BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — It would be hard to imagine how a psychiatric nurse tending to the mentally ill could find herself taking cooking lessons from the Unabomber. But it happened to Candice DeLong.
If that name sounds familiar, it should. DeLong hosts the intriguing crime series “Deadly Women” on Investigation Discovery channel.
And she’s not just a talking head there. She was a profiler for the FBI, recruited when an FBI agent heard her speech about her work at a Chicago hospital.
She was excited about the new job, she says. “In fact, I came to realize that FBI agents, cops, detectives, their jobs are not so dissimilar from a psychiatric nurse.”
Like some of them, she worked in maximum security. “Psychiatric nurses have to be good at talking and listening. You’re dealing with people at their worst, helping them find answers, and periodically dealing with unexpected events, sometimes violence,” says DeLong. “That’s like being a cop or a detective. So it wasn’t that much of a stretch for me.”
During her stint with the FBI (she retired 15 years ago) she was assigned some fascinating cases, including the Tylenol poisoning case in the Chicago area where seven died when it was discovered that someone was lacing Tylenol tablets with cyanide.
She worked on the Chandra Levy murder. And she spent six weeks in rural Montana on the Ted Kaczynski — Unabomber — task force.
“I did the undercover work on that case, spent the afternoon with Ted Kaczynski when we were searching his cabin. … He wasn’t mentally ill. I know he pled insane, and the government accepted his plea. He was disturbed. He knew what he was doing. I read his journals,” she says.
“He saw himself as kind of Robin Hood defending society against evil corporations and whatnot. I spent the afternoon with Kaczynski. … I couldn’t talk to him about the case because he said he wanted a lawyer. So once they say that, you can’t talk about the case.
“So we’re sitting in this mountain cabin while we were searching HIS cabin. I just asked, ‘So what’s it like living off the land?’ I already knew the answer. I’d read everything about him. Let’s just chit-chat. He told me how to boil turnips on an open stove. How boring! And all I could think of while he was droning on was, ‘This is the worst date I’ve ever been on. And little does this man know a boiled turnip will never cross these lips, ever,’” she grins.
After all these nefarious encounters, DeLong is reluctant to say she believes in pure evil. “When I was little I was raised Catholic, so evil to me means the devil with a pitchfork. I think of all the people I’ve interviewed that have committed murder, in my show it’s been 36, and in my two careers many more than that. I’ve interviewed very few natural-born killers.”
Divorced, DeLong is the mother of a grown son, Seth, who just finished law school and is helping her write her new book. Her earlier book, “Special Agent: My Life on the Front Lines as a Woman in the FBI,” landed on the Amazon best-seller list its first summer.
She does think that some evildoers are born that way. “Their moral compass, the arrow didn’t point anywhere. They just didn’t have one. If you want to call that evil, then they’re evil. For me evil is people who commit premeditated murder and then lie. There are people that have black hearts,” she acknowledges.
“Psychopaths are born, sociopaths are made. They have a lot of similar characteristic but how they come about is different.”
She says babies who suffer physical neglect or abuse hate the world by the time they’re 12 or 13 and become sociopaths. But with psychopaths, it’s a matter of genetics.
“Psychopaths lost the DNA dice-toss. They’re born with a gene where they have no empathy for others. If they can get away with something they will. They’d rather be crooked than straight. These are the people that will see a wallet sitting on the table, snatch it, and they’ve already got $500 in their pocket. They’re born that way. Most psychopaths are not violent. But the ones that are violent make headlines, like Ted Bundy. They enjoy killing.”