Psychopathy in the News


Today three news stories caught my attention because all involve murder suspects who have shown no real remorse for the crimes they are suspected of.

First, Joran van der Sloot has said that he will enter a plea in Peruvian court that equates to temporary insanity. He is accused of murdering Stephany Flores in a violent, sadistic way five years to the day after Natalee Holloway disappeared. He may have killed her because she’d found out he was linked to Holloway.

If van der Sloot gets his way, he could spend less than two years in prison. Two years. This psychopath needs to be locked away for life.

Has he been diagnosed as such? I don’t know. But consider how several times he’s confessed to Holloway’s murder, then recanted, toying with her family in an unconscionable way.

He now wants people to believe that a homicide committed in a merciless rage was just the unfortunate result of being a normal young man caught up in an awkward moment.

Then there’s Byron Scherf, the convicted rapist serving a life sentence who strangled corrections officer Jayme Biendl to death. Scherf had a demonstrated pattern of hatred of and violence toward women when he came to prison. Yet he was allowed to not only be around but be alone with female officers.

Today the Department of Corrections acknowledged that Scherf was a threat to prison staff, especially women. But it sounds like he was in many ways a well-behaved inmate who charmed his way into freedoms that he never should have been allowed to have. He married while in prison and was allowed to have conjugal visits with his wife!

As far back as 1981 experts were saying that Scherf could not be rehabilitated. But he took the typical sociopathic route of being a model inmate and taking every self-help class he could. He impressed officials so much that he was paroled in 1993, and by 1995 he had kidnapped and raped another woman.

That was his third strike. His first was raping a 16 year-old hitchhiker at knifepoint in the late 1970s. His second was kidnapping and raping a woman, then soaking her in gasoline and setting her on fire. Anyone else need proof of this monster’s problems?

Today’s third candidate for psychopath status is Kiyoshi Higashi, the 23 year-old suspected gunman in the death of Jim Sanders. Sanders, an Edgewood resident, was selling a ring on Craig’s List. Higashi and crew showed up at his door to take the ring, killing Sanders and beating his wife and one of their children.

Higashi’s lack of remorse and self-righteous smugness has been evident since he was first arrested. He has smirked at and taunted the victims in court. He makes sarcastic remarks and laughs when the prosecutor asks him questions about the crime. He demanded that Sanders’ 11 and 14 year-old sons, who were present when their father was murdered, be called back to the stand a second time to be questioned by him personally. He disputes their account of the facts. He’s tried to get evaluators to believe that he is insane. Yet through it all he’s not man enough to admit to the murder or name who did it.

Higashi now seems to be playing the part of the victim based on a “lack of forgiveness” from the Sanders family. This appears to be another blame-shifting tactic to take the focus off of himself. Today KOMO News reported this whining:

“These are supposed to be Christian people,” Higashi said. “It says in the Bible that you shall turn the other cheek, well I don’t see the other cheek being turned.”

He also talks about how much pain his family is in and how sorry he is for what he did– and it remains to be seen what exactly he’s admitting to since he “didn’t do it.” I feel terrible for his family, but I feel worse for the completely unnecessary death of Jim Sanders in front of his soul mate and sons.

Higashi’s outlandish comments are typical of people without conscience when they claim religious insights. It’s about what God can do for them rather than what God can do for others. In this case, Higashi wants forgiveness. Despite his continued victimization of the Sanders family, rubbing salt in their wounds, he’s telling them how to feel.

The Sanders family will forgive him when they are ready, not because he is demanding it. Forgiving him does not absolve him of taking responsibility for his crime or facing the penalty under our state’s laws. If he is found guilty, then he only has himself to blame.

In regard to Higashi’s claim that the Sanders clan should be turning the other cheek, Jim Sanders laid down his life in defense of his family. There is no greater love than that. He’s also reading something into that Bible verse that isn’t there. What a poor and pathetic theology. Given how adamant Higashi is that he “didn’t do it,” what’s there to forgive him for anyway?

Jesus said to turn the other cheek, not lay down on the ground and let your head get stomped on. He was telling us not to respond violently to provocation. To think that God would not allow us to defend ourselves or that we are required to stand idly by while we are harmed is ridiculous. That’s suicide. God gave us life and I believe we have a moral duty to protect it and stand against evil.

Evil is men who kidnap, rape, torture, and murder other people for self-gratification. In the news today we have three examples who are repeatedly demonstrating that they care about themselves above all else. If convicted, all three should never leave a prison cell again. They appear to be dangerous, twisted killers who are trying to manipulate the justice system to their benefit. As much as I believe in the death penalty, I question if Scherf’s request to be sentenced to death should be indulged since that’s what he wants.

When is our court system going to learn that some people can’t be rehabilitated and will remain a threat for the duration of their lives? Why are inmates like Byron Scherf allowed to have such liberty when they are supposedly being punished? It is 2011 and in many ways we are still living in the Dark Ages when it comes to properly protecting society from rapists and murderers.

An expert should diagnosis these suspects; I always add that caveat because a proper diagnosis can’t be done from a distance. I would like to review the common attributes of psychopaths and narcissists though:


-glib and superficial charm
-grandiose estimation of self
-need for stimulation
-pathological lying
-cunning and manipulativeness
-lack of remorse or guilt
-shallow affect (superficial emotional responses)
-callousness and lack of empathy
-parasitic lifestyle
-poor behavioral controls
-failure to accept responsibility for own actions
-criminal versatility


-a grandiose sense of self-importance
-is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
-requires excessive admiration
-has a sense of entitlement, unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his expectations
-is interpersonally exploitive, takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends
-lacks empathy, is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
-is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him
-shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Lastly, watch the eyes. Victims of low to no conscience types often report that there is something weird or unsettling about their eyes. This is not scientific, but instinctive. The eyes can reveal personality aspects that are contrary to what a pathological person is trying to suggest with their speech and body language.

I can think of two cases I’ve witnessed in which the change in the person’s eyes when they were being abusive or deceptive was so dramatic it was like knowing two people lived in the same body. In one case, the person’s eyes would get dark and go blank. In another, their pupils would get small and their irises spidery; I don’t know how else to put it.

Either way, deceptive eyes invoke a disturbing gut feeling, and I get the creeps from one of these three’s eyes as well. They look like they’re smiling even when they’re angry. There is something sinister lurking under those eyelids.

Let’s hope that justice will be served in all of these cases. We should not allow our laws and sentencing to be manipulated by criminals who would do these things to other human beings. We have the knowledge and resources to properly diagnose and classify them; let’s put it into practice.


One of the greatest sorrows of human existence is that some people aren’t happy merely to be alive but find their happiness only in the misery of others.
–Dean Koontz


©2011 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

Seriously, what do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s