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Fantasy Drawings Investigative Analysis

Written by Vernon Geberth

All human sexual activities are initiated through fantasies, which are mental images usually involving some fulfilled or unfulfilled desire. Fantasy plays a major role in everyone’s sexual behavior. It is the driving factor for sexual expression. Sexual fantasies normally consist of imaginations and/or a series of mental images that are sexually stimulating. The contrast of these “normal” fantasies would be the aberrant development of bizarre mental images involving grotesque unnatural distortions of sexual imagery as depicted in sexually sadistic pornography.

Based on years of investigative analysis of sadistic sex crimes and the criminals who perpetrate these events, that sexually sadistic pornography is directly linked to sadistic sex crimes. I have investigated, supervised, consulted on, assessed and researched numerous cases in which photographs, drawings, video tapes, books, pornography in men’s magazines, women’s clothing and anatomically correct dolls were recovered in the homes of sexual offenders and/or people who died as a result of autoerotic fatalities to stimulate themselves.

The Sexual Offender
A person who is aroused with thoughts and fantasies of sexual aggression often incorporates elements into his life that serve to enhance his violent fantasies. An offender can also live out his sexual fantasies through fantasy drawings, which serve as a form of rehearsal before actually committing the offense. The fantasy drawings may be based on a mind picture referred to as an “engram,” which is conjured up in the imagination or fantasy. Or the fantasy drawings may be predicated on a mental re-creation of an actual event. In that case, the fantasy drawings become actual evidence against the offender.

In the BTK serial murder case, the offender Dennis Rader was convicted of killing 10 victims over an extended period of time. One of the issues confounding law enforcement was BTK’s ability to stop killing for prolonged periods of time and then resume his killing. This dynamic just didn’t fit the accepted protocol of serial killers. It was only after his arrest and subsequent confessions that authorities learned why he had these “gaps” in the murder events.

Rader told the authorities that he would use his fantasy drawings and pictures of his victims to sexually stimulate himself in order to relive the murders. These fantasy drawings became significant in corroborating his statements and the evidence recovered from the execution of the numerous search warrants linking BTK to each of the murders.

I have also seen numerous cases of offenders acting out sadistic fantasies based on violent pornography as well as their own drawings and paintings depicting sexual assault. In fact, empirical studies indicate that many sex offenders reported having masturbatory fantasies before acts of sexual aggression and that the content of the fantasy was similar to the nature of their sexual offense. Many sexual assaults and/or homicides are a direct result of an offender acting out a specific sexual fantasy fueled by sadistic pornography.

Criminal Investigative Analysis
The applications of clinical criteria and abnormal psychology to the investigative process are an integral part of criminal personality profiling and have been universally recognized and accepted as genuine and legitimate investigative techniques. Detectives and criminal investigators routinely employ these techniques in their investigation of violent crime on a case-by-case basis. From a practical standpoint, there are only so many ways to kill and only so many stories to tell as an offender attempts to explain the killings. After a while, a distinct pattern emerges, which encompass a series of clusters of behavioral information and specific typologies of offenders Criminal investigative analysis is a process of reviewing crimes from both a behavioral and investigative perspective. It involves reviewing and assessing the facts of a criminal act, interpreting offender behavior, and interaction with the victim, as exhibited during the commission of the crime, or as displayed in the crime scene.

Clinically speaking, there is a behavioral distinctiveness in human sexuality. This unique aspect of our sexual arousal and response system accounts for why individuals differ in their sexual behaviors and engage in a specific series of behavioral patterns. In sex-related criminal incidents, the offender is often subconsciously “acting out” a sexually significant behavioral pattern, which reflects the underlying personality, lifestyle, and developmental experiences of the offender.

Fantasy drawings provide a unique insight into the mind of the offender, whose love for detail and sexual expression inadvertently provides the investigator with the offenders’ innermost sexual thought processes and fantasies, not to mention evidence. When you have the innermost thoughts of an offender, written or drawn by his own hand, there are no better “data” from which to draw conclusions about a particular offender and his sexual activities. The investigative goal is to interpret these actions and behaviors of the offender and then translate these psychodynamics into investigative reality.

An Investigative Roadmap
Fantasy plays a major role in everyone’s sexual behavior. However, for the sexual offender, fantasy becomes the paramount stimulus expressed through sexual aggression, domination, power and control. These people are aroused with thoughts and fantasies of sexual aggression, which they reinforce through repetition illustrated by the use of sadistic pornography and their fantasy drawings.

