Richard Walter (psychologist)

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Richard Walter is an American forensic psychologist for the Michigan prison system, a crime scene analyst and one of the creators of modern criminal profiling.[1][2][3]


Walter developed a number of psychological classifications for violent crime, and is a co-founder of the Vidocq Society, an exclusive organization of forensic professionals dedicated to solving cold cases. As a psychologist for Michigan's prison system, he has interviewed more than 22,000 convicted felons.[4]

He worked with Robert D. Keppel, then the chief investigator for the Attorney General's Office in the State of Washington, and together they wrote Profiling Killers: A Revised Classification Model for Understanding Sexual Murder. Keppel created the Homicide Information Tracking Unit (HITS) database, of which Walter was a prolific contributor. Walter was the first to develop a matrix as a tool of investigation using pre-crime, crime and post-crime behaviours to help develop suspects.[5]

The Vidocq Society and its three co-founders, including Walter, were the subject of a 2010 book by Michael Capuzzo.[6] The book is titled The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases. Walter is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine/Clinical Forensic Medicine, A Fellow of the Australasian College of Biomedical Sciences and a 22-year veteran prison psychologist for the state of Michigan.

Walter gives lectures to police organizations throughout the United States, England, Scotland, Turkey, Australia and Hong Kong. He has also been featured on programs for CBS, A&E, TLC and Court TV.

Notable cases[edit]

In 1989, Walter provided the psychological profile for mass murderer John List,[7] who had evaded detection for 18 years. Using Walter's profile, forensic sculptor Frank Bender was able to create a bust of List that was accurately aged to reflect the changes in the unseen List's face over the years. This was featured on an episode of America's Most Wanted; the sculpture was so similar to List's current appearance that he was captured the next day.

In Lubbock, Texas in 1999, City Police solved the murder of Scott Dunn with Walter's aid. This is a rare case where a conviction was garnered in the absence of a body. The case is chronicled in the book Trail of Blood" by Wanda Evans and in the television series Medical Detectives

In 2005, the Hudson, Wisconsin Police Department consulted with the Vidocq Society on the 2002 double homicide of Dan O'Connell and James Ellison. With the help of Walter, the Hudson Police Department solved the case. The murderer was Fr. Ryan Erickson, a Roman Catholic priest who was trying to prevent O'Connell from going public with child molestation allegations. Shortly before he could be arrested, Fr. Erickson hanged himself inside the offices of his own church.[8]

The Drake Case[edit]

In October 1982, Walter testified in Niagara County (NY) Supreme Court in the double murder trial of Robie J. Drake, who was convicted of killing fellow high school classmates Steven Rosenthal, 18, and Amy Smith, 16, in a "lover's lane" killing. Shortly before midnight on Dec. 5, 1981, Drake fired 19 rounds from a semiautomatic .22-caliber rifle into a 1969 Chevrolet Nova. He killed Smith with two shots in the back of the head, and shot Rosenthal fourteen times in the face and upper body. With Rosenthal still groaning, Drake admitted he stabbed him in the back with a 71/2-inch hunting knife, according to The Buffalo News. He removed Smith from the car, bit her breasts and tried to sexually assault her with a flashlight. Drake was caught by police at a landfill as he tried to stuff Smith's nude body into the trunk. He was sentenced to two consecutive terms of 20 years to life.

In 2003, Walter became an innocent victim of Drake's attempts to get a new trial, when, after 27 years of appeals, Drake was granted a new trial when the U. S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Walter had inflated his resume and committed perjury in the 1982 trial. The American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS) investigated Walter, a longtime member, for wrongdoing. Walter wrote to the AAFS's Ethics Committee that he was "flabbergasted and stunned" because "the Niagara County Prosecutor's Office did not…advise me of the issue and/or make any effort to respond to Drake's contrived and malicious claims…the U.S. Court of Appeals…relied totally upon the false and misleading statements made in Drake's affidavit…without a challenge to the accuracy or authenticity." The AAFS twice investigated Drake's allegations against Walter and found Walter innocent of any wrongdoing.

The Vidocq Society, the international pro-bono crime-fighting organization that Walter helped establish, investigated the allegations and also cleared him of wrongdoing. In the course of writing his book on the Vidocq Society, The Murder Room, New York Times-bestselling author Michael Capuzzo investigated the allegations and found them groundless. Capuzzo interviewed Vidocq Society President William Fleisher, a federal agent with the FBI and U.S. Customs for more than 20 years."Richard got a bum deal," Fleisher said. "A convicted killer made defamatory stuff up about him and got a court to believe it because nobody bothered to check whether the killer was telling the truth, which is ridiculous. Richard became a victim without a remedy. Courts make mistakes, and this one did."

"Drake did what criminals do," Walter told Capuzzo in an interview for Capuzzo's book. "He lied and tried to take advantage of people and the system. Justice took a holiday in this case, and I ended up with an undeserved scar of war with crime. Occasionally bottom-dwellers in the forensic community will try to exploit Drake's lies on the internet. But I've simply gone on to do some good work while choosing to avoid lawyers and chalk it up to "life is not always fair."

In May 2010, Drake got his new trial in Niagara County. He was convicted again of the murders of Smith and Rosenthal. This time the judge gave him a longer sentence, two consecutive terms of 25 years to life, "which will keep him from parole eligibility for 10 extra years," The Buffalo News reported.


  1. ^ Criminal profiling: an introduction to behavioral evidence analysis Brent E. Turvey - 2008- Page 738
  2. ^ The Casebook of Forensic Detection: How Science Solved 100 of the World's ... Colin Evans - 1998 - Page 140
  3. ^ The Vidocq Society page retrieved on March 30, 2007
  4. ^ Mansfield University article retrieved on March 30, 2007
  5. ^ Robert D. Keppel Profiling Killers: A Revised Classification Model for Understanding Sexual Murder, the Institute for Forensics, retrieved on March 30, 2007
  6. ^ [1] retrieved on January 06, 2011
  7. ^ The Casebook of Forensic Detection: How Science Solved 100 of the World's ... Colin Evans - 1998 - Page 140
  8. ^ Walter was personally very confident about solving this case saying, "If I were the perp, I would buy any green bananas, because they won't have any time to ripen. Double murder is now 10 years old, Hudson Star-Observer, February 5, 2012

External links[edit]