She might be a retired FBI profiler, but Candice DeLong is far from done discussing true crime. Recently, the homicide expert launched a new true-crime podcast series with her production company Treefort Media and Wondery called Killer Psyche.
As you’ll learn from our interview with DeLong, she brings something unique to the podcast world that you won’t find in most others within the same genre, her unique insight as a former FBI criminal profiler.
Killer Psyche covers a broad range of cases, including the Unabomber, which DeLong worked on during her time in the FBI, the Lipstick Killer, Aileen Wournos, and the Tylenol murders (another case DeLong worked). In each episode, DeLong delves into the reasoning behind why these killers do what they do, sharing specific profiling methods and psychological assessments.
DeLong spoke with 1428 Elm about the case that most haunted her, how Killer Psyche differs from her longtime hosting gig on Investigation Discovery’s Deadly Women, female serial killers and much more.
Interview with Candice DeLong for new Killer Psyche podcast
1428 Elm: How did you get involved with this podcast?
Candice DeLong: It all started when a waiter who knew who I was, kept asking me if I had ever heard of a particular true-crime podcast. I had not, and I had no interest in doing it. He kept asking me, so I decided to listen to it, and it happened to be a murder case that I was familiar with, and I thought, “I’m going to look into this for myself, to do this.” Because I have a different angle, a different perspective than most people doing true crime because of my background, so I prepared a pitch and gave it to my agent, and the rest is history.
1428 Elm: I listened to the Aileen Wournos episode. Why do you think female serial killers are so rare?
Candice DeLong: They’re not as rare as people think. I have this TV show Deadly Women that has been on 15 years, and we have covered a lot of stories about female serial killers, and they go way back in recorded history.
1428 Elm: Elizabeth Bathory was the first one, right?
I have a different angle, a different perspective than most people doing true crime because of my background.
Candice DeLong: Yes, she was our Season 1, Episode 1, story number one. I hadn’t heard of her, I was a retired FBI agent, and I think I mentioned this in the Wournos podcast; when I was in profiler training, there was no such thing as a female serial killer. Well, it’s not true.
They tend to not kill for psychosexual reasons. They’re not sexual predators—Bathory was, I think. But they kill for other reasons. We see female serial killers whose main motive is money or personal gain. There are female serial killers [where] the victims are children. They are out there. I think there was a time in western civilization where it was believed that because women were life-givers, they could not be life-takers; it was not in our nature.
I believe there was a time where if a detective stumbled upon a woman standing over a dead body with a bloody knife in hand and a smile on her face, the detective would say, “which way did the bad guy go?” Their mindset of women being incapable of murder did not allow them to see that, yes, they are. I think that’s one of the reasons Lizzie Borden walked out of court. She was absolutely guilty and walked out of court. All male jury.
1428 Elm: What is the difference in approach to doing a show like Deadly Women versus doing the Killer Psyche podcast?
Candice DeLong: For Deadly Women, that company does all the research, and for years they would come up with the cases, and then I started suggesting things, and they handled everything. My role was to sit in a chair, after having learned about the case, and make comments about the story.
But for a podcast, what we record takes a couple of hours and then that gets edited down into less than 45 minutes ,and we cover so much. I’m able to contribute much more than I do to Deadly Women. I guess you’d call me the captain of the team and working with my production company Treefort and also Wondery is very involved.
We all work on the script, of course, the delivery is mine and a lot of what goes into the script is what I’ve shared with the producers and scriptwriter about the case. It is a lot more work, I can tell you, I didn’t plan on being this involved with work in my retirement, but I love it.
1428 Elm: Why do you think women, in particular, are so fascinated by true crime?
Candice DeLong: I think it’s because traditionally, the victims of violent crime, especially interpersonal violent crime, are women and children. And, of course, children should not be watching these shows or listening to these podcasts. I think we’re drawn to it because we can learn okay this horrible thing happened to this young woman, and we can learn how to avoid it. In fact, I wouldn’t be doing this if there wasn’t something to learn. This isn’t about blood and guts and gore; this is about how every story is a cautionary tale.
1428 Elm: On the podcast, you talk a lot about what makes these people tick, but obviously not everyone who is abused becomes a murderer. Why do you think that switch flips for some people and not others?
Candice DeLong: There are so many contributing factors to someone committing murder. Mental illness is one, but actually, the two most severe mental illnesses are schizophrenia with thought disorder and bipolar disorder, people with those disorders count for 10% of homicides, so there is another 90% out there that the person is not seriously mentally ill. They are knowingly taking another person’s life.
1428 Elm: I think it’s easier for people to put it in a box that “only mentally ill people commit murders,” which is not true, but I think people believe if they think that way, they could sense what’s coming and think “oh, that person acts totally normal, they can’t be a killer.” But in reality, you just never know, which is frightening.
Candice DeLong: Most of the crimes that lend themselves to profiling or crimes that are fascinating and end up on a TV show, whether it’s cable or a network, some of the most popular shows on the networks, the big four are true crime: 48 Hours, Dateline, 20/20, and why is that? Some of these have been on for a long, long time. People are fascinated.
1428 Elm: Like Law & Order: SVU and NCIS, too, even though those aren’t true crime.
Candice DeLong: Crime fiction and true crime are the bread and butter of many of the networks and a lot of shows. And that’s why the network Investigation Discovery is so popular. It’s all true crime, all the time. And the people that developed that, they knew. I think part of the draw is that the average person would never commit a crime against another person, even stealing ten dollars that’s on the counter. They could get away with it, but they don’t do it. Most people are good and decent people. It’s the bad ones we need to worry about.
1428 Elm: I think people forget or don’t want to face, that most of the time, it’s someone you know and not a stranger or a serial killer.
Candice DeLong: Especially for women. Serial killers are very rare, but they make headlines. But the average jealous person killing their partner because maybe their partner is leaving them or cheating on them, that’s much more common.
1428 Elm: Are there any cases that went unsolved that still haunt you?
Candice DeLong: I worked on the Tylenol murders in 1981, it’s one of our episodes, and I worked the case when I was a rookie agent, and whoever did that, we think we know who it was, got away with it. Seven people died. He didn’t know them. The FBI and the Illinois state police were unable to find any hard evidence to link any suspect to the murders.
1428 Elm: Are there any cases that you can talk about that you’re going to cover for the rest of this season of Killer Psyche?
Candice DeLong: When I created the pitch, it included 60-70 different stories, and some of them will be two-part episodes. Many historic cases and a lot more cases in the last 50 years. There are a lot of infamous murder cases that are fascinating that most people alive today never heard of, and one of them, the Lipstick Killer, 1946 Chicago, our third episode, that case caught criminologists and investigators, sex crimes investigators, homicide, a lot was to be learned by studying William Heirens and his crimes.
The more we know about why certain people commit a crime in a certain way, it tends to help us with public safety. Learning about these murderers and why they do what they do, we can help keep communities safe.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
New episodes of Killer Psyche come out every Tuesday for free from Wondery. You can access the podcast right HERE or from anywhere you get your podcasts such as Apple Podcasts, Amazon or Spotify.