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The San Francisco Chronicle

Monday, August 25, 1997 Page A1 1997 San Francisco Chronicle

 

Investigators Scramble to Profile Rapist
Cops use psychology, history in hunt for East Bay attacker

Henry K. Lee, Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writers

The rapist could be a thrill- seeker cruising the streets for potential prey. He might be the controlling type who likes dominating women and inflicting pain on them. Or possibly he is a seemingly mild-mannered man who just lost a job or girlfriend and snapped.

Such wide-ranging theories are being considered by a task force of police investigators hunting one or more serial rapists in the East Bay, where at least 12 women have been attacked since July 16.

The theories arise from the still evolving law-enforcement technique of ``profiling,'' in which investigators develop a behavioral and psychological portrait of a criminal who strikes again and again. The technique has been used successfully to delve into the minds of serial rapists, murderers and, most notably, the Unabomber.

And while a profile rarely breaks open a case by itself, police say it's a good tool to have -- especially when there's not much to go on, as in the latest wave of rapes.

A profile of the East Bay rapist -- or rapists, since police believe there may more than one at work -- has already been compiled by the state Department of Justice for a special task force of area police agencies. Investigators are keeping the profile secret so it won't tip off the attacker.

``We're using it as a tool to keep in the back of our heads as we process the information,'' said Oakland police Captain Pete Dunbar, head of the task force. ``It may come up that some of the information from the profile may correspond to that in a lead, but I think it would be unwise to put all of our eggs in that basket.''

They need all the investigative weapons they can get. Criminologists say fewer than half of all serial rape cases are solved, and when they are, it is often because of a lucky tip or a sloppy mistake by the rapist. No such tip or mistake has surfaced yet in the East Bay attacks.

The latest attacks happened Wednesday, when a woman was raped at Chabot College in Hayward and a student was snatched off her bicycle on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley and beaten senseless.

Early yesterday, an 18-year-old woman was shot twice in the head and possibly raped in the 2900 block of San Pablo Avenue in Oakland

--but by late morning police determined that the attack was unrelated to the others. The woman was listed in critical but stable condition at Highland Hospital in Oakland.

The trouble with profiling -- developed over the past few decades but highly refined in the 1990s -- is that it can be hard to nail down an accurate portrait when there are many variables involved. And there are enough differences in the East Bay attacks to make police believe there may be more than one predator responsible.

In four of the East Bay attacks, the rapist carried a knife and threatened to kill the woman, but in others, no weapon was seen. The victims were all women, but they ranged widely in age -- from 14 to 53 years old -- and are of different racial backgrounds.

Police have one sketch based on a victim's account. But the description of the rapist -- a black man in his early 20s -- is not only somewhat generic, it has raised hackles in the African American community as unfairly elevating fears about all young black men in the area.

The similarities in the cases are few, but significant. Most of the attacks have occurred on or near college campuses. The assailant wore a ski mask in nine attacks and an animal mask in two. In nearly all the assaults, the victims were ambushed from behind in a ``blitz attack,'' which is indicative of an asocial person, according to profiling studies. He usually beats his victims with his fists, robs them and strips them.

The attacker also appears to be organized -- methodically tracking his victims -- rather than haphazardly striking out, some experts speculate. And with an increasing tendency toward violence, pounding his victims more viciously as the weeks go by, he may be planning to kill soon.

``Any time you have an angry or sadistic rapist, you have a danger of the attacks escalating,'' said Brent Turvey, a Connecticut-based consultant who specializes in profiling serial rapists. ``This man may be ready for murder.''

Only about 20 percent of serial rapists use heavy physical force in their attacks, and those who do are inclined to get more violent with time, according to Turvey's studies.

One potentially applicable theory, outlined in a 1993 study by the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, holds that rapists attack outward in a ``V'' shape spreading from their home neighborhoods. The 12 East Bay attacks do indeed spread out in V shapes in two directions, north and south, with the area around Merritt College along Interstate 580 in Oakland as ground zero.

Another study, by Dr. Janet Warren of the Institute of Law Psychiatry and Public Policy in Virginia, shows that most serial rapists live within 3 miles of their attack scenes -- and this gives credence to the theory that there may be more than one at work, since the attack patterns span about 20 miles from Hayward to Berkeley.

Warren's study also showed that the duration of an attack and the rapist's evident gratification tend to increase as the victim resists more, probably because the attacks are fueled by a need for power rather than a desire for sex. In fact, about one-third of rapists are unable to function sexually during their attacks.

In a testament to their effectiveness, profiles have sometimes been uncannily on the mark, writes former FBI agent and noted criminal profiler John Douglas in his 1995 book, ``Mindhunter.''

In the search for the ``Trailside Killer'' who pulled off a series of slayings in heavily wooded areas in the North Bay in 1979 and 1980, Douglas predicted the killer would be an intelligent man in his 30s who had a speech impediment and a history of bed-wetting.

That was one of the earliest profile attempts, as the craft was still being developed. And as it turned out, killer David Carpenter was ``a child of well above average intelligence who was picked on because of his severe stuttering,'' Douglas wrote. His childhood was marked by chronic bed-wetting and cruelty to animals.


The Chronicle Publishing Company


The following is not a part of the original article as published in the above paper, and is in no way endorsed by them. It is an effort to make corrections as this interviewee deems appropriate.

Brent Turvey's Notes:

This article conveys what I said during the interview in a very limited way, as well as interpreting some of my articles not quite so deftly. The same correction applies again, as I stated that the offender in this case appears to be consistent with an Anger- Retaliatory rapist, not and Angry/Retaliatory rapist.

I never said, however, that "This man may be ready for murder." I have no idea where this quote came from, but assume that it is an inference from other things that I mentioned during the interview. I do not think that this offender is ready for murder, again, what I believe is that the victim injuries may get more severe, and that victim's may die of those injuries at a later date or some time after the attack. It is not my belief that the intention of the attacks is to culminate in the death of the victim in this case. It is possible, however, over time, that this could change. It has not changed yet.

Some other quick corrections:

 


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