Why do people vomit after murdering someone? The cases of Christopher Coleman, Timothy Permenter, Michael Roseboro and Salvatore Parolisi

– On May 2009, Christopher Coleman, now 41, strangled to death his wife Sheri, 31, and their two children, Garrett, 11, and Gavin, 9 in their sleep.

After the officers found the three victims, Christopher Coleman, while on the driveway of his house, felt like he was gonna throw up, a detective said.

– On October 2003, Timothy Permenter, now 51, stabbed to death his girlfriend Karen Ann Pannell, 39, at her home.

Timothy Permenter threw up in the front yard of his girlfriend’s house while the detectives were processing the murder scene.

– On July 2008, Michael Roseboro, now 52, killed his wife Jan, 45, by strangling, beating and drowning her in their private swimming pool.

Michael Roseboro threw up while he was at the phone with the 911 operator he called to notify that his wife had drowned.

– On April 2011, Salvatore Parolisi, now 40, stabbed to death 35 times his wife Melania Rea, 29.

Salvatore Parolisi threw up in the bathroom of a restaurant after he asked the owner to make an emergency call.

Nausea and vomiting are classical responses to a prolonged stress. Stress can induce general trouble with the digestive system due to the physiological changes a body goes through.

Not only the victim of a sexual violence or of an aggression but also the perpetuator often shows the symptoms of the so called General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), a physiological reaction to a stressful event. 

GAS is a three-stage process that a body goes through when under stress: Alarm, Resistance and Exhaustion.

Alarm reaction stage: corticoids, adrenaline and noradrenaline are released to induce a a “fight-or-flight” response that allows the body to deal with the threat.

Resistance stage: at the end of a stressful situation, the body enters in a recovery phase to reach the pre stress state.

When the stress is prolonged the body is unable to recover and continues to release corticoids, adrenaline and noradrenaline. Stomach and intestinal distresses like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and bloating are symptoms of this prolonged state of alert.

Exhaustion stage: when the stress is chronic a subject deals with symptoms like depression, anxiety and fatigue.

A murderer is in a prolonged state of alert because his/her fear of being caught.

CHRISTOPHER COLEMAN

The Coleman’s family

Columbia, Illinois.

At 6:43 a.m. on May 5, 2009, Christopher Coleman, who was employed as director of security for Joyce Meyer Ministries (JMM), an internationally renowned Christian ministry headquartered in Missouri, called his neighbor, Detective Sergeant Justin Barlow of the Columbia police department and told him he had been at the gym and after his workout he called home to try to wake up his wife, Sheri, but Sheri did not answer. Christopher Coleman was concerned something had happened to his wife. Barlow was aware that defendant had made previous reports to the Columbia police department that he and his family had been threatened due to his employment with JMM. Sergeant Barlow went to Coleman’s house to check on the welfare of the family. Soon another officer arrived, and after ringing the doorbell and receiving no answer, they went to the back of the house and saw a basement rear window standing open. 

Christopher Coleman arrived home and was told to stay outside. The police entered the home through the basement window and saw disturbing messages written on the walls in red spray paint, including the word “fuck” and the words “I am always watching”; when they went up the stairs to the second floor, they found Christopher Coleman’s sons Garett, 11, Gavin, 9, and his wife Sheri, 31, dead. They had been strangled in their sleep. Gavin was lying in his bed with the words “Fuck You” spray-painted on the covers. A policeman also noticed spray paint on Garett’s hand and arm. 

After the officers heard Coleman downstairs asking what was going on, they went downstairs.

Detective Justin Barlow of the Columbia Police Department and a neighbor, who entered Coleman’s house and found the body of Gavin said to 48 Hours correspondent Maureen Maher: I told him (Christopher Coleman): “Hey, they… they didn’t make it”… being the family, he walked outside through the garage, he sat down on the driveway and started sobbing. Said he felt like he was gonna throw up. And then kind of curled up in a fetal position.

Barlow recalls Coleman asking him what happened, but nothing else. He did not demand to see his family, nor did he try to go upstairs. He went outside with the officers and sat on the sidewalk and cried, but Barlow testified no one told him what they actually had found upstairs. Coleman remained at the scene for approximately 20 to 25 minutes until he was taken by ambulance to the police station, where he was interviewed for 6 hours. Defendant did not ask how his family was killed. Approximately 4 hours into the interview, Trooper Bivens, the other officer conducting the interview besides Barlow, specifically asked Coleman if he knew how his family died. He replied: “I have no idea, you guys haven’t told me”.

During the interview, Coleman asked for a blanket because he was cold though Barlow did not think the interview room was cold. At one point during the interview, officers walked out of the room and Coleman picked up one of the officer’s notes and looked at them. With the blanket Coleman covered some scratches he had on his arm. He said he obtained one set of scratches a few days earlier, but was unsure how he got them. He said he received another abrasion on his arm after hitting his arm on the gurney in the ambulance in which he was transported after his family was found dead.

Christopher Coleman told investigators his wife Sheri was alive when he left the house at 5:45 a.m. to go to the gym. He told the police his marriage was good, but later revealed that near the end of 2008, he and Sheri had some problems in their marriage, which they worked out through the help of counseling. Detectives soon discovered he was having an affair with Tara Lintz, a high school friend of Sheri’s who was living in Florida. Christopher Coleman denied the affair, but after being advised investigators were talking to Tara, he admitted to the affair, but minimized its intensity. 

Medical reports, including the results of the autopsies, showed that Sheri, Garett, and Gavin were all dead before 5 a.m. Police checked Christopher Coleman’s cell phone records and investigated where his calls were placed on the morning of the murders. Based upon the foregoing, Coleman was charged with three counts of first-degree murder by strangulation.

After a jury trial in the circuit court of Monroe County, Christopher Coleman was convicted and sentenced to three concurrent life sentences.

Christopher Coleman

After the sentence, 48 Hours Mystery spoke to Chris Coleman by phone:

Maureen Maher: Did you kill your wife and your children?

What we look for in the following answer is for Coleman to issue a reliable denial.

A reliable denial is found in the free editing process, not in the parroted language and has 3 components:

1. the pronoun “I”
2. past tense verb “did not” or “didn’t”
3. accusation answered

If a denial has more than 3 or less than 3 components, it is no longer reliable.

There is no consequence to issue a reliable denial about any false allegation.

“I did not kill my wife Sheri and my children” followed by “I told the truth” while addressing the denial, it is more than 99% likely to be true. This would be the “wall of truth”. 

The “wall of truth” is an impenetrable psychological barrier that often leads innocent people to few words, as the subject has no need to persuade anyone of anything.

We begin every statement analysis expecting truth, and it is the unexpected that confronts us as possibly deceptive.

Chris Coleman: No, absolutely not. I absolutely love my wife and my kids. And this, you know, it’s not… it’s not me.

“No, absolutely not” is an unreliable denial.

The words “absolutely not. I absolutely love my wife and my kids. And this, you know, it’s not… it’s not me” show that Coleman has a need to persuade.and to portrait himself as a “good guy”. Only a “bad guy” feels this need. 

There is not “wall of truth” within Christopher Coleman.

Moreover when he says “And this” he shows closeness to the murders.

Maureen Maher: How do you love your wife and be having an affair with one of her best friends?

Chris Coleman: Maybe I wasn’t, you know, selfishly getting what I thought I might should be getting at home as far as with my wife, you know, from the uh physical side of things. But I still absolutely loved her.

Maureen Maher: So why does Tara say that?

Chris Coleman: Uhm, it was discussed on several different things and, you know, it was a conversation but there was no specific plans or no dates or nobody asking each other to be married or anything like that.

Maureen Maher: She also says that you told her that you were serving divorce papers to Sheri.

Chris Coleman: You know, unfortunately, and I feel horrible about it, you know, if I ever talk to… to Tara again of something like that I apologize to her about, that was a lie. I lied to Tara about that.

So if he didn’t murder his family, who did?

Chris Coleman: I have absolutely no clue. Believe me, I have wracked my brain for… for two-and-a-half years trying to figure that part out (laughs). I just had to stop and give it to God, just to release that, do my best and forgive… forgive that person and move on.

The words “Believe me” show a need to persuade, again.

Coleman’s laughs and his desire to “move on” are signals of an Antisocial personality disorder.

TIMOTHY PERMENTER

Karen Pannell and two of her brothers

Pensacola, Florida.

On October 11, 2003, Karen Ann Pannell, 39, was found stabbed to death in her Florida home.

Karen Ann Pannell was a former model and Flight Attendant. At the time of her death she was working for American Airlines as a Customer Service Agent in Tampa, Florida.

She had five brothers, Michael A., Randy, Steve, Michael R. and Robin.

Timothy Permenter, Karen’s boyfriend was the one to call 911. His phone call is incriminating.

Investigators, while processing the crime scene, noted the name ROC written in blood on the wall and a pizza box with three slices missing. According with the autopsy Karen had not eaten pizza on the night of the murder.

ROC is the name of one of Karen ex boyfriends that had an alibi.

Detectives assumed that the killer had eaten the pizza, then after a confrontation he had stabbed Karen 16 times and staged the crime scene to frame Karen’s ex ROC.

Ltd. Michael Holbrooke, the homicide detective who led the investigation on the case said in an interview to Dateline: “When the first deputy arrived on scene Tim Permenter is in the front yard he is hysterical he actually threw up in the front yard that he was upset of finding his girlfriend”.

Timothy Permenter during his trial

Analysis of some excerpts from Timothy Permenter’s interview with detectives:

We look for Permenter to say “I didn’t kill Karen” using the pronoun, “I”, the past tense “didn’t” or “did not” and add in the specific accusation.

Timothy Permenter: I didn’t do it. But I knew somehow, some way I was gonna get pinned on it. I knew it. I knew the minute I saw the body. 

When Permenter says “I didn’t do it” he doesn’t deny the action of killing, therefore  this is an unreliable denial. 

Timothy Permenter: I don’t know. Go ahead. take me to jail. I’m done.

Detective: Tim, I’m not here to railroad you, I’m… I’m not okay?

Timothy Permenter: It doesn’t matter. I’ll tell you something, I didn’t do it and if I’m gonna be convicted, I wanna go to the electric chair because I’m not spending any more time in prison. I’m done with that. Not for something… not for something like this.

“I didn’t do it” is an unreliable denial.

Permenter says “if I’m gonna be convicted”, this is something that never cross the mind of an innocent de facto.

When Permenter says “not for something like this” he shows closeness to the homicide due to the use of the word “this”.

At the time of Karen murder, Timothy Permenter had served 12 years in prison for kidnapping and attempted murder.

Timothy Permenter: I didn’t do it. I d-i-d n-o-t do it. I don’t know how else… how else to say.

“I didn’t do it” is an unreliable denial.

Detective: How does it look? You’re over there when you said you weren’t.

Timothy Permenter: I don’t know.

Timothy Permenter: This whole cooperation got me confused.

Detective: Confused? We know what get you confused, Tim, when you lie.

On October 24, 2007, a jury convicted Timothy Permenter of the first-degree murder of his girlfriend Karen Ann Pannell. The jury voted seven to five in favor of the death penalty, but the trial court sentenced Permenter to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

MICHAEL ROSEBORO

Jan E. Binkley and Michael Alan Roseboro

Reinholds, Pennsylvania.

Jan E. Binkley Roseboro, 45, a mother of four, was killed on the night of July 22, 2008.

