Table of Contents
Praise for the works of Katherine Ramsland
Beating the Devil’s Game
“A great forensic thriller, and once again Katherine Ramsland has brilliantly captured the insights and drama of some fascinating cases.”—Dr. Henry Lee
The Human Predator
“If you’re looking for the perfect gift for someone who’s riveted to television shows like
, you won’t find a better one than Dr. Katherine Ramsland’s
The Human Predator
. You’ll not only learn about serial murder but also the historical background of forensic science. This book is unique in the field.”
—Court TV Crime Library
The C.S.I. Effect
“A fascinating must-read for
fans and anyone interested in criminal justice.”—
The Unknown Darkness: Profiling
the Predators Among Us
Coauthored with Gregg O. McCrary
“This is a must-read for true crime fans. A beautifully written expert analysis of high-profile killers.”—Ann Rule
“One of the most immensely readable and gripping accounts of serial murder I have ever read.”
—Colin Wilson, author of
Serial Killers: A Study in the Psychology of Violence
The Forensic Science of C.S.I.
“Fascinating...a must for anyone who wonders how the real crime solvers do it.”—Michael Palmer
“With the mind of a true investigator, Ramsland demystifies the world of forensics with authentic and vivid detail.”
Piercing the Darkness: Undercover with Vampires
in America Today
“A riveting read, a model of engaged journalism.”
Other Books by Katherine Ramsland
BEATING THE DEVIL’S game:
a HISTORY of FORENSIC SCIENCE AND CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION
THE C.S.I. EFFECT
THE FORENSIC SCIENCE of C.S.I.
True STORIES of C.S.I.
THE Human PREDATOR:
a HISTORICAL CHRONICLE
of SERIAL MURDER AND FORENSIC INVESTIGATION
INSIDE THE MINDS of MASS MURDERERS:
WHY THEY KILL
INSIDE THE MINDS of SERIAL KILLERS:
WHY THEY KILL
INSIDE THE MINDS of HEALTHCARE SERIAL KILLERS:
WHY THEY KILL
a VOICE for THE DEAD
(with James E. Starrs)
THE SCIENCE of COLD CASE FILES
THE unknown DARKNESS:
PROFILING THE PREDATORS
among US (with Gregg McCrary)
THE CRIMINAL MIND:
a WRITER’S GUIDE To FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY
PIERCING THE DARKNESS
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THE DEVIL’S DOZEN
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Copyright © 2009 by Katherine Ramsland
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Berkley trade paperback edition / April 2009
eISBN : 978-1-101-02894-0
An application to register this book for cataloging has been submitted to the Library of Congress.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS AND DEDICATION
I was pleased to discover that my agent, John Silbersack, and editor, Ginjer Buchanan, spotted the value of this book right away. Having written fuller histories of both serial murder,
The Human Predator,
and forensic investigation,
Beating the Devil’s Game,
I had noticed that some of the more inventive improvements to criminal investigation had resulted from cases of serial murder. However, in those books it was difficult to fully explore them. Thus I’m deeply grateful to John and Ginjer, who have supported me through many projects, for sharing my vision and encouraging me to write this.
Along the way, I received information, photos, or enthusiastic assistance from a number of other people. I must especially thank Michelle Mrazik and Debbie Malone from the DeSales University library, and Sharon Brown from the Macon Public Library, for digging out articles that were difficult to find. Dr. Lawrence Farwell provided his full report, and John Timpane went to Philadelphia’s Free Library to get documents on the Holmes case. But then John Borowski and Waterfront Productions created excellent documentaries on both the Holmes and Fish cases, with terrific footage, and that, too, was a great help. Marilyn Bardsley, my former editor at the Crime Library, encouraged me for eight years to pursue research on serial killers, and Gregg McCrary, Robert Ressler, and John Douglas opened the doors to FBI profiling. Sir Alec Jeffreys, Mike Wild, D.A. William Heisler, Detective Joe Pochron, Chief Roger MacLean, and Officer Brian Lewis provided information, interviews, and/or photos to make this a better book. I’m grateful to them all.
I also wish to thank Dr. Karen Walton, the provost at DeSales University, and to acknowledge the generosity of DeSales for providing release time to work on this project.
