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Seeing Is Believing for Skeptics of Psychic

Times Staff Writer

‘Most people can do what I do if they work at it. The key is to trust the first thing you see, hear or feel.’ --Kelly Roberts

Believe what you will about the psychic powers of 31-year-old Kelly Roberts.

Her own father doesn’t believe that she is telepathic and clairvoyant.

Sure, several hundred people have visited her office over the years--many of them repeat clients--for advice about how to handle their future. A sucker’s born every minute, a cynic will suggest.

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But figure this out: There are some crusty cops out there--skeptics by profession--who sing her praises.

A San Diego County deputy sheriff accepted Roberts’ offer of help in tracking down a kidnaper, and found the psychic so on the mark that he said he would use her again under similar circumstances.

Former Escondido Police Chief Jim Connole referred Roberts to his detectives after he gave her a quick test on the telephone and found that she accurately described the clothing worn by the assailant in a rape case that had frustrated the department.

And a homicide investigator in Kansas even asked Roberts to fly to Wichita to aid in a murder investigation after, on the phone and without background information, she was able to describe to him with amazing accuracy a house and its neighborhood that were central to his investigation.

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For her part, Roberts says she is glad to help law enforcement when she can, without expectation of compensation or publicity.

Indeed, she says she is wary of people relying too strongly on her gift, which she characterizes simply as a talent held by almost all people, but which she has honed and perfected: intuition.

“Most people can do what I do if they work at it,” Roberts said. “The key is to trust the first thing you see, hear or feel. And the problem most people have is in mixing intuition with wishful thinking, or in trying to mix logic with their intuition, when their intuition may not be logical at all.”

Police investigators aren’t trying to second-guess how Roberts’ mind works. In fact, most police agencies shy away altogether from using psychics to help in their investigations, and those that do generally consider a psychic to be a last resort who maybe, just maybe, can help or guide investigators but not actually solve the crime.

“I’m not there to solve a case or break it for them,” Roberts said of her role in several police investigations. “I just want to provide some insight--maybe fill in a few missing pieces--that will help them.” And Roberts said she seldom gets feedback from officers on whether she was of help and does not call back to pester them out of curiosity.

But there are those who stand by her.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Bill Southwell, now a patrol supervisor out of the department’s Lemon Grove office, remembers the time he accepted Roberts’ offer of assistance a couple of years ago when he was an investigator with the child abuse unit.

Feared Kidnaped

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The particular case involved a girl who was missing overnight and feared kidnaped. The case got quick media attention, and Roberts called to she if she could help.

“She impressed us with her genuine concern about the people in the case. She said she didn’t want any headlines, but just wanted to help us.

“She took a couple of detectives out in a car and had them drive around,” Southwell said. “They were showing her places where the girl had been, and then she started telling them where to drive.

“She took them right to the house of a suspect they had questioned previously, without her knowledge. That was a little spooky to them. It didn’t turn out to be the suspect in this case, but she homed in on this guy for some reason. And it turned out that we arrested him later on another case of child molestation, and he was convicted,” Southwell said.

Within a few days the girl was released, but the suspect was still at large, he said. Roberts successfully described the vehicle that was used in the kidnaping in greater detail than the youngster herself.

There was some concern, however, when the girl described the house she was in as “red,” while Roberts told detectives to look for a green house.

On a different drive through town with Southwell and another investigator, Roberts directed them to drive a different direction than they had been headed. Following her directions, they arrived at the suspect’s house just after detectives also working the case from another angle had arrived. The man was arrested and convicted.

The house was red, as the girl described--on the inside. Outside, it was green.

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Said Southwell of Roberts’ help: “I’ve always felt there was something to the field of parapsychology. I remember in other cases where they’ve been used, so I wasn’t totally closed to the idea that she might be of help to us.

“I don’t know how other detectives or other agencies feel about her, but she’s established herself with me as someone who can help, who won’t screw up an investigation and who won’t run off to the press in the middle of the case.”

‘Absolutely Skeptical’

Connole, who retired as police chief in Escondido and is now a lawyer, said he remembers the day several years ago when Roberts called his office to offer her services in a general sense.

“I was absolutely skeptical,” Connole said. “And I’m not saying I’m not a skeptic now, but you’ve got to wonder.”

Connole said that at the time Roberts called, he had on his desk the file of an unsolved rape--a case that had not been active for several months. “I told her a rape had occurred in an apartment building,” he said. “She asked a few questions that appeared to be innocuous, then she said she could give me a description of the suspect.

“She described how the suspect was dressed, not only that he had on a ski mask, for instance, but that it was navy blue or black with red trim around the eye, nose and mouth openings. It was so accurate, I could have sworn she had the case file right in front of her.”

He passed her name on to Detective Ron Israel, who at the time was frustrated in tracking down a missing juvenile. All he told her was that the youth was believed to be out of state.

“She called back two days later and gave me information that was uncannily accurate,” Israel said. “She said the kid was somewhere in Arkansas and was having problems with his truck. We learned later he was in Arkansas, and had his truck impounded for some reason.