At 11:03 pm, her husband, funeral director, Michael Roseboro called 911 to notify the operator that she had drowned.

During the emergency call Michael Roseboro showed deception and guilty knowledge of what happened to Jan.

He never asked for any help for his wife, nor he showed any linguistic concern for her, nor he showed any urgency.

He never introduces his wife as expected. The social introduction is a key to understand a relationship. His linguistic disposition towards his wife tells us that they had a poor relationship at the time of the call.

He said twice “I’m sorry”. “I’m sorry” represents a verbal indicator of a form of regret.

He invoked “God” twice. Any reference to Divinity is a signal of deception.

Roseboro felt the need to ingratiate himself with the 911 operator calling him “sir” four times and using the word “please” twice.

Here an excerpt of that incriminating emergency call:

Operator: Okay, is that the siren from the fire department there?

Michael Roseboro: Yes.

Operator: OKay.

Michael Roseboro: Hold on, I have to throw up, please, hold on.

Operator: Okay.

Michael Roseboro: I’m sorry.

Jan Roseboro die in the hospital less than an hour after Michael Roseboro called 911.

Detectives noticed that Micheal Roseboro did not seem concerned with his wife’s condition and had 3 minor scratches on his face.

Jan’s death was classified as a homicide by Dr. Ross, the Coroner who performed the autopsy. “There were bruises basically to the back of the neck. I said, ‘Oh, my goodness. We have strangulation here. But we have a very particular type of strangulation. And the bruises are the in the back, almost as if it were hidden. That told me that she had been beaten. She had been bludgeoned. And she’d been hit about her head numerous times. Numerous times. The cause of death was multiple traumatic injuries. And that was a combination of strangulation, blunt-force trauma to the head, as well as drowning. It was only after I’d done the complete internal examination I was convinced this was a homicide”, Dr. Ross said to 48 Hours.

Jan had been beaten with a blunt object in the back of her head, choked and then placed into the swimming pool while still alive.

Michael’s DNA was found under Jan’s fingernails.

One of the neighbors told investigators that on July 22, 2008 around 10:30, she heard female screams.

Detectives learned that Michael was a serial cheater and that his current mistress, Angela Funk, 38, a married woman who lived near the Roseboro Denver funeral home, was pregnant with his child.

On August 2, 2008 Michael Roseboro was arrested and charged with the first-degree murder of his wife.

On July 30, 2009, after two weeks of testimony, a Lancaster County jury found Michael Roseboro guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his wife Jan.

After the verdict, the District Attorney Craig Stedman said: “When you looked at the evidence in its totality, it was an overwhelming case that he had brutally murdered his wife for his own selfish greed, purposes and out of a twisted obsession for a mistress who he wanted to be with”.

Weeks after the verdict, Michael Roseboro released this statement to 48 Hours:

We look for him to say “I didn’t kill my wife Jan”.

“My name is Michael Roseboro. I’ve been accused of killing my wife, Jan, who I’ve been married to for 19 years. I did not and I would never kill my wife. I had nothing to do with her murder, and I miss her very much”.

“I did not” is an unreliable denial, he violated component three of a reliable denial.

“I would never kill my wife” is an unreliable denial, he substitutes “didn’t” with  “would never” violating component two of a reliable denial.

“I had nothing to do with her murder” is an unreliable denial.

On September 25, 2009 Judge James Cullen imposed to Michael Roseboro the mandatory life sentence.

SALVATORE PAROLISI

Salvatore Parolisi

Ascoli, Italia.

On April 18, 2011, at 16.34 p.m. the owner of a restaurant made an emergency call from the cell phone of Corporal Salvatore Parolisi to report Parolisi’s wife, Melania Rea, 29, missing.

Melania Rea

In the afternoon of April 18, 2011, Corporal Salvatore Parolisi told the owner of the restaurant “Il Cacciatore”, Giovanna Flamini, that his wife was missing, after a few minutes search, he asked Mrs Flamini to speak with the 112 operator through his cell phone because he was too frantic to call, he then went to the bathroom to throw up.

Giovanna Flamini was unable to give the operator all the information he needs, therefore, after 2 minutes and 43 seconds, she invites Parolisi to speak with the 112. During the phone call Parolisi sounded deceptive, spoke at the past of his wife and appeared prematurely frantic and unable to concentrate.

A friend of Parolisi and co-worker, Raffaele Paciolla, who was with him in the early stage of the research of his wife told investigators that Salvatore was inexplicably frantic, unable to speak without gasping and that he kept burping.

Those were symptoms of the General Adaptation Syndrome. Parolisi had killed his wife Melania by stabbing her 35 times and he was unable to control the stress due to his fear of being caught.

Ursula Franco, MD and criminologist

BIBLIOGRAPHY

– Selye, H. 1950. Stress and the general adaptation syndrome. British Medical Journal.

– Appellate Court of Illinois, Fifth District. The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. Christopher COLEMAN, Defendant–Appellant.

– 48 HOURS MYSTERY (CBS), The Writing on the Wall.

– TIMOTHY PERMENTER, Petitioner, v. SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Respondent. United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division.

– Forensic Files – Season 13, Ep. 36: Writing on the Wall.

– SOLVED – Season 2, Ep. 1 Written in Blood.

– 48 HOURS MYSTERY (CBS), Lady in the pool.

– Reading Eagle- Roseboro found guilty of first-degree murder

Annunci

Analysis of Timothy Permenter’s 911 call

Karen Pannell and two of her brothers

On October 11, 2003 at 10:30 a.m., Timothy Permenter called 911:

Operator: 911, what’s your emergency?

Timothy Permenter: Please, come, send the police (crying). Karen is death.

Note the word “Please”, a signal that Permenter has a need to ingratiate himself with the operator.

Note that Permenter doesn’t introduce Karen properly. We always note the incomplete social introduction, usually a signal of a poor relationship. Anyway we assume that during an emergency call the reason for an incomplete social introduction could be the urgency.

Operator: Is that your wife?

Timothy Permenter: Uh, my girlfriend. I just came over here and I found her. Please, please, hurry.

Note that, before answering, Permenter needs to take time to think with a pause. The word “Uh” shows that the question is sensitive to the caller.

Note that Permenter doesn’t just answer the question but adds “I just came over here and I found her”. 

Note the use of “just”“just” is a dependent word used to comparison. Its communication is found in dependence upon another thought and as other dependent words reveals withheld information.

“I just came over here and I found her” is alibi building.

Note the words “Please, please”, another signal that Permenter has a need to ingratiate himself with the operator.

Operator: Is this suspicious?

Timothy Permenter: I would say so, yeah, I opened the door and she’s in the kitchen and there’s blood everywhere.

Note that Permenter doesn’t say that he reached Karen on the floor inside her house but that he just opened the door, saw her and the blood.

Operator: I have paramedics on the way. What’s the problem?

Timothy Permenter: (crying) I don’t know. She’s just laying there.

Note the word “there”. He doesnt say “here” but “there”, this word means physical distance between him and her.

Operator: She’s what?

Timothy Permenter: She’s laying there.

Note the word “there” again.

Operator: Is she conscious?

Timothy Permenter: No.

Operator: Is she breathing?

Timothy Permenter: I don’t know. She’s laying there on the floor and there’s blood everywhere.

Note the word “there” again.

Note that Permenter didn’t check on his girlfriend. He says that he doesn’t know if she is breathing but his first answer to the 911 operator was “Please, come, send the police (crying). Karen is death”. How does he knows she is dead?

Operator: There’s blood everywhere?

Timothy Permenter: There’s blood everywhere.

Operator: And where’s the blood coming from?

Timothy Permenter: I don’t know.

Permenter confirms to the operator that he didn’t even touch his girlfriend Karen. 

ANALYSIS CONCLUSION:

Deception indicated.

Permenter felt the need to ingratiate himself with the operator in two occasions.

During this short phone call Permenter tried to establish an alibi for himself.

Permenter didn’t even touch Karen, he knew she was death because he had stabbed her few hours before this phone call and when he went back he found her in the same position she was when he left her house after the attack.

He never introduces his girlfriend Karen as expected. The social introduction is a key to understand a relationship. His linguistic disposition towards Karen tells us that they had a poor relationship at the time of the call.

Timothy Permenter has guilty knowledge of what happened to Karen Ann Pannell.

Timothy Permenter during his trial

On October 24, 2007, a jury convicted Timothy Permenter of the first-degree murder of Karen Pannell. The jury voted seven to five in favor of the death penalty, but the trial court sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Ursula Franco, MD and criminologist

The murder of Fabio Sementilli: a speculation about the motive

“I’m optimistic, I’m driven and I don’t accept the habit of negativity around me”. Fabio Sementilli

Monica and Fabio Sementilli on January 17, 2017

Fabio Sementilli was born in Toronto, Canada, on July 13, 1967. In 2011, after he was promoted to an executive position at Wella, he moved to Los Angeles with his second wife Monica, and their two daughters, Jessica and Isabella.

Fabio Sementilli’s house in Woodland Hills, California

On January 23, 2017, at 4:55 pm, Fabio’s youngest daughter Isabella, 16, found him dead on the patio of their Woodland Hills California home. Sementilli had been beaten and stabbed in the face, neck and upper body. Detectives found blood at the crime scene that didn’t belong to Fabio Sementilli. 

On the day of Fabio’s murder, at 4:18 pm, a neighbor’s surveillance cameras caught on video two suspects, hiding their faces in hoodies, entering the Sementilli home and then leaving in Fabio’s black 2008 Porsche 911, at 4:53 pm. Fabio Sementilli had a surveillance system but, at the time of his murder, the main box was conveniently missing.

For months the detectives of the LAPD let people think that they believed Fabio was a victim of a break-in gone wrong. In reality the detectives believed that the crime scene was staged to look a burglary.

Elyse Bleuel, a close friend of Monica Sementilli told 48 Hours Mystery’s correspondent Michelle Miller that, after Fabio’s murder, his wife Monica kept saying “he’s gone” and “I’m not a wife anymore”.

Mirella Rota, Fabio’s sister, also a hair dresser, told 48 Hours Mystery’s correspondent Michelle Miller that, after the murder, Monica called the Los Angeles Police Department everyday to know “if she was maybe shaking hands with the murderer right now? If she was, “I could literally be shaking hands with the murderer of my husband” …overall, upset about the fact that there were no leads”.

Monica Sementilli in 2006

– This obituary for Fabio Sementilli was published in the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest daily, from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3, 2017:

“On January 23rd, 2017 in Los Angeles, California a legend was lost.  Fabio wanted to be remembered for the many relationships he built and the way he made people feel in a positive light. An award-winning hairstylist, a celebrated beauty executive, and a larger-than-life iconic figure to all. Fabio was lovingly referred to as “Big Daddy”, a rock star, a hero. Anyone who met Fabio would never forget that beautiful smile and infectious laugh, his charismatic personality and most of all his positive attitude and drive.  He was a mentor, a leader, and a role model to so many.  He was a treasured friend and above all a family man… Fabio valued family and family came first! Loving and adored husband to Monica, devoted father to Luigi, Gessica and Isabella, a treasured son to Luigi (deceased) and Maria Sementilli & Davide Verre, cherished brother to sisters Loredana & Joe Picillo and Mirella Rota & Marco Lorenti, son-in-law to Orfeo & Filomena Crescentini, brother-in-law to Anna & Grant Larsen & Barbara Crescentini and beloved uncle to Anthony (Stephanie), Vanessa, Daniel, Gianfranco, Massimo, Erik, Matthew and Giuliana and great uncle to Sebastian and Lucas.  Beloved family member and friend to many all over the world. Family and friends will gather to celebrate Fabio’s life Thursday February 2nd from 6pm to 9pm and Friday February 3rd 2pm to 9pm at Fratelli Vescio Funeral Home located at 8101 Weston Road, Woodbridge, Ontario 905-850-3332.  Funeral Mass will be celebrated Saturday February 4th at 9:30am at St. Clare of Assisi Church located at 150 St. Francis Avenue, Woodbridge, Ontario.  In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to be made in Fabio’s memory to Hairdressers at Heart, a charity dear to him ( http://www.hairdressersatheart.com) or to a college education fund being set up for his daughters, Gessica and Isabella (details to follow)”.

