My Quest to Decipher Criminal Minds

With Ann Burgess & Steven Constantine

In yet another case of reality trumping its popularization as entertainment, Ann Burgess tells the vivid story of her role in the creation of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit (very thinly veiled on the long-running “Criminal Minds” series as its Behavioral Analysis Unit)—a role that transformed the way the FBI studies, profiles, and catches serial killers.

With reported cases of sexual assault and homicide rising in the 1970s and 1980s, the FBI created a specialized team—the “Mindhunters”—to track down America’s most dangerous criminals. Dr. Burgess’s pioneering research on sexual assault and trauma soon caught their attention, and steered her right into the middle of a chilling serial murder investigation in Nebraska. Over the next two decades she helped identify, interview and track down dozens of notoriously violent offenders, including Ed Kemper (“The Co-Ed Killer”), Dennis Rader (“BTK”), Henry Wallace (“The Taco Bell Strangler”), and Jon Barry Simonis (“The Ski-Mask Rapist”). As one of the first women trailblazers at the FBI, Burgess knew she was expected to crack under pressure—to recoil in horror. But she was determined to protect potential victims at any cost.

Burgess provides deep insights into the minds of deranged criminals, and of their victims, and paints a revealing portrait of the FBI on the brink of a seismic scientific and cultural reckoning. She also directly confronts the age-old question that plagues every criminal justice system: “What drives someone to kill, and how can we stop them?”