The materials, including “rape and/or murder” kits that the offender used to control his victims and enhance his sexual fantasies, and implements he used to sexually torture his victims become an integral part of the fantasy drawings as he attempts re-create the actual event in the fantasy drawing in order to relive the experience. These drawings can be introduced into evidence as an example of the role of fantasy.

Fantasy drawings, pornography, writings and journals, sexual devices and toys, lingerie, bondage devices, scripted drawings or photos depicting a specific fantasy are all very significant in any investigative analysis. In fact, based on my personal experience and dealings with sexual offenders and their insatiable appetite for sexual stimuli, I can guarantee that within their collection of these materials is the specific roadmap of their offense.

Many pedophiles have been able to circumvent the laws on child pornography through fantasy drawings and sexually explicit cartoons. There are Web sites that feature sexually sadistic pornographic drawings of children involved with adults to satisfy pedophile fantasy.

The Web site drawings have been rendered as “simulations” to avoid child pornography laws.

Cartoon-type drawings can sexually arouse individuals who are predisposed to the subject matter, and these fantasies will tend to linger. Many of these cartoon drawings are created in 3-D format, thereby providing a realistic impact. It would certainly be significant in a criminal investigative analysis of people suspected in a child pornography case if they were in possession of these materials along with the fantasy drawings.

In one case, the offender had sexually mutilated his wife during a domestic argument. The offender had sketched and painted hundreds of fantasy drawings of nude women being shot and stabbed into their breasts. The violence increased in various drawings and had even been scripted to fit his fantasies of women as whores who had to be punished and killed. The constant theme that the suspect scripted was one of sexual sadism with the infliction of pain and suffering on his models accompanied with their scripted pleas.

When someone begins to script his fantasy drawings, he has become “vested” in the fantasy and has effectively created an engram, which allows him to reinforce a specific sexual fantasy. Furthermore, if a person is vested in sexually sadistic fantasies, the fantasy drawings and scripts merge into an insidious relationship in which fantasy and reality become integrated into his everyday life.

The significance of these particular fantasy drawings was that the wounds on his wife’s body, as well as the knife protruding from her chest, bore an eerie resemblance to the drawings and paintings that the detectives recovered in the home. In the reconstruction and analysis of this homicide, it was determined that there had been some sort of sexual confrontation between the husband and wife during a domestic argument. The husband was discovered nude from the waist down with blood on his legs and genitals. His wife had been stripped of her clothing and had extensive and multiple stab wounds into her chest, breasts and genitalia. The husband’s rage and anger escalated during which time he became out of control.

This acute psychotic reaction would clinically be described as a temporary break from reality. During this break, the husband acted out his most primal and perverse sadistic fantasies. These actions were apparently predicated upon a perverse fantasy system fueled by his involvement with his drawings and his sadistic pornography and reinforced by the scripted fantasy stories depicting sexual sadism.

Law Enforcement Considerations
The first step is to understand the role of fantasy in sex-related homicide and death investigations. Collect and preserve physical and psychological evidence in sex-related death investigations. Determine the M.O. and signature characteristics at crime scenes committed by sex murderers. Understand the follow-up and investigative procedures involved in rape, sodomy, lust murder and serial murder investigations.

Detectives involved in the investigation of sex-related homicides and deaths should be aware of the role of fantasy. Fantasy fuels the mental and emotional processes underlying human behavior revealed in the crime scene or accidental death event. Fantasy also serves as an indication of the “signature” of an offender, which enables detectives to link an offender to a particular series of crimes committed by that offender.

Sexual sadists rely heavily on fantasy and ritual to obtain sexual satisfaction. There is an element of compulsivity, as well as an obsession, on the part of the sexual sadist to keep trophies and recordings of the event. Photographs of the victims and their ability to recall their sadistic acts play a significant part in their rituals.

Therefore, I recommend that any search warrant applications in these types of cases should certainly reference fantasy drawings, photographs, records, scripts, letters, maps, diaries, audiotapes, videotapes, and newspaper reports of the crimes as possible evidence to be seized.

Vernon J. Geberth, M.S., M.P.S., is the author of “Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques” (4th edition) and “Sex-Related Homicide and Death Investigation: Practical and Clinical Perspectives” (CRC Press, LLC). He retired from NYPD Homicide with the rank of lieutenant commander and has dual master's degrees. These materials are excerpted with Geberth's permission. He can be reached at www.practicalhomicide.com.

Published in Law and Order, Oct 2008

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