Monica Sementilli at her husband’s memorial

– At Fabio’s memorial his wife Monica said:

“He aspired to be the best person. He has given us unconditional love and made all our lives an adventure. 

How lucky am I to have lived the greatest love story of all time? A story that people only read about. A story that movies are made of. Thank you so much”.

– According with 48 Hours Mystery, after the murder of her husband, Monica Sementilli also wrote many posts on Facebook:

“I want to say thank you to all my fam and friend who have supported my almost daily posts and for all ur kind words and outpouring of love for this wonderful man. I apologize for not responding or reaching out to all of your wonderful comments… It was like therapy for me and made me feel better. I will continue to post now and again. I love this pic especially because it’s his favourite hat and sweater … you Fabio, are our sunshine #speakhisname #foreverlove #mywholewideworld 

Love you Fabio

What a beautiful picture… always in our mind and hearts all of you- @monica_sementilli”.

“A thousand moments taken for granted… mostly because I assumed there’d be a thousand more. We talk about you, not only because we miss you, but because we are yours and you are ours and no passage of time will ever change that  #speakhisnamealways #lendmeyourstrength #weneedyou

That’s so sweet. Love you guys

My loves… The difference between an ordinary family and an extraordinary one was always you! Love you”.

13x031_42e9_9-e1520542005854 – Few days after Fabio’s murder, relatives and friends met for a family memorial on the patio where Sementilli had been stabbed to death. Robert Louis Baker, a racquetball league director at a Los Angeles gym and a friend of Monica Sementilli, was between the mourners and he was photographed by a suspicious neighbor who noticed a bandage on his left index finger.

Robert Louis Baker

Robert Louis Baker is a registered sex offender who served time in prison in 1993. Baker’s DNA matched the blood found at the crime scene that didn’t belong to Fabio Sementilli.

– In June 2017, Monica Sementilli and Mirella Rota, Fabio’s sister, attended a private memorial for Fabio held at Wella’s Los Angeles headquarters. Monica sang the Frank Sinatra song “My Way” in front of approximately 100 mourners.

And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way
Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way
I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill my share of losing
And now, as tears subside
I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say – not in a shy way
Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way
For what is a man, what has he got
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way
Yes, it was my way”.

15541270_10154782091636948_4607820896100873610_n 2

– On June 12, 2017, Monica Sementilli (1/10/1972), and her lover of a year and a half, Robert Louis Baker (5/02/1962), were arrested and charged with first-degree murder (Count 1) and conspiracy to commit murder together and with another person whose identity is unknown (Count 2). Both pleaded not guilty.

Monica has an alibi for the time of the murder, she was shopping at Target and at the Ralph’s market in Woodland Hills. She went back home at approximately 5:03 pm.

Fabio Sementilli had a $1.6-million life insurance policy.

According with the Grand jury indictment “the murder of FABIO SEMENTILLI was intentional and was carried out by the defendant(s), ROBERT LOUIS BAKER and MONICA SEMENTILLI for financial gain”.

In my opinion there is more about the motive for murder:

Stabbing is a personal crime, stabbing in the face is even more personal.

Robert Louis Baker chose to kill Fabio Sementilli not with a gun but with a knife. Baker chose to touch Fabio’s blood, to smell it, to look at Fabio’s face from very close, to hear his screams and his prayers to stop.

This is more than a killing for financial gain, the modus operandi reveals that behind this homicide there is a psychological motivation. This murder speaks loud of a personal connection between the victim and the perpetrator, this murder is an emotional murder.

Robert Louis Baker, the author of the crime and Fabio Sementilli had never been friends. So why was this homicide deeply personal? Baker was Fabio’s wife lover, she armed his bloody hands. 

Fabio Sementilli had a strong personality and was blooming day by day in Los Angeles. Monica felt overwhelmed by his ego, she couldn’t stand anymore by his side and she desired to punish him. Monica met Robert Baker, a looser, and convinced him that Fabio was a bad guy who deserved to die. She used him to kill Fabio. The main motive for this murder is resentment, a resentment that Monica Sementilli transmitted to her lover, Robert Louis Baker, the hitman.

In other words: the way Robert Baker killed Fabio Sementilli proves that Monica was behind him because Sementilly’s murder was an emotional murder.

 

Please note that this picture was taken 6 days before Fabio’s murder and was Fabio to post it on Facebook. At that time Monica was already conspiring with Robert Baker to kill him.

Ursula Franco, MD and criminologist

Analysis of Michael Roseboro’s call to 911

Michael Roseboro

On July 22, 2008, at 11:03 pm, funeral director, Michael Roseboro called 911:

What we look for in an emergency call is for the caller to ask for help for the victim and to show urgency.

Operator: Lancaster County, 911?

Michael Roseboro: I believe my wife just drowned.

“my wife” is an incomplete social introduction. We always note the incomplete social introduction, usually a signal of a poor relationship. Anyway we assume that during an emergency call the reason for an incomplete social introduction could be the urgency.

Note the use of “just”“just” is a dependent word used to comparison. Its communication is found in dependence upon another thought and as other dependent words reveals withheld information.

Operator: I’m sorry?

Michael Roseboro: I believe my wife just drowned.

The social introduction is still incomplete.

Operator: Okay, and what happened?

Michael Roseboro: Uh… I had gone to bed about an hour and a half ago and… she is outside and I came out and saw the lights on the pool but… Oh God… her shorts and shoes are still on I came out and I found her in the deep end of the pool.

This is alibi building.

Note the pauses, a signal that the question is sensitive to him.

Note how much time he is loosing recalling how he found her, this shows that he is not in a hurry to save her and tells us that he didn’t introduce his wife properly not because the urgency. After these three answers we assume that Michael and Jan Roseboro at the time of this call had a poor relationship.

We note “Oh God” since any reference to Divinity is a signal of deception.

Operator: Okay, is she breathing?

Michael Roseboro: No, she’s not.

Operator: Is she still in the water?

Michael Roseboro: No, I pulled her out.

Operator: Okay, do you want to try to start CPR on her?

Michael Roseboro: I will, I will… will, yeah.

Operator: Okay, do you need help to do that? I can give you instructions on what to do.

Michael Roseboro: I… I… I was a lifeguard. I…I know.

Note the stuttering “I” a signal of increase in anxiety.

Operator: Right, I can walk you through it if you want help. 

Michael Roseboro: As I said, I wanna get her out of the pool.

This is unexpected.

Operator: What’s that?

Michael Roseboro: I wanna get her out of the pool.

Operator: Is she still in the pool?

Michael Roseboro: Yeah.

Roseboro said twice “I wanna get her out of the pool” and answered “Yeah” when asked if his wife was still in the pool.

This is incriminating, Michael Roseboro had no intention to save his wife. As a lifeguard, he knows exactly what to do in case of drowning.

Operator: I though you said she was out of the pool?

Michael Roseboro: Yeah, I… Oh my God… I’m sorry, she is out of the pool… uh… yeah. Help me through it, please.

Roseboro was caught off guard.

Note the stuttering “I” and the pause “Uh”, signals that the question is sensitive to him. 

Note “Oh my God” and “I’m sorry”.

Any reference to Divinity is a signal of deception. He invokes “God” to look believable, this is a manipulative behaviour.

“I’m sorry” is often an indicator of a form of regret that usually enters the language of the guilty.

Note the word “please” at the end of his answer, a signal that he feels the need to ingratiate himself with the operator.

 Operator: Okay, so she is out of the pool?

Michael Roseboro: Yes.

Operator: Okay, what I want you to do, is there anybody else there?

Michael Roseboro: My… my children are asleep.

Operator: How old are your children?

Michael Roseboro: Twelve, nine and six.

Operator: Okay, what we need to do is get her on her back.

Michael Roseboro: Yes, sir.

Note the word “sir”. This is unexpected politeness. 

Operator: Okay, you have her flipped over on her back?

Michael Roseboro: She is on her back, yeah.

Operator: Okay, I want you to check and see if she has a pulse. Do you know how to do that?

Michael Roseboro: I do.

Operator: Okay.

Michael Roseboro: There… there’s no pulse.

Operator: There’s none?

Michael Roseboro: There’s none.

Operator: Okay, what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna start the CPR, okay?

Michael Roseboro: Okay.

Operator: Keep her head titled back. Pinch her nose. Cover her mouth with yours and give her two deep regular breaths about one second each.

Michael Roseboro: Okay.

Operator: Okay, is that the siren from the fire department there?

Michael Roseboro: Yes.

Operator: OKay.

Michael Roseboro: Hold on, I have to throw up, please, hold on.

He uses the word “please” to ingratiate himself with the operator.

Vomiting is a typical response to stress. Stress can induce general trouble with the
digestive system due to the physiological changes a body goes through (General
Adaptation Syndrome).
Operator: Okay.
Michael Roseboro: I’m sorry.
Note “I’m sorry” enters Michael Roseboro language for the second time in this phone call. 

Operator: Okay, that’s fine, is there somebody there?

Michael Roseboro: Not yet, no.

Operator: Okay, what we’re gonna do is, we’re gonna start the compressions, okay? Go ahead and put your hand on her chest, I want you to pump her chest hard and fast about thirty times about twice a second.

Michael Roseboro: Okay.

Operator: Okay. Let the chest come up all the way between pumps and let me know when you have done it thirty times, okay?

Michael Roseboro: Okay.

Operator: All right, go ahead and do that.

Michael Roseboro: Okay.

Operator: You did it about thirty times?

Michael Roseboro: Yes, sir.

Note the word “sir”. This is unexpected politeness. 

Operator: Okay. Go ahead and look in, I want you to open her mouth and see if there’s anything in there.

Michael Roseboro: No, there’s not.

Operator: Okay.

Michael Roseboro: The ambulance is here, sir.

Operator: The ambulance is there?

Michael Roseboro: Yes, sir.

Note the word “sir”. This is unexpected politeness. 

Operator: Okay, sir, go get them, okay?

Michael Roseboro: Thank you.

Operator: Alright.

ANALYSIS CONCLUSION:

Deception indicated.

Michael Roseboro did not ask for help for his wife Jan, nor he showed any linguistic concern for her, nor he showed any urgency.

He never introduces his wife as expected. The social introduction is a key to understand a relationship. His linguistic disposition towards his wife tells us that they had a poor relationship at the time of the call.

“I’m sorry” is an indicator of a form of regret that enters Michael Roseboro’s language twice.

Any reference to Divinity is a signal of deception. Roseboro invoked “God” twice.

Roseboro felt the need to ingratiate himself with the 911 operator.

