Retired FBI agent and legendary criminal profiler John Douglas has once again written a book that recounts his time profiling, analyzing and hunting violent serial killers.
This book, “The Killer’s Shadow: The FBI’s Hunt for a White Supremacist Serial Killer,” covers one murderer that stands out from the many killers that John Douglas encountered during his FBI career in the Behavioral Science Unit.
John Douglas, a pioneer in criminal profiling, assisted police in the hunt for some of the most notorious criminals of our time. He has interviewed and studied dozens of serial killers, such as Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, Richard Speck, John Wayne Gacy, “Son of Sam” David Berkowitz and James Earl Ray. His studies help us understand their motives and methods.
John Douglas was the model for the FBI agent Jack Crawford character in “The Silence of the Lambs,” the FBI agent Holden Ford character in Netflix’s “Mindhunters” series, and other films and TV series about serial killers and criminal profilers.
In “The Killer’s Shadow,” John Douglas writes about how he used profiling, psychology and proactive investigative techniques to help capture Joseph Paul Franklin. John Douglas and his co-author, Mark Olshaker, recount Mr. Douglas’ profile of Franklin and how he helped the investigators hunting Franklin.
Joseph Paul Franklin was a White nationalist serial killer and a violent psychopath who murdered his way across the country during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The avowed racist was an expert marksman and sniper who targeted interracial couples, Blacks and Jews. He was also an arsonist and bomber. Franklin also claimed to have shot and paralyzed Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt and seriously wounded civil rights leader Vernon Jordan.
Franklin was a loner who joined and then left the Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan as he thought they were too tame and populated by drunks, do-nothings and braggarts. He also suspected the groups were infiltrated heavily by the FBI. Franklin instead struck it alone, robbing banks across the country to support his murder spree.
In “The Killer’s Shadow,” John Douglas writes of how seemingly mundane details and tedious shoe-leather police work was how a real criminal investigation unfolded.
“It’s not some hot-shot detective cleverly squeezing a confession out of a suspect who slips up in response at a crucial moment,” Mr. Douglas writes. “And it’s not a profiler like me looking at crime scene photos and autopsy protocols and magically coming up with the neighborhood and block where the UNSUB (unidentified subject) lives. It’s the meticulous work of analyzing every piece of evidence and following up every possible lead and then working methodically to see how the puzzle pieces fit together or the dots connect.
“And if people like and my former unit at the FBI Academy at Quantico can aid in that effort and help the local investigators narrow their suspect list or refine their proactive strategies, then we’ve done our part of the investigations.
I reached out to John Douglas and asked him about Franklin. Mr. Douglas said that Franklin’s motivation was pure racial hatred.
“We saw issues, problems and abuse. Franklin’s mother abused him, and his father really abused him. He was not allowed to socialize. He dropped out of school, started looking at Aryan Nation Brotherhood and Klu Klux Clan pamphlets,” Mr. Douglas explained. “He had this hatred towards interracial couples, Jews, and Blacks and his goal was to create a race war. He hoped others would follow in his footsteps.
Mr. Douglas said that Franklin had a childhood accident that damaged his eye. Had his mother taken him for medical care, the eye might have been saved. That ruined his ambitions of becoming a soldier or police officer.
“He became angry and overcompensated by becoming a great shot and a sniper,” Mr. Douglas told me.
After Franklin was captured, John Douglas visited the convicted murderer in prison. The book details Mr. Douglas’ interesting and insightful interviews with Franklin. Franklin was executed by lethal injection on Nov. 20, 2013. Mr. Douglas suggests that it was Hal Harlowe, the former Dane County district attorney who prosecuted the Manning-Schwenn murders in Madison, Wisconsin, who gave Franklin his most truthful epitaph. He quotes Mr. Harlowe, who noted when he learned in 1997 that the Missouri jurors had handed down a death sentence, that Franklin was ordinary and not very bright. “He was not nearly as special as the many people he killed.
“He was dead, but his legacy of hatred, intolerance, and resentment he hoped to encourage was still alive, as it is to this day,” Mr. Douglas writes.
“The Killer’s Shadow” is well-written, fascinating and suspenseful, even though one knows Franklin’s end.
• Paul Davis’ On Crime Column covers true crime, crime fiction and thrillers.