facts presented?
  11. Are the conclusions reached by the author(s) clear?
  12. To what extent does the author(s) rely upon their own education, training, and experience for interpretations given in the work, in place of articulable scientific fact?
  13. Is the training, education, and/ or experience of the author(s) commensurate to the nature of conclusions or opinions rendered?
  14. Overall assessment of the relevance and utility of the work to the professional community.
  15. Commentary
  16. Recommendations

Title: "Reliability, Validity, and Utility of Extant Serial Murderer Classifications"

Authors: Maurice Godwin, Ph.D.

Reference: Godwin, M. (1998) "Reliability, Validity, and Utility of Extant Serial Murder Classifications," The Criminologist, 22(4): 195-210

[Note: this article, with some changes, is Chapter 2 in: Godwin, G. M. (1999). Hunting serial predators: A multivariate classification approach to profiling violent behavior. New York: CRC Press.]

Review
Is the nature of the work made clear by the author(s)? The nature of this work is made clear. The author states that the article "examines some extant typologies used to classify serial murderers including a review of the FBI’s organized and disorganized serial murder typology." A good portion of the article deals specifically with the FBI’s 36 killer study and their organized/disorganized classification of serial murder and rape offenders.

Is the work written in clear, understandable language? The author’s writing style at times lacks clarity. Two examples will be given. Page 202: "The foundation on which the FBI serial murder classification is built, is rather perplexed." As an inanimate object or construct, it is not possible for the foundation to be perplexed, a state that implies consciousness. Page 206-207: "But, why should Investigative Process Management be a matter of the systematization of question-resolving conjecture with experience? [Italics in original.] The answer lies in the consideration that system-building is not an end in itself, it is a process subject to objectives and desiderata of extra systematic provenience."

How does the author(s) establish any behavior that is being studied or discussed? Not applicable.

What is the reliability of the data used by the authors? The author relies on data provided by others, as he is examining the classifications developed by others. He claims that most of this data is flawed and cannot be relied upon. The author also explains that he has conducted a study of the spatial behavior of 54 U.S. serial murderers but does not provide any data. Godwin criticizes the self-report method of data collection with murderers in two studies (Prentky, 1989; Ressler et al, 1988), writing (pp.207-208): "…Prentky and Ressler suggest that fantasy is the motive for serial murder, however, they provide no supporting literature to support their theory. Their claims appear to be deductive conclusions, based on offender’s self-reports, which are highly susceptible to misleading and false information." Godwin then shows support for this same type of data collection when he suggests two studies that relied on self-reports are indicative of a "common feature" in the lives of those who commit serial homicide. For example Godwin (1998, p. 205) writes: "One interesting finding in Hickey's study was, although no exact percentage figure is given, he found that serial murderers that were serial rapists were also abused. In a similar vein, Hazelwood and Warren (1989) reported in their study on 41 serial rapists that 76% had been sexually abused as children. This finding is interesting because it gives an indication that a common feature in serial murderers backgrounds could be some form of a traumatic experience." Godwin’s support for conclusions from these two studies is confusing considering his earlier criticism of the self-report method of data collection.

Is the training, education, and/ or experience of the author(s) related to the subject matter of the work? The author has attained graduate level degrees but provides little information on training and experience. According to the author’s website (http://www.investigativepsych.com/mgvitae.htm) he has apparently worked for several years as a police officer in rural North Carolina but proffers no direct experience investigating stranger rape, stranger homicide or serial homicide.

Does the author(s) clearly operationalize their terms of study or discussion? The author uses the terms "sadism" and "sadistic" fourteen times in the body of this article. Not once does he define these terms.

To what extent does the author rely upon media accounts or works of true crime for data? The author relies upon data provided by others, some of who rely upon true crime accounts for data. The author (Godwin, 1998) does not provide information on the data from his own study of the spatial behavior of 54 U.S. serial murderers. The author does not specifically reference any true crime works in the reference section of the article.

Are the appropriate controls utilized? Not applicable.

Are the appropriate citations utilized? The author has utilized appropriate citations for this article. There is some discussion (p.197) regarding David Berkowitz and the Son of Sam killings that is not referenced.

Does the author(s) present inductive hypothesis as deductive conclusions, or do conclusions flow clearly from the facts presented? The author does present arguments that support conclusions that the data is flawed with the notable exception of Busch and Cavanaugh as detailed below. However, his conclusion that IPM is a better alternative to existing classifications is simply presented as if fact and is left unsupported.