Micheal Roseboro has guilty knowledge of what happened to his wife Jan.

Jan E. Binkley and Michael Roseboro

Lancaster County Forensic pathologist Dr. Wayne Ross who performed the autopsy on Jan Roseboro’s body found out that she was the victim of a homicide and that she was beaten, choked and drowned in the swimming pool at the couple’s home.

On September 2009, Michael Roseboro, 43, was sentenced  to life in prison for the murder of his wife, Jan E. Roseboro, 45, on July 22, 2008.

At the time of the murder Michael Roseboro was having an affair with Angela Funk, 38, who was pregnant with his child.

Romance novelist Nancy Lee Crampton-Brophy arrested for the shooting death of her husband Daniel Brophy: a possible motive

“Escape into a book with rugged men, strong women and a good story.

Nancy Brophy”

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Nancy Lee Crampton-Brophy

– Romance novelist Nancy Lee Crampton-Brophy on June 3, 2017, announced on Facebook the murder of her husband with this statement:

Note her priority, she mentions her “facebook friends” before her “family”. Note that, after she gives the sad news with a complete social introduction, she focus on herself: “close to me”, “I’m struggling”, “I appreciate”, “I’m overwhelmed” and “I can function”. 

Note that the day after her husband’s murder she felt the need to add “best friend” and “Chef” to his social introduction. Both words are unnecessary but she felt the need to clarify that he was not only her “husband”, he was her “best friend” too and that she respected his role as “Chef”, this is sensitive.

Moreover, her husband was killed, she had the right not only not to answer the phone and not to call anybody but also the right not to write anything on Facebook; the reason for her words was her need to ingratiate herself with her “facebook friends and family” and to fish for sympathy.

Nancy Lee Crampton-Brophy, 68, was arrested on Wednesday, September 5, 2018 at her Washington County home for the shooting death of her husband Daniel Brophy, 63.

Nancy Lee Crampton-Brophy (Multnomah County, Oregon, Sheriff’s office)

Nancy Lee Crampton-Brophy appeared on court in a blue jail uniform on Thursday September 6 for the arraignment. As she showed up she tried to make eye contact with her lawyer and she once smiled at her. She appeared emotionless as the judge listed the charges against her.

Nancy Lee Crampton-Brophy is seen during a court appearance in Multnomah County, Oregon, on Sept. 6, 2018 (KOIN-TV)

Daniel Brophy was shot to death on Saturday June 2, 2018, inside the Oregon Culinary Institute in downtown Portland, where he worked since 2006. Police was alerted around 8:30 a.m. by students and staff who found the deadly injured Chef inside a kitchen of the school.

According with his students, Chef Dan Brophy’s favorite sentences were “Everything is edible… once”“Everytime you burn bacon, an angel gets herpes” and “It wouldn’t take so long if you didn’t do it so slowly”.

Chef Daniel Brophy

– On June 4, 2018, Chef Daniel Brophy was honoured by hundreds during a candle-light vigil at the Oregon Culinary Institute. During the vigil his wife Nancy spoke briefly: “Dan was one of the few people I’ve ever known who did exactly what he wanted in life and loved doing it. He was a person who did what he loved: he loved teaching, he loved mushrooms, he lov… (smile) he loved his family, he loved (unintelligible). Not only was life a science experiment, but sometimes it was an adventure”.

Note that she refers to him as “Dan” and as “a person”, gender neutral, not as “my husband”. Note that on her post on Facebook, the day after the murder, while she was fishing for sympathy, she wrote “My husband and best friend, Chef Dan Brophy”.

Note that when Nancy says “He was a person who did what he loved: he loved teaching, he loved mushrooms, he loved his family” she speaks about his priority or, more correctly, of her idea of his priority; note that Nancy believes that he loved “teaching” and “mushrooms” more than his “family”. This is subtle victim blaming. This could have something to do with her motive for murder.

Nancy Lee Crampton-Brophy’s picture on her blog

– Nancy Lee Crampton-Brophy has a website where she represent herself with these words:

Writers are liars. I don’t remember who said that but it’s not true. In writing fiction, you dig deep and unearth portions of your own life that you’ve long forgotten or had purposely buried deep. Granted, sometimes it is smarter to change the ending. That being said, let me add, this photo is a lie. I haven’t looked like this for a while. But it is me.

I grew up reading and writing. My first published work was a pamphlet for the University of Houston entitled Between Your Navel And Your Knees. I’ll leave to figure out the subject matter.

I love story-telling. My imaginary friends have rich, larger-than-life lives encompassed in a few hundred pages with definite beginnings, snappy middles, and above all, happy endings. My personal life is never as clearly defined. Beginnings are hard to locate. A new job, a school term, a family event like a death or a wedding might signal the start of something new, but it’s never heralded with any fanfare other than another link in the chain.

I live in the beautiful, green, and very wet, Northwest, married to a Chef whose mantra is: life is a science project. As a result there are chickens and turkeys in my backyard, a fabulous vegetable garden which also grows tobacco for an insecticide and a hot meal on the table every night. For those of you who have longed for this, let me caution you. The old adage is true. Be careful what you wish for, when the gods are truly angry, they grant us our wishes.

And the payment is always high, I fight an insidious ten pounds every year of my life. I can’t tell you when I fell in love with my husband, but I relate the moment I decided to marry him. I was in the bath. It was a big tub. I expected him to join me and when he was delayed, I called out, “Are you coming?”. His answer convinced me he was Mr. Right. “Yes, but I’m making hors d’oeuvres”. Can you imagine spending the rest of your life without a man like that?

Like all marriages, we’ve had our ups and downs, more good times than bad. Most recently we have spent fourteen nail-biting months living in an apartment while our house was rebuilt from a house-fire. In the process, I have acquired an in-depth knowledge of kitchen cabinets, bathroom plumbing fixtures and leaking roofs. If this writing thing doesn’t work out, I plan to investigate becoming a contractor who specializes in on-time, under-budget remodels. Believe me there is a fortune to be made by the builder who can deliver on his promises.

My stories are about pretty men and strong women, about families that don’t always work and about the joy of finding love and the difficulty of making it stay”.

Note that Nancy is telling us that his husband’s priority has always been to cook. In the early stages of their relationship he made her waiting alone in the big tub because he was preparing “hors d’oeuvres”.

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– According with The Oregonian/Oregonlive, Nancy Brophy wrote an essay titled “How to Murder Your Husband” which was published on the blog See Jane Publish on Nov. 4, 2011:

“As a romantic suspense writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about murder and, consequently, about police procedure. After all, if the murder is supposed to set me free, I certainly don’t want to spend any time in jail. And let me say clearly for the record, I don’t like jumpsuits and orange isn’t my color.

Motives:

1) Financial (this is big): Divorce is expensive, and do you really want to split your possessions? Or if you married for money, aren’t you entitled to all of it? The draw back is the police aren’t stupid. They are looking at you first. So you have to be organized, ruthless and very clever. Husbands have disappeared from cruise ships before. Why not yours?

2) Lying, cheating bastard (deception of any sort): This is a crime of passion. In anger, you bash his head in or stab him with a kitchen knife. Most of the time there is a trail that leads directly to you. Each type of murder leaves clues. A crime of passion does not look like a stranger was involved. And who is left to clean the blood from your carpeting?

3) Fell in love with someone else (usually financial is also involved here): Let’s say your Church frowns on divorce. You need to be a widow so you won’t fall out of favor with your religion. At this point, I should mention that it helps if you aren’t too burdened by the 10 commandments.

4) Abuser: This one is tough. Anybody can claim abuse. What is abuse? To a teenager, it might look different than to a spouse. As a motivation, this reason usually comes up after you’ve been arrested. Not a lot of abused wives dial 911 upon burning down the house with their husband in it.

5) It’s your profession: Now we’re talking. You already possess both skill and knowledge. You have the moral ambiguity necessary to carry it off. Quick hit and you fade from the scene. Get your payment upfront from someone else, because life insurance probably won’t send a check.

Options to consider:

Guns – loud, messy, require some skill. If it takes 10 shots for the sucker to die, either you have terrible aim or he’s on drugs.

Knives – really personal and close up. Blood everywhere. Eww.

Garrote – how much upper body strength does it require to strangle a person?

Random heavy piece of equipment – usually this involves hitting someone hard with the baseball bat or the pipe wrench you just happen to have in your hand.

Poison – considered a woman’s weapon. Arsenic is easy to obtain, worse, easy to trace. It takes a month or two to kill someone. Plus, they are sick the entire time. Who wants to hang out with a sick husband? Knowledge of pharmaceuticals would be handy. Availability would be even better. A word of caution, watch out for poisons found in nature. They are not a sure thing. Too little? Too much? Your mother always told you to marry a doctor. Now you know why.

Hiring a hit man – Do you know a hit man? Neither do I. And an amazing number of hit men rat you out to the police. Or blackmail you later.

Hiring a lover – Never a good idea. The husband dies, and the wife gets the money. The lover doesn’t always win in this scenario. Sometimes he, too, finds himself facing a loaded gun.

I find it is easier to wish people dead than to actually kill them. I don’t want to worry about blood and brains splattered on my walls. And really, I’m not good at remembering lies. But the thing I know about murder is that every one of us have it in him/her when pushed far enough.

What constitutes a good romantic suspense is the whys? What happened that forced a person into this situation? How will they justify this action? (By the way, he needed killing is not a legal defense.) Can they keep a secret? A confidence whispered in the dark is no longer secret.

What if killing didn’t produce the right results? Would they do it again? Could they do it again? What if they liked it?

Whoa, there’s an idea for a new story”.

Note that she speaks for herself when she says “if the murder is supposed to set me free, I certainly don’t want to spend any time in jail. And let me say clearly for the record, I don’t like jumpsuits”. 

To kill her husband was an obsession for years.

Here her post on Facebook about writing the article “How to murder your husband”:

Screen Shot 2018-09-12 at 18.17.21

– According to People magazine, she also said in an interview with the blog Romancing the Genres in 2012: “Murder, mayhem and gore seem to come naturally to me. Which means my husband has learned to sleep with one eye open”.

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– Nancy Lee Crampton-Brophy wrote a book series called “the wrong series”: The Wrong Brother, The Wrong Cop, The Wrong Hero, The Wrong Lover, The Wrong Husband, The Wrong Seal.

Take a look at her book covers:

 

– In 2015 Nancy Lee Crampton-Brophy wrote this article on her blog:

“Consider The Lilies 

Consider the lilies, how they grow. They don’t toil, neither do they spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Luke 12:27

I’ve always loved the idea that it is possible to exist without toil and worry. But in my life I’ve never found it to be true.  

For years I had a different quote hanging in my office: The middle of anything always looks like failure. 

Which was to remind myself that while I continually seek instant gratification, it is more important to be working than to sit idle (inattivi) hoping good things will come.

Because I am a selfish being, sometimes when good happens, I don’t take the time to celebrate. Instead I look ahead like a small child at Christmas eager for the next present. 

This year I declared I would publish twelve books. In truth, it is kicking my ass. Fortunately for me, writing is a solitary profession and only my immediate family and a few good friends have seen me ride the roller coast of emotions from high to low and back again.

I’m not going to publish my to-do list. It exhausts me to contemplate the unending column that even if I finished doing each and everyone, tomorrow, more would appear. However, I will say every time I’m able to cross another line item off, it is a small victory. 

