Probing the Mind of a Serial Killer by Jack A. Apsche




Probing the Mind of a Serial Killer


Jack A. Apsche


Foreword by

  1. Charles Peruto, Jr.


Published by ePrintedBooks

Watch a news report about this serial killer

 This author or book needs no reviews because this is an eBook release of the cult classic that inspired “The Silence of the Lambs” movie and books. The paperbacks are selling on Amazon for $200.00 to $1000.00 each. The printed version of this book has sold over three hundred thousand copies. It is used as a serial killer study guide for psychologist in colleges worldwide. This is book 1 and book 2 is called Breaking The Silence Of The Lambs.


The purpose of this book is to present a view into the mind of the serial killer, by closely examining one serial killer in particular, Gary M. Heidnik of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The book simultaneously examines the insanity plea within the current American legal system. Although this latter is not truly within the realm of psychology, it is impossible to discuss this subject without examining that issue. Perhaps the most important objective of this book is to present new and emerging criteria for insanity; criteria that are not covered under the diagnostic and statistical Manual III-R of the American Psychiatric Association. This new diagnostic criteria should be simply called SERIAL MURDERER




This book is dedicated to Robert K. Ressler. We would still be standing near, and “looking into the abyss” without his pio­neering effort. Thank you Mr. Ressler.




It seems appropriate to thank those people who, in a variety of ways, allowed this book to be completed. So, thank you, one and all.


Included among these “thank you’s” are my daughter, Melissa, who thinks that “it’s cool,” and my son, Joey, who just wanted to see it done.

An especially big thanks goes to my wife, Joanne, who had to live through all the phases of this work, and the writing of the book — and she’s still married to me! Thank you, I love you.


Finally, thanks to Richard Bradley. Without his belief in this project, and because of his guidelines, we were able to complete it. You were right, “there was a book in there somewhere.” I hope I found it.

Finally, it is my hope that this book contributes to contin­ued research and understanding into the phenomena of serial killers. As such, I thank you, the reader of this book.


Table of Contents























Jack Apsche holds a doctorate in Psychological Studies from Temple University in Philadelphia. He is currently pursuing an advanced degree in Criminal Justice. Dr. Apsche is a researcher, author, lecturer, and consultant His curiosity in human behavior extends well beyond serial killers, from the everyday problems of everyday people, to the particular problems of Viet Nam veterans, the behavior of organized crime and law enforcement, and the rise of the German neo-Nazi movement His research centers on the quest to uncover the reasons for the behavior differences between the ‘saints,” the “sinners,” and the rest of us.


Dr. Apsche lives with his wife and family in Levittown, PA.





You may wonder why an attorney is writing a foreword for a psychol­ogy text, but the sanity or insanity of serial murderers is an important legal issue. In fact, whether or not a person is insane is not a mental health issue at all, it is a legal judgment. Acknowledged mentally ill individuals, even those who have committed unimaginable serial or ritualistic murders, are not necessarily insane under the law.


Think about it. When you hear about a serial killing, and see and hear just part of the actual details of these events from the all pervasive TV network news, your first reaction is that the killer is insane. You’d have to be “crazy” to even think of the things that were done! But, those killings are frightening, horrifying and, at the same time, somewhat compelling. The media knows this and plays to all these feelings.


How could anyone in their right mind do such terrifying things to another human being? It’s hard to understand the motive. For mental health professionals, law enforcement, judges, attorneys, and juries understanding the motive is a problem. This lack of understanding allows severely mentally ill individuals to slip in and out of mental health care for years — even decades, until it is too late and the killing begins. It makes apprehension of these individuals by law enforcement difficult, because the motive is missing — at least to the “normal” individual. And once brought into court, judges, juries and attorneys, still not understanding, but knowing the killer must be crazy become entangled in a legal definition over 150 years old!


Part of the problem is the shock at the grotesque details of the actions and the need for society to rid itself of this particular menace. The serial killer, as you will see, is generally extremely intelligent and appears to behave, and answer questions rationally. In fact, most are always helpful and have learned to tell you what you most want to hear. But the world that exists only in their head almost never appears.


Popular culture, books, movies and TV shows portray the serial killer in his external image only. The character never appears crazy but pursues the relentless killing path in a logical rational manner. There’s no wild-eyed madman as is often portrayed by actors like Jack Nicholson but a calm, reasoning killer trying to outsmart the system. This is also what happens in real life. But as Dr. Apsche points out in this book, the serial killer lives an internal fantasy world that cannot be seen or understood by those who see him. Juries are then easily manipulated to change their gut feel of insane to sane when confronted by the archaic definition, and the authority of a judge.


