As an innovator at the FBI in the late 1970s, John Douglas developed new investigative techniques for hunting serial killers, sex offenders, and other violent offenders. Advancing the use in investigations of the procedure known as criminal profiling, Douglas became widely recognized as its top authority. A mix of psychology, pattern recognition, and inductive/deductive reasoning, criminal profiling allows investigators to make educated guesses about suspects–sometimes accurately predicting their age, background, personality, and other identifying characteristics from the barest of clues. While leading the FBI’s Investigate Support Unit, Douglas used profiling in numerous prominent cases.
Identifying patterns among their research subjects, Douglas’ team believed that common traits, ages, habits, and other demographic details could be used to construct accurate profiles of criminals simply from the evidence at hand. Everything from the location and appearance of a crime scene to the arrangement of a victim’s body was relevant. They identified key characteristics of certain criminals, ranging from a personality afflicted with feelings of inadequacy to the tendency by some to indulge in fantasies.
Immersion in these cases has affected Douglas not only mentally, but physically as well. In 1983, Douglas nearly died from viral encephalitis while working in Seattle, Washington on “The Green River Murder” case. Doctors later attributed his illness as a result of the heavy workload he carried and dealing on a daily basis with crimes of violence. Although diagnosed with “post-traumatic stress disorder” Douglas continued to oversee 1,000 violent crime cases annually that both he and the 12 FBI profilers, who he affectionately referred to as “The Dirty Dozen,” would work tirelessly on.
He even entered popular culture as the model for Jack Crawford in the film, The Silence of the Lambs and his work has been reflected in many TV shows including Criminal Minds, The Profiler and CSI. He’s consulted on major motion pictures including, most recently, The Lovely Bones for director Peter Jackson. and his book Mindhunter was recently made into a Netflix series based on Douglas’ life story starring Jonathan Groff.
In his latest book, The Killer Across The Table: Unlocking the Secrets of Serial Killers and Predators with the FBI‘s Original Mindhunter, Douglas delves deep into the lives and crimes of four of the most disturbing and complex predatory killers, offering never-before-revealed details about his profiling process, and divulging the strategies used to crack some of America’s most challenging cases.
Douglas’ ability to link behavior and evidence makes him the lawman serial killers fear. He knows their secrets, has learned the patterns of their bizarre rituals and is always armed with the information needed for the police to capture these criminals and put an end to their vicious murders.
Douglas has never been wrong on a case yet. He consulted on the JonBenet Ramsey case, “The West Memphis Three” case and most recently, the Amanda Knox case, always maintaining her innocence until proven not guilty in October of 2011.