I’m half-way through the year, running a month behind on my publishing goal – not that anyone is counting but me. But I’ve had some small successes that I need to celebrate:

1) Romantic times gave me a great review for “The Wrong Hero”:

This is a fine mystery that reads a lot like a TV show, with the right blend of humor and suspense, along with a strong, independent female lead and the sexy alpha who loves her. The plot itself was somewhat complicated, but the sizzling heat Travis and his brothers bring to the table more than makes up for it.  

2) “The Wrong Hero” is going to be published in an Anthology.

3) My new cover for “The Wrong Lover” is about to come out.

4) My friend, Lynn Jordon, who is an amazing woman, promotes romance books on Facebook, I love Romance Books and writes an informative blog on Author Tools Blog. In her spare time, she created some advertising images to help promo my books.

5) And Amazon is giving “Hell On The Heart” away for free. 

While I know life moves at its own pace, it is nice to think that while I haven’t made things happen, I have created an opportunity for things to happen”.

ANALYSIS CONCLUSION

For a “selfish being” who rides “the roller coast of emotions from high to low and back again” to come after “teaching” and “mushrooms” could be a motive for murder and, as she wrote, “anybody can claim abuse”.

Ursula Franco, MD and criminologist

P.S. On September 17, 2017, at her murder arraignment, Nancy Brophy pleaded not guilty. Brophy’s trial is scheduled to begin on October 26.

My interview with Dr. Doriana Chialant about forensic neuropsychology

Dr. Doriana Chialant

Dr. Doriana Chialant is a Forensic Neuropsychologist with 20 years of practice in this field. She is currently a Clinical Associate in Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and a member of the American Psychological Association, Division 40 (Neuropsychology), the Massachusetts Neuropsychological Society, the Boston Neurology and Psychiatry Association, the Associazione Alunni, Ricercatori e Professori della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, and the National Register of Psychology.  

Dr. Chialant, what exactly is forensic neuropsychology?

Forensic neuropsychology focuses on where a person accused of a specific crime behaved the way he or she did as a result of assessable and measurable brain damage.

The field is a relatively new and rapidly evolving subspecialty of clinical neuropsychology the scientific study of human behavior as it relates to normal and abnormal functioning of the central nervous system but applies these principles and practices to legal decision- making. Such information is key in deciding a central forensic question: not just whether a patient has a specific dysfunction, but whether that dysfunction is directly related to the legal issue at hand. Neuropsychologists use methods that have been scientifically validated through theoretical models and statistical standardization, and can distinguish various brain conditions from each other as well as from normal variation. For example, the methods must be able to determine whether dysfunction is the result of a neurological condition or a non- neurological (psychiatric or psychological/environmental) or factitious disorder. In addition, the methods must be able to establish a relationship between a dysfunction and its resulting behavioral manifestations and, finally, a correlation between such dysfunctional behaviors and the behaviors under consideration in a court of law.

Neuropsychology is a young sub-discipline of the field of neurology.

It was spawned by the practices of behavioral neurologists and neuropsychiatrists from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, and was associated with significant advances in the identification of conditions such as the aphasias (Broca, Wernicke), the agnosias (Lissauer), the apraxias (Liepmann), and the alexias (Déjerine)—research that was bolstered by autopsy- confirmed anatomical correlations. Only in 1962, with Luria’s publication of his seminal work—Higher Cortical Functions in Man—did the field of neuropsychology more formally come into existence. Luria, a Russian neurologist, developed an original battery of neuropsychological tests as part of his clinical work with brain- injured victims of World War II.

From these roots, the study of brain-behavior relationships—the hallmark of neuropsychology—was initially based on patterns of impaired and preserved cognitive functioning and behaviors in individuals with focal brain damage, often caused by injury (the so-called classical lesion-based approach).

More recently, the field expanded to address abnormal cognition and behavior in terms of dysfunctional processing of information, thus capturing dysfunctions in psychiatric disorders.

In the forensic setting, neuropsychology was first involved in civil litigation, where head trauma is often an issue (typically in motor vehicle accidents). In the early 1990s, criminal courts became aware of the unique contribution that neuropsychological assessments can make when central nervous system (CNS) pathology is considered in criminal proceedings. Neuropsychologists can contribute their understanding of neuroanatomy, neuropathology, and objective functional assessment to address specific questions of the court.

Neuropsychology has made substantial contributions to criminal proceedings in the detection of feigned or exaggerated cognitive deficits associated with secondary gains (e.g. being awarded larger sums of money or getting out of jail). Its contribution also helped educate courts about how cognitive difficulties present after particular injuries or illnesses. Today, courts are beginning to ask evaluators specific questions about the effect of amnesia and the possibility of feigning memory loss or general intellectual compromise.

When deprivation of liberty is at stake—as is typically the case in criminal proceedings—due process requires that the defendant be able to understand the process to a reasonable degree and be able to assist counsel in his or her own defense. Meeting this standard, which is known as competency to stand trial, strongly implies certain cognitive capacities. With few exceptions, cognition forms the basis of most mental health criminal standards. In court, common questions not only address a defendant’s competency to participate in legal proceedings, but also his or her competency to waive the right to an attorney, to plead guilty, or to waive an appeal.

Beyond questions of competency, issues of legal sanity or criminal responsibility arise as attorneys, judges, and juries grapple with how much a defendant’s brain pathology contributed to the criminal behavior. Related to sanity is the issue of diminished capacity, in which a defendant’s neuropathology may not be exculpatory, but may have contributed to the criminal behavior. Courts often take such factors into account when considering sentencing options.

What kind of professional training is required to enter this field?

Practitioners of forensic neuropsychology are trained as clinical neuropsychologists. Subsequently, they specialize in the forensic application of their knowledge and skills. Because the field of forensic neuropsychology is new, there were until recently no formal training programs, licensure requirements, or professional organizations devoted specifically to the specialty. Even today, there are very few textbooks or journals dedicated to the field.

Moreover, there is no formal process for qualifying for the title of “forensic neuropsychologist.” Rather, the title is typically claimed, in most states, by a practitioner who is certified as a licensed psychologist and who possesses the additional training and experience necessary to qualify as a neuropsychologist. At a minimum, one’s training, background, and knowledge must meet the requirements for licensure in one’s state and the ethical guidelines for practice of the American Psychological Association. The National Academy of Neuropsychology has proposed a specific definition of a clinical neuropsychologist. A forensic neuropsychologist will further have training and experience in the legal arena—although, to date, the nature and type of this education has not been specified.

The field of forensic neuropsychology has grown significantly over the past 20 years.

Among clinical neuropsychologists, referrals from attorneys are roughly equal in number to referrals from neurosurgeons, psychologists, general physicians, and rehabilitation specialists; only neurology and psychiatry are more important referral sources than attorneys. Other evidence for the central role of forensic neuropsychology is the increasing number of presentations on this topic at national meetings, as well as increasing numbers of peer- reviewed publications. Recently, the American Board of Professional Neuropsychology (ABPN) added a subspecialty in forensic neuropsychology to its certifying process. Forensic Neuropsychology’s growth reflects the growth of clinical neuropsychology, which, over the past 40 years, has firmly established principles underlying the relationship between brain and behavior, as well as valid and reliable methods for measuring such relationships.

What does a forensic neuropsychologist do?

While a forensic neuropsychological evaluation is essentially the same as a clinical neuropsychological evaluation, the goal is quite different. Clinically, the evaluation is structured to reach a diagnosis in order to inform treatment and improve the patient’s quality of life. But forensically, the goal is to reach a diagnosis in order to determine whether and how the client’s dysfunction matches the observed behaviors that led to criminal charges. Here, the neuropsychologist’s relationship with the client is not that of doctor-patient, but rather that of an expert witness. Indeed, the neuropsychologist’s findings may or may not be useful in the client’s defense. Once a forensic neuropsychological report is completed, its findings become part of the legal process, regardless of whether they can be used in the client’s defense. The neuropsychologist, while paid to perform an evaluation, is not asked to offer a specific opinion; rather, he or she renders a scientifically-based opinion which is above parties. As an expert witness, the neuropsychologist may be called to testify for opposing counsel, or his or her findings may come to be used by opposing counsel in their prosecution of the defendant.
In a typical forensic neuropsychological evaluation, the practitioner is contacted by a lawyer on the case. At this point, the pivotal legal question is reviewed and it is determined whether the neuropsychologist’s expertise is a good match for the question under consideration. Prior to meeting with the litigant (in civil cases) or the defendant (in criminal cases), the neuropsychologist reviews available background records. These may include records pertaining to the developmental, educational, occupational, medical, psychiatric, and legal history of the client. The neuropsychologist then meets with the client to perform an extensive assessment. In this meeting, the neuropsychologist reviews the process of the evaluation and the standards and limits of confidentiality. The goal is to make sure that the client understands the nature of the neuropsychologist relationship as an expert witness, and that the client is participating freely in the evaluation.

The evaluation includes a relatively lengthy clinical interview (typically a couple of hours), during which information about the individual is gathered and often checked for consistency with information provided in background records (this offers the opportunity to assess whether the client is able or willing to provide reliable information, or to correct record inaccuracies). The interview further gathers information about the client’s mental status at the time of the evaluation. (Is there significant anxiety, depression, or cognitive confusion or clouding? How is the client feeling on the day of the evaluation? Does the client know where he/she is or is otherwise oriented to the present circumstances?) The evaluation also includes the client’s perspective on his/her history of psychological, psychiatric, physical/medical, and cognitive/learning problems.

At this point, the neuropsychologist begins to apply numerous neuropsychological tests, which measure a broad variety of cognitive functions. These tests assess attention and concentration, learning and memory for both language-based and visually-based information, language skills, visual-spatial and constructional skills. Also assessed are so-called higher executive functions: the capacity to multitask, to learn from feedback, to act flexibly in response to changes in the environment or task demands, to extrapolate abstract patterns from available data, to solve problems that require abstract reasoning, and to plan and consistently execute a plan of action. The client’s level of effort and motivation to respond in a straightforward way are also measured, to determine whether there is a conscious or unconscious bias in the way the client is responding to questions and tests. Often, measures of emotional, mood and personality functioning are also administered, to determine how such factors interact with the cognitive pattern of strengths and weaknesses of each individual and contribute to answering the forensic question at hand.

The administration of such a battery of neuropsychological tests may take from 5-7 hours to several days to complete. Upon completion of this lengthy and detailed process, all the data collected is analyzed using available standardized scoring systems. It is then compared with relevant statistical samples and correlated with the client’s specific developmental, educational/occupational, and medical/psychiatric history to reach a diagnostic impression. At the end of this process, the neuropsychologist writes a report which presents all the data collected and processes applied, as well as a summary of all the documents reviewed and information gathered from the client (and at times from collateral sources such as family members or co-workers).

The report offers the neuropsychologist’s interpretation of the findings, addressing the questions of 1) Is there measurable brain damage (or psychiatric disorder or both); 2) Are there well-established functional and behavioral manifestations of such damage or disorder; and 3) Do such well established manifestations correlate with the client’s observed behaviors during the evaluation as well as at the time of the alleged offense?

Dr. Chialant, what drew you to this field?

