Read an Excerpt
MY LIFE HUNTING SERIAL KILLERS AND PSYCHOPATHS
By PAT BROWN BOB ANDELMAN
Copyright © 2010 Pat Brown
All right reserved.
Chapter One ANNE THE MURDER
No one had ever been murdered in my town.
The community's first house-my house-was built in the 1700s on rolling Maryland farmland. Many interesting things happened here over the centuries, but the town had never experienced a violent homicide.
Anne Kelley, a brilliant government intern from the Midwest, would have the unfortunate honor of being the first.
I WAS OUT of town until Sunday. When I returned that morning, I was at home for only a few minutes when the horrific news reached me. The phone rang and it was my best friend, Terry, who lived just a couple blocks away.
"Did you hear?" she asked, incredulously, dismay in her voice.
"Hear what?" When I had taken the turn onto Sixtieth Street, nothing seemed out of place. There were no fire trucks or ambulances on the street. The town appeared serene. The only activity was a slight breeze, which hardly affected the oppressiveness of the heat on that early sultry summer day, the third of June.
"A young woman was found murdered in the stream by the softball field."
"Oh, it's just awful. One of the men playing softball in the league game this morning chased a ball across the path into the water and found a woman's naked body floating right at the edge."
I felt sick. My first thought was that it might be someone I knew, an area resident, a friend, or the mother of one of the local children.
I took a deep breath. "Do they know who she is?"
"No, not yet. I heard she was young, maybe in her late teens or twenties. They found her clothes and a Walkman; it seems she was jogging. The police figure she was killed yesterday, probably at dusk, because no one saw her there during the daylight. She doesn't seem to be a town resident."
It was a tiny relief to hope she was not someone I knew.
I hung up the phone with a nagging, uneasy feeling that I was somehow more connected to this situation than I should be. For a minute, I placated myself with the idea that it was just the shock of hearing about such a tragedy that made me feel this way. Or maybe it was the fact that this gruesome murder happened right at the ball field where I spent so many happy hours cheering on my son and his baseball team. But it wasn't that kind of feeling; it was something more eerie. Something was not quite right in the house; a malignant spirit was residing with us now, and it wasn't the ghost previous residents claimed they had seen on the third-floor landing. I made lunch for my kids and tried to distract myself. The children ate their sandwiches and went out to play. As I put the dishes in the sink, our latest boarder, Walt Williams, came down the stairs from his room into the kitchen. The feeling of anxiety increased.
Walt. It has something to do with Walt.
YEARS LATER, I would dig out the picture of Walt Williams that I had once shown to the police and stare at it. It was the photo I took on a church trip to Six Flags in the suburbs of Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C. The snapshot was dated May 13, 1990. Walt, a twenty-four-year-old African American, was dressed in blue-checked shorts and a white, short-sleeved T-shirt. He was holding the hand of an adoring, giggly prepubescent girl who looked to have a crush on him. He was grinning smugly, looking away from the girl, his chin up in the air. He seemed either arrogant or goofy, depending on how you read the picture, with his boyish face and slight pudginess.
My children were in the picture, too, which made me cringe a bit; my eight-year-old daughter, Jennifer, with her frizzed-out, fly-away hair, courtesy of the gene blend of her blond mother and Jamaican father, and my son, David, age six, who looks rather Hispanic, causing Latinos to state matter-of-factly, "Oh, your husband is from Mexico!"
Walt, our new renter of one week, made the trip to the amusement park rather reluctantly. Although he expressed initial enthusiasm when asked to help chaperone the church teens, that morning when my husband, Tony, and I were ready to depart, he made himself scarce. He had not come down for breakfast nor had I seen him in the hallway.
"Walt?" I called up to his room above the kitchen. "Are you coming?"
"Oh." I heard a muffled voice through the door. "I was sleeping."
I was not one to let people who had made a commitment off that easily.
"Well, hurry up. We leave in ten minutes. We're waiting on you."
My husband rolled his eyes. He hadn't been enthusiastic about Walt's moving in, but it was that or take on a second job to pay the bills. He never liked the idea of anyone living in the house who wasn't family, but he tolerated our cash-paying international students. Tony was more uncomfortable with the idea of Walt living with us because he thought a working man of his age shouldn't have to rent a room. He also thought Walt was way too old to be obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons and comic books.
