Are they smart and stealthy? Or insecure and irrational? Experts analyzing the Serial Shooter case have differing opinions, but they do agree on one thing — if two people were involved, one was a leader and the other was a follower.
Dale S. Hausner, 33, and Samuel Dieteman, 30, both of Mesa, have so far been charged with two counts of first-degree murder and many counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault in a 14-month series of shootings throughout the Valley.
Eric Hickey, director of the Center for Forensic Studies at Alliant International University in California, has never met either of the men but has been following the case through media reports.
“Usually one tends to lead the pack and dominate the relationship,” he said.
Hickey is a former FBI consultant on the Unabomber task force and the author of “Serial Murderers and Their Victims.” He is working on a documentary about the relationships among group killers.
“They tend to play upon each other’s weaknesses, and they have this alliance, but when it comes down to it, they would kill each other or throw each other out,” Hickey said.
Dr. Steven Pitt, a forensic psychiatrist based in Scottsdale, said one person “undoubtedly” has the dominant personality and what will emerge is a “cult of two,” or “two people sort of spinning out.”
Pitt had mixed reactions after watching Monday’s news conference with Hausner, who vehemently denied any involvement and suggested Dieteman may have taken his car and committed the crimes.
“On the one hand, conventional wisdom for someone charged with an offense is not to talk to anyone but their lawyer,” Pitt said. “On the other hand, if you have a serial offender who is verbally competent, narcissistic and a sociopath, then it fits perfectly with why an individual would want to hold a press conference.”
Hausner’s ability to speak clearly and have an answer for everything may have seemed unusual, but Pitt said his impression of the man was that he “was not the sharpest knife in the drawer.”
Pitt said he was not particularly impressed by Hausner’s news conference since the media did not ask the difficult questions that officials with more intimate knowledge of the physical evidence would ask. He said the “real test” will be at trial if Hausner takes the stand to be cross-examined.
Hickey thought Hausner came across as somewhat arrogant.
“He was acting like somebody really important, and was commanding his forces,” Hickey said. “He is probably going to watch himself and be very satisfied with his performance.”
Serial killers are smart, Hickey said. They are calculating and can continue killing for a long period of time without getting caught.
Hickey said the fact that Hausner saved newspaper clippings on the Serial Shooter case shows that he is proud. He also said that someone who is guilty who saves clippings is unlikely to have remorse.
Pitt also noted the collection as significant. “This is a person who collects newspaper clippings as someone would collect baseball cards,” Pitt said.
And the media isn’t the only group of people who will give Hausner attention. Hickey said the man can expect a lot of fan mail from “groupies” and women.
Pitt and Hickey were struck by Hausner’s expansive weapons collection, which he described in detail at the news conference. Pitt called the size of the collection and the type of weaponry “atypical,” and Hickey said the shotgun was a “pathway to notoriety.”
Hausner’s attorney, Garrett Simpson, a public defender, interrupted the news conference and told Hausner to stop talking. Late last week, Simpson asked the court to move the trial to another jurisdiction because of pretrial publicity. In a written motion in Maricopa County Superior Court, he said he was concerned that professionals who have never met Hausner are giving televised opinions of the man.
The FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit based in Quantico, Va., helped the Phoenix task force create profiles of the Serial Shooter before Hausner and Dieteman were arrested. FBI special agent Deborah McCarley would not talk about the profiles, but said Phoenix police asked the agency to provide a preliminary assessment. The team has worked with numerous agencies nationwide to assess victimology, potential characteristics of killers and figure out why a serial killer is doing what he or she is doing. McCarley would not say if the team was being used to assess the Baseline Killer, the Valley serial rapist and killer who has been attacking since August 2005.
Psychopath: Does not have an emotional response, feelings are compartmentalized, whatever feelings do exist are negative, has an above average intelligence.
Sociopath: Is more behavioral, has a history of crime, is in and out of jail, is explosive and of average or low intelligence.
Source: Eric Hickey, director of the Center for Forensic Studies at Alliant International University in California.