Barrie Ritter

My name is Barrie J. Ritter. My training is in empirical psychology, with Ph.Ds. in both Sociology and Anthropology, from United States International University, San Diego, 1988. Recently, I published 64 articles as the National Crime and Justice Examiner, for, an online newspaper with a public audience. I began in 1975 to conduct interdisciplinary research on what is now a criminological topic: serial murder (though this term did not enter common parlance until around 1984.)

I originally gravitated toward this subject out of an interest in the Holocaust, which captured my attention while I was getting my MA in Psychology at the New school for Social Research, in New York. At this university, several professors encouraged us to develop better explanations for genocide than those in vogue. These were psychodynamic orientations that were used to place the blame upon the victims. It was claimed that the victims' defense mechanisms kept them from recognizing the danger surrounding them and fleeing before they were murdered.

When we serendipitously moved to Southern California in 1974, I got a close-up view of the diverse and changing types of murder then emerging which police had trouble solving and no one understood. The 70s were a time when cases turned into dangerous trends, exacerbated by policies of mitigation (such as rehabilitation and diversion) for the offenders in such cases. It was the time when school shootings began with a female sniper named Brenda Spencer, when bored and restless boys of 12 and 13 set hotels or homeless men on fire, when Larry Singleton cut the forearms off teenaged Mary Vincent, then was treated and released so he could go on to kill. There was Dan White who used the "Twinkie Defense," and Jim Jones gathered around him a group of Kool-Aid killers, when Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten was being retried for the third time, and the Hillside Strangler case was an ongoing crime.

I was at the right place at the right time to meet those who needed to be heard. At the Singleton trial I sought out Mary Vincent, and found a victim free of malice. I attended the Van Houten retrial and declined to testify. Instead I listened to the defendant say she “weighed the pros and cons,” beforehand. I also discovered that one area of great interest to both sides was the similarity between Hitler and Manson in securing followers. I felt I might be going in the right direction because that was the same area I had been studying. I also met with the Hillside Strangler Task Force where I was fortunate enough to spend hours with detectives Sergeants Sartucci and Patchett, learning what they needed and knew, and giving them what I had learned. They listened with an open mind to my reasons for believing a very different profile was needed, and I was handed over to Lt. Ed Henderson, head of the task force. I was then told that I would need to convince Dr. Martin Reiser, of the Behavioral Science Unit. This was because the police had no control over the creation of, or the change in, a profile. The problem was not with the police; it was with the administration of the L.A.P.D.

Out of these experiences I developed a fierce interest in helping police solve complex homicides and prosecutors explain them to a jury. As I had reported in L.A., the police should look for someone who seemed normal, even charming, capable of obtaining victims from busy areas without attracting attention, that he had increased the frequency of his murders and, if it suited his needs, he might well move to another jurisdiction. I had developed my findings by reading about other cases and by looking carefully at the material available in the news. Only later would I learn about Theodore Robert Bundy, and meet with the prosecutors in both of his Florida death penalty cases. I wrote a letter about Bundy as a multi-jurisdictional serial killer and sent it to Florida and to the FBI and the research branch of the Department of Justice, which would become the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).

This document attracted the attention of Robert Burkhart, Acting Director of NIJ. He suggested that I submit my ideas for a grant that year, noting that there was no other research like mine at that time. The result: “Perspectives and Procedures for Serial Murder,” (Cycle 1, 1979, Paper Number 01-99) was my first (unfunded) proposal. I went on to work with Alex Vargo, head of San Diego Police Department’s Crime Analysis Unit, on a LEAA-funded project, ICAP, (the Integrated Crime Analysis Program.) Although that program had nothing to do with serial murder, in 1983, ICAP became a serial murder tracking system called VICAP.

In 1983 I realized I would need to get my Ph. D if I were ever to help police. This culminated in the first published, full scale study of Multiple Murderers: The Characteristics of the Persons and the Nature of their Crimes (Ritter, 1988), which can be found at any university.

Most recently, as mentioned above, I have been writing articles, where many of these ideas and activities are documented more fully. However, much of my work has become difficult to obtain, and readers and researchers are unaware of its quantity and potential utility. Ideas have become disconnected from their research basis. If this work is to ever be of use to police, all of the work must be available to all who are interested, without obstacles or fees, in a single source. (My articles, grant proposals, dissertation and background research can now be found on this site Only then, can this body of work be evaluated, and any problems found can be addressed in an orderly fashion. Serial murder research has become fundamentally disorganized, perhaps more so than any other field. Students don’t start with a diversity of findings and views; they begin wherever they wish or where their professors want them to begin, without regard to what needs to be researched. Exasperated students have created websites dedicated to airing these problems.

I am now working on a theory of the rise and decline of serial murder waves, across time and across geographic areas.
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