"Well, he is kind of immature," I offered during our discussion of the new boarder, the present beau of my girlfriend Kim. A few weeks earlier, Walt had applied for a mail room job at her company, and she was the person in human resources who reviewed his application and hired him. Now she was dating him and she asked if we would rent him a room. Walt was looking for a new place to live; he wanted to attend our church and be closer to Kim's home. Kim was a soft touch, the kind of woman who always tried to help people improve their lives. She told us he didn't do drugs, didn't drink alcohol, and didn't smoke. He was honorably discharged from the air force and had a good work record. We really needed the income from the rental room, as I was a stay-at-home room, so I agreed to go ahead and interview him. He came across as a pleasant enough fellow, and because my husband and I were in the process of adopting Jeremy, a six-year-old boy from the Delaware foster care system, we also had to have Walt fingerprinted at the local police station. He consented without any hesitation, so we decided to let him move in.
"He's weird," Tony said a few days later. "He doesn't talk with a guy the way guys talk with each other. Actually, I think he avoids me." I had to agree with Tony that Walt wasn't a "guy's guy," the kind who gets along in groups of males, drinking beer, talking sports, and going golfing or fishing together. He was more of the garner type. Walt was different from the majority of men his age, but this was one reason I was willing to give him a chance. Rather than being into partying, bars, and one-night stands, Walt had come across as more of a religious sort with strong morals-kind of a Boy Scout. The other reason I may have convinced myself not to be too hard on him was that since fingerprinting became a requirement for any new tenants, our Chinese graduate student applicants found the required trip to the police station too strange and they vanished. We needed money, the room was empty, and beggars can't be choosers. Besides, I figured many people were a little "different," but that didn't make them bad. My friend Kim liked him, and she was levelheaded.
The day at Six Flags was lots of fun for the teens, but when I looked around, we seemed to be one chaperone down. Walt had vanished.
"Have you seen Walt?" I asked Tony.
We decided to do a quick tour of the park, but we never came across him. None of the other chaperones from the church had seen him either.
Twenty minutes before our planned departure time from the park, Walt suddenly popped up near the exit. Speechless, Tony and I could only stare at the apparition in front of us.
Walt now stood before us dressed in long black pants, a black see-through net shirt, and a black headband. From his left ear dangled a silver skull earring. His hands were encased in fingerless black gloves. He looked completely inappropriate for a teen church outing, creepy even, and the fact that he had disappeared and exchanged one outfit for another was unnerving.
I lacked the courage at that time to question Walt extensively to get to the bottom of his strange behavior. Instead, I only asked, "Where were you all this time?" He just smiled, swung his backpack up over his shoulder, and ignored the question as two giggling church girls ran up to him, grabbing his arms.
Tony and I gave each other a "What is up with this guy?" look. Then we shook our heads, gathered the kids, and headed to the van. Driving out of the parking lot, I pulled down the sun visor on the passenger side to "check my hair" and glanced at Walt's reflection in the mirror. He sat with his arms crossed, immobile, between Jennifer and David in the backseat, ignoring their discussion of the rides. He had disconnected from the rest of us in the vehicle, his eyes shaded by the dark sunglasses. There was definitely something not quite right about this guy.
Unfortunately, he was now living in my house and he had rights. The law does not permit homeowners to protect their families by evicting renters just because they feel they are a bit peculiar. I couldn't evict someone without cause and Walt had not broken any house rules. I told myself that I was focusing too much on his quirks instead of his attributes. Walt was friendly, often quite chatty, and he wasn't a complainer. We actually had some things in common; we both had studied karate, we both wrote fiction, and we both liked going to the movies. We enjoyed a number of pleasant conversations and Walt was never rude toward anyone in the family. He had not acted inappropriately with the children and they were never alone with him anyway, so this was not an issue. I figured I would just keep an eye on him, and if he sent up any real red flags, we would ask him to move on, giving him the proper notice the law required.
I DIDN'T MAKE a special project of analyzing Walt's behaviors and thinking patterns; I didn't have to.
Over the two weeks after the church outing, more and more negative aspects of his personality came to light. I would later learn these characteristics were often representative of psychopathic traits. If Walt had kept to himself, I might never have interacted enough with him to have formed any opinion of his character, but because he was a gregarious sort, he liked to talk and did so almost every time he saw me. Worrisome mannerisms and behaviors kept appearing.
Walt liked telling stories about incredible things that had happened to him.
"I actually left the military early," he told me one day as he was getting himself a bowl of Cheerios.
"Really? Why? What happened?"
"Well, I was in Grenada for the operation the United States conducted down there." He poured milk on the cereal.
Grenada? I could hardly remember the conflict.
"It was wrong, us invading them. So I asked to leave the air force and they let me go." He made it sound like such cooperation by the military was a regular occurrence. Walt gazed past me as if he wasn't expecting a response.
"They just let you go?" I asked. "I didn't think they let anyone go just because they decided military life wasn't a joy ride."
