Kathleen M. Puckett, Ph.D
Speaking at this month’s San Joaquin Sisters in Crime meeting, retired FBI Special Agent, Kathleen M. Puckett grabbed our attention and never let go. She started with stories of her labyrinthine journey on her way to becoming an agent of the FBI.
“I started in English studies but soon changed to Anthropology studies with a minor in History, and that’s what I graduated with in 1972.”
With a Bachelors in Anthropology and seeking a way to pay off her student loans, she joined the Air Force and was recruited into the Officer’s Training Program (a program which if you serve a period of four years they forgive up to fifty percent of your school debt).
She was eventually recruited into the Office of Special Investigations in the Air Force.
The model of the OSI, the Office of Special Investigations in the Air Force, was modeled on the one by the FBI. They handle both Criminal and Counter Intelligence work.
So as the years progressed and she became an FBI Agent, it was always easier to work with the Air Force because they had a kind of complementary organizational structure.
Eventually she was put on a special task force for a lone wolf terrorist that had been bombing innocent people for over 16 years without any real leads to finding him. Ms. Tuckett was the primary behavioral expert put on the Unabomber task force.
One big take away from Ms. Puckett’s talk was that the real stories behind the hype put forth in the news, is so much more interesting. What we mostly get are the opinions and speculation of newscasters whose job it is to get the story first. The true facts cannot usually be revealed while the investigation is ongoing and often get lost in the aftermath.
We learned the true story of how Ted Kaczynski was tracked and caught. As a teenager, Ted was found to be a genius, (IQ was tested to be around 170), but he was self described as an emotional cripple.
He was estranged from his brother David for years. And when David was first approached by his wife with the idea that his brother might be involved, he could not initially entertain the idea that his quiet, gentle brother might be this crazed UNABOMBER killing people. David’s wife had read part of Ted’s Manifesto in a Paris newspaper and got a creepy feeling that the phrasing sounded eerily familiar to those in the letters her brother-in-law (whom she had never met) had written to her husband).
And so began the journey that would lead the task force to the capture Kaczynski.
Everyone agreed we need to have Kathleen back to tell us more of her stories—many are being looked at by Hollywood for TV series and a possible movie.
Her non-fiction book, Hunting the American Terrorist, is co-written with her partner and friend of many years, Terry Turchie.
Amazon’s blurb: “For sixteen years Kaczynski stayed ahead of them. The old techniques in the Bureau just didn't work anymore, at least for this kind of mind. It was time to change the rules and time to find the right type of people to change them. The book written by the people who changed the rules on the run takes you on the chase for the dark minds of Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber and Eric Rudolph. Dr. Puckett, the clinical psychologist who played such a vital role in the capture of those men also peers into the mind of Timothy McVeigh to provide an analysis to better understand the mindset of the domestic terrorist.”
If you want to read an interview with Kathleen from 2008, go to this link: http://www.nleomf.org/assets/pdfs/nlem/oral-histories/FBI_Puckett_interview.pdf
Or search ‘Kathleen Puckett’ to find the pdf and the interview.
Tid Bit: The X-Files is the one show that got many of the details about the FBI right; a most accurate representation as to how the FBI building inside really looks, even to the dark underground office of Fox Mulder and the way the actual case files were represented.