Vol. 2, No. 3 , 1996, Page 6

KILLERS AND CRIMINALS: SEEKING BIOCHEMICAL CLUES

In 1975, William J. Walsh and fellow energy researchers at the Argonne National Laboratories organized an ex-offender program for prisoners leaving Statesville Penitentiary. The effort, undertaken as a community service, wound up changing Walsh's line of work-and his beliefs about crime.

"We did the usual do-gooder things," Walsh said later, "believing as most people did at the time that criminals were the product of their past life and family nurturing." But, Walsh says, it didn't take long for him to realize that the group's efforts were misdirected.

"After we had spent a year or two working with dozens of violent people," he says, "we discovered that we were completely wrong about our basic beliefs. We realized that these people were different from the rest of the population, and the difference is physiological." Many of the prisoners, Walsh noted, came from caring families and had law-abiding siblings; in addition, parents often said the children who grew up to be criminals were "different from birth."

Curious about their observations, Walsh and his colleagues began researching the physiological roots of crime, and Walsh eventually founded the Health Research Institute to study links between behavior and biology. In one of the Institute's first research projects, Walsh studied 24 pairs of brothers. Each pair lived together, and included one violent, delinquent sibling and one sibling with no academic or behavioral problems. Hair samples taken from the non-delinquent siblings revealed no abnormalities, while samples from the delinquent siblings showed two markedly abnormal patterns. One pattern of biochemical abnormalities ("type A") was seen in subjects who exhibited episodic violence, while another ("type B") was found in psychopathic subjects who showed no conscience or remorse, were pathological liars, and often tortured animals or set fires as children.

A controlled study by Walsh et al. of 192 violent and non-violent males found the same pattern: 92 of 96 violent subjects had type A or type B biochemical profiles, while only five of the 96 non- violent subjects had abnormal profiles.

According to Walsh, type A subjects have elevated serum copper, depressed plasma zinc, high blood lead levels, and abnormal blood histamine levels. Hair analysis reveals an elevated copper- to-sodium ratio that Walsh calls "quite striking." Type B subjects have elevated blood histamine, low plasma zinc, and elevated lead levels, and hair samples show a depressed copper-to-sodium ratio. Walsh also has identified "type C" and "type D" profiles associated with low-to-moderate levels of aggression.

Much of Walsh's attention has focused on psychopaths, and in particular on murderers. For instance, he says, tests performed on Charles Manson, serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, and James Oliver Huberty (of the McDonald's massacre) revealed a type B pattern of biochemical abnormalities. (Walsh says that only of one percent of the general population, but between 20% and 60% of studied prison populations, exhibit the type B pattern.) Patrick Sherril, who killed several people in a Post Office rampage, was "an intense type A person," Walsh says, adding that "his most striking factor was his blood lead and cadmium levels."

Could the violent acts these criminals committed have been prevented? Walsh says that treatments aimed at remedying the biochemical abnormalities his studies associate with criminality and violence often are highly effective. He and his colleagues have treated a large number of violent and/or delinquent children through the non-profit Pfeiffer Treatment Center in Naperville, Illinois, and say that about 70% of their patients experience a marked drop in assaultive behavior.

"We find that this treatment is complementary with existing behavior modalities," Walsh says. "We work with a number of psychiatrists and other physicians who tell us that they believe our treatment enhances the benefits of medication. [and] a number of therapists tell us that biochemical treatment often results in marked improvement in the effectiveness of behavior modification, counseling, and other techniques."

Walsh's research, while provocative, has not been published in a refereed journal, and has not, to Crime Times' knowledge, been replicated by other researchers.

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"Biochemical treatment of behavior disorders," William Walsh, presentation to the Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, May 9, 1996; and, "Biochemical treatment of behavior, learning and mental disorders," William Walsh, Townsend Letter for Doctors, August/September 1992.

Related Articles: [1998, Vol. 1]

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