Kathryn Casey
Mystery and True Crime Author

THE BOOKS! TAKE YOUR PICK!

Excerpts
Click here to read the prologue to Possessed
Click here to read the first chapter of Deliver Us!
Click here to read the first chapter of Deadly Little Secrets!
Click here to read the first chapter of my latest Sarah Armstrong mystery!
True Crime
The infamous Texas stiletto murder
True Tales of Jealousy, Betrayal, and Revenge
Three decades of murder and redemption in the infamous I-45/Texas Killing Fields
A minister, his mistress, and a heartless Texas murder
A mother's love, a husband's betrayal, and a cold-blooded Texas murder
An Altar Boy, a Cheerleader, and a Twisted Texas Murder.
Murder, Revenge and Two Texas Sisters.
Sex, Murder, and a Texas Millionaire
Obsession, Lies, and a Killer Cop
Seen on Oprah! A courageous woman married to a dangerous psychopath.
Fiction
The third Sarah Armstrong mystery, named a best book of the year by Library Journal!
The second Sarah Armstrong mystery "a strong sequel," says BOOKLIST, now available in stores and on the Web!
The first in the Sarah Armstrong mystery series, BOOKLIST MAGAZINE picked SINGULARITY as one of the Best Crime Novel Debuts of 2009!
Want discussion questions for your book club? Click the titles below:

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. The hitch was that his father came from a rather unusual family. Early ancestors included Thomas Cornell, who was hanged in 1673 for murdering his mother. (The WSJ describes this as one of "the first recorded acts of matricide in the Colonies.") There were others, seven men suspected of murder on Fallon's family tree, and, it appears, one infamous female. It turns out that Professor Fallon is a distant cousin of Lizzie Borden. Yes, that Lizzie Borden. (Are there others?) To be fair, let's remember that Borden was acquitted of killing her parents with an ax. Although many, including our own WCI historian, Laura James, believe Borden was the culprit.

Anyway, it appeared there could be some particularly interesting genes floating around in Fallon's family. Thus, perhaps, it wasn't surprising that Fallon decided to look for evidence of violent traits by comparing his family's brain scans with those of the violent criminals he'd been analyzing.

Through his research, Fallon had found that violent offenders' scans often displayed areas of diminished activity in important areas of the brain, including the section thought to monitor self-control. You may remember that awhile back on WCI, I reported on different theories regarding why certain folks become violent criminals. Fallon's work suggests a three-pronged explanation for violence: a combination of genetics, brain damage, and childhood trauma. What Fallon was looking for was evidence in his family's scans of the presence of factor number one, what one might call "violent genes." The most accepted one, MAOA, is the so-called "warrior gene."

When Fallon examined the brain scans of his family, he found the same abnormalities he'd noted in killers in one member. And the scan that was on the screen that day was of his own brain.

Yup, Jim Fallon's brain scan suggested he'd inherited the genetic risk factors he'd documented in dangerous psychopaths. On his scan, the areas of his brain involved in social adjustment, aggression and impulsivity, the orbital cortex, which lies just above the eye sockets, appeared dark or turned off. For Fallon, that moment must have been chilling.

So how did Fallon end up a respected scholar instead of a serial killer? Here's the final paragraph from the WSJ article: "Dr. Fallon thinks that one vital factor may have prevented him from becoming a killer. 'I had a charmed childhood,' he says. 'But if I'd been mistreated as a child, who knows what might have happened.'"

Interesting, don't you think?


Laura Smither

Jessica Cain

Tiffany Dobry Johnston

Kelli Cox

Bill Reece in 2012, a prison photo.


A version of the I-45 Mysteries chart, this one courtesy of the Galveston County Daily News

The shattered door and Belinda Temple's image inside, from SHATTERED.

50 Shades innocent fun? I hope so, but be careful whom you trust.

Bananas Foster ala Brennan's. It's so good. Such a great restaurant. Try the recipe in the blog, and visit their restaurants. Wonderful food!

Bouchercon 2011: Here I am on the left with the wonderful Sara Paretsky and my friend author Diane Fanning. We had a blast!

Crawfish etouffee, a Louisiana classic. Love this recipe!

Kari fell in love with Matt Baker, but was he the man she believed?

They appeared the perfect family, but was Matt Baker hiding Deadly Little Secrets?

Was Matt Baker really a loving husband? Here at his wife's grave with their two daughters, Grace and Kensi.




My niece Beth, Dad, my sister-in-law Linda, and yours truly!

Dad's birthday cake, what a grand day!

Nice smile? I am the Cheshire Cat.

Jamie Ford, yours truly, Kathy L. Patrick, the Pulpwood Queen!

Here I am with Fannie Flagg and Karen Harrington

On the day of my panel with Robert Leleux

Alice's Kingdom: Marsha Toy Engstrom, our leader, as the Red Queen.

My main character, Sarah Armstrong, is a Texas Ranger/Profiler.

My special reindeer ornament, the one that's always front and center on my Christmas tree

Don't miss me on All Things Southern talking about the third Sarah Armstrong mystery!

The cover for the upcoming German edition of Singularity

Here I am with the Investigation Discover TV crew. Left to right: Scott, Eric, yours truly, Linda and Kaia!

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Here I am with the legendary Kinky Friedman.

Introducing the rest of our panel: Ben Rehder (left) author of Holy Moly and other mysteries; Frances Ray, who writes women's fiction; that's me in the background, and on the right, Kathleen Kent, author of The Heretic's Daughter


It's up to us to mount a protest, to keep James Bergstrom locked up.

Meet our puppy, Ozzie Nelson. Don't let his sweet appearance fool you. Send help!

Here's proof that Ozzie Nelson is a handful!

This past January, 2010, the theme of the Pulpwood Queen's Girlfriend Weekend was Over the Rainbow. This is the head queen, Kathy Patrick, dressed as a tornado.

The southwest LA pulpwood queens as witches!

Years ago, before her diagnosis, here I am with my mom.

Here I am with Pulpwood Queen founder and author Kathy L. Patrick at the 2009 Girlfriend Weekend. I had a blast! (Notice the tiara? It's my first!)