Retired FBI criminal profiler and bestselling author Candice DeLong, 72, is an internationally recognized homicide expert, author and documentary TV host. Recruited by the FBI while serving as Head Nurse at Chicago’s Institute of Psychiatry, her career as a psychiatric nurse set her apart from other crime analysts or profilers.
After 20 years on the front lines of high-profile FBI cases, she has launched a new chapter in life, hosting popular true crime podcast, KILLER PSYCHE with Candice DeLong.
Q: As one of the first female FBI profilers at Quantico, which is your most memorable case?
CANDICE: I was involved in arresting the Unabomber and I spent the afternoon with him while we were searching his cabin. And I was an investigator on the Tylenol murders back in 1982. But my most memorable case is the one that touched me the most.
Then I saw this little blond head amidst all these men rolling around on the ground and I grabbed the arm and pulled him out.
I’d been an agent about 16 years, and I got a call on a Saturday morning about a convicted child molester who had kidnapped an 11 year old boy and was on the run with him.
We found them at the Amtrak station in Oakland. The offender was about six foot four with copper red hair, and a little blonde boy with him. So my colleagues drew their guns and brought the guy down. There was this big mass of bodies and I couldn’t find the boy. Then I saw this little blond head amidst all these men rolling around on the ground and I grabbed the arm and pulled him out. After a few days, I brought him home to his family.
When my book – SPECIAL AGENT: My Life on the Front Lines as a Woman in the FBI – came out in 2001, I contacted him because I wanted him to know that I had the story in the book but I did not name him or give any particulars. And we’ve been friends ever since.
Every time I tell the story I get teary eyed and I can’t stop smiling. It worked out really well but the most important part was after the rescue where I became a mentor to him. FBI agents live to rescue a kidnap victim – and I was lucky enough to be a part of it.
Q: Killer Psyche is very popular with listeners who enjoy your wisdom. Do you have any self protection tips particularly for seniors?
CANDICE: The most common way that an offender gets to a victim in their home is through an unlocked door or window. So locking doors and making sure windows are locked is key. There’s many ways to do that with inexpensive devices. People have to be ritualistic about it.
…the biggest mistake that older people make is that they forget to be careful. Trusting the wrong person can get you hurt or worse.
I’m gonna be 73 in July so I forget things periodically. So I set an alarm on my phone every night for about 9pm when I go around and make sure everything is locked.
I think the biggest mistake that older people make is that they forget to be careful. Trusting the wrong person can get you hurt or worse. Older people are targeted by predators, especially financial predators or health care predators. Predators know that older people forget to be careful so they’re targets. Also oftentimes they live alone and maybe let themselves get too lonely; starved for human contact.
Even though they think they’re fine, they may not be fine. They may end up trusting someone that is being nice to them and wants to chat with them. I’m not saying those people without a motive don’t exist. They do exist. But predators of older people are very skilled and they know how to gain the trust of someone.
I would suggest that your antennas should go up at the very first question about your money, your heirs, your will, things like that. That’s a red flag that you’re dealing with somebody who wants your money.
And it doesn’t have to be just money. Maybe they want to move in and take care of you and, before you know it, they’ve moved in with their whole families. I’ve seen it as a visiting nurse and in law enforcement.
So be careful. Don’t jump into trusting someone and maintain contact with other people, neighbors, friends and family. Try and get out of your house once a day and talk to another human.
Q: What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
CANDICE: So many things. Years ago, when I wanted to be a nurse and, after I got into it, I wanted to be head nurse. I wanted to be the boss because I thought I could really run a good unit – and that happened.
And then I joined the FBI and then I wanted to be an agent that – rather than sit at their desk and wait for something to happen – I would go out and look for things that were happening or jump on them or raise my hand: Hey, can I do this? Can I do that?
Then I had the opportunity to be trained by the Behavioral Science Unit back in 1984 to become a profiler. Profilers are crime scene analysts and they are experts in violent crime. So that happened. And then when I retired in 2000 – I wrote my memoir which launched my TV career with Deadly Women on Investigation Discovery. About the same time Season One of Killer Psyche was getting started, Deadly Women was cancelled after 14 seasons, but I am so proud of Deadly Women which is still in reruns in 165 countries and people just love it.
Q; What inspired you to create your podcast, Killer Psyche?
CANDICE: I travel a lot. My son Seth lives in Europe and everywhere I go people either recognize my voice or recognize me and it’s because of Deadly Women. During COVID I had the idea to create a podcast. There’s lots of people out there talking about murders and crime – but you don’t have to be an expert to do that! I thought I could bring something to the table that I hadn’t seen anybody else do in the podcast world – which is somebody with my background, explaining the motives, behavior and psychology of the offender. That’s where the Killer Psyche name came from. I’m enormously proud of that because I came up with it when I was almost 71, and here we are today with 2 million downloads a month. I’m still pinching myself like, my gosh, I guess I’m not over the hill yet!
Q: After meeting with some of the worst kinds of humanity during your career, is there such a thing as “Pure Evil”?
