Sunday, August 24, 2003


Like a bust-out gambler at the race track, the profilers never let their setbacks stop them. After the Washington sniper and the Louisiana serial killer debacles, you think they might be a little hesitate to venture forth. That is not the case.

So without further ado, the West Virginia sniper profile....

The highlights....

Analysts develop profile of sniper
An intelligent loner who's thriving on terror he's brought to W.Va. capital

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- He's intelligent, but he may not have done well in school, and he's mentally unbalanced.

Most people view him as a loner or a loser, and he lacks self-esteem.

At some point, he may have been, or wanted to be, a soldier or police officer, and he still yearns to meet the standards of that kind of fraternal organization.

He may not be a "he" at all, but a "they" -- one man to fire the small-caliber rifle that has killed three people outside three convenience stores here, and a partner to drive the getaway vehicle.

That's the consensus of investigators and academics who've spent years studying serial killings and the people who carry them out. They're not involved with the Charleston shootings, but they're experienced with the process now being used by the task force of federal, state and local officers working to solve those cases.

"In some of these cases, there is nothing to go on [at first]. So you rely on historical profile, where there's a good possibility of these demographics existing, to help figure out who this person is," said Gregory S. Esslinger, a former FBI agent.

Profiles are not foolproof, and Esslinger and others cautioned that police should not become so wedded to finding someone whose characteristics fit a profile that they rule out other potential suspects.

But as a guide, a profile can be a helpful tool for officers who face the overwhelming task of combing a metropolitan community for a suspect or suspects who've already proven to be adept at disappearing after committing crimes.

Investigators in Charleston are seeking a white, heavyset man with dark, mullet-styled hair, long sideburns and a goatee. He was driving a black or dark-colored Ford F-150 full-size pickup truck with gold trim, an extended cab and tinted windows.

They suspect the shooter is a mentally ill copycat who craves the kind of notoriety generated by the Washington sniper suspects, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo.

"David Berkowitz told me the most esteem he ever felt was when the New York papers published his letters. Infamy is attractive to people like this," Ressler said.

"Muhammad and Malvo were big losers, but the biggest losers in the world were getting headlines. Now you may have someone who's turned on to the media attention the original sniper case got."