Crime Con 2023

Orlando, Florida

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Please Note this about a True Crime Convention; therefore it comes with every Trigger Warning.

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The Butler and I (the cat biographer) left for Orlando on Thursday, September 27th. While the JetBlue flight itself was fine, we flew out of a tiny airport in White Plains, New York which was jammed with people. You’d think someone on the staff would have directed all of us standing and complaining to the second floor where there was extra seating we didn’t find until deplaning on the way back. The flight back was not as good for me. My seat was so worn, there was no cushion left. The hard plastic was pressed against my already-in-pain sacrum and pelvis. That plane wasn’t cleaned as well as the first one either. They had different “blue” names so I know they were different planes. Leaving 80ºF Orlando, we got home to my preferred 60ºF but raining weather.

crime con spelled out in lights

The Marriot Orlando Resort Hotel is a comfortable location. I would suggest renting a car or having some means of acquiring food if you’re vegan. This hotel has several restaurants, yet the only solid meal I got was from room service—a delicious falafel platter on a bed of salad. We had a meal delivered through some app. Part of it seemed wrong, but I was too tired to eat it that day. I ate the Pad See Ew the next day and used the microwaves on the main floor to heat it up. One might be lucky and find an appropriate snack like gluten-free pretzels, apples, or bananas; but seriously, if you have a major food issue, plan out where and what you can eat. The breakfast buffet at the Latitudes restaurant inside the hotel had cereals, hot and cold oatmeals (the cold one was made with almond milk), a lot of fruit, real eggs, pancakes, waffles, meats, and an omlette station.

The convention hall is its own wing of the building. Be prepared for a huge amount of walking or transporting yourself! I got lucky on Friday that both presentations I attended were in the same ballroom. Not so for Saturday. I was in tremendous pain. It was excruciating. By Saturday, my legs were weak, wobbly, and about to buckle under me. I was also one of the very few people wearing a mask. I skipped most of what I had planned for that day.

Amber on the bed exhausted.
Exhausted and in lots of pain.

Each room had several rows of reserved seating for people with disabilities. They were clearly marked. You did not need to have a “visible” disability to sit there. If a staff questioned you, which I saw them do to a few people, they were cordial and accepting of the requests to sit there.

Since this is hotel is constantly managing conferences, this staff was on the ball as were the Crime Con staff. I’ve been plenty of comic cons where no one knew anything. Five stars for how organized it was!

new 5 stars rating

This was also an unusual show when it came down to genders of attendees. There were very few men. The bathroom lines got long needless to say. Yet, there were a lot male presenters and podcasters. Not sure what that means, but it was something I noticed. I wasn’t the only one. Nancy Grace and another speaker pointed out how the audience looked like a sea of women or other non-men.

Amber showing off Sisters in Crime shirt and Burton Guster Nabu Detective socks for Crime Con
Amber showing off Sisters in Crime shirt and Burton Guster Nabu Detective socks.


The Psycho Hunt: Inside the Manhunt for California’s Most Wanted

crime con: host Matt Murphy presentation; The Book of Murder, his memoir coming soon

The opening lecture I saw was Orange County, CA Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy for a behind-the-scenes look into the investigation, international manhunt, capture, escape, recapture, and eventual trial of Hossein Nayeri. I know I’ve seen Murphy on some ID Channel shows giving his two cents.

Matt Murphy spent 21 years assigned to the sexual assault and homicide units where he prosecuted some of the most notorious murder cases in the state of California. He completed 132 jury trials in his career as a prosecutor, including 52 while he was assigned to the homicide unit. He worked as an adjunct professor of law for 7 years. In addition to his work for ABC news, Mr. Murphy is in private practice representing victims of sexual abuse and some select criminal defense cases. He’s also been regularly appearing on iCrime and NewsNation with Elizabeth Vargas providing analysis on Criminal cases in the news.

Murphy was entertaining as a speaker. He didn’t show any sympathy at all for the suspects he discussed, even referring to one as a moron to emphasize that there was a different man who was the mastermind of a criminal operation. Murphy is attractive and charismatic which clearly help him with his current projects of being on television. He has a book coming out soon and I bet he’ll be touring for signings.


Killer Psyche: How Today’s Killers Reflect the Past

crime con collage: Candice DeLong host of the show Killer Psyche

I went into this panel more familiar with the presenter, Candice DeLong, who hosts her own shows. She has had an incredible career fighting crime.

Retired FBI criminal profiler and bestselling author Candice DeLong is an internationally recognized homicide expert, news commentator, author and host of documentary TV and podcasts. She created and hosted programs including CRIME TIME with Candice DeLong, a Cumulus radio show broadcast in San Francisco from 2012-2013 and FACING EVIL with Candice DeLong, which was broadcast on Investigation Discovery from 2010 to 2015. Candice was also the face of the longest running show on Investigation Discovery, DEADLY WOMEN, now seen in 165 countries. Her bestselling memoir SPECIAL AGENT: My Life on the Front Lines as a Woman in the FBI (Hyperion, 2001), was the first career memoir to be written by a female agent. Her hit podcast, Killer Psyche with Candice Delong launched its second season in July 2022.

In DeLong’s presentation, the audience was given a usable classroom style lecture as you would get at a university. With only fifty minutes to speak and then take questions, the audience received the basics of what might go into a criminal behavioral profile.

crime con: host Candice DeLong at Killer Psyche presentation

DeLong showed comparisons of some of the worst offenders like Ed Gein, Richard Trenton Chase (the Sacramento Vampire Killer), Daniel Gonzales (the Freddie Krueger Killer), Dennis Rader (BTK), Rex Heuerman (the alleged Gilgo Beach Killer), Richard Cottingham, Ted Kaczynski (Unabomber), James William Lewis (the Chicago Tylenol Killer), James Holmes (Aurora, CO mass murderer), Jodi Arias, Richard Chase, and Dr. Jeffrey R. MacDonald. I may have missed some!

