The Author Exchange Blog will be interviewing mystery writer, Sheila Lowe, in March. When we learned about her "other" career as a graphologist/handwriting expert, I asked her to share some info with us. She was kind enough to agree. Here's some really neat information, in Sheila's own words!
Some years ago I was contacted by a law enforcement agency in Australia. A serial killer incarcerated there had been receiving post cards from an anonymous sender, and due to some copycat killings, the police were investigating whether the post card writer might be the killer’s disciple. They asked for an analysis of the handwriting to determine whether the writer was dangerous. My assessment was that he had probably suffered a head injury and had a skewed view of reality, which could make him explosive.
When little Jon Benet Ramsey was killed, a three-page letter left at the scene demanded the odd ransom of $118,000—the amount of John Ramsey’s bonus that year. I was contacted by the Denver Post and other media outlets, wanting to know what the handwriting revealed about the note writer. Later, the National Enquirer supplied me with copies of the handwriting samples taken by the Boulder police in the case (don’t get me started on that!). They wanted to know whether the ransom note matched Patsy Ramsey’s writing. My conclusion was that there was no match, but I figured I’d reached the pinnacle of my career when I was taken out of context and misquoted by the National Enquirer and somehow, they made it sound in print as though I’d agreed with their opinion that it did.
In 2002, the D.C. Snipers, John Muhamad and John Malvo, had the entire state terrorized. When samples of their handwriting was discovered, I was asked by a Virginia newspaper to give personality profile of the handwriting.
I used to appear on the Hard Copy television show, mostly during the O.J. Simpson circus, but also when Susan Smith (“Killer Mom”) wrote a confession about the murder of her two little boys. And a couple of years ago when Kobe Bryant was accused of rape, a TV station sent me the handwriting of his accuser for my opinion of whether she was telling the truth.
Mostly, though, the trials in which I testify are to answer the question of whether someone forged a signature on a document. It’s amazing—and sad—how many cases there are where family members and supposed friends and business partners try to screw each other over, forging wills, partnership agreements, deeds to homes, and all sorts of other documents. Hint: the clearer you write your signature, the harder it is to forge. Scrawly signatures are easier. Also, use black gel ink to sign.
While some law enforcement agencies use handwriting analysis to learn more about the personalities of victims and witnesses to determine truthfulness, and perpetrators to determine potential for dangerous behavior, they generally keep the practice under wraps—their secret weapon. The CIA has used handwriting analysts for many years. The FBI claims not to as part of their behavioral unit, but some of their field offices use handwriting analysis independently. Handwriting Analyzer software I helped to develop is used by law enforcement agencies and governments in countries around the world, but you aren’t likely to hear it being talked about.
Handwriting is a projective behavior very much like body language, and it can reveal a great deal of important information about the writer (though not everything!). It’s one more important tool in the profiler’s toolbox.
For more information about Sheila's professional life as a handwriting analyst, or as a mystery writer, check out her websites:
http://www.claudiaroseseries.com/ - Forensic handwriting mysteries. Dead Write in stores now