To what extent does the author(s) rely upon their own education, training, and experience for interpretations given in the work, in place of articulable scientific fact? The author does not appear to rely on his experience, education and training for interpretations or opinions offered.

Is the training, education, and/ or experience of the author(s) commensurate to the nature of conclusions or opinions rendered? The author claims that the current classification systems of serial murderers are "inherently flawed" and may mislead police investigators. It is unclear if the author has any experience investigating stranger rape or homicide cases.

Overall assessment of the relevance and utility of the work to the professional community? The author does not make it clear who the target audience is for this paper. Errors in interpreting sources of information used to form or support opinions seriously call into question the reliability of the opinions proffered.

Commentary: While the authors of this review are not proponents of the organized/disorganized dichotomy, they feel it is important to accurately represent another’s work when critiquing it. It is this reviews authors’ opinion that this article fails to meet this standard at times, as will be detailed below.

Section I
It appears that Godwin has misunderstood the FBI's organized/disorganized dichotomy as described by Ressler et al (1988), by assigning sadistic traits to the disorganized offender, something not supported by a review of the work of Ressler et al (1988).

Godwin (1998, p. 197) writes: "Other researchers suggest that the psychological gain for the disorganized serial murder is sexual exploitation of the victim in the form of sadistic acts (Ressler et al, 1988). For example, it is propounded in the literature that a sadistic sexual drive is the impetus for the disorganized serial murderer (Ressler et al, 1988; Hickey, 1991, 1997)." This statement does not make much sense considering what Ressler et al wrote in their work titled Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives

under the heading The Disorganized Offender (Ressler et al, 1988, p. 122): "Any sexually sadistic acts, often in the form of mutilation, are usually performed after death." The authors have clearly made an error defining sadistic acts since post mortem acts are not sadistic. (See Baeza and Turvey, 1999) Sadism requires victim suffering and the dead cannot suffer. Nevertheless, there does not seem to be an emphasis on sadism in the discussion of the disorganized offender as described by Ressler et al (1988). In fact, Ressler et al (1988) ascribe sadistic behaviors to the organized offender. For example, on page 123 of the same work (Ressler et al, 1988) the authors discuss the crime scene characteristics of the organized offender and write: "The killing is eroticized, as in torture where death comes in a slow, deliberate manner." It is apparent that they are emphasizing sadistic behavior in the organized offender and not the disorganized offender as Godwin (1998) infers.

On page 198 (Godwin, 1988), regarding the disorganized offender, the author writes: "Other examples of depersonalization and sadistic acts on victims occur in the form of inserted objects, which the FBI suggests is a form of regressive necrophilia and sexual substitution rather than an act of mutilation or control (Ressler et al, 1988; Douglas et al, 1986). Additional sexual exploits may include sadistic features, such as mutilation disembowelment, amputation and vampirism." In this instance, it is the author who is assigning sadistic behavior to the disorganized offender, not the FBI. On page 199 Godwin (1998) writes: "For example, the actions, blunt trauma to the face and blitz attack are embedded with a primary focus, that being, a sexual gratification. The combination of these behaviors is commonly cited as indicative of the organized serial murderer, however, actually they appear to represent disorganization rather than organization." Clearly, Godwin (1998) seems to be in error interpreting this information. For instance, on page 131 of Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives (Ressler et al, 1988), on the subject of disorganized offenders, the authors write, "The offender uses a blitz style of attack for encountering the victim." Further down the page they write: "Overkill or excessive assault to the face is often an attempt to dehumanize the victim. Destruction to the face may also indicate that the killer knows the victim or that the victim resembles or represents a person who has caused the offender psychological distress." Godwin believes that blunt trauma to the face combined with a blitz attack is indicative of the FBI’s organized offender. There is a contradiction between what Godwin thinks the FBI means and what they (Ressler et al, 1988) wrote.

On page 201(Godwin, 1998) the author writes: "The problems with this form of post hoc reasoning are demonstrated in one serial murder case where, on the one hand, the FBI profilers interpreted the bizarre positioning of a victim's body that represented a Hebrew letter as evidence of planning rather than fantasy, and on the other hand, they interpreted the refinement in techniques used to immobilize victims as evidence of fantasy rather than planning (Ressler et al, 1988)."

