Christina Grimmie’s recent appalling death at the hands of a stalker; although less prevalent than most types of stalking needs to be addressed because with the amount of information generated by social media those of us in the business fear, more of this type of stalking is going to raise its ugly head. For lack of a better term, we have decided to refer to this variety of stalker as Silent. From incidents that we have reviewed, most of these individuals have self esteem issues, and don’t posses the requisite social skills to develop a relationship with many individuals in their lives; let alone the target they unfortunately satiate on. They oftentimes sit by themselves in their rooms searching the Internet in the hopes of gathering any bit of information they can on their target. They may develop digital diaries concerning their target laying out their feelings towards them, as well as what they are or would like to do to them, some may even post this information. Silent stalkers, are just that, they rarely if ever generate any kind of contact with their target; even though in some cases the stalker may go to the same school, or other areas they may both frequent in their community. In the case of Christina’s stalker he truly felt that Christina and he had a connection; even to the point of being together. (Dr. Kris Mohandie, whom I know & respect, stated he believed the stalker exhibited a form of Erotomanic delusional disorder). If you saw the recent 48 special on stalking where Grimmie’s case was one of those profiled, her stalker, who never contacted her, did present unusual and strange behavior, causing one fellow employee to report same to a supervisor resulting in no action being taken. You know what “they” say, it is the quiet ones you have to look out for. So folks, if you see someone who seems to be directing an overabundance of strange or what could be described as delusional attention towards another, celebrity or not, please take the time to alert someone. Just remember, there are those among us that lurk, but don’t alert.
When I first began working stalkers in 1991, I began hearing from the victims of certain stalkers, that their pursuers had uttered this phrase on more than one occasions; “If I can’t have you no one else will.” When we continued our investigations into these particular stalkers, we found that they had developed tunnel vision towards their targets and exhibited an extreme fixation for their prey.
Recently, after teaching a group of victim advocates, D.A.’s and law enforcement at a venue sponsored by the Community Action Partnership of Madera County, [Located in Central California], managed by Tina Rodriguez, MA., I found that Tina, who conducts domestic violence workshops at both a California Women’s Facility, were many of the most violent inmates are housed, (of which I can attest to having one of the most predatory females I’ve ever arrested housed there) as well as a prison for men, had been conducting research on both domestic violence related cases including stalking. She advised that so far she had conducted interviews with twenty-nine male inmates. Out of those twenty-nine, she interviewed four that had murdered their targets. She stated these particular four showed no indication of remorse and made comments to the effect that now that she/their victim, was gone they would not have to worry about her being with anyone else. She also found that they were resolved to being incarcerated, and actually felt at peace knowing they no longer had to keep thinking about not being with the females they killed. Tina also indicated that even though there had been at least some law enforcement intervention in three out of the four cases, the suspects were so obsessed that they continued on until they had made their kills. She advised that “all four had some type of personality disorder” and described an intense “preoccupation” with their targets. She noted that they all seem to fixate on two specific strategies on how to lure their victims closer “and how to kill them if they declined” their advances.
Tina said that she is “currently compiling a list of questions for female inmates, and has observed thus far a common theme of disassociation in these women and an eagerness to gravitate towards violence,” as well.
In one of our discussions we expressed that oftentimes mental health is found not to be a very viable defense concerning the crime of stalking because the stalker oftentimes shows planning in his or her pursuit of the victim. However, some defense attorneys will still attempt to travel this road to get their client off by showing that even though their client did have a mental health issue; they were also insane (a much higher bar) at the time of the stalking.
Just a point of information, for those of you interested in those diagnosed as a psychopath, recent studies like the Hare study indicate that a true psychopath does not have a mental health issue, but are in fact born with this particular condition. Something that many of us who have dealt with these people in the field have been espousing for years. So when we would oftentimes say, “Well, no one is actually born bad; Hare’s and others in this field are telling us, yes in fact some people who commit violent crimes are in fact born bad.” The studies also indicate that their are levels of psychopaths. In other words, many successful people; especially in the business arena are in fact psychopaths but don’t rise to the plateau if you will of a serial killer.