This book begins the discovery of the inner world of the serial killer. It shows these individuals to have had mental problems that were being treated for years. It shows how the intelligence of these individuals get them released from institutions over and over again. Released until their fantasies take complete control and are acted out. And once successfully acted out, these powerful fantasies and the feelings of control become stronger and stronger leading to further killings.


To understand this in the detail presented by Jack Apsche, often using the words of an actual serial killer can help society better than all the death penalties and life-in-prison sentences ever can. Knowing what to look for, how to find and understand the fantasy motive, can help law enforcement personnel find these people quicker. Our legal system, juries, attorneys and judges, can then interpret the law in a manner to help society by placing these insane killers in a secure place where they can be studied and helped. They can’t be cured, but they can help us understand the disease and help prevent future crimes from being committed.


Perhaps most importantly is the acknowledgment by mental health professionals —psychiatrists and psychologists — that the serial killer is an unrecognized mental health illness. As Dr. Apsche points out these individuals exhibit many of the more traditional and recognized forms of mental illness, but the whole is more than the sum. As the research continues on from the beginnings presented in this book, the serial/ritualistic killer category will become better defined, understood and accepted. Then these people can be reached, confined and treated when they first are admitted for mental health care, not waiting for the victims to be found years later. This book cannot bring back the victims, or console their families and friend. Neither can it prevent these crimes from taking place in the future — at least not by itself. But Dr. Apsche’s work offers the first insight and plan for further work that will begin to control the centuries’ old horrifying crime — the serial killing.


  1. Charles Peruto, Jr.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania




John 3:20: For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works night not be exposed. —one of Gary Heidnik’s favorite Bible passages.


Although so called serial or ritualistic murders have probably been around since there was enough human beings to form even the most primitive society, it seems that in the last several decades that the incidents of these horrific crimes has been increasing. In fact, there may have been no significant increase in this type of crime at all [on a per capita basis]. Although impossible to prove, much of the seeming increase, may be nothing more than an increase in awareness of the crimes. Awareness traced to coverage by modem media.


Modem media — television, newspapers, news magazines, and radio — now reports these sorts of crimes almost immediately after they have been discovered. Not only are the reports instantaneous and available to more people now then they ever have been, but they are reported with a graphic detail that brings home the horror of the crime to all who hear or see the news. In addition, advances in psychology, forensic science, and crime detection have identified such crimes for what they are, rather than strange unsolved murders which have filled police files in the past.


The purpose of this book is to present a view into the mind of the serial killer, by closely examining one serial killer in particular, Gary M. Heidnik of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The book simultaneously examines the insanity plea within the current American legal system. Although this latter is not truly within the realm of psychology, it is impossible to discuss this subject without examining that issue. Perhaps the most important objective of this book is to present new and emerging criteria for insanity; criteria that are not covered under the diagnostic and statistical Manual III-R of the American Psychiatric Association. This new diagnostic criteria should be simply called SERIAL MURDERER.


In support of that diagnostic category the book presents information obtained in the form of data gathered from research and numerous articles in the field. More importantly, specific experimental data supplied by thousands of hours of primary research and interviews with the subject, Gary M. Heidnik. It can be demonstrated, through the sound evidence obtained in the Heidnik research, that the insanity plea as applied today, does not apply to the ritualistic or serial killer. In addition, these data will allow us to gain valuable insight into the psychological profile of the serial killer. It is hoped that this profile, and its future refinements and extensions, will help to identify such individuals early enough to prevent these shocking crimes. This book is the result of years of pre- and post-trial research and discovery. What I found in the literature is offered as an eclectic review of current thinking on serial killers. Also presented is the evidence to support the work given in the words of Gary Michael Heidnik, from interviews and personal correspondence. All letters, transcripts, etc., reproduced on this volume are done so with the spelling, grammar, and syntax of the original preserved.


My wish is that the book is useful to professionals, as well as the general public. It is time that we all learn what is fact and what is fiction. It is time to separate the truth from myth, and Gary Heidnik from Hannibal Lector.


Finally, I hope that Probing the Mind of a Serial Killer moves us a step closer to answers to the questions we all ask about serial killers.


Jack A. Apsche

Levittown, Pennsylvania






In the United States today the question of defining insanity has become more of a legal issue than a psychiatric, psychological or mental health question. The forensic psychologist or psychiatrist, armed with modem techniques and a new understanding of the human mind based on decades of research, must still adapt to a 19th Century set of guidelines, the M’Naghten rule.


