The Scholar and Psychotic DNA

December 17, 2009

Tags: Jim Fallon, psychopathology, criminal behavior, Lizzie Borden, warrior gene, violent genes

Imagine being Dr. Jim Fallon, a Fulbright Scholar and professor emeritus in neuroscience at the University of California - Irvine. He set out to find out if psychopathic killers have certain biological traits that will show up on brain scans. When he finished his testing, he found the signs in a member of his own family.

The article about Fallon that caught my attention ran in the November 27th edition of the Wall Street Journal under the headline: What's on Jim Fallon's Mind? A Family Secret That Has Been Murder to Figure Out. On his bio, Fallon says: "I am interested in the neural circuitry and genetics of creativity, artistic talent, psychopathology, criminal behavior, and levels of consciousness."

Over the years, Fallon has analyzed the brains of more than 70 murderers. His interest in looking into the minds of dangerous criminals comes from an honest curiosity. The 62-year-old scientist started out by trying to assess his relatives' risk of developing Alzheimer's, which killed his father. (more…)

Houston's Baby Grace

December 1, 2009

Tags: Baby Grace, Riley Ann Sawyers, Kimberly Dawn Trenor, Royce Clyde Zeigler II, Child murder

Some news stories touch the heart, staying with us long after they've disappeared from the headlines. The ones that never leave me are those involving children. There's a reason I haven't write about murdered kids. I've considered it off and on, but some crime scene photos I don't want imprinted on my brain, invading my sleep and keeping me awake at four a.m.

Every once in a while, I reconsider my situation, wondering if it's time to make an exception. For instance, when her body was found in July 2007, I thought about writing a book on Houston's Baby Grace case. Something about the original sketch of the two-year-old pulled at me. Those wide set eyes, the baby teeth visible through her smiling lips, the long blond hair that fell in waves. Even after a couple of decades writing about crime, I have a tough time understanding how some murders are possible, why someone would kill a small child.

When Baby Grace was found in Galveston Bay and the drawing of her face proliferated across the nation, I wanted to turn away from the images flashed on television and front-page in the newspapers. It all seemed (more…)