I have always enjoyed solving puzzles, and I was drawn to this field by the complexity of its questions. Fascinated by the workings of the brain, I studied neuroscience and worked in research with individuals with brain damage. In relating to these clients, I became more deeply aware of the terrible difficulties people face when struck by the onset of a neurological disorder. I was doing work on language deficits and was moved by individuals who had lost the capacity to communicate and struggled to interact with family members or otherwise with their environment. I found myself in a position where I could understand their deficits and help them communicate better. I developed a desire to become a clinician, and eventually became a licensed psychologist with a specialization in neuropsychology. I eventually had the opportunity to collaborate with a supervisor who did some work in forensic neuropsychology and I was immediately hooked. The complexity of the cases intrigued me, and finding a solution to the puzzle at hand kept me motivated.

Can you describe some of the most interesting or intriguing or surprising assignments that you have worked on? How did you handle them?

For me, the most common assignments have been to aid courts in sentencing. These cases typically involve robberies or violent assaults while the perpetrator was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and where there appears to be a history of significant developmental disorder or head trauma or other neurologic disorder. Most intriguing are often the murder cases. Most of these cases have had a certain degree of the unexpected, either in the sequence of events that led the person to act as he or she did, or in terms of something that touched me emotionally in ways I had not anticipated. Here are several cases that changed me a bit, both professionally and personally.

One is the case of a man who had undiagnosed—and therefore untreated—bipolar disorder. He had started using heavy drugs, which provoked his first full-blown manic episode. He was living with a girlfriend, and the relationship was quickly collapsing under the blows of his irritability and loss of temper for no apparent reason. One night, alone in the house, music blasting, he started throwing his furniture into the yard. He then started taking off his clothes. The neighbors yelled at him to stop, he yelled back louder. When the police were called, he took off in his car, in which he had a gun. He began shooting out of the window as he drove. He hit two young men who were sitting on a fence. He then threw away the gun, ran out of the car, and headed into backyards, stripping off whatever garments he still had on. The police caught up with him and made an arrest. One victim of the shooting suffered permanent severe damage, the other recovered relatively quickly from the wounds.
When I met the defendant in jail about two years after the events, two things became apparent early on in the evaluation. First, he clearly suffered from bipolar disorder—an opinion shared by the jail psychiatrist, who had started the man on medications prior to the evaluation. Second, the man was eager to tell his story. He talked about the events rather freely, as if he was experiencing them from a state of high emotion. He was quite eager to relate how he had succumbed to drug use and how his bipolar disorder had destroyed his life. He barely remembered the two men he had shot, and noted that though he had not inquired as to their health afterwards, he was relieved that neither had died. He knew that one of the men had suffered permanent bodily injuries, but felt that the victim was exaggerating his symptoms to see if he could get something out of it.
The interview reached emotional intensity when the defendant talked about his childhood and disclosed a history of sexual abuse. At that point, he became hesitant in his speech and pensive. He subsequently disclosed having molested his own daughter when she was about 14 years old (about 20 years earlier). But rather than express distress about his own wrongdoing, he talked about how clearly that act had stemmed from his own history of abuse. Unlike the recollection of his own abuse, he now talked from his head and not from his heart.
Throughout the interview, the man’s perspective remained anchored in his own point of view. He felt and expressed a sense of being a victim of his illness, and seemed to seek understanding and even appreciation for what he had gone through. I did not see any trace of remorse or even concern for what he had done to others. To top this off, once cognitive testing began, he became clearly involved with the quality of his performance. He enjoyed the challenge of the tests and wanted to excel. He had read about I.Q. measurements and other tests, and was sure he was smarter than anyone else I had ever tested. Not only did he ask whether he could have the results of his tests (which he could not) but he also wanted to know if I could write a letter in support of his application to MENSA.
This case took me by surprise because it was the first time I had to write on behalf of someone who, although a victim himself, had no compassion for the people he had hurt: his daughter and the two men. From a legal point of view, he had shot two people while in the throws of mania, and therefore faced proceedings for the charges in question. However when talking about his upbringing, he felt a need to unburden himself by confessing to having molested his daughter and showing no remorse or concern for either action. I did not want to help release this man back into society, but I had to. This was the first time I had to truly confront myself with what, at that time, felt like a question of moral integrity: How can I do the work I am ethically called to do while feeling such a struggle within?

Another case centered on a young man, just turned eighteen, who was the mildly mentally-retarded and psychiatrically-ill father of a newborn son. His history was difficult to establish because he was not able to provide a linear story or any significant biographical detail, and because there were no background records available. He had dropped out of school at a very young age, had been estranged from his family of origin for a long time, and had no history of employment or a permanent address. Mostly, he seemed to have lived on the streets.
Because of his circumstances, he had never been identified as mentally retarded, and the department of mental retardation was never involved. Likewise, his mental illness was never diagnosed and he never received any services or treatments. Somehow, the state’s department of social and family services had also failed to become involved, in spite of the man’s early history of running away from home and falling into drug use and small dealing. He had slipped from one crack to another.
The man continued on in his young life, dealing drugs and getting caught for it. At some point, he became involved with a young woman a few years older than he. They had unprotected sex and she became pregnant. He moved in with her. She quickly became fed up with him. He was no good in dealing and was not skilled at anything else, either. He totally depended on her, while she now had two children and a part-time, poorly-paying job. One day, she went to work and left the young man to babysit. Their son was just a few months old—a screaming machine. The young man closed the door to the child’s room, hoping to muffle the screeching. He turned up the volume on the TV. The child screamed louder. The young man started screaming himself, holding his head in between his hands. He finally ran into the baby’s room, grabbed the infant, and shook him up and down. The baby’s head hit the crib’s post, and the child finally became quiet. Believing the child was now asleep, the young man returned to his TV. A few hours later, the mother arrived home. She found the baby blue, cold, and stiff.
Meeting with this young man felt utterly “strange.” He had a slim, graceful build and seemed younger than his age—a child himself. He looked up at me as if I were a rescue line. In his mind, perhaps someone had finally come to take him home, perhaps there was going to be milk and cookies at the end of this story. His demeanor and physical features were at odds with the unwelcoming and sterile jail room, the metallic noises around us, the cold chairs. Above all, the young man’s features were at odds with the task at hand: preparing for his criminal trial. How does a child understand the enormity of his actions? What awareness did he have of his actions? Had he reached for the baby with the intention of quieting him or of killing him? Was he capable of well-formed intentions? Or had he acted in a knee-jerk fashion, not caring for the child but not intending harm either? Eventually, it became clear to me that he had little understanding of the consequences of his actions and had not acted with malice. In one single reactive gesture he had permanently harmed two children: his baby and himself.

A third case that I have returned to many times in my mind was that of a man who had allegedly raped a woman repeatedly over the course of one night and claimed to have no memory of the events. He said that he had been hit on the head several times while living on the streets, and claimed to have memory deficits. In this instance, I did not end up having to write on the man’s behalf, because he had “faked bad” on all measures of malingering, symptom exaggeration, and memory. In fact, he was the most obvious case of symptom creation that I have ever encountered in my forensic work. Here, the dilemma was of a totally different nature. I sat with the man for about seven hours in a small interview room, just big enough for a small table and two chairs. Unlike most other evaluations, safety measures required the door to the room to remain open. A guard sat at a far end of a large room with several inmates visiting with their attorneys. This was a high-security prison, and most inmates did not have the privilege of a separate room for visits. The defendant and I already stood out for having been granted a separate space: he, after all, needed to be able to concentrate and be removed from potential distractions. The jail had granted that special status, one which gave him comfort but gave me discomfort.

Several factors made the situation uncomfortable. First of all, although I sat closer to the open door, I was separated from him only by a small round table. Our knees almost touched. His feet did touch mine on several occasions, as he adjusted his posture on the chair throughout the day. Unlike other inmates’ visitors, I spent several hours with him, which is an extraordinary amount of attention for men like him, and I was the only woman in that setting throughout the day. None of these conditions was particularly different from those in my other evaluations. What made the situation different was the nature of his crime, the fact that I was a woman, and the demeanor of this man throughout the day. From the very beginning, this man seemed to be gloating. I felt that he was pleasantly surprised to find out that his defense attorney had retained a woman.

It became clear during the evaluation that he held a deep-rooted belief that women are inferior or can be easily overpowered—and he did not even try to hide this belief. It seemed clear to me that he thought he could outsmart me. He approached the testing situation with great arrogance: He did not follow my directions or learn from feedback (which would have helped him perform in more reasonable ways on the tests, and potentially result in a valid and therefore potentially useful protocol), and he tended to talk over me and act as if he was in charge. He never appeared to recognize my authority as an evaluator and there was never any deference in his attitude. He was so self-assured that he was convinced he would win his case. He also spoke of the woman that had been raped as a liar and a person of little worth. He seemed to draw malignant pleasure from the misfortune of this woman.

Although this man did not outsmart me or the tests, did not win his case, and had little to gloat about in the end, he was able to make me intensely uncomfortable throughout the evaluation and afterwards. I left the jail as if running away from peril. I felt dirty and exposed, and I felt as if I had colluded with him in a sordid crime. What had happened that day? At the time, I realized that I had been overwhelmed by the visit, that I felt unsettled and was mad at myself for having let this happen. I rationalized it with the fact that he was a rapist, that he was disrespectful, and that he acted with arrogance in spite of the fact that he was in jail and not likely to get out. But these rationalizations merely felt like a rephrasing of what was clear intellectually: that this was a rape case, that the man’s claim of total amnesia during the time of his actions was likely bogus, and that such a black-and-white self-defense posture could only be held with arrogance.
What I did not realize was the impact of one person’s malignant energy on another. In retrospect, I now see clearly that during the evaluation, as in any close exchange between two individuals, at least two different conversations were taking place simultaneously. One was the pragmatic and mind-driven conversation of interviewing, test administration, response patterns, etc. The other was the emotional and energetic dialogue. I felt as if I had been assaulted and invaded by this man. I felt as if I had tried to hold myself together and keep from running out of the room. Looking back, I see that I had failed to realize and acknowledge and therefore prepare for this kind of frightening type of nonverbal communication. Put simply, I had left myself exposed to this man’s predatorial energy.

A fourth case what that of a man in his 90s, who had been married to his wife for more than 60 years. They had lived harmoniously together, raised their children together, and had worked as tailors together for over 40 years. This gentleman had been affected by diabetes most of his life and eventually succumbed to dementia. During his illness, he had become unreliable about taking his diabetes medications and had begun experiencing extreme sugar levels, accompanied by delirium. At the time, he still lived with his wife, who was very dependent on him. One day while the couple was in the kitchen he took a large kitchen knife and stabbed his wife nine times, and himself three times. Both were rushed to the emergency room, barely alive. Both survived and physically recovered, although his wife was left with permanent damage to a lung. While in the hospital, the man kept calling his wife’s name, wanting her next to him. He was delirious and confused, and his speech poorly barely intelligible Once medically stable, he was transferred to a jail. He was the oldest inmate in the facility and the most infirm. The prosecution maintained that the defendant was pretending not to remember, the defense that he was demented and not responsible for his action. Complicating the case was the fact that the couple was Italian and neither spoke much English. Attempts at reconstructing the events had resulted in more confusion.

