The question always comes up: Who is Raven, my serial killer consultant on “Dark Minds“?
“Chances are you’d guess wrong,” Raven said when I shared this with him recently. “I’m a serial killer and my victims never saw me coming—how would you?”
I asked Raven what frightens him. Is there anything that scares a serial killer?
“Being caught,” he said. Then, taking it a step further: “Actually being found out. Once I realized people knew who I was, I was terrified.”
His secret had been exposed, in other words.
I wanted to know if it “bothered” Raven that he was taking a loved one away from his/her family. Did this have any emotional impact on him whatsoever—that he was killing a mother, daughter, sister, aunt, brother, son, etc.?
“No,” was Raven’s cold, simple reply.
“What if someone you loved was murdered? How would that make you feel?” I asked.
“I’d be upset about it, sure. Because I care about my loved-ones. But I did not know these people I murdered, or their families. These people are not in my life. They don’t exist in my world. They are in their world. So therefore I do not have any feelings for these people. I know I should feel for their loss, but I don’t.”
Raven, like all serial killers, exhibits no remorse for his crimes. He has great difficulty determining what basic emotions actually are; he cannot understand the feelings of others or relate to them; he will not share in any of his victims’ feelings (or that of their families), or show any concern for their pain. These are all classic signs of a psychopath.
I once asked Raven about a traumatic event in his life I knew had occurred. I wanted to know how he felt about it.
“Secretly,” he explained, “I felt good that they [my family] were suffering.” It’s important to note that as he explained this to me he sounded sincere, especially when expressing his inability to understand why he felt this way. “I cannot explain why. It just made me feel good inside that they were hurting.”
I asked Raven what the best way would be for someone to avoid death by a serial killer while within his clutches. Is there a way, for example, after a serial killer abducted a victim, to talk him out of the inevitable?
“The killer must want to be a killer at that time,” Raven said. “He’s not always a killer. You have to understand this. There’s a balance there of when it’s convenient to kill and when it’s proper to kill, and each of us have our own set agenda or trigger. So there is a chance … slight as it is.”
I was curious what went through Raven’s mind as he killed. I wasn’t referring to the anger, that trigger, or even the rage. I wanted to understand past that point. Were there the same images or words that replayed over and over again every time he killed? Or was each murder different?
“When I killed, I decided it was going to happen at that time. I committed myself to the murder. I don’t dwell on other things after that. I’ve already decided that my victim will die. It’s a basic instinct. And so I do it.”
Again, Raven reveals a lot about who he is here. “A basic instinct”—as if killing is part of his DNA and he couldn’t stop if he wanted to.
I followed that question up with: “Are you in a happy place? Are you seeing images of happy things? Are you enjoying the suffering of your victim? Or is it all red?”
“My mindset is right there in the moment. I know that person is going to die. And I am just going through the motions of performing the death. … It’s about taking care of business—doing the task. The murder is the easy part. Now, actually getting away from that body afterward, well, that’s where the fear and worry come into play.”
Raven’s role within the context of the work I do is sometimes not fully understood. It’s hard for me to explain how valuable a psychopath like Raven is to my research, both in general and for the cases I cover on “Dark Minds.” I have been communicating with Raven now for nearly three years. I have learned more from him about the mind of the serial killer than any textbook, any college course, any seminar, or week-long conference could teach me. Think about it: Who better to explain the mind of the serial murderer than the serial murderer himself? I cannot stress the importance of this enough. I think it gets overlooked (or lost) sometimes within the drama of the show. As much as I cringe, as much as I despise Raven, his crimes and behavior when he answers questions like those you’ve just read, what he offers me (because I believe he is being honest) is far beyond any other research available. I am getting to know the source of great evil.
“Some people don’t understand there are tools to murder,” Raven explained. “Certain tools that go along with the act of murder. A tool may not necessarily be a wrench, or a knife, but may actually be a house or a shed. Or the inside of a van. If I drive a van, once I get that victim into my van and close the door, that van becomes my tool of concealment in order to kill. It’s easy after that. But then taking that body outside of that concealed location is where the problems begin.”
Something Raven pointed out here in his explanation of concealment is very important. He said most experts and profilers focus on the “power and control” aspect of serial killers. “That we love control.” But, according to Raven, “We lose control once we have that body to get rid of. I could drive around a corner with a body in a van and there could be twenty cop cars waiting there for someone else and I get swooped up in it.”
I wanted to know if Raven’s victims ever came back to haunt him—that is, if he ever dreamt about them.
“I don’t think of them today in the stage of death, or when I was actually killing them,” Raven said. “But how I met and chose them. What they said. How we interacted. I think about that a lot. Sometimes I go back and, in a dreamlike state, I change the outcome and then I hope to open my eyes and not wake up in prison.”
I wondered if there were any potential victims Raven had met along his sojourn of evil he decided not to kill.
“Close to one hundred,” he said.
It’s an exaggeration, I know. But Raven’s point is clearly made.
“Dark Minds” will premiere with a new season on Investigation Discovery on April 2 at 8/7c. Serial killer expert M. William Phelps is the national bestselling author/investigative journalist of over 25 nonfiction books, six of which focus on serial murderers. His latest book, OBSESSED, was published in March 2014. Also check out Phelps’s special ebook collection of two “Dark Minds” cases and a Son of Sam story in MADNESS, SEX, SERIAL KILLER.