James R. Fitzgerald – Retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent/Criminal Profiler/Forensic Linguist and Member of the Behavioral Analysis Unit
It’s early April of 1996.I’m standing in the doorway of the Unabomber’s cabin in Lincoln, Montana. I’m about to walk inside. I’m an almost 9-year FBI agent, and a brand new criminal profiler. This is my first official profiling assignment. Not a bad beginning for a seasoned law enforcement officer, but a novice profiler. That is, being an integral part of the task force of federal agents that finally identified and arrested this serial bomber/serial killer who’s been at it for 17 years now.
But, I hesitate for a moment before going through the cabin door. Why, I’m not sure. Then, I ask myself, quite seriously, the following question: ”How did my life path ever bring to this place at this time?” The answer to this question, and related ones, would take some time for me to synthesize and to fully figure out. You see, it wasn’t the traditional path that brought me to this place. In fact, a career in law enforcement seemed to be the last place I was heading in my young life.
I was born in Philadelphia and raised in a modest row home in a working-class neighborhood known as Olney. I attended 12 years of school in that very neighborhood, moving on to Penn State for my college years. After graduation, with a criminal justice degree now under my belt, I became a store detective in an upscale downtown Philadelphia department store. Fourteen months later I pinned a police badge on my shirt and was given a gun for the first time. Upon graduating from the police academy in November of 1976, I became a patrolman on the Bensalem Police Department (BPD), a mid-sized suburb just north of Philadelphia.
Through eleven years on the BPD, and after working as a patrolman, a detective, a detective sergeant, a patrol sergeant, making all sorts of arrests, and dealing with all sorts of political intrigue within the department itself, I took stock of my life. It was clearly time to move on. I applied to, was selected by, and joined…the FBI.
After graduating from yet another law enforcement academy, this one in Quantico, Virginia, I found myself in early 1988 as a brand new FBI agent assigned to New York City. While there, I investigated bank robberies, kidnappings, extortions, and many other violent incidents which happened to have a federal crime nexus. I then learned of an opportunity for advancement within the FBI. One which I knew I could master and at which I would succeed; that is, as a criminal profiler. So, back to Quantico I went for my promotion, more training, and a new assignment.
From Unabom, to the Jon Benet Ramsey homicide, the DC Sniper case, the Anthrax investigation, a stint in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and many other notorious murder, rape, and terroristic matters in the 1990s and early 2000s, I played a role in all of them. Through the Unabom case, and later other notable investigations, not to mention two master’s degrees, I also became an expert in the area of forensic linguistics; that is, the scientific-oriented analysis of written and spoken language for investigative and evidentiary purposes.
After retirement from the FBI in November of 2007, I continued to do forensic linguistic investigations and analyses at my newly joined Manassas, Virginia, based company, the Academy Group, Inc.
Also post-FBI, I “went Hollywood.” First, as one of two technical advisors on the CBS-TV series Criminal Minds; secondly, as co-host and executive producer of A&E’s Killer Profile; thirdly, as having “Story By” credits for the upcoming television event series Manifesto (which portrays my role in the Unabom investigation); to fourthly, my magnum opus, authoring the three books of my memoir, A Journey to the Center of the Mind.
Needless to say, it’s been a very interesting life so far. And, there is lot more to do yet.Share with Your Friends!by
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