Here Godwin is referring to the murder of Francine Elveson in the Bronx, New York, in October 1979. The offender, Carmine Calabro, was only known to have killed Francine Elveson and therefore the author’s classification of him as a serial murderer is in error. Ressler et al (1988) present this same case in the body of their text. The authors (Ressler et al, 1988) note, "The offender apparently did not plan this crime; he had no gun, or tape for the victim’s mouth." Further on in the same work (Ressler et al, 1988) the authors write, "The positioning of the victim suggested that the offender was acting out something he had seen before, perhaps in a fantasy or in a sadomasochistic pornographic magazine." The same authors (Ressler et al, 1988) also noted that, "There was a degree of planning indicated by the organization and sophistication of the crime scene. The idea of murder had probably occupied the killer for a long period of time." They (Ressler et al, 1988) also write, "The crime scene portrayed the intricacies of a long-standing murderous fantasy." It is apparent that Ressler et al are referring to the long held fantasies of the offender when they write about "a degree of planning."

Here Godwin has clearly misinterpreted the facts of the case as presented by Ressler et al (1988) by suggesting that they (Ressler et al, 1988) believed the positioning of the victim’s body was evidence of planning.

Section II: Dr. Godwin argues that the FBI study (Ressler et al, 1984) of 36 murderers that led to the organized disorganized dichotomy was flawed for several reasons. The purpose of this section of this review is not to support or refute that position, but rather to draw attention to a concern the authors noted in reviewing one of the sources that Dr. Godwin cited in support of his opinion.

On page 201 of his article, under the heading Validity of the FBI Serial Murder Model, Godwin reports on a paper by Busch and Cavanaugh (1986) that described what they felt to be the stages of research in a field, whereby the knowledge in that field grows and gains reliability and validity. They offered five stages: (1986, p. 7-8)

1) Unfounded statements not supported by data collection

2) Unevaluated case reports without rigorous evaluation of other contributory factors

3) Scientific case reports of individuals or small groups

4) Select population studies of particular subgroups under study

5) Epidemiologic studies of larger, random population samples or of a significant proportion of a small population

According to Busch and Cavanaugh (1986) only stages 4 and 5 include control groups and allow for multivariate statistical analyses. They note that the current (in 1986) literature tended to lie in stage 3. They further noted (1986, p. 9) that "not until there is a body of literature representative of the last 3 stages (stages 3-5) can conceptually and statistically valid conclusions be drawn from studies of multiple murder."

To read Godwin’s interpretation of Busch and Cavanaugh’s findings, one is given the impression that the Busch and Cavanaugh article is quite critical of the FBI study noted above. While Busch and Cavanaugh offer critique on limitations of the Ressler et al 1984 study, a search of the article fails to uncover significant criticism of the FBI’s research methods. In fact, the Busch and Cavanaugh article offers the FBI researchers much praise for their efforts.

According to Godwin (page 201), "Using a five-stage development criteria Busch and Cavanaugh (1986) examined two classification models of serial murder proposed by the FBI (Ressler et al, 1983; Ressler et al, 1984). They determined that the FBI classification model fits two stages: I) unfounded statements not supported by data collection; and ii) unevaluated case reports without rigorous evaluation of other contributory factors." Although it is not clear, Godwin has apparently reduced the two studies to one classification model, when the 1883 paper cannot be construed as a classification in any sense. It is a case study and does not claim to offer, nor does it offer, a classification related to any crime type, serial or otherwise. Regardless, in the Busch and Cavanaugh article (1986, p. 12) the 1983 case report was assigned stage 2-3, not 1 only, or 2 only; and the 1984 study was assigned stage 5.

A review of Table 1 (1986, p. 12) in Busch and Cavanaugh's article lists the two FBI studies along with 9 other non-FBI studies or reports. The 1983 FBI single case study is assigned a stage 2-3 rank and the 1984 36-murderer study is assigned a stage 5 rank, which is the highest they assign. Later, Busch and Cavanaugh (p. 16) refer to the Ressler et al 1984 study as Aexemplary because of the large sample size used. And, further, that as the only available stage 5 epidemiologic study, its conclusions warrant evaluation in greater detail. How Godwin determined that Busch and Cavanaugh gave both FBI studies stage 1 or 2 rankings, when that is not what their article says, is not clear.

