Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dr. Steven Egger: Expert on Serial Murder

Police Duty

Albert DeSalvo
Albert DeSalvo

Among the most curious aspects of this case was the involvement of a famous psychic, although Hurkos had also taken part in the Boston Strangler investigation in 1963. He had written that he'd selected a different man for that series of murders than the one police had arrested (Albert DeSalvo), and he believed they'd been wrong to end the investigation. However, the general perception is that Hurkos had largely botched that case, and had run away when it was clear he'd offered nothing useful.

In the series of murders in Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti in which John Norman Collins was suspected (he was convicted of only one), Hurkos made a variety of observations and pronouncements, a number of which were uncannily correct (at least, according to his own account), and a number of which were entirely off base (according to other accounts). As part of the investigation, Egger had the chance to spend some time with Hurkos.

"He wanted to see the town," Egger recalls, "and he was on a comeback with his career. Of course, he had been very active with the Boston Strangler case, and the chief had said that some of the relatives of the girls demanded that he bring in a psychic, so he'd brought in Peter Hurkos.

"We chaperoned him around for a couple of days, and during that time, Karen Sue Beineman was found in a ravine near the city. I turned and asked him, 'Why didn't you tell us about it?' He said, 'You didn't ask me.'

"I have always been skeptical of psychics. In my estimation there is no empirical evidence that a psychic has ever really helped in a criminal investigation. There are a lot of cops who think they have, and of course in a serial murder case, psychics come out of the woodwork and talk about offering their expertise pro bono. It's good publicity for them. If they even get half right then they claim they hit."

Hurkos, apparently, did the same. While Egger did not again have such an encounter with a police officer, he would have the opportunity to meet more serial killers — but after they'd been convicted.


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