Mostly, I’m grateful for the persistent, dedicated investigators who go the extra mile to solve cases and bring killers to justice. To them, I dedicate this book. I appreciate their work and am pleased to have the opportunity to showcase it and provide their example to future investigators.
They know who he is and they’re closing in. After investigating seven gruesome murders that exploited the victims’ weaknesses, intrepid investigators have chased down the killer, ready to corner him . . . or shoot him. Their lives are on the line, because he’s been extremely clever and they can’t be certain if he’ll outsmart them, but their weapons are ready and they pray for the advantage. At least, that’s how it goes in fiction.
Novels and films often play up the supposed excitement of chasing a serial killer, and while such cases are actually rare, in the history of law enforcement some killers have posed such a challenge that they’ve inspired extraordinary efforts or forensic innovations. Thus we have factual tales that do feature suspenseful sparring between genuine villains and heroes. From the detection of arsenic to the analysis of brain patterns, serial murder has been intricately intertwined with investigative invention. Extraordinary killers command extraordinary methods, and so we present twelve tales of killers who have affected the forensic culture. Among the first was a nineteenth-century poisoner from Nuremburg, Germany.
At age forty-nine, Anna Maria Schonleben neé Zwanziger realized she might spend the rest of her life alone, in poverty. Against her will, she had married an alcoholic lawyer twice her age, but he died, leaving her in debt. She stole a valuable ring, which got her banished from her married daughter’s home, and she twice tried but failed to take her own life. It was the early 1800s and a woman without means had little hope after a certain age of supporting herself. There was also evidence that she suffered from a nervous disorder and was possibly borderline psychotic. She’d had a baby out of wedlock and a miscarriage, both of which had badly affected her, as had a lover’s abandonment. Facing fifty and having lost her looks, Anna decided to try to win a husband by proving her worth as a domestic servant to the head of a household.
She knew she would face hurdles on this quest, especially if the man she targeted was married. But her secret weapon—her “truest friend”—was arsenic: she could always kill the wife. Anna knew that aging men were often afraid to be alone. Dependent as they were on a woman to take care of their household, such men, she believed, could be persuaded to form a partnership of convenience.
She set her sights on a Judge Glaser in Bavaria, killing his wife, but the new widower did not respond as she’d hoped. In a huff, she moved on, finding employment with a Judge Grohmann, a widower already. However, when he married someone else, Anna retaliated by placing poison in his food, killing him and some of his servants. The wife of a third employer, a magistrate named Gebhard, was the next target. She seemed to know she was being poisoned, but her husband dismissed her suspicions. She died and he grew ill, so he sent his glassware and several food containers for analysis at the local apothecary. He learned that the saltshaker contained arsenic, so he alerted authorities.
Anna was now associated with several suspicious deaths, but the science of arsenic analysis had, at the time, barely been used in a forensic context. Toxicologists were just learning how to detect this centuries-old “inheritance powder,” but in 1806, chemist Valentine Rose devised a method for confirming its presence in human organs. He had utilized Johann Metzger’s 1787 discovery: when arsenious oxide is heated with charcoal and a cold plate is held over it, the heated substance forms a dark mirrorlike deposit. This was arsenic.
To develop his theory about how to detect arsenic in the human body, Rose had cut up the stomach of a victim of suspected poisoning and dissolved the contents in water. He filtered this substance before treating it with nitric acid, potassium carbonate, and lime to evaporate it into arsenic trioxide. When he treated it with coals, he derived the telltale arsenic mirror. This confirmed that the victim had been murdered.
Able with this method to prove such poisonings, investigators who arrested Anna on October 18, 1809, found several packets of the toxic substance on her person. A chemist applied Rose’s innovative procedure to the organs of Judge Glaser’s wife, which revealed the presence of arsenic. Since this substance had turned up in salt containers in another household where Anna had been employed, the evidence was convincing. She admitted to the double homicide, adding other names, and said she did not think she could stop. After being convicted of murder, she was beheaded in 1811.
This is the sort of story you will read in these pages. Faced with an elusive killer who has proven to be hard to identify, investigators find ways around the hurdles, setting new standards or devising new methods. As crime detection improves, the challenges increase, so many of these cases have compelling twists and turns, but history has shown that science and logic are equal to the test.