In 1978, KAKE-TV obtained special permission from the police to place a subliminal message in a report on the BTK Killer in an effort to get the killer to turn himself in.
The subliminal message said, “Now call the chief,” and contained a drawing of a pair of glasses lying upside down. The horn-rimmed glasses were thought to have particular significance to the BTK.
At the murder scene of Nancy Fox, investigators found a pair of glasses lying upside down on her dresser, as well as numerous other items.
However, in a sketch the BTK sent to the police, none of the items on the drawer were drawn except for the pair of glasses.
Unsurprisingly, the attempt to draw the culprit out was unsuccessful.
Two weeks after killing her two-year-old daughter Caylee, Casey Anthony paid a tattoo artist $65 to decorate her left shoulder blade with the words “Bella Vita,” Italian for “the beautiful life”.
The tattoo became a focal point of Anthony’s trial. Although the defense argued that the tattoo was Anthony’s way of commemorating her daughter, prosecutors noted that Anthony failed to report Caylee missing for nearly a month and spent most of that time at nightclubs and bars.
Prosecutors told the jury that Anthony’s bar-hopping and tattoo signified that she was not looking for her daughter but was living the “Bella Vita” without being saddled with a toddler.
The Atlanta Child Murders investigation was so expensive that it caused the city to lose money.
In 1981, Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson invited the two top names in entertainment, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra, to perform at a benefit concert.
The concert raised around $200,000, and Mayor Jackson hosted a dramatic and desperate news conference, offering a reward of $100,000 to anyone who could help crack the case and stop the murders.
The same night, the mayor got a phone call from boxer Muhammad Ali, who said he would donate $400,000 to increase the reward to half a million.
However, a month after Muhammad’s pledge, police cracked the case on their own and arrested Wayne Williams.
Upon Samuel Little’s arrest in 2012, police learned the killer had a near-photographic memory.
During confessions, the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history described his crimes in painstaking detail, sometimes smiling or laughing at the memory.
A Texas ranger who interviewed Little noticed that the killer liked to draw and gave him art supplies. Little went on to produce over thirty color portraits of women he strangled and handed them over to the FBI, who released the sketches to the public in hopes someone would recognize the women and provide a crucial clue to identify them.
The strategy was successful as two women who appeared in the sketches were identified.
After murdering his family, John List removed his face from every family photograph he found inside his nineteen-room mansion and acquired a new identity.
Although List was able to elude justice for nearly eighteen years, his old life caught up to him in 1989.
During its first year on the air, the TV show America’s Most Wanted revisited List’s familicide and asked a forensic sculptor to create an age-progressed clay bust of the family killer.
With the help of criminal psychologist Richard Walter, forensic artist Frank Bender presented a clay bust that looked remarkably like List, causing one of his neighbors in Richmond to call in a tip.
Eleven days after the episode, List was arrested and eventually sentenced to five consecutive life terms.
In 1995, Lawrence Bittaker filed a lawsuit against California’s prison system for serving him a broken cookie and crushed sandwiches, claiming he had been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.
California Deputy Attorney General Jim Humes, who has seen many outrageous prisoner lawsuits, was aghast when Bittaker’s complaint came across his desk because a federal judge refused to dismiss it outright as frivolous.
Humes was forced to investigate the complaint and waste at least $5,000 of taxpayer money on the case.
The deputy attorney general was given random sample lunches from the prison and brought them back to the office, where colleagues quickly pronounced them better than most of the sack lunches they had.
In 1983, while consulting in the Green River Killer case, the former FBI special agent and profiler John Douglas had a terrifying near-death experience.
Douglas was found comatose in his hotel room after stress and a relentless work schedule caused the profiler to develop viral encephalitis.
When fellow agents got into his room, the right side of Douglas’s brain had split and was bleeding due to a 107-degree fever.
“I survived a disease that kills everybody,” Douglas said.
The real-life Mindhunter spent five months in physical and psychological rehab before returning to Quantico, Virginia, where “a big pile of cases waited for me.”
In December 1983, twenty-one-year-old Albert Moffat slashed Dennis Nilsen across the face with a razor-tipped shank in the exercise yard of London’s Wormwood Scrubs, leaving the infamous killer with a wound that needed eighty-nine stitches.
Moffat claimed that “Des” had made sexual advances towards him and lunged at him with a “metallic object” when he rejected them.
“I wasn’t going to stand there and let him start chopping me to pieces,” Moffat told the jury.
After the incident, Nilsen called his attacker “a toy bandit who wanted to be the biggest bug in the manure pile,” but refused to identify him.
After his arrest in 2002, “The Pig Farmer Killer” Robert Pickton was put in a jail cell with an undercover police officer.
In a videotaped interaction, unsuspecting Pickton started confessing to all of the murders that had taken place on his farm, saying he was disappointed with himself that he had only killed forty-nine and did not “make the big five-O.”
Pickton claimed he was caught because he was “sloppy.”
Once the undercover cop was withdrawn from the cell, Pickton stripped naked and began to masturbate, despite having been told there was a security camera in the ceiling.
Lois Gibson, who holds the Guinness World Record for being the most successful forensic artist of all time, has helped Houston Police Department solve over 1,000 crimes.
Gibson’s motivation to seek justice came from personal experience, when, at the age of twenty-one, she was assaulted and nearly killed.
“I got attacked by a guy who almost choked me to death for twenty-five minutes straight,” said Gibson.
Later, by accident, she witnessed police arresting her rapist. “I saw the arrest,” she said. “I know what it is to see justice … It changes your life.”
During her career, Gibson worked in a number of high-profile cases and authored a textbook, Forensic Art Essentials.