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Thursday, November 6, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 a.m.
What kind of a man would murder 46 women?

By Tomas Guillen and Carlton Smith
Seattle Times staff reporters

Perhaps nothing has intrigued the public as much about the Green River murders as the psychology of the killer.

What kind of person could cold-bloodedly kill 46 other human beings?

No one knows the answer for sure, but King County police have employed a psychological profile of the killer to help guide them almost since the beginning of the investigation.

Police have been asked repeatedly to release the profile to give the public a peek, to warn potential victims away from certain types of individuals, to help people know what to look for.

The police have steadfastly refused.


Sept. 13 - 18, 1987This is a six-part examination of how police and other institutions dealt with the worst known serial-murder case in the nation. The series is based on a year of work by two reporters with long experience covering the case.

Part 1: What went wrong?
Part 2: A setting made for murderer
Part 3: Case kept eluding police
            · Couple finds 'black hole'
Part 4: Police net catches wrong man
Part 5: A task force is born
Part 6: Could killer strike again?
            · What kind of man is this?

"The profile is just a tool," says Maj. Frank Adamson, former commander of the Green River Task Force.

Profiles do not necessarily reflect the attributes of the killer, Adamson points out; the killer may, in fact, be wildly different from the profile.

Histories of solved serial-murder cases show this is often the case. The profile only helps police determine priorities for their investigation.

Adamson also contends that knowing what a profile contains might persuade people not to provide information about possible suspects if they don't match the profile. And that, he says, could be fatal to the investigation.

County police used the profile when they were investigating Lacey cab driver Melvin Foster as a suspect. Later, the same profile was used to secure warrants to search houses and vehicles belonging to three other men. Two of those three, like Foster, were eventually cleared. The fourth remains a suspect.

The Times obtained a revised version of the profile, which was originated by FBI Special Agent John Douglas shortly after the first five bodies were found in or near the Green River in 1982.

The profile depicts the murderer as a white male, probably between the ages of 25 and 35 — although it acknowledges that that range could be off.

The killer also is depicted as someone who probably has a criminal history, is a beer drinker and a smoker, drives a lot and at the time of the murders drove an older-model vehicle, either a van or a four-door car.

The profile also notes that the killer probably "has very strong personal feelings of inadequacy," and theorizes he grew up in a family fragmented by marital discord. He was likely raised by a single parent.

"His mother attempted to fill the role of both parents by inflicting severe physical as well as mental pain on the victim," Douglas suggests in the profile.

"She consistently nagged her son, particularly when he rebelled against all authority figures. The subject had difficulty in school, which caused him to probably drop out during his junior or senior year, and he has average or slightly above-average intelligence."

The killer has probably been separated or divorced if he has ever been married, the profile continues.

"He does not, nor has he ever had, (a sexual) aversion towards women," Douglas notes. "He has felt that he has been burned or lied to and fooled by women one too many times.

"In his way of thinking, women are no good and cannot be trusted, and he feels women will prostitute themselves for whatever reason. When he sees women openly prostituting themselves, this makes his blood boil."

But, the profile goes on, the killer is "drawn to the vicinity where there is open prostitution because of recent failure with other significant women in his life, and in all probability he has been dumped by a woman for another man."

He is also said to have trouble sleeping, and has a "generally nocturnal nature."

Douglas suggests the killer probably continued to have relations with prostitutes even after the murders were discovered, and might have even preached to such women. He may pose as a policeman or other authority figure. He may talk to prostitutes about the murders, and he may keep news clippings about the crimes.

"The subject is killing," Douglas concludes, "because the victims are not listening to his preaching regarding their activities, or they're making fun or laughing at him.

"He is an angry individual who demonstrates power over his victim and enjoys the publicity he is receiving."

But the Green River killer, unlike those in serial cases in other parts of the country, has not contacted the media to give a hint of why he is killing.

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