Here are the twenty items Hare Psychopathy Checklist came up with. Take a look, and see if you know anyone like this:
- Glib and Superficial Charm
- Grandiose Self-Worth
- Seek Stimulation or Prone to Boredom
- Pathological Lying
- Conning (or cunning) and Manipulativeness
- Lack of Remorse or Guilt
- Shallow Affect
- Callousness and Lack of Empathy
- Parasitic Lifestyle
- Poor Behavioral Controls
- Promiscuous Sexual Behavior
- Early Behavior Problems
- Lack of Realistic, Long-Term Goals
- Failure to Accept Responsibility For Own Actions
- Many Short-Term Marital Relationships
- Juvenile Delinquency
- Revocation of Condition-Release
- Criminal Versatility
Now, my first stalker was a textbook psychopath. He fit into all of these categories, and stalked my victim off and on for over twenty years.
An overwhelming act of barbaric terrorism transpires in a Gay oriented establishment in Orlando Florida, and The President not only can’t call it an act of Islamic terrorism, but instead goes on to push his agenda on gun control. Relating that it is too easy for people (I am assuming he is referring to the average Joe on the street) to get guns; which is by the way our right under the second amendment as long as we follow the rules, like not committing a felony, not being the recipient of a restraining or protective order, being a US citizen, and not having any documented mental health issues. The fact that it has been reported that this particular shooter had radical Islamist leanings, and was a security guard who had been back grounded and was trained in the proper use of a firearm didn’t seem to come up during his speech.
I would hope that those in the know that surround the President would have briefed him on the true facts. That would be that a handgun, assault rifle, etc, is merely the tool that any perpetrator is utilizing to commit an act of violence. As indicated, if a potential shooter doesn’t have a criminal history, has not been diagnosed with a mental disorder and is not currently the person listed on a restraining order, he or she is legally able to purchase a firearm. As we continue to preach; it is threat assessment and human intelligence that will assist law enforcement entities in forestalling as many violent endings as possible. However, if threat assessment is either not practiced or neglects to generate a plan of action our country on the whole will continue to suffer from these excessively devastating outbursts.
This is what I believe, the more honest, caring and level-headed Americans who are trained in the proper use of a handgun should be allowed to carry that same firearm for the protection of themselves and their family, the better off we would be. Especially in light of what is transpiring in our society today. Keep in mind that those that generate oftentimes deadly violence against others in the name of terrorism or whatever else; don’t want those they are harming to be able to defend themselves.
People in the media are saying that an incredible talent has been taken away from us. I would agree, but only in part. The truth of the matter is that a young, vibrant women who had parents, relatives and friends whose souls will be scared in perpetuity has been torn from the fabric of our world by yet another deranged individual; who when all the dust has settled will probably be found to be just another stalker with a mental health issue and an overwhelming desire to control, and/or posses another gleaming diamond in the black of night.
I would hope that this twenty-seven year old male did not show up on anyone’s radar prior to this terrible act transpiring because if he did, once again those tasked with protecting a potential target, in this case Christina failed. Again, we need to go back to what we have been discussing in previous blog entries and what I constantly preach when I teach, the only way we have any chance of preventing or at the very least minimizing these types of events is via threat assessment resulting in a protective action.
Folks, unfortunately because of the world we currently reside, things like armed security, metal and explosive detection are going to have to be an automatic wherever a crowd gathers; especially in a venue such as this.
I recently completed a podcast interview for Dr. Carlos Vasquez on his program concerning psychological issues entitled, Circle of Insight. I think you will find the interview helpful. To view same, please go to: http://therapycable.com/domestic-violence-videos/understanding-stalking.html Have a great day. Mike.
On February 23, 2016, I was contacted by a reporter for Fox News who was writing an Internet article on Gwyneth Paltrow’s recent stalking trial involving an individual who had stalked her for multiple years. They wanted me to consult on for said article.
