Serial Talker

The cottage industry that is Dr. Park Elliott Dietz swept into Phoenix September 12 to discuss stalkers, famed serial murderers and other assorted bad guys.

Dietz spoke to a rapt group of mental-health professionals, police officers and attorneys during a seminar at the downtown Hyatt Regency. Others in attendance included a table of executives from Motorola, one of numerous corporations with whom Dietz consults.

The doctor's resume, all 34 single-spaced pages of it, is mind-boggling. By all accounts, including his own, Dietz is the nation's most famed forensic psychiatrist. In fact, he is credited in some circles with inventing the field of "medical criminology."

Working almost exclusively for police and prosecutors, Dietz has explored the minds of some of the most infamous criminals of our generation--Jeffrey Dahmer, the Menendez brothers, child killer Susan Smith, John Hinckley. (A jury in 1982 found Hinckley criminally insane at the time he attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, saddling Dietz with a rare "loss.")

Dietz, who is in his late 40s, wears many hats, most of them lucrative:
He provides testimony around the nation.
He consults big business on how to cope with stalkers in the workplace.

He and associates at his company, Threat Assessment Group, work with such oft-stalked celebrities as Michael Jackson, Cher and Olivia Newton-John.

"Anybody who is a celebrity has been stalked," Dietz told the gathering of about 200. "The issue that they all talk about themselves is, 'How many stalkers do you have?'"

He writes papers, including one a few years ago titled "Autoerotic Fatalities With Power Hydraulics." The tome concerned men who hang themselves from tractors while masturbating and wearing women's clothing.

Dietz has served as a consultant on several Hollywood thrillers, and on such television dramas as Law and Order.

And he does seminars, though no one would say how much the Arizona State Hospital--using grants from two pharmaceutical companies--paid him for his Phoenix gig.

What he doesn't do is treat people. Dietz analyzes them and reports his findings to whomever is paying him, or to a jury.

In Phoenix, Dietz spoke during a luncheon on the subject of "Stalking and Persistent Pursuit." He is not a particularly dynamic speaker, but is clear and concise--ideal for a professional expert witness.

Dietz stunned some with his list of "don'ts" for noncelebrities who are targets of stalkers. He said obtaining a restraining order from a judge often has the unintentional effect of pushing a stalker to greater obsession.

He said victims should not respond to a stalker in any way--by returning unopened letters, by changing their telephone numbers or any of the other obvious things.

"The best techniques tend to be the opposite of common sense," Dietz said. "The whole point of a stalker who means harm is to get to his victim. People should recognize that you cannot change the behavior of someone who's irrational with a piece of paper. . . . But what also is true is that the vast majority of stalking cases will extinguish in time."

He also warned his audience that stalking victims shouldn't rely on the police--mostly because of lack of manpower--to keep them out of harm's way.

Most states have antistalking laws, but only a handful, including Arizona, makes stalking another person a felony. (Phoenix police Lieutenant Kenneth Tims said after the meeting that several individuals have been convicted since the Arizona Legislature stiffened stalking penalties last year.)

After the luncheon speech, Dietz conducted an afternoon workshop which was closed to the media. According to several sources who attended the workshop, the doctor displayed a short fuse during a question-and-answer period. Interviewed separately, the sources (law enforcement and judicial) say Dietz responded to a seemingly benign query about whether he works exclusively for prosecutors.

"Fuck you," Dietz replied, thrusting a middle finger at his questioner.
What on Earth would possess a man to do such a thing

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin