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Mental ‘Profile’ Calls Salcido a Danger to All

Times Staff Writer

If police accounts of Ramon Salcido’s rampage are correct, relatives and colleagues are at greatest risk from the 27-year-old winery worker, according to forensic psychiatrists and a psychologist who compiled a profile of the suspect for the Sonoma County sheriff.

Strangers face less danger, but after so many killings, Salcido is “capable of anything--capable of suicide, certainly capable of taking another life. . . . Anybody who has contact with him is in jeopardy,” Sonoma County Sheriff Richard Michaelsen told reporters after receiving an assessment of Salcido’s likely actions from police psychologist H. Wayne Light.

Eventually, Salcido may try to kill himself or force police to kill him. “But right now,” Michaelsen said, “he’s bent on killing other people.”

Indeed, Light’s description of Salcido as “a time bomb” prompted the sheriff to place the suspect’s hospitalized daughter and co-worker, as well as his father-in-law, former wife and daughter in Fresno under guard. Protection also will be provided at the victims’ funerals, Michaelsen said.

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Light, who works with law enforcement agencies in Northern California, had warned authorities after the first five slayings Friday that Salcido also was capable of killing the three daughters he had apparently abducted. The next day, the bodies of Teresa, 1, and Sofia, 4, were found at a local garbage dump. Salcido’s 3-year-old daughter, Carmina, was found alive, but with her throat cut from ear to ear.

“I really wish I’d been very wrong,” Light said. He refused to discuss the Salcido profile in more detail than that released by the sheriff.

Psychiatrists, however, describe the person who committed the wine country crimes as a rare and exceptionally dangerous blend of two types of killers: those who exact vengeance on workplace colleagues, generally suffering from paranoia, and those who slaughter their families, generally depressives who reveal warning signs of impending violence.

Murderers of colleagues usually kill one or two others at the workplace, then stop. They tend to be suspicious and believe in conspiracies against them, projecting all the blame for their career problems on others, psychiatrists said.

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Those who murder their families often then call police and either wait calmly for authorities or commit suicide.

But Salcido’s travel to multiple locations, his refusal to surrender and his use of both a pistol and a knife defy the experts’ categories. He is also younger than most family mass murderers. And the possibility that he may have cashed a check at a local bank after the first round of killings baffles them, too.

His apparent history of heavy drinking and drug use also complicate matters, psychiatrists said.

The suspect is so frightening that one Orange County psychiatrist who has studied murderers asked to remain unidentified in print. “He may be here,” the psychiatrist said.

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Salcido “seems to be some incredible combination,” the psychiatrist said. “He’s acting as though he’s quite psychotic and, on the other hand, as though he’s quite in control of his senses.”

Another psychiatrist, Park Dietz of Newport Beach, believes that Salcido probably has a list--in his head or written down--of intended victims. Dietz, who evaluated John Hinckley for the U.S. government after Hinckley shot former President Ronald Reagan, said Salcido probably will try to kill all of those named on his list. “The most important thing is his mission,” Dietz said, even more important than protecting himself.

Santa Monica psychiatrist Mark J. Mills agreed. “The general rule is that the best history of future behavior is past behavior,” Mills said. “This is a guy who killed people who are close to him.”

Indeed, Mills speculated, some of the slayings may have had little to do with revenge. He said Salcido may have killed his daughters because he thought death would be better for them than living with the aftermath of their father’s crimes.

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Still, if Salcido believes someone stands in the way of accomplishing his goals, that person could well become a victim too, experts agreed.

“I wouldn’t want to be the guy who picks him up hitchhiking,” Mills said. “Who knows what all this has done to his underlying propensity to solve problems with violence?”

Light, according to the sheriff, and psychiatrists agreed that anyone who sees Salcido should alert authorities and stay away from him. “If he held me hostage, I would follow exactly what he told me to do,” Mills said. “But presumably his daughters did that too and two of them are dead.”

Times staff writer Kenneth Reich contributed to this article.

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