Unfortunately, Gwyneth’s stalker, (note: I purposely do not mention stalkers names because I do not want them to receive any credit) was found not guilty for the jury. Now as to why these jurors voted the way they did, I can only speculate, but before I discuss my thoughts on that I must advise that oftentimes due to the fact that stalking is a course of conduct crime the meaning of course of conduct must be spelled out at time of trial. For the reader we should give you a definition. Course of Conduct is oftentimes defined as—meaning two or more acts transpiring over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose. This course of conduct does not have to have a direct threat—such as I am going to break your back—it does have to contain a credible threat—(and this is rather a long definition from the California Penal Code section 646.9 of for what needs to take place for there to be a viable credible threat) “is a written or verbal threat, including that performed through the use of an electronic communication device, or a threat implied by a pattern of conduct or combination of verbal, written, or electronically communicated statements and conduct, made with the intent to place the person that is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family, and made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat so as to cause the person who is the target of the threat to reasonably fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family. It is not necessary to prove that defendant had the intent to actually carrying out the threat.” (So in other words, if some idiot conducts a series of acts (which to the normal person would seem odd and threatening) towards his target, and these acts cause him or her to express fear and/emotional distress then the suspect has satisfied the legal definition needed for it to be a credible threat. Now that is done let me move on to what I suspect might have happened in Paltrow’s trial.
- The prosecutor was not able to convince the jury that a credible threat was uttered or expressed by the stalker. (Even though from what little I know about the actual facts of this case, there was plenty of strange and threatening behavior exhibited by Paltrow’s stalker.) Also keep in mind, no matter how well-prepared the prosecution’s case is there are times when juries go south on you.
- Because the jury was advised about the stalker’s previous and probably current “mental” issues they felt that he did not have control over what he was doing and therefore should not face a prison sentence. That is an incorrect assumption because many stalkers exhibit some type of mental disorder; however the mere fact that they stalk shows PLANNING in their behavior—thus they knew exactly what they were doing when they were involved in the crime of stalking.
The bottom line is that whether or not Paltrow’s stalker went to prison or not, he is a winner. Why? Because he was able to lean back in his seat in the courtroom, mere feet from his pray, and leer at her all the while she was squirming and shuddering on the stand. At that time he had exactly what he wanted, dominion and control, and it completely fed his ego. The fact that he was absolved of any criminal wrong-doing in this particular trial also dramatically caused him to be embolden; therefore he will continue to do what he has been for the past several years.
I am sure that Ms Paltrow expressed the extreme anguish she and her family members as well had been exposed to by this assailant. In my opinion, they should easily come to a guilty verdict and placed this individual where he belongs behind bars.
Over the years, recidivism (repeating, or a tendency to relapse) in stalking has not been widely reviewed; even though all studies indicate that those who commit an act of stalking are very likely to repeat with another or the same target at least 40-50% of the time. One of the earlier studies on the topic done by Dr. Barry Rosenfeld of Fordham University, indicated that his research showed that of the population he studied about “49%” re-offended with about “80%” doing so in the first year. (“Recidivism in Stalking and Obsessional Harassment,” 27, no. 3 (June 2003), 251-265, http://stage.web.fordham.edu/images/Undergraduate/psychology/rosenfeld/recividiam.LHB.pdf.
Another very recent study was conducted by Matt R. Nobles, Ph.D, (a diligent researcher) who at the time of the study was associated with Sam Houston State University, (where my books are utilized in one of the criminal justice classes on family violence), now tasked at the Doctoral Program in Public Affairs & Department of Criminal Justice, University of Central Florida. In 2014 Dr. Nobles obtained a grant to conduct research on the topic of Stalking Recidivism. I recently was able to contact him concerning this issue. Dr. Nobles advised that he also had formulated that stalkers reviewed in his population, do in fact stalk on more than one occasion at least “43%” of the time. He also commented that he found that many of those he reviewed in the study that exhibited true stalking behavior were rarely charged with that crime, which he found somewhat troubling. We indicated that we oftentimes found that to be the case for a variety of reasons some of which we discussed in our last blog entry concerning fewer and fewer stalking cases being prosecuted.
In short, law enforcement needs to be clearly aware that a great number of stalkers will in fact re-offend. Therefore, training and inmate custodial programs need to be tailored with that in mind. The victims of stalking should also be aware of this problem.
According to the Stalking Resource Center a segment of The National Center For Victims of Crime, about 7.5 million people are being stalked annually in the US. That number has grown considerably since the first governmental study on stalking in the late 90’s placed the number somewhere in the area of a little over a million people being stalked annually.