Walt acted as though I hadn't commented and he changed the subject.
"They just hired some new girl to work in our mail room. She's pretty cute."
The next day he stepped into the kitchen while I was preparing dinner and offered a new explanation for his separation from the air force.
"Actually, I left the military because I had to shoot a bunch of the Grenadians and it really depressed me. I don't like violence." I raised an eyebrow, but he abruptly turned and left before I could ask questions again. I found his stated dislike of violence rather ironic considering he was obsessed with Arnold Schwarzenegger movies and watched The Running Man again and again during the short time he lived in my house. He liked to pretend to be Arnold as well.
"I'll be back!" he would announce, striking a pose, hands on his hips and head turned sideways.
A week later, he had a new ending to the story.
"I got shot in the leg and that's why the air force released me," he told me. He seemed to be searching for an explanation that l would actually believe.
"Oh, I see," I said, and I didn't push for further information. My acceptance of this version seemed to end his need to talk to me about his short military career.
Though Walt professed a desire to avoid violence, he appeared to have problems with violence finding him. One night, he told me that he was attacked on the way home by a knife-wielding stranger who stabbed him in the thigh. He claimed he had been jumped while walking down the bike path that ran the two miles between Kim's house and mine-he carpooled with her from work to her place and then covered the remainder of the route home on foot. Walt told me he had already sewn up the cut himself. I glanced down at his upper leg but he was wearing jeans that covered the "damaged" area. I saw no rip in the cloth and wondered about the veracity of this story, which didn't quite ring true.
"Why did he attack you?" I asked, skeptical.
He shrugged. "I don't know." Then he went back to his room.
A few days later, Walt claimed he had been assaulted again, this time by a homeless man at a bus shelter. He said he was forced to punch the man. By the end of the week, another tale: he subdued a man who wanted to fight him in a bar. I commented rather dryly that my husband had never experienced all this criminal behavior; that Walt, at five eleven and 220 pounds, should have been less of a target for assault than Tony, who had the smaller build of a West Indian soccer player.
THERE WERE OTHER odd stories. On my only visit to Walt's room since he moved in, I noticed a framed photograph of a lovely young girl displayed on his nightstand. She wore a black graduation gown and a gold chain with a cross hung around her neck. Clearly, the photo was a high school yearbook picture.
"Who's the pretty girl?" I asked.
"She was my high school love, Tiffany. We were going to get married, but on prom night, while I was waiting for her to show up at the dance, she got into a traffic accident. Her car was hit by a truck and she got decapitated."
He looked at me sadly; then he added, "That's why I haven't had sex since."
After quickly picturing the headless girl in my mind, my next thought was that this man had not had sex since he was seventeen years old. I counted the years, seven of them. And he had been a military man, albeit for a short period of time. I found the likelihood of this self-imposed celibacy hard to swallow, especially since I had come to realize he was not particularly religious (in spite of his recent church attendance) and he talked often about how women were always coming on to him, calling them "sluts," "bitches," and "whores." He even commented that a number of women he had gone out with weren't interested in sex with him because they were closet lesbians.
He had other peculiarities. The all-black clothing Walt had changed into while at the amusement park had become his regular uniform. When he came home from work, he would morph into his "costume" and disappear out of the house for hours, returning home long after dark. He relished stalking about at night pretending he was a ninja.
"I'm the Avenger!" he informed me, clearly envisioning himself as an invincible gladiator, some superhero straight out of the comic books he loved. I soon discovered he knew nothing of karate outside of making "HA!" noises and striking a stance with bent knees, a fist, and a knife hand. He was like a child who never grew up.
It was during the third week of his stay in my home that Kim told me she was considering breaking off her romantic relationship with Walt.
"He's beginning to really creep me out," she confided. "He makes people at work uncomfortable with his bizarre behavior and his ridiculous stories, which none of us think are true. He avoids doing work and makes excuses for not getting tasks accomplished. He usually blames someone else for his poor work performance. Some of the women think he's stalking them." She reached into her pocketbook, pulled out a ring with some kind of jewel in it, and shoved it at me. "He told me he bought this to celebrate our one-month anniversary and that it cost him over a thousand dollars! Supposedly he has to make payments on the ring for the next six months!" She grimaced. "I was mortified that he had spent so much money on a present for me when we had been dating only a few weeks. I tried to refuse to accept it, but Walt acted all insulted and insisted I take it. As soon as he left, I began thinking that maybe he was lying about the cost of the ring, that it was really a piece of costume jewelry."
Excerpted from THE PROFILER by PAT BROWN BOB ANDELMAN Copyright © 2010 by Pat Brown. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.