In these comparisons, DeLong listed the traits of the murders that would classify them as organized or disorganized killers, their victimologies, hunting behaviors, and lifestyles. She gave examples about how an organized killer like Dennis Rader (BTK) took his time scouting for victims, taking photographs of them (stalking), and planning meticulously. He was also middle-class, quite average, married with children, and living in the suburbs.

When discussing murderers who suffered from mental illnesses like schizo affective disorder (schizophrenia), these people typical have delusions or other things going on that they fully believe are real but are not. In the case of James Holmes and the mass shooting spree in the Aurora movie theater, he was someone with a diagnosis but off his medication. He was considered a good student in graduate school.


Violent Minds: What Drives the Most Heinous Serial Killers?

Katherine Ramsland and Gary Brucato on Crime Con panel
Katherine Ramsland and Gary Brucato


Using decades of audio tapes during the pioneering research of criminal psychologist, Dr. Al Carlisle – criminal psychologists Dr. Gary Brucato and Dr. Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D on a journey through the mind of serial killer Manny Cortez. Kathryn Vaughan, Executive Producer of Oxygen True Crime’s Violent Minds: Killers on Tape, will also join the conversation. Moderated by’s Stephanie Gomulka.

The Oxygen channel/network had a massive presence at the con. In this panel, I’ll honestly say that there was no need for Kathryn Vaughan, the executive producer of a show featuring Brucato and Ramsland, to be there. She didn’t have much to say. Fortunately, Brucato and Ramsland are seasoned guest speakers who can easily handle a conversation on gruesome subjects like serial killers. Their new show will stream on Peacock if you don’t have access the Oxygen channel otherwise.

I had been wanting to meet Dr. Ramsland in person since seeing her over Zoom for a Sisters in Crime presentation. I had also read one of her books on psychology (but it was digital) and I wanted something for her to sign. A few weeks before the con, I bought her book Cemetery Stories; read it; and I did get her to sign it at their Meet & Greet later on after their presentation. Dr. Brucato was willing to sign my crime notes journal and he made a doodle of a person going mad while reading. He told me he comes from a long line of animators (Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Baby Shark).

Brucato and Ramsland used their time to review the case of Manny Cortez. They explained how the work of Dr. Carlisle and his work on Ted Bundy was instrumental. Cortez is a sexual sadist who target children. Yet, Carlisle’s devout faith still convinced him that everyone is born good. According to the speakers, Carlisle was adamant that people are turned evil. Brucato didn’t come off as believing in this one-hundred-percent. People in several audiences asked the speakers about nature vs. nurture. It’s still something that cannot be firmly decided since people can show traits in their youth and end up being leaders not killers; though plenty of leaders are sociopaths.

Brucato mentioned that the definition of serial killer has also changed with the times. This was another subject that he didn’t seem to agree with. The old definition stated there had to be at least three victims with a cooling off period in between. Now, the definition is that there are two victims and the cooling off period is open to interpretation. He gave the example of someone who would stick up bodegas/mini-marts. They would now be considered a serial killer if there were two clerks in one store.

Katherine Ramsland

Ramsland stated that psychopaths are not the same thing as an evil person. She said newer science is showing some evidence, but each person still has their own trajectory. There’s no “serial killer gene” to test for, but when signs are showing in children, the work to keep them from being evil should begin as early as possible.


DOGS! K9 Demo by the Orlando PD starring Fletcher and Jackson

The Orlando Police have a large K9 force of 14 dogs. German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are utilized. The indoors was limited by the small space of the room. Fletch and Jackson were the dogs that showed off their skills in the first demo. Both of these dogs are dual-purpose dogs which means they can sniff out contraband like explosive material and pursue and take down suspects. Though the sergeant prefers the Belgian Malinois, each breed has a knack for certain skills. He said Bloodhounds are the best tracking dogs, but they don’t have one in their unit. Another example of law enforcement dogs would be Labrador Retrievers most likely to be seen at customs or airports.

To certify a dog for the force, the handler and dog have to certify as a team. If the dog has already been a partner to a different officer, they go through the training again. For a patrol dog, that’s a minimum of 480 hours. After that, special skills like odor/explosive certification is another course of 160 hours. The audience was given a brief demonstration by Fletch on how he can sniff objects and find the material.

There’s also certification for “bite work” and it’s just as it sounds. A dog is trained to go after someone and bite them into submission until their human partner arrives. Jackson showed the audience how much he loves this part of his job. It is more than biting, but that’s the scary and impressive part audiences like to see. The dogs also have to guard, circle a perimeter, and stay on command.

crime con collage of K9 demo: close up of Fletch standing with his grenade toy in his mouth

If you’re curious about search, rescue, and body recovery (cadaver dogs), those are different sets of canine and handler skills.

This unit does have body armor vests for their dogs, but in Florida, it gets too hot to have them wear them in summer. They could overheat after ten minutes.

The Orlando dogs get some overseas training but come from a breeder in South Carolina. Their commands could be German, Dutch, or English.

Finally, information that is probably incorrect on any TV show where there’s a K9 in a scene: the officer handling the dog would never draw a firearm. There’s supposed to be a “cover officer,” someone specifically to be backup using anything else like batons, tasers, or a firearm. For the K9 handler, that dog is their only tool when in use.


Nancy Grace coverage

More coverage to come!

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