Some of the Most Famous Forensic Psychology Cases in History
Forensic psychology is not new; it has been used for centuries. Forensic psychology is the branch of psychology that applies to the gathering, scrutinizing and interpreting of information for legal purposes. It is most often used by psychologists in hospitals and psychiatric services and those who work in law enforcement and correctional fields.
There are many famous cases that have been solved by the use of forensic psychology and others in which the science of forensic psychology has been used to great advantage. Three of these cases are highlighted in this below.
The Lindbergh Kidnapping
Charles Lindbergh was a world-renowned aviator. In the spring of 1932, his infant son was kidnapped and never seen alive again, even though a huge ransom was paid for the child’s safe return. The kidnappers used a make-shift ladder to get into the second story of Lindbergh’s home and snatch the child from his crib. The body of 20-month-old Charles Lindbergh Jr. was found two months later, very close to the Lindbergh home. The Secret Service traced the bills from the ransom.
This led to Bruno Hauptmann. About a third of the ransom was found in a shed attached to Hauptmann’s home. Bruno Hauptmann told authorities that he was holding the money for a friend, but testimony from experts in handwriting analysis confirmed that the ransom notes were penned in Hauptmann’s handwriting. Forensic analysis also determined that the wood used to build the homemade ladder was culled from wood discovered in the attic of the Hauptmann home.
Machine Gun Kelly
George Kelly aka “Machine Gun Kelly” was a famous criminal during the days of prohibition. He participated in many crimes, such as armed robbery, bootlegging and kidnapping. In the summer 0f 1933, Kelly and an accomplice kidnapped an oil magnate, Charles Urschel, who lived in Oklahoma City. The kidnappers let Urschel go about a week later, uninjured, after demanding, and receiving, the largest ransom in history.
Charles Urschel was a smart man. He took note of everything during his ordeal and was able to provide police with many details. He had been able to discern day and night through his blindfold and approximate the time when several events occurred. He remembered a terrible storm and gave the time and date; he noted airplanes flying over the location where he was being held hostage, and he described the noises from the various animals he heard.
Urschel’s memories enabled the FBI to discover that he had been held in a farmhouse owned by a relative.
However, what really sealed the case was that the oilman had planted his fingerprints in the house, in as many places as possible! Kelly was convicted and sentenced to life without parole.
The Green River Killer
A series of homicides can be laid at the door of Gary Ridgway, aka the “Green River Killer.” Most of the victims were prostitutes. The alleged 48-90 murders were committed in the 80s and 90s, near the Green River in Washington state. Law enforcement personnel pinpointed Gary Ridgway as a likely suspect early on and took his DNA fingerprint. but the technology forensics have today was not available at that time, and there was not enough evidence to arrest him. But in 2001, new techniques enabled the DNA sample to be re-examined, and this led to the arrest of the “Green River Killer.” After realizing he had been hopelessly incriminated, Gary Ridgway confessed and entered a guilty plea in order to avoid the death penalty. He received life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Forensic psychology is shedding new light on some of the most notorious murder cases in history.