This is when I came into the picture. Prior to meeting the man, I was carefully warned that he was irritable and belligerent and had a number of times been placed in restraint on his geriatric chair. Upon meeting him, it was immediately clear that I was in the presence of a demented man who was struggling with missing his wife, with having no understanding of where he was and why, and with feeling profoundly isolated in his inability to communicate with anyone around him. He spoke in his Italian dialect, his speech fragmented and disorganized by his dementia and confusion. He would become frustrated at the failure of people around him to respond to him, and would grow more and more demanding of attention, care, food, a blanket. He sobbed inconsolably about the absence of his wife. Having lost the cognitive capacity to reason through the bleak facts of his existence, he was prey to despair. She was not there, and that’s all he knew. She was not there this instant and then the next and the next. I witnessed an agony that could not be stopped. As I worked with him, it became clear that prior to these events, he had become obsessed with the idea of dying and abandoning his wife, whom he had cared for his whole life. He was worried she could not take care of herself. Who would, then, if he could not? It seemed to me that he had suddenly resolved to kill her and himself to avoid the inevitable abandonment. He was able to offer fragments of the events, but mostly expressed his worry about his wife. He recalled seeing blood and that she was taken away. He could not make sense of her absence.

I spent eight hours with this man. What I most strongly recall is the profound sense of protectiveness I experienced toward him. I wanted to stanch his emotional gushing, and if that could not be done—and it could not—I wanted to at least ensure that he received a blanket when he felt cold, a holding hand when he wobbled on his feet, and that he could be eased a bit out of his isolation. Most of all, I wished he could be placed in a residence other than a jail. He belonged in a nursing home—but none existed that could take on the responsibility of caring for someone with his history. Personally, I did not experience an ounce of aggression in this man. I felt his pain and his vulnerability. I witnessed his physical frailty and mental decay.

Upon meeting me he had looked at me suspiciously. After a few hours sitting together, during which our conversation consisted of a few questions asked repeatedly by me in the hope of eliciting a consistent answer, and of small gestures of kindness on my part, such as ensuring that he was sitting comfortably or calling someone to assist him with a blanket or a snack, I had become his whole world. This is often the case with the limited attention span of dementia, where the present is the only temporal dimension. When the lunch break arrived, he became afraid of being separated, and I agreed to walk him to the lunchroom. I held his hand under my arm as we walked and talked to him as I would have to a dear friend or sick child. I left him to his lunch once the distraction in the room had diverted his attention away from me. When I met him again after lunch, he had no recollection of who I was. The initial look of suspicion returned to his face.

I wrote a strong evaluation on his behalf. Although he won the case and was found not guilty by reason of insanity, the verdict did not benefit him none, as there was no place for him to go. The last I heard of him, a bit more than a year later, he was still where I had found him—likely in the same distress, or perhaps eased by the relenting progression of his illness into some deeper oblivion.

How were you able to make a difference in people’s lives or in the carrying out of justice?

This is a tough question to answer because often, even when justice feels done in a case, this does not necessarily translate into an improvement in the circumstances of the client. As a clinician, this is at times hard to accept. The most obvious way in which my work has made a difference in the lives of the people I have worked with is in terms of judicial sentences. My evaluations may lead to a reduction in years of prison, a placement in a different setting (a hospital-jail rather than a regular jail), or even a dismissal of charges on the basis of being “not guilty by reason of mental deficit or defect.”

The most interesting cases are the latter. The lay person often believes that “not guilty” means a perpetrator goes home free. This is usually not the case. More often, the individual is sent to a treatment facility and is only sent “home free” once treated. The duration of this treatment is often undetermined. For example, someone with schizophrenia may never be treated sufficiently to return home. Someone who suffered a significant stroke that cause extensive brain damage to the areas that control behavior, or someone who suffers from a type of dementia that has predominantly behavioral manifestations, may never go home. These individuals will remain in treatment facilities for the rest of their lives. Rehabilitation programs are scarce and not as state-of-the-art as one may hope. However, often the fact that an individual’s behavior, as atrocious as it may be, has come to be viewed as the result of their brain damage or defect rather than as the outcome of a personal choice, is in itself a great relief to many perpetrators and their families. The stigma is removed and defendants and their families can regain a deeper sense of integration in their lives, even amidst changed circumstances.
For example, I have had cases of individuals who, late in their lives, began to exhibit changes in personality and behaviors, which eventually resulted in them killing a family member. As a result of my work, they were properly diagnosed with specific types of dementia that initially manifest with dramatic changes in personality and behaviors. While the perpetrators themselves may or may not fully understand what the diagnosis means (because their cognition is also already impaired), their family members are profoundly grateful and have an easier time coming to terms with the events and retaining a reasonable degree of relationship with the perpetrator.

Another example is that of someone who has committed a crime because he or she was in the throes of a first episode of severe mental illness. This often occurs in relatively young individuals who have their first manic break associated with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, or their first psychotic break associated with undiagnosed schizophrenia. In these cases, once the individual is diagnosed, pharmacological treatment can begin, which can significantly restore a person’s cognitive and behavioral capacity. These individuals may indeed return home free, as long as they remain compliant with medical treatments.

Sometimes the outcomes are more bitter than sweet. One may diagnose an individual and obtain an acquittal, but the individual may no longer be eligible for appropriate treatments. For example, individuals who are diagnosed with mental retardation late in life may not be eligible for state programs or be able to benefit from such programs. While these individuals may be discharged, they have nowhere to go. They end up back on the streets and are bound to engage again in the only behaviors they know—such as small robberies or low-level drug dealing. They quickly become prey again to manipulative figures in their lives who “help” them return to such unlawful practices. Similarly, women may return to abusive relationships with a pimp or with “boyfriends,” whom they perceive as protective figures, and who often are the only people they have in their lives.

What to do in these cases? This is where a practitioner has to believe in the judicial process, maintain a professional attitude, and see the legal case through its course, even though the outcome yields no improvement in the perpetrator’s life. Ironically, in these cases, a jail stay may be a better outcome, because the individual would have had a roof over his or her head and would not have suffered further abuse on the streets. The problem is that regular jails are not suited for people which such degrees of disability. They become vulnerable to manipulative or abusive figures in the jails are well, and may end up becoming victims of sexual or physical violence. What is the answer? In my opinion, as a society, we need to create specialized housing for such damaged individuals, where they can be monitored and treated and maintained safely.

Dr. Chialant, how would you like to see the role of forensic neuropsychology expanded?

In an ideal world, the role of the expert witness in general, and that of the forensic neuropsychologist in particular, would become more educational to the courts and less “pro parte.” Ideally, a panel of forensic experts would meet to discuss their findings and points of view in order to reach an understanding of what happened and why. This would represent a collaborative approach to reaching a shared “truth” about the case rather than an adversarial process of litigation. The common conclusions of the panel would then be shared with the judge and the jury so that they could make an informed decision about guilt and associated sentences.
In the meantime, a more reachable goal would be to consistently use neuropsychologist experts in legal proceedings. At the moment, whether a neuropsychologist expert is going to be called to participate in a case remains almost entirely in the hands of the attorneys on the case. Public defense attorneys are often overburdened and thus may pay insufficient attention to their clients’ presentation to detect the signs that should trigger a request for a neuropsychologist expert. Here, too, what is needed is an educational program for the courts that employs neuropsychologists and other types of experts to inform lawyers during their legal training, as well as an effort to make high-quality neuropsychological evaluations required in specific circumstances.
A change in the language of the courts, and more specifically in the laws, would also be beneficial. For example, today, we still say “not-guilty by reason of mental deficit or defect.” I would love to see the word “mental” replaced with the word “brain.” This would help sustain a cultural change wherein individuals who work in the courts become accustomed to thinking about perpetrators’ behaviors in terms of biology rather than of personal responsibility or personal choice—a Galilean shift, to be sure.

If people want to enter this unique field, what advice do you give them?

I advise people to find a supervisor who does this type of work and ask to assist in a few forensic cases. This is not a specialty suited for everyone. Jail settings can be harsh. The conditions of the testing day can be quite trying—once the evaluations has started, the neuropsychologist and the inmate alike cannot leave the room for any reason, lest the visit is deemed to be over. Typically, one is not allowed to use the bathroom for the seven- to-eight -hour duration of the visit. Often, no food is allowed in the evaluation room; in about half of the cases in which I participated, water was not allowed either. On occasions when one is called to testify in court, one has to ask oneself whether one can endure the harsh counter-questioning by opposing counsel, which quite often involves a strategic assault on the neuropsychologist’s ego and whether one can endure the stress of the situation. This sometimes involves a full day- in court; sometimes hours on the stand; sometimes lengthy rescheduling at the last minute. It may also entail changes in legal strategies that require more work or last- minute modifications and research, as well as questions that involve leading the expert to testify on topics that may or may not fall within his or her range of expertise.
Beyond the practical challenges of the work, one has to ask oneself whether the overall meaning of the role one is planning to take on—often involving being part of a defense team of individuals who have committed serious and gruesome crimes—is something one can reconcile with one’s personal ethics. One has to allow the concept of “justice for all” to seep deep into one’s bones. As a neuropsychologist, one has to allow the concept of “brain damage and behavioral relationship” to become second nature, so that one works without bias and maintaining a scientific approach. All this must be balanced with the capacity to relate in a human way with a client, so that true collaboration can be sustained during the evaluation process.
Female neuropsychologists must ask themselves whether they feel ready or able to work with primarily male offenders, and what type of offenders they feel they can honestly and without bias evaluate. Crimes involving sexual offenders and predators are themselves a subspecialty of the forensic neuropsychology subspecialty, and female practitioners may or may not choose to work in this domain. Crimes involving impulsive killers and serial killers are another subspecialty. Female neuropsychologists who want to specialize in working with women must ask themselves whether they can work with mothers who have killed their children or with women who have suffered profound abuse.
As one can see, this work requires deep-rooted centeredness and emotional stability. One must actively try this work in order to answer the question: “Am I ready?” If the answer is yes, it will prove to be a rewarding area of practice, which promises a continued degree of intellectual stimulation, professional growth, and personal discovery.

Is there anything else to add about the topic of forensic neuropsychology?

I would like to highlight two important points:

The first is how I have come to understand the work from an ethical point of view. What does it mean for me to assist in the defense of these individuals merely on the basis of scientific test findings and regardless of the “moral beauty” of the situation or events? How do I understand my professional role in the large scheme of things?
The cases I have discussed here are very diverse in their moral implications. Many readers will relatively easily feel a measure of compassion for the old Italian man and think that it was right for me to assist in his defense. Few will feel compassion for the bipolar man or for the baby killer and may wonder whether it was appropriate to assist in such types of defenses. Most may feel that I was lucky I did not have to participate in the defense of the rapist.

But what distinguishes these cases from each other? Certainly not the outcome of the perpetrators’ actions (someone dies or gets severely hurt), but rather what we believe the motivations were for the actions, or the intent with which they were performed, or whether or not guilt or remorse were experienced and expressed by the perpetrator. Often, we trace these boundaries with a moral compass steeped in a culture of judgment for people whom we perceive as somehow “different” from us. But if I can set aside the moral and legal aspects of these cases—the issues of judgment and the issue of how to deal with these individuals as a society—I can ask the following questions: What if the individuals, who were not able to feel or express remorse or compassion for their victims, simply suffer from a neurogenic deficit of compassion? What if their brains are wired differently or have suffered damage, so that they have diminished capacity to experience guilt and remorse? How is their illness different and less worthy of compassion than that of the old Italian man who nearly killed his beloved wife?
What is the difference between an individual who has lost his capacity for awareness of his actions (the Italian man) or has no capacity to distinguish between right and wrong (the mentally retarded 18-year-old) or the capacity to control ones behavior (the bipolar man) and the individual who has lost the capacity to feel for others and therefore experience remorse? More provocatively, what is the difference between someone born with a learning disability that affects the capacity to learn certain elements of language and someone born with a deficit of compassion which affects the capacity to feel for others and experience remorse? What if the latter individual has damage or miswiring in those areas of the brain that control the capacity to feel or express empathy and compassion?