The M’Naghten rule is based on a 1843 English law case of a Scotsman named Daniel M. M’Naghten. The rules of insanity established in that case are the same rules observed in one half of the states in America today almost 150 years later. It is as if the legal system does not acknowledge any advancement in Psychology or Psychiatry since that time. In simple terms, the M’Naghten rule asks if the defendant understood the nature and quality of the act on which he is being tried. It also asks if (s)he knew the difference between right and wrong with respect to that act.


Another legal definition of insanity is given by the American Law Institute (ALI). The American Law Institute’s test of criminal responsibility was adopted by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in the Brauner case. It provides:


A person is not responsible for criminal conduct if at the time of such conduct, as a result of mental disease or defect, he lacks substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality (wrongfulness) of his conduct to the requirement of the law.


Although this ALI guideline of insanity is far more broad, it remains, at its base, a M’Naghten definition of insanity.


There have been major gains through scientific research in the collective fields of mental health since the 1800’s. Yet the profession must submit to a out-of-date legalistic and often confining definition of insanity when such matters come before a judicial system in the United States. Significantly, these definitions do not apply to some of the most heinous crimes that we face in America today. These are the crimes which capture newspaper headlines and make sensational movies, but seldom if ever do the stories portrayed go beyond the sensationalism to seriously examine the individuals, and the pathology of these individuals.


Often in court cases where insanity is the defense, the prosecution, as well as the defense attorneys, retain a psychiatrist to examine the defendant and give their perspective points of view. In most cases, the retained professionals adopt the point of view of those who retain them.


At the very least, legal professionals have been able to identify those psychiatrists whose views match either a prosecution or defense posture. Quick results may be good law, but is often less than perfect psychiatry or psychology. The problem being is that what is received are several well-educated and often renown but differing opinions of the sanity of the defendant.


Based on different sets of information, and on examinations based on different sets of rules, it is not hard to understand these diversion opinions. Such examinations do not (and neither are they intended) lead to a better understanding of what causes the creation of such a state of mind. It is important, particularly in the case of the ritualistic serial killer, that one looks at the entire history of the individual and thoroughly researches any serial killers also then in captivity. If this examination is done carefully, in a longitudinal manner, there are patterns that emerge relative to this personality as a class.


Before enumerating the characteristics of serial killers, an important point of reference is to review the current categorizations of mass murders, and a brief history of serial killers. Mass murderers have been categorized by many in the past. Mass murderers were compartmentalized into four major groups by Park Dietz, a forensic psychiatrist. Serial murderers, a subcategory of these mass murderers also has its own categorization system. This was also developed by Park Dietz. The serial murder categories were further defined by Richard Rappaport, another forensic psychiatrist.


The categories of mass murderers are as follows:



Family Annihilators

Set and Run Killers

Serial Murderers


For the purpose of this study, only the final category of Serial Murderers will be examined. The five categories of serial killer delineated by Doctors Dietz and Rappaport are the following:


Crime Spree Killers

Functionaries of Organized Criminal Operations

Custodial Poisoners and Asphyxiators


Sexual Saddest.


The Crime Spree Killers are exactly what the term signifies. They are individuals or partners who murder while involved in the commission of other felonies such as bank robberies, illegal drugs, and burglaries.


Functionaries of Organized Criminal Operations usually refers to those who commit murder for profit and/or business motives. These murderers are often associated with the so-called mafia and other contract murderers. Today, many are a part of international drug cartels.


Custodial Poisoners and Asphyxiators are often members of the medical profession. These individuals may murder their patients for financial reasons, or to relieve themselves of the duty of caring for “dependent, debilitated, demanding and helpless patients.”


The Psychotic category describes a group of individuals known for irrational thinking that often leads to dangerous behaviors. They are often reacting to commands to kill from voices of others within their own head. Many psychotics have religious conflicts and they act on commands from God or the Devil.


The group of killers known as Sexual Saddest are marked by the characteristic violation and torture of their victims prior to the actual murder. These killers are often identified as white males in their 20’s and 30’s. They are usually also intelligent, successful, and often have no prior criminal record.


The research which forms the basis of this study clearly shows that the psychotic and the sexual saddest behavior interact in the Serial Murderer providing the basis of a new profile. This profile is more than simply the combination of the psychotic and sexual sadist categories. It should be noted that the categories of psychotic and sexual saddest may represent sound criteria for an individual serial murderer. Research conducted on Gary Heidnik (and to a lesser extent with another convicted serial killer, Harrison Graham) and others, suggests that a bridge of both categories may exist in the serial killer.


Along with such categorization schemes, it is equally important to have a sense of historical prospective regarding the serial killers. Elliott Leyton in his book Hunting Humans provides an excellent overview of the history of serial murder. Although this book is predominantly a socioanthropological view of the problem it is an excellent source for obtaining this historical perspective.


