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Wheeling News-Register






Animal Abuse Case Raises Red Flags; Expert Says Alleged Criminal Behavior Linked to Traits of Serial Killers

March 20, 2011 - By FRED CONNORS Senior Staff Writer



Text Box:  CHESTER - Jeffrey Nally's alleged criminal behavior contains one of three traits clinically linked to serial killers, an expert in the criminal psychology field believes.

Hancock County Sheriff's deputies on March 9 arrested Nally, 19, of Chester after his girlfriend, Jessica Sellers, notified her mother that she was being held hostage and Nally was torturing and killing dogs.

The mother told police her daughter said Nally would kill her if she tried to escape, kill any police officers who came to arrest him and would kill himself.

Vernon J. Geberth, a retired lieutenant commander of the New York City Police Department and expert in the field of criminal investigation and forensic techniques and applied criminal psychology, said if the animal abuse allegations are true, Nally is a very dangerous man.

According to the criminal complaint, Sellers told police Nally had killed more than 30 dogs and cats and that he forced her to participate in the torture, mutilation and malicious killing of 29 dogs or puppies.

The complaint indicates a search of Nally's home netted one 12-gauge shotgun, a .243 caliber rifle and the carcasses of 29 dogs found in shallow graves near the residence and in plastic bags thrown into the woods. They also found various dismembered body parts of slain dogs.

Geberth - who authored "Practical Homicide Investigation," a textbook on tactics, procedures and forensic techniques, along with several other crime-related textbooks - said "based upon what I know, I would consider (Nally) extremely dangerous and a threat to society. People who involve themselves in this behavior are a serious problem and society has no way of protecting itself from it. It's almost like Jeffrey Dahmer."

Between 1978 and 1991, Dahmer murdered and mutilated 17 Ohio and Wisconsin men and boys.

Geberth points to "The Macdonald Triad" - also known as the "Triad of Sociopathy" - as an identifier of behavioral characteristics associated with sociopathic behavior and one of the basis for profiling serial killers.

First identified by J.M. Macdonald in "The Threat to Kill," a 1963 paper in The American Journal of Psychiatry, the triad links animal cruelty, obsession with fire setting and persistent bedwetting past the age of five to violent behavior, particularly homicidal behavior.

"Many serial killers exhibit these behaviors during early childhood development," Geberth said. "If there is a history of this in the formative years, it is a clear indication of the future psychopathology of a serial killer. (Nally) could have been substituting animals for humans."

Nally had been under house arrest for previous charges of domestic violence and illegal possession of firearms. Specifics of his criminal background are not available because they were juvenile offenses.

Hancock County Magistrate Michael Powell revoked Nally's house arrest. He currently is lodged in the Northern Regional Jail at Moundsville.

Hancock County Sheriff Mike White agrees with the potential of a catastrophic outcome.

"The violence was escalating," he said of Nally. "In my opinion, it's good this ended when it did because I believe he eventually would have killed" Sellers.

As Nally's case unfolds in the Hancock County justice system, Geberth doesn't see a temporary insanity defense coming into play.

"I would hope the prosecutors would bring out that these crimes happened over a period of time and there was a lot of logic involved," he said. "He catalogued this stuff by keeping parts of animals."

According to the criminal complaint, police found items in the home - such as a dog's skin and dog tags - that Nally retained as a keepsake.

Geberth, a regular contributing consultant to major network and cable television crime outlets, said the Nally case is one that merits national news coverage.

"If this happened in New York or California, the media would be all over it," he said. "But, since West Virginia is in the heartland, the national media is not interested."

Geberth holds master's degrees in professional studies and psychology. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. His company, PHI Investigative Consultants Inc., provides instruction and consultation in homicide and forensic case investigations for law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Canada.