My answer to these questions is that there is no difference. We should not think of individuals who, in the absence of a history of abuse, trauma, mental illness or neurological deficit, experience no guilt or remorse for their actions as “evil” or “bad.” Instead, they should be thought of as individuals who suffer from a developmental or acquired brain dysfunction. Their deficits are those of an illness and their nature is that of a human being. While their actions still call for societal intervention (whatever society chooses to do), we need not feel compelled to hold a judgment that blocks any chance of seeing these individuals as humans with a potential for change, for connection or reconnection with others, or even for connection with hidden parts of themselves.
My other point: What is the personal moral of these stories—and, for me, of this work? No matter where we are or for what purpose, when we are engaging with another there is always a two-way stream of emotions and energy.

Years ago, I wrote in reflection:

When I prepare for an evaluation in jail, I pack myself up, armed with tests, a laptop and a shield of professional clothing. When I enter a prison visiting contact room, I wear my intellectual curiosity, the kind a chess player may need. I enter expecting an outsmarting contest, which I intend to play with an upper hand. I hold awareness at all times of my role, sustaining a certain professional distance, and armed with knowledge drawn both from studies and direct clinical experience. I have tools and methods and strategies at my disposal, as well as a clear path to a goal, its steps precisely timed by my stopwatch. I control the situation by keeping the pace and a certain facial neutrality. I give instructions and I write down notes. I don’t usually shake hands, unless the inmate extends his hand first. I am untouchable. A pilot in his cockpit… I come into the room with an intention to search, methodically and skillfully, for the signs of intention, motivation, capacity and the interplay of emotion and cognition in my playmate. I am watchful, not vigilant, hoping for a letting down of the other person’s guard. During the interview, I search for the arising of the emotions in the facial expression, the tone of voice, the body movement, and only finally in the content of what is being said to me. This process is like a dance, a pas de deux. At strategic moments I open a little crack in my responsiveness, I then step back and hope for a coming forward of the other into this freshly created space. I watch this process as well.
In spite of it all, a certain intimacy occurs—it has to occur. In this space of great physical proximity and extended hours, my awareness of the affective energy in the room is at its sharpest. In this space, the dial is turned up, and I can hear and feel as if I had some special x-ray vision. I think any clinician has known moments like this. In this “expanded sphere” of awareness, I learn much about the inner emotional world of the other. If I am pulled to tears, I know there is sadness in the room. If I feel tension or anxiety, I know there is fear. The space becomes filled with this listening, which is as tangible as a touch or pressure. When this contact occurs, I somehow reach. For a moment, a quiet sharing occurs, a silent solidarity. There is a certain kind of honest nakedness in this.
As I mentioned before, the first time I had to truly confront myself with these questions of “energy” and “feel” rather than “thought” and “ethics” or “morality,” was during the case of the bipolar man who showed no concern for the severe emotional pain and physical harm his actions had caused in others, but had great “compassion” or concern only for himself. A brilliant writer, Gobodo-Madikizela Pumla (2003; A Human Being Died that Night; Mariner Books), offers insight into the “energetic” meaning of such a situation. She writes: “When violators of human rights allow themselves to be emotionally vulnerable, they are giving others a chance to encounter them as human beings.”
This man, beyond his arrogance and lack of remorse, was expressing a need to disclose and share his story, a need to unburden himself. He was clearly eager to have a witness to his own suffering. He was asking to be listened to, asking even for compassion. In other words, he was asking to be seen as a human being. And if he could feel like a human being, if he could share a human moment with another, what was the chance that he could eventually find a broader humanity within himself? Was the act of listening, the act of being present, a potential catalyst for change? I often ask myself this question, and I often tell myself, “I hope so.”
What was the message of the encounter with the rapist? He had succeeded in making short shrift of any sort of boundary between interviewer and subject, me and him. He had penetrated my defenses. I felt invaded, naked, angry. In paying him attention and sharing space with him, I had in ways come to be on his side—and he was fully aware of it. From that moment, I was infected with the memory of such intimacy, which felt like an acknowledgment of his evil.
Yet I myself was changed by that difficult encounter. It caused me to reflect on my own actions in ways I never had before. What does my energy do? What does the energy of another do to me? How does intention translate into energy? Is it possible to embrace human suffering as a mother embraces, physically or emotionally, her child, regardless of the child’s behavior, qualities, social approval, choices, or destiny? Is there a path towards this kind of capacious embrace? In letting this man penetrate my affective boundary, I had lost the opportunity to step back and embrace the situation fully, like a mother would. I had lost my chance to offer an opportunity for change.
Pumla may have put it best. “How much evidence is necessary for one to change perspective and for transformation in one’s life to result? Is knowledge enough to change a person’s heart? Is it sufficient simply to know that the beliefs on which one has based one’s behavior are wrong? Perhaps one doesn’t need more knowledge, one needs the resolve to use the knowledge that one has. Moving from reflection to engagement requires a new way of seeing the old—the kind of shift in perspective that information rarely yields but spiritual conviction sometimes brings.”

Analysis of some excerpts from an interview released by Curtis Lovelace to correspondent Maurey Maher

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Curtis and Cory Lovelace

Curtis Lovelace, was a former University of Illinois football star and a successful Illinois state prosecutor.

On Valentine’s Day 2006, his wife Cory, 38, was found dead in their house of Quincy, Illinois. The case was closed as “death from natural causes”.

Eight years after, an investigator re-opened the case and Curtis Lovelace was charged with his wife’s murder.

In 2014, after a first trial, a jury was unable to reach a verdict.

In 2017, after a second trial, the jury reached a not guilty verdict.

What we look for in the following excerpts is for Curtis Lovelace to issue a reliable denial.

A reliable denial is found in the free editing process, not in the parroted language and has 3 components:

1. the pronoun “I”
2. past tense verb “did not” or “didn’t”
3. accusation answered

If a denial has more than 3 or less than 3 components, it is no longer reliable.

There is no consequence to issue a reliable denial about any false allegation.

“I did not kill Cory” followed by “I told the truth” while addressing the denial, it is more than 99% likely to be true. This would be the “wall of truth”. 

The “wall of truth” is an impenetrable psychological barrier that often leads innocent people to few words, as the subject has no need to persuade anyone of anything.

We begin every statement analysis expecting truth, and it is the unexpected that confronts us as possibly deceptive.

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Curtis Lovelace

Curtis Lovelace: I knew that… uhm… she wasn’t taking care of herself. I was aware of the bulimia avenging and the purging late in the day. Cory was an alcoholic. And… unfortunately so much of alcoholism, all of alcoholism is not… is not pretty. It’s… it’s ugly. And… it brings out oftentimes the worst in people. And… it was something that she… she struggled with.

Maurey Maher: You said you drank. Would you describe yourself as an alcoholic?

Curtis Lovelace: I do describe my… myself as an alcoholic and I stopped drinking.

Note that Curtis Lovelace describes himself as “an alcoholic” and asserted that “alcoholism brings out, oftentimes, the worst in people”. This is an “embedded admission”.

Curtis Lovelace: The vivid memory is… is her coming down. One of the ch… one of the kids needed a pair of pants. She wasn’t feelin’ any better. And we made the decision that… I would’ve take the kids to school.

Note that he says “The vivid memory is…”, something unexpected in a truthful account. These are unnecessary words whereas in truthful accounts people can only tell what is in their “memory”. This may be an indication that previously he told the correspondent what was not from his experiential memory.

Maurey Maher: What was your reaction?

Curtis Lovelace: Uhm… I Just utter shocked, I… infact, I’m… I’m not even sure how I reacted, I know what I did.

Note the pause “Uhm” and the stuttering “I”, signals that the question is sensitive to him. 

Note the use of “just”“just” is a dependent word used to comparison. Its communication is found in dependence upon another thought and as other dependent words reveals withheld information.

Curtis Lovelace: What I saw was someone who didn’t need help… uhm… I just saw my wife who had passed away.

Note that he refers to his wife Cory as “someone”, this is distancing language. 

Who doesn’t need help? “Someone” who is dead.

Note the pause “uhm”.

Note the word “just” used to comparison. 

Maurey Maher: Did you have anything to do with the death of your wife, Cory?

Curtis Lovelace: I did not.

This is not a reliable denial for two reasons:

  • Lovelace is parroting back the interviewer’s words;
  • his denial is incomplete because he didn’t add in the specific accusation.

 Curtis Lovelace: To not only get called a murderer, but to say that I murdered the mother of my children, it’s horrible. This is a prosecution that should have never been brought. There never should have been an indictment.

Note that when he says “I murdered the mother of my children”, he framed himself without parroting anybody’s words. This is an “embedded admission”. 

Note than after Lovelace says “This is a prosecution that should have never been brought. There never should have been an indictment”, he is unable to add “because I didn’t kill my wife Cory”.

Curtis Lovelace: We assumed that… uhm… that her.. her eating disorder, that her alcoholism… uhm… somehow caused her death. And whether it was checked undetermined… uh… or natural death, really wasn’t something that we were concerned about.

Note the use of “uhm” and “uh” as a pause to take time to think. 

Note that when Lovelace says “We assumed that” and “we were concerned about”, he shows a desire to hide in a crowd like most guilty people.

Maurey Maher: So how do you find yourself in this position?

Curtis Lovelace: It’s a good question, as a question that we’ve been asking for the last two and a half years.

Again, when he says “we’ve been asking”, he shows a desire to hide in a crowd.

During the trial Curtis Lovelace told the court: As I approach the bed, I ca… I can see… I can see her hands… uhm… I can see… uhm… I can see her eyes were open… uhm… and she was… she was very pale and there was just… there was nothing there. Cory was dead… Uhm… that’s what I saw… uhm… that’s what I saw. I told them multiple times that I had nothing to do with Cory’s death.

Note how he uses the non-word “uhm” and the repetitions of “I can see”, “she was”, “that’s what”to take time to think.  

Note that when he says “As I approach the bed, I ca… I can see… I can see her hands… uhm… I can see… uhm… I can see her eyes were open… uhm…” he speaks at the present tense. When someone is speaking of an event in the past, it is expected to use past tense language. Present tense language is deemed unreliable. Deceptive people often use the present counting on us to interpret and assume that they are speaking of the past event.

“I told them multiple times that I had nothing to do with Cory’s death” is not a reliable denial. “I didn’t kill my wife Cory” is a reliable denial.

I told them multiple times is different from “I told the truth”. To repeat something “multiple times” doesn’t make it the truth. 

Curtis Lovelace: (prosecutor) Adam Gibson decided to create a crime where one didn’t exist.

This is not a reliable denial.

ANALYSIS CONCLUSION:

Deception Indicated.

During this interview with correspondent Maurey Maher:

  • Curtis Lovelace didn’t issue a reliable denial. The absence of a denial, it’s a concern. If someone is unable or unwilling to say that he didn’t do it, we are not permitted to say so for him.
  • Lovelace admitted to be “an alcoholic” and that “alcoholism brings out oftentimes the worst in people”.
  • He then released an embedded admission when he said: “I murdered the mother of my children”.

Curtis Lovelace has guilty knowledge of what happened to his wife Cory.