CANDICE: What evil represents to me is someone that knows what they’re going to do and they know it’s wrong. They know it could possibly kill someone or leave someone penniless. Whatever it is they want to do – but they do it anyway. And they never feel guilt about it. That’s about as close to evil as I can imagine. That’s really what’s described as a psychopath.
Psychopaths or sociopaths are very similar. They have no guilt or remorse. That’s the clinical definition of a psychopath and that is very close to evil. People hurt each other all the time, but many times it’s an accident or it was done in a flash of rage and they feel bad about it, but they’re not evil. That’s just being human. Fortunately, the percentage of psychopaths walking among us is probably 2% and most of them are not violent psychopaths. Can you imagine if it was any higher? Because look at the damage they do. It is raining True Crime TV shows and podcasts because there are enough psychopaths out there to make headlines everywhere you turn.
Q: When Jodie Foster famously played FBI profiler Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs, did you recognize yourself in her?
CANDICE: Yes, a little bit. I was still an FBI agent in Chicago when that movie came out – only one of two profilers in the office. There were about 500 agents and only two of us were trained in profiling. And I was the only woman and after a couple of people saw the movie they started calling me Clarice. I had to laugh. Of course, Hollywood always takes license. But of all the shows I’ve seen that feature an FBI agent, that was one of the very few that wasn’t ridiculous.
Q: Do you still advise on cold cases?
CANDICE: Yes. Years ago I worked a cold case of a woman from San Diego whose body was found on a beach in Mexico. The San Diego Sheriffs told the woman’s family – all her kids were grown – that the case was unsolvable. The autopsy said it was a homicide by asphyxiation. And her daughter Lauri Taylor, saw me on TV, found me through my agent and asked me to get involved. Well, two years later, the two of us solved her mother’s murder together. And she wrote a book about it, called The Accidental Truth. That was probably my most notable cold case. I also do trial consulting on civil cases, mostly, and occasionally on a criminal case. So I’m still in the game and I love doing that.
Q: Did you ever feel threatened?
CANDICE: I was threatened a couple of weeks ago in court by the defendant. He was real mad that an FBI profiler was possibly going to testify against him. But when I was on the job? No. I was more worried about the ordinary bad guy that might be living in my neighborhood. I am unaware of any FBI agent that has had a problem with a serial killer whose case they’d worked on.
Q: Is retirement an option?
CANDICE: No. I can’t see that happening.
Q: What is your greatest personal accomplishment?
CANDICE: My son, Seth. He’s 47 and a professor of the humanities and political science in Spain – and I can’t stop smiling every time I even tell someone that. He turned out very well, and that makes me happy.
Q: Talk us through your diet and exercise plan?
CANDICE: I started exercising when I was 29 to get into shape for the FBI Academy. I quit smoking and started running. I don’t run anymore but I have a gym in my house. I live on top of a mountain and when the weather’s nice, I walk down the mountain and back up – which is a brutal 500 ft.climb. I listen to other people’s podcasts while I’m doing that, so time really flies.
I’ve always been interested in nutrition. I’ve had a weight problem in my life. It just runs in my family and, throughout my adult life, I’d put on 30 pounds, lose it, put on 30 pounds, lose it. But about 13 years ago, after menopause, I put on 50 pounds and had a really hard time with it. So I had my thyroid checked, and it turns out that was a problem. Maybe it’s because I’m a nurse, but I’ve always been somebody that – when something’s wrong – I go to the doctor and so that worked out and I lost the 50 pounds. I didn’t really start eating vegetables till I was in my 50s. I hated them. And now my daily diet is about 70% plant based including vegetables, fruits, lean meats and a glass of red wine and a piece of dark chocolate every day – and a tablespoon of olive oil. Not all together!
Q: What’s your secret to aging with attitude?
CANDICE: I feel like a younger woman and that’s how I see myself in my mind’s eye. But what really puts a smile on my face is: I am that young woman in my mind, but I have all the wisdom I’ve acquired in the last 73 years of being on this earth – and that makes life a lot easier. I think that attitude does keep me young. I don’t let things get me down for very long.
I also learned how to meditate a few years ago. I don’t sit in the lotus position humming but I learned to close my eyes and see myself the way I want to see, and if something is bothering me, I say over and over and over: It’s going to be okay. That helps me calm down and sleep better. I had suffered from insomnia for 10 years and meditation got me through it – and it still works today.
KILLER PSYCHE with Candice DeLong releases new episodes every Tuesday on Apple Podcasts and all major podcast platforms. The series is produced by Treefort Media and Wondery.
Gill Pringle began her career as a rock columnist for popular British newspapers, traveling the world with Madonna, U2 and Michael Jackson. Moving to Los Angeles 27 years ago, she interviews film and TV personalities for prestigious UK outlets, The Independent, The i-paper and The Sunday Times – and, of course, Senior Planet. A member of Critics Choice Association, BAFTA and AWFJ, she wrote the screenplay for 2016 Netflix family film, The 3 Tails Movie: A Mermaid Adventure. An award-winning writer, in 2021 she was honored by the Los Angeles Press Club with 1st prize at the NAEJ Awards.