Godwin (1998, p. 201) goes on to note that Busch and Cavanaugh also concluded that the FBI serial murder classifications were weak because they were descriptive and were not generalizable to the full population of serial murders at large. Busch and Cavanaugh, in discussing the nine single case studies (which does not include the 1984 36-murderer study) characterize them as (1986, p. 15): "Some are basically descriptive studies and representative of a prior assumptions; others are more in-depth and rigorous examinations of the subjects and situations. Because single cases are not generalizable to an entire population, none of these studies is adequate for testing causal theories of multiple murder." By limiting the comments to the single case studies, Busch and Cavanaugh are implicitly, if not clearly, excluding the 1984 study from these remarks. Godwin also writes of Cavanaugh and Busch: They also found that the two studies depended on ad hoc data, which combined with a small sample size, introduce biases that tend to confirm the assumptions of the researchers. This is what Busch and Cavanaugh (1986, p. 15) say while discussing all eleven studies in their article as a group: Retrospection, combined with a small sample size, introduces a bias that tends to confirm the assumptions of the researcher. But on the very next page, when specifically exploring the 1984 FBI study, Busch and Cavanaugh (1986, p. 14) state: "Because their data are based upon such a comparatively large sample size, it may represent a significant proportion of the population of multiple murderers. . . [T]hus the study of 36 incarcerated murders represents a significant percentage of the entire study population. This is the only report from the literature that fits a stage 5 epistemologic study and, as such, will be presented in greater detail." The present authors would argue that this statement implies (if not clarifies) that Busch and Cavanaugh are exempting the 1984 study from the criticism that Godwin assigns to it from them. It is clear that Busch and Cavanaugh assign the criticism suggested by Godwin to studies that are both retrospective and suffering from a small sample size, a category they clearly do not assign to the 1984 study.

Busch and Cavanaugh (1986, p. 16) do note that the FBI 1984 study reliance on retrospective subject interviews offers the opportunity to introduce interviewer bias and lacks control for flaws in the subject’s recollection, and they go on to note that, even if the study’s data is valid and reliable, it does not allow for prediction of future multiple murderers.

Godwin writes (1998, p. 201): "Busch and Cavanaugh further argued that the motivational model for serial murder proposed by the FBI lacked statistical support and warn that the conclusions they draw from the crime scene variables inevitably produces {sic} a bias favouring confirmation of the assumptions." Regarding the first part of the above sentence ("Busch and Cavanaugh further argued that the motivational model for serial murder proposed by the FBI lacked statistical support..."), Busch and Cavanaugh (1986) note that research on multiple murderers is (p. 16) "less specific and less methodologically sound than are studies on murder in general." They also point out (p. 17): "None of the studies supports a primary hypothesis that explains the data either in psychiatric or criminal justice terms." Godwin is not in error, then, by interpreting Busch and Cavanaugh’s remarks on this issue as he did.

Regarding the second part of the sentence ("... and warn that the conclusions they draw from the crime scene variables inevitably produces {sic} a bias favoring confirmation of the assumptions."), while Busch and Cavanaugh caution on the possible injection of bias from retrospective methodologies and small sample size, nowhere in their article do they state or imply that this is inevitable. And, again, they exempt the 1984 FBI study from the small sample size category.

Recommendations: The bulk of this article deals with deconstructing the FBI's organized/disorganized dichotomy and the research it is based on. However, as shown, Godwin at times misinterprets conclusions and opinions of other authors on this subject in favor of his dissatisfaction with the dichotomy. It is the opinion of the reviewers that this raises concerns over the reliability of opinions offered in this work, seriously limiting any utility to either researchers or investigators.


References

Baeza, J., Turvey, B. (1999). Sadistic behavior: A literature review," Knowledge Solutions Library, Electronic Publication, URL: http://www.corpus-delicti.com/sadistic_behavior.html

Burgess, A., Douglas, J., Ressler, R. (1988). Sexual homicide: Patterns and motives. New York: Lexington Books

Busch, K.A. & Cavanaugh, J.L. (1986) The study of multiple murder: Preliminary examination of the interface between epistemology and methodology. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1(1), 5-23

Godwin, M. (1998) "Reliability, validity, and utility of extant serial murder classifications," The Criminologist, 22(4): 195-210

Hickey, E. (1991). Serial murderers and their victims, CA: Brooks and Cole

Hickey, E. (1997). Serial murderers and their victims, CA: Brooks and Cole

Holmes, R.M., & Holmes, S. (1996). Profiling violent crimes: An investigative tool, 2nd Edition. CA: Sage

Ressler, R., Burgess, A., & Douglas, J. (1983). Rape and rape murder: One offender and twelve victims. American Journal of Psychiatry, 140 (1), 36-40


Journal of Behavioral Profiling: Volume 1, Number 2, May 2000
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