Sunday evening’s episode of The Interview Room with Chris McDonough featured a panel of experts from the Cold Case Foundation who provided a number of valuable insights into a possible profile of the assailant of Abigail Williams, 13, and Liberty German, 14, of Delphi, Indiana. The panel included McDonough, Gregory Cooper and Dean Jackson, all of the Cold Case Foundation. Also joining the group was Tom McHoes, an investigative journalist who co-authored with Cooper the book Predators: Who They Are and How to Stop Them.
A bulk of the insights into the Delphi predator came from Cooper, who is executive director of the Cold Case Foundation and a former FBI profiler. Because little is known about the crime scene, Cooper relied mostly on the perpetrator’s approach to the crime to discern possible traits and motivations of the killer.
“What type of person would select two young girls in an isolated area, would make that approach with sufficient intimidation to manipulate them, to garner their compliance and submission? Just the approach alone, what does that tell us about this individual without talking about the crime scene?”
“What’s he out there for? He’s prepared to commit a crime.…He has weapons on him….(He is) able to to take a look at those victims and assess their vulnerability right away….He makes this approach, addresses them, refers to them as guys and directs them down the hill. And, evidently, they comply. So, at some point, he has the ability, early on, and is confident enough that if he makes this approach, that he’s going to get them to respond the way he wants (them) to.”
“He’s prepared to do this. He’s been thinking about this. And he didn’t just wake up that morning thinking about it. This isn’t the first time he thought about committing a crime like this. He’s looking for the right victims at the right time, the right environment, situation and circumstances, that to his planning and fantasy that he’s been engaged in for a significant period of time is going to match. The stars are going to line up for him. And they did.”
Cooper’s description of the assailant here is chilling. According to Cooper, the Delphi predator, more commonly referred to as Bridge Guy, is at the Monon High Bridge that day fully prepared and intending to commit a crime. Whether he knew Abigail and Liberty would be there or not, he was seeking a victim. Cooper repeatedly makes clear that this was not an impulsive act. The crime that occurred that day was not the result of another criminal act that escalated or spun out of control. The predator had been fantasizing, planning and preparing for this moment “for a significant period of time.”
Crucial to the Delphi predator’s “approach” is the victim type. Cooper examines in detail why Bridge Guy made the choices he made concerning the victims. At the top of the list would be choosing a victim that would ensure success carrying out his fantasy.
“I would theorize that he’s not looking for adult victims. He knows that the more vulnerable, the least resistant, the more compliant, it reduces his risk level. Number one of being caught and identified, and it increases his level of being successful….He’s determined before the type of victim, even the age range. He has an interest in younger females that he’s been fantasizing about what he’d like to do….They weren’t targeted because they were known, but they were targeted because they fit the profile of his fantasy. It would increase the success of his crime, plus it would satisfy his inclinations and urges.”
“What level of confidence would they have with an adult female who is mature and confident? What type of behavioral characteristics in this type of offender?…This is not a guy to drive a sports car, to go out with an attractive woman who can carry on an intelligent conversation. This is a guy who feel’s more comfortable around children because they’re easier to influence….Consequently, he has developed a sexual interest in them as well….This guy lacks confidence in social circles. He withdraws from normal social circles. He’s not confident carrying on an intelligent conversation, mutual conversations with an intelligent adult female.”
From Cooper’s description, it seems likely that the Delphi predator did not feel confident that he could manipulate and control an adult female victim, and likely lacks confidence around adult females in general. Bridge Guy chose his victims and his approach because it gave him a sense of confidence and assurance that he could be successful in fulfilling his fantasy. But where did that confidence come from? Why was he so sure he could manipulate younger victims and “garner their compliance and submission?” According to Cooper, “I don’t think it was his first time. I think there were other incidents.”
More of Cooper’s thoughts and observations will be examined in a subsequent blog post.