Included in this book by some of the more infamous, but perhaps not so well-known serial killers of the past. These in dude:


Sawney Beam, the 15th Century Scot who murdered to steal the possessions of passers by and also cannibalized the bodies of his victims.

Madam de Brinvilliers, 17th Century French women who murdered family members in order to inherit their wealth.

Catherine Montvoisin, another 17th Century French women who arranged for the elimination of hundreds of infants in return for payment.

Baron Gilles de Rais from France. Who may be considered the true “father” of modern serial murderers.


The Baron was born into a family who possessed a great fortune, in the year 1404. He possibly murdered at least 800 children during an 8-year span. The magnitude and hideousness of his crimes was in complete opposition to his apparent character.


As his biographer Leonard Wolf wrote, “as the children were dying, Gilles the artist of terror, the skilled Latinist who read St. Augustine; Gillies devoted companion of Jeanne d’Arc, squatted on the bellies of the children studying their anguished faces breathing their dying sighs.” It was known that the Baron sodomized the victims before and after the murders.


Gilles acted out his internal fantasies of power and control. In his case, although he had a great deal of power and control in life, he needed more. He needed the actual power of life and death. He played out his internal fantasy. He played God. Baron Gilles wanted all authority, and even chastised the lowly estate of those who were acting as his judges. He only capitulated following threats of torture and excommunication. As we will see, he possessed many of the traits of the serial killers of modern America. One needs to have only talked to Gary Heidnik, or to have read some of his letters to see the remarkable similarities.


From 1970 continuing even today, there were more individual serial murders reported then in all the previous American history combined. It is becoming a rapidly increasing problem in America. The following, though admittedly incomplete, is a list of known serial murderers in modern day America.


1920’s: Earl Nelson; Coral Program


1930’s: Albert Fish


1940’s: Jarvous Catoe, Howard Unruh, William Heirens


1950’s: Charles Sharkucathes


1960’s: Melven Reeves, Albert De Salvo, Michael Lee Herrington, Larry Cord Murders of Cincinnati (unsolved), Richard Spec, Dr. Ronald E. Clark, Antone Costa, James Brudas, Charles Witman


1970’s: William Pierre, Edmond J. Cody, Benjamin Franklin Mills, Charles Schmid, Jr., Girard John Schaefer, Herbert Mullin, Edmond Eneil Kemper, Bruce Henderson Shreeves, Dean Corll, Elmer Wayne Henly, Julian Kennedy, Larry C. Green, Joseph Calanger, “Zodiac Killers”, Thomas E. Creech, Vaugh Greenwood, Dr. Mario E. Jascalevich, Patrick Kearny, Ennis Biarehi, Angelo Buno, Tr., Gary Jean Tison, Joseph Fischiz, John Gacy, Theodore Bundy, Gerald Eugene Staro, Juan Carina, David Berkowitz, Paul Knoules, Mark Essex, Vaugh Greenwood, Harvy Carignan, Edward Allavay.


1980 to 1984: Henry Lee Lucas, James Huberty, Author Bishof, Randal Woodfield, Gerald Starro, “The Green River Killer”, Alton Coleman, Christopher Wilder, Robert Hanse, Michael Silka, Louis Hastings, Charles Meach, Robert Diez, Wayne Williams, “Trailside Slayings”, Douglas Daniel Clark, Coral Eugene Watts, Randy Steve Kraft, Frederick Tyman Hodge, Larry Egler, William Benin, Joseph Christopher, Donald Miller, Steve Morin, Michael Ross, Michael Lewis Norris, Lawrence S. Bildtiber, “The Hitchhiker Slayings”, Carlton Gary, “The Skid Row Slasher”, “The Midtown Slasher”, Coral Eugene Roberts, “The Atlanta-Georgia Thimon Murders”, “The Houston-Texas Sunday Morning Slashings”, David Bullock, Dale Robert Henderson, Joseph John Siellrin, William Benvior, Benard Durton Hunerick, Christine Falling, Henry Lee Lucas, Otto Tool, Henry Brison, Richard Begerwald, Charles Hatcher, Douglas David Clark, Jeanine Jones, Geraldo Gallego, Debra Sue Tuggle, Joseph Paul Franklin, Robert Harson, Caulen Perry, Christopher Wilden, Robert R. Druz, Richard Rinarien.


(Source: Joel Norris, Elliot Leyton, Ann Rule)


Obviously, the problem with serial murders in America is one in which the mental health profession must study, regardless of whether there was an actual increase over the centuries or not. The mere fact of the increasing number [there is no sound procedure for estimating the number of serial murderers at large in America today] of known serial murderers in the United States necessitates the development of more research and a diagnostic process must be completed if only for the public protection


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