June 11, 2020

"Mindhunter" Quiz Reveal | Legal Reads

Greg Nahas’ first book recommendation was "MindHunter" by John Douglas. He shared an excerpt from the book and a quiz on profiling. Many of you have been asking for an answer reveal, so here it is!

I’ve given this quiz a number of times, to a great number of people. The point of it is not whether you get the right answer, but the importance is how you came to the conclusion.

Greg Nahas

I was really touched and a little overwhelmed by the number of emails I received regarding my recent blog, so I sat down and read both of them (including the one from my mother). However, some folks have asked me if their assessment was correct regarding the mysterious disappearance of little Elsie.

Remember, John Douglas instructs that it's not the outcome that's important, it's the road you take to get there. Specifically, why did you come to the conclusion that you did?

When we left off, Elsie had gone missing and both her mother Nicole Singer and Nicole's boyfriend Tommy Rowan had both passed polygraph tests. Nicole then received a horrifying package containing one of Elsie's mittens, but no note. So, spoiler alert, here's how John Douglas cracked this case:

At that point, you tell the profile coordinator that he better go back and do another polygraph on Nicole Singer, because this is not a kidnapping. The little girl is dead and Nicole is the killer. Why did you doubt her story?

There are a couple of elements that arouse suspicion.

The first is that the mother left the child alone in an apartment that might or might not have been secured - but we'll give her the benefit of the doubt on that one.

The second is that when she called 911, she told the operator "her baby had been kidnapped." This is such a horrible thing for parents to even contemplate that most of them will consciously or subconsciously suppress it as long as they can. Normally a parent under this kind of extreme stress will say something to the effect that her baby or child is missing, that she can't find her, that she's run off, that she's wandered away ... anything not to confront the idea of kidnapping. As I say, this isn't ironclad, but it can get you thinking. 

We'd also pay attention to Miss Singer's situation: she is a young single mother who is becoming increasingly involved with a single man without children. 

But the element that really gives it away is the mitten sent through the mail.

If you stop to think it through, it doesn't make any sense. There are really only three cases in which children are taken by strangers:

  • The first is kidnapping for profit.
  • The second is kidnapping by those who intend to do children harm for their own purposes, either for perverted sexual gratification or as a specific or general revenge.
  • The third kidnapping is by unstable and pathetic people who wish to have a child of their own.

The first of these three types of offenders will have to communicate with the parents to establish demands and make arrangements for payment. The second and third categories will want nothing whatever to do with the parents; only in the rarest of instances- when you have a truly insane or sadistic individual (GN Note: see, Mindhunter - Chapter on Larry Gene Bell) - would you see any attempt at communication. But that would be a real long shot, extremely unusual.

There is absolutely no reason for a child abductor to send the mitten back, except as proof that he has the child. And in that case, there would be some demand or mention of ransom. Kidnappers don't want to keep the hostage any longer than they have to. 

What happened here is that the mother has staged the crime according to how she thinks a real kidnapping would go down, yet she really has no idea, and this gives her away.

The Polygraph is an imprecise and imperfect instrument and should never be accepted, one way or another, without question.

In this case, there are two solid reasons why the examiners' suspicions might not have been aroused:

  • For one thing, if Nicole convinced herself that what she had done was "right" and "necessary" then she could do pretty well on a lie detector test.
  • An even more likely possibility is that the examiner interpreted her expressions of "guilt" as having to do with her acknowledged negligence in leaving the child alone.

When a second polygraph is administered, this time by an examiner aware of the different types of guilt he's looking for, the results are different. And when Nicole Singer is told that she's failed the test, is now the prime suspect, and is read her Miranda Rights, she begins to break down.

When the FBI agent gives her a way to "explain" herself without seeming like a cold-blooded murderer, she confesses - not only to strangling and burying Elsie, but to intentionally cutting her own hand as part of the staging.

The motive? That grows out of the situation, and unfortunately isn't all that uncommon. She was a young, single mother, missing out on all the fun of her late teens because of the child. She had met Tommy Rowan, who told her he wanted to get married and start a family of their own. But either because of something he made clear, or because of her perception, she believed that he felt there was no room in their lives together for this child. So if Nicole was to achieve the kind of life she dreamed of, Elsie would have to go.

Nicole is a pathetic offender and what she has done may be psychologically explainable, but it's not excusable. 

So how'd you do? Surprised? Why or why not? Let us know. We'd love to hear your thoughts.

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