By Janet I. Martineau
So there she was. FBI special agent/profiler Candice DeLong keeping watch over just-nabbed Unabomber Ted Kaczynski inside a small Montana cabin as other FBI agents searched his nearby shack. Just the two of them, side by side for five hours—the culmination of DeLong and a partner posing for four months as National Geographic researchers in Lincoln, Mont., and hanging out at its Rainbow Cafe in hopes of finding this “person of interest” hermit living on Bald Mountain.
“He had already lawyered up so I could not question him about the case,” DeLong told her Horizons Town Talk audience of their cabin meeting. “So it was small talk only.... I said, ‘So Ted, what’s it like to live off the land.’ And he gives me a cooking lesson.
“He told me how to boil a turnip ... like I would ever eat a turnip.”
She recalled he “smelled like wet dirt and was trembling.... I thought he was cold but then I realized he was trembling from fear. And did I ever like that.”
Kaczynski had, over a nearly 20 year span, killed three people with mail bombs and injured 23 others in his battle against the advances of technology and science—this man with a doctorate degree in mathematics from the University of Michigan. He was convicted and sentenced to life without parole.
That was in 1996. In 2000, DeLong retired after a 20-year career with the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI, has written a book about it, hosts a couple of crime-based cable television shows on the Investigation Discovery Network, and provides commentary on crimes across the television spectrum.
So, the 61-year-old was asked before her talk, are the fictional television shows depicting criminal profilers true to life?
“Not very. Not at all,” DeLong says firmly. “First of all, the actors are way too young. It takes years of life experience to be good at it. And they always show them at the crime scenes. Profilers are primarily called in well after the fact and do their work by analyzing the information that has been collected—using their training, research, statistics, what they know."
“Criminal profiling can’t be done with a computer, a recipe or a template. It’s about analyzing, observing. A murder committed by, say, a Navy officer who is highly trained will look totally different from one committed by a teen-ager.”
Profiling, she says, is not admissible in court as evidence “but when an offender is ultimately arrested, the profile created of him or her by a profiler is 80 percent accurate at a minimum even if it did not lead specifically to the arrest.”
DeLong says by high school she realized she had a knack for being able to break down things that puzzled her and solve them with her analytical mind.
But the FBI was not her first choice as a career.
“I was the head nurse at Northwestern’s Institute of Psychology in Chicago for 10 years, and the FBI came to me and recruited me as a special agent.”
As she later told her Town Talk audience, in that nursing job she gravitated toward “patients who had done unspeakable crimes. The other nurses avoided them but I wanted to know why it happened, what went wrong. Why did a man kill his wife and kids while they were sleeping, Why did a 15-year-old boy stab his mother and nearly decapitate her. So I worked with them.”
Hence the FBI’s interest in her as the concept of “profiling” took shape; of suggesting what type of person or personality might have committed a given crime.
“In 1979, at age 30, I was recruited by the FBI. I had been divorced three years and had a son who was 4 and here I was changing careers ... taking on a job where women were seen as intruders.”
She spent 15 years with an FBI office in Chicago and five in San Francisco, and her first big case was the so-called Tylenol murders in 1982—during which seven Chicago residents died after taking Tylenol capsules filled with cyanide poison. Three of them were in the same family.
DeLong devoted the majority of her talk to this case—and gave tons more information about it than what the Internet indicates. On the Internet it says the case was never solved.
DeLong named a name, a person who was convicted of extortion in the case but was never tried as the killer because there was not enough evidence. However, she said, he gave FBI agents great detail on how he thought the killer went about filling the capsules with the poison; had killed before (but got off on a technicality), and harbored a major grudge with the person he tried to frame for the Tylenol murders (over a $50 paycheck owed to his wife).
Two paramedics, she says, linked Tylenol to the deaths and the recovered bottles still on store shelves “could have killed 150 people.” At its zenith 100 state and federal agents were working on the case, she says, and 5,000 leads were pursued.
At one point, she says, FBI agents were hanging out in all the New York City public libraries waiting for a copies of the Chicago Tribune to be borrowed by the person they suspected of the extortion side of the case. He showed up, was arrested and convicted of the extortion, and later told his detailed story of how he thought the killer went about loading the tainted capsules.
“He served his time (12 years) and now lives among us. We keep him under constant surveillance. He is not living in Saginaw.”
DeLong says she began her FBI career with three goals in mind: to work on a notorious/high profile case, to catch a serial killer, and to rescue a kidnap victim (a crime with just a 50 percent live recovery rate, she said).
The Unabomber and Tylenol cases, she says, fulfilled the first two.
And in the same year of the Unabomber arrest, her third goal was reached in the San Francisco area when she and other agents arrested, at an Amtrak station, a pedofile who had kidnapped a 10-year-old boy, plied him with crack cocaine to do sex acts, “and was on his way with the boy to buy a girl in Mexico, fly to the Netherlands to make porn movies with the two kids, and then kill them.”
DeLong recalled reaching in the swarm of arresting agents and the accused, pulling the boy to safety, and then accompanying him on a flight to his home. As he saw his parents at the end of the airline tunnel he began running toward them.
“But then he stopped, turned around and said to me, ‘Thank you for saving me, Agent Candy.’ And that was the best day of my career.”
© Janet I. Martineau, 2012