Before the FBI began to develop its program for behavioral profiling in the 1970s, others involved in law enforcement had performed a similar psychological analysis of crime scenes. Some influenced the FBI’s approach, but only a few of these efforts were published.
The first recognized criminal profile was devised in 1888 by a surgeon, Dr. Thomas Bond, who had participated in some of the autopsies of victims of Jack the Ripper. We have no idea if Bond was correct.
Then there was one in France shortly thereafter, and another undertaken in Germany for a prolific blood-fetishist. Both of these offenders were caught.
In addition, we have a behavioral analysis that a psychiatrist and sexual crimes expert performed in 1937 for the LAPD. Dr. J. Paul de River was the founder and head of the LAPD’s newly-formed Sex Offense Bureau and he often consulted on crime scenes that had a sexual component. He was a recognized expert in this field.
On June 26, 1937, three young girls went missing in Inglewood, California. Two were sisters, Madeline, 7, and Melba Everett, 9. Accompanying them was their eight-year-old friend, Jeannette Stephens. Witnesses had seen all three that Saturday talking to a man and leaving Centinela Park with him. Then they vanished and their frantic parents contacted the police.
Two days later their bodies were found in an isolated gully in Baldwin Hills. They'd all been strangled, at least one was sexually assaulted (some reports say all three), and they’d been subjected to an odd ritual. Despite an intense search for the killer, the LAPD hit a dead-end. There wasn't much of a trail.
At the detectives’ request, de River viewed the bodies in the morgue and visited the isolated crime scene. He knew from police photos that the girls had been placed close together, face-down, with their dresses pulled up, and their shoes removed. These shoes had been placed in a row, side-by-side.
In his report, based on his own data and experience, de River described the type of person the police should be seeking: a sadistic pedophile in his twenties who was single, meticulous in appearance, and religious. He would be remorseful. He might have a past arrest record for annoying children or he’d be known to hang out where they played. The crime had been planned and he’d known how to approach the girls without frightening them. They had trusted him. They might even have known him.
Although no one could run down a suspect with such a generic description, investigators interviewed known sex offenders, bachelors who lived in the area who’d shown an interest in children, and men with whom the girls might have been acquainted. De River helped to question some of the suspects.
To some extent, his description did fit a school crossing guard, Albert Dyer, who'd been at the crime scene as a volunteer searcher and who’d acted quite strangely. He’d become hysterical when the bodies were found, ordering everyone present to show respect. He’d also insisted on helping to remove the bodies.
Then Dyer had presented himself, unsolicited, at the police department, insisting on knowing why they wanted to question him. He’d become so conspicuous that he drew attention he did not want. Now detectives did want to question him.
Although Dyer initially denied it, with de River’s assistance, the man confessed that he’d killed the girls. Some say he presented a false confession because he was afraid of being turned over to lynch mobs, but his wife admitted that he’d kept clippings about the missing girls.
However, contrary to the profile, Dyer was 32, married, and had never been arrested for bothering children. His post-crime behavior, at least as he described it, reflected the private joy of a sadist rather than that of a remorseful killer. He was somewhat religious.
Dyer described how he’d lured the girls into the gully with a story about rabbits. Despite their initial resistance, it had been easy to gain their trust. In the woods, he’d separated them. Then, one at a time, he’d manually strangled them, tying a clothesline tight around each of their necks.
He’d had post-mortem sex with at least one of the bodies, perhaps all, and had burned the handkerchief he’d used to wipe blood off his penis. Dyer had then removed the girls’ shoes, placed them in a row, and prayed over the bodies. He indicated that he was praying for his own soul.
Although de River was not correct about some key points in his analysis and nothing he said was particularly useful, he did attempt to use statistical reasoning based on known cases in his files.
I can find no earlier record in America (as yet) of a behavioral expert assisting police with devising a psychological portrait from specific crime scene behavior.