Multiple Personalities: Crime and Defense
Faking Good: An Early Case
A ninth victim was soon found naked on the side of a hill. She appeared to have been posed in a spread-eagle fashion as some kind of insulting statement. This time witnesses had spotted two males with her.
All of a sudden, the murders stopped. Police waited through the holidays with no new bodies linked to the spree. Then on February 17, 1978, a helicopter patrol spotted a car off a highway, and locked inside the trunk was victim number ten---strangled.
Almost a year after the last Los Angeles victim was discovered, in Bellingham, Washington, college roommates Diane Wilder and Karen Mandic were reported missing. On January 12, 1979, a security officer said one of them had indicated they were going to do a job for Ken Bianchi, a good-looking man with a girlfriend and infant son who worked at the security company.
While he was in prison, Bianchi's attorney brought in a psychiatrist, Dr. John Watkins, to examine him. Watkins put Bianchi under hypnosis, got him to admit to several of the murders and to implicate his cousin, and then declared he had multiple personality disorder. He had killed as "Steve Walker" and thus was not competent to stand trial. Three more experts were convinced by his condition as well.
This only annoyed the investigators. The prosecution decided to bring in its own expert, Dr. Martin Orne. Detectives had discovered "Steve Walker" was the name of a college student from whom Bianchi had stolen transcripts to set up his fake psychiatric practice, which suggested he knew enough about psychology to fake a personality disorder.
Dr. Orne used a ploy: He suggested to Bianchi that most multiples have more than two personalities, and it wasn't long before Billy emerged. Bianchi also pretended to touch someone who was not there. Hallucinating is not a symptom of MPD, and they knew then Bianchi was faking it. Under pressure he admitted to the deception.
Bianchi agreed to testify against his cousin in exchange for life in prison, and he pleaded guilty to the Washington murders and five of the Los Angeles murders. On Halloween 1983, the jury convicted Buono of nine of the 10 murders and gave him nine life sentences. Bianchi was given five life sentences on top of the two in Washington.
Years later, despite what Bianchi had said, Dr. Watkins continued to insist he had MPD, which drew criticism from other professionals.
This was not the only case in which a killer tried to elude justice with a fake psychiatric diagnosis. Others quickly followed.