Unfortunately, currently fewer and fewer stalking cases are being prosecuted as stalking. In fact, when I contacted a colleague, Michelle M. Garcia, Director of The Stalking Resource Center, she advised that their research had shown that only about “5% to 16% of stalking cases are actually charged as stalking when police already have all the information they need to charge,” same. Director Garcia also advised that many times something other crime in lieu of stalking is charged. These could be rude or annoying phone calls, or digital contacts, other forms of harassment and/or vandalism. When in fact, all these crimes fit the criminal behavior generated by many stalkers and need to be incorporated into the actual stalking charge. Over the years, I have found this to be the case as well.
When I recently conducted three seminars on the topic of stalking for the CDAA (The California District Attorney’s Assn.), all the attending prosecutors were provided with a copy of my latest book, Antidote For A Stalker, so through out the course of the conference they would have a chance to pursue the book. That along with what I presented in the seminar assisted them in asking me questions that they may have had after being exposed to both the seminar and the book. Chapter 5 of the book discusses a specific stalking protocol that we have developed. We also touch on that during our presentation. Because of this I was contacted by several prosecutors who basically said, one of the reasons we don’t prosecute many stalking cases is because we do not get a case that has been investigated like the protocol in your book suggests. If we got more cases like that we would definitely prosecute a great many more stalkers. We have found that investigating a stalking case is not difficult, but it does take some man hours to properly develop. This along with following a set investigative protocol is the best way to approach a stalking case. As indicated before, too often it is easier for both the prosecutor and the detective to submit one of the lessor crimes associated with stalking like vandalism for prosecution than to work the case further and push for the stalking charge.
Issues of law enforcement dealing with individuals with mental health concerns have been discussed over the past several years. In fact in the last two years certain scenarios involving the police and street people with mental health problems have been spotlighted because lethal force has been employed to eliminate the threat. Due to the fact, that recent studies have indicated that 1 in 4 Americans suffer from some kind of mental malady, it is sure to increase.
When I was a street cop, I was not happy getting sent on a call of some individual male or female acting out due to underlying mental health issues. Why, because even though the vast majority of police do not get the requisite training that rises to the level of a psychiatrist or psychologist (nor did I or most of those I worked with care about obtaining the extent of training necessary to adequately deal with the mentally ill because we strongly felt mental health workers should be tasked with that job) the vast majority if not all states empower their law enforcement entities to be able to arrest these individuals and place them somewhere usually for a seventy-two evaluation hold if they exhibited signs that they could not longer care for themselves/others, or they were a danger to themselves or others. If I or my fellow cops were forced into dealing with these individuals, a good portion if not all of our shift was taken up because of the following: (1) If they were hurt, either due to a self-inflicted injury, or one that was caused by someone else, you would have to get them transported to a medical facility for care.(Which in of itself is the proper thing to do.) If the injury was one that kept them in the hospital, then you could move on leaving them in the care of the hospital staff. If it was minor, you got them patched up and then tried to get them into a facility that would take them, which was usually a County Hospital with limited bed space for mental health evaluations. (2) If the subject was intoxicated, and many of them were for a variety of reasons: they need supervised administration of their Meds., they either lost them or had a problem getting more, or they did not like the way they made them feel; therefore they self-medicated, you had to place them in a holding facility until they were good enough to be transported to a mental health evaluation facility, which again, are few and far between. In short, you ended up babysitting this subject for hours. Of course, if the subject was combative, which again many of them were, you would end up arresting them and booking them into jail where the law enforcement tasked with handling prisoners are oftentimes ill-equipped to adequately handle these same individuals. Unfortunately, our jails and correctional facilities have become our mental health dumping areas.
Even though the problem of mental health is epidemic and frustrating at the very least, I would like to suggest the following: Once a call for service comes into dispatch concerning a potential mental health issue, and the responding officer verifies same, a special state or county unit trained in mental health issues takes the call from there; thus freeing up the officer to actually work his or her shift dealing with crime. In fact, it would even be better if the mental health team is contacted first so they can be the primary response vehicle.
Now, I realize that some who read this may get upset because a portion of this commentary may sound rather harsh. Try and look at it from the police officers’ point of view. Yes, we took and oath to protect and serve, but that also pertains to the realm of our training and expertise. If you are one of those that want to work with the mentally ill, my hat is off to you, we need more people like you. Cops need to be available to respond to calls, take care of the issue, and then move on to the next problem, not be charged with the care of the mentally ill. The state legislatures in our country need to step up and authorize the funds to work with these people instead of spending millions on the many Mickey Mouse projects they now throw money at.