“A few days later she called and said he was in or around Mobile, Ala., and maybe getting ready to leave the area. And, sure enough, a couple of days later we got information through a credit card tracer that he had bought gasoline in Mobile.”

Her next call was to inform Israel that the boy was around Florida.

Ultimately, the boy was found in Louisiana--in a vehicle with Florida license plates.

“I’ve been doing this work for 17 years,” Israel said, “and let’s say that in a business where you’re skeptical about everything and everyone, I’m less skeptical about her.”

So too is Detective Jerry Byerly of the Sedgwick (Kan.) County Sheriff’s Department. His detectives came to San Diego County in the fall of 1986 while investigating the slaying of a 5-year-old girl in Wichita, and somehow came up with Roberts’ name by chance.

Minimum of Information

He called her when he returned to Wichita, and, after offering a minimum of information about the murder, he solicited her help about where the crime might have occurred.

“She’s never been to Kansas and there’s no way she could have known what she was telling us, but she was describing roads, houses, the color of houses, how far off a certain road they were, what kind of shrubbery was out front--descriptions of the area that we already believed might have been the crime site,” he said.

Byerly said the case has not yet been resolved, and he is cautious in how much to credit Roberts for her help. “But I’ll say one thing for the lady. She came up with information, and told us a few things, that really surprised me,” he said. “She gave us some very interesting, and somewhat useful, information--some things that I cannot disregard.

“A lot of these kinds of people are flaky,” Byerly said. “But she’s no flake.”

Offering assistance to police is only a small part of Roberts’ work today. Over the last year she has spent more time writing in a range of areas, including a soon-to-be-published book, “Path to Higher Consciousness,” several crime-fiction novels, a fiction on psychic investigations and even a line of greeting cards.

She laughingly said she doesn’t know how successful she’ll be. “Intuition seems to be blocked if you use it for selfish purposes,” she said. “The accuracy of it drops dramatically. I don’t know what governs it, but I know I’m not good at playing the horses or in Vegas. I’m not a millionaire.”

Roberts said she developed her psychic powers in the immediate wake of a near-drowning as a 14-year-old swimming off a beach in Hawaii.

“I thought a friend was drowning, and I went out to save him,” she said. “I walked out into the water and was calling his name when I was knocked by a wave off the shelf and ended upside down in 15 feet of water. My face was scraping the coral and I was screaming my guts out for help, and I couldn’t understand why no one was coming out to help me.

“I felt like I was under water for 25 minutes. I was screaming bloody murder and sucking in water and I realized, ‘You can’t be doing this without drowning.’ The next thing I knew, I felt like I was 75 feet above the water, looking down on my body being knocked around by the waves. It was the most beautiful, peaceful feeling I could imagine, and I realized, ‘God, I’m dead! I’m really dead!

“Then the next thing I knew, I was on the beach, vomiting. My face was bloody.”

Three weeks after the incident, “the first thing I noticed different was that I had telepathy. If the phone rang, I knew who it was before I answered it. I remember once how, when the phone rang, I asked my mom if I could go to a movie with John. When I picked up the phone, it was John, and I said, ‘I don’t know, my mom hasn’t answered me yet.’ And he said, ‘What are you talking about? Do you want to go to a movie?’ ”

‘Freaked Out’ Friends

Roberts said she “freaked out” her friends at school, foretelling romances and break-ups before they occurred--even among strangers on campus.

Some accused her of being a witch. “If I had my back to someone, I would answer their question that I thought they asked me. I’d turn around and answer and they’d say, ‘How did you know I was going to ask you that?’ But I thought they did ask me that. I heard them.”

At age 17, she returned from a blind date and announced to her mother, “I’ve met my future husband.” They married 17 days later and are still married.

Eventually, Roberts began trying to suppress her intuition.

“It was like I had too much ability and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I tried to shut it down. It was a double-edged sword,” she said. “I’d go to a supermarket and hear people thinking. I didn’t always like that, hearing their thoughts, their secrets, their fantasies.”

But ignoring her intuitions, she said, frustrated her even more. “I felt like I lost a part of myself--something that’s a part of everyone.” She worked on her ability to the point where she was more selectively able to use it, she said.

“My dad is still a skeptic and doesn’t believe me. My mom wasn’t sure, either. But when my grandmother was in a coma, I told my mom what she was thinking, and when she came out of it, she described everything I had told my mom. Now Mom thinks I can walk on water.”

In 1984, she started her own company, Parapsychology Resource Center, with offices in Escondido and San Diego and offering a variety of psychic-related services--such as “readings,” in which she holds an object and describes the person who owns it--even if that person is thousands of miles away.

One client came to her because he was about to interview for a new job, and wanted to better understand the psychological makeup of the person who would interview him for the job.

Another client asked her for help in designing a computer microchip. Roberts, who knows nothing of such things, drew a design on a piece of paper. “It was Greek to me, but it seemed to make perfect sense to him.”

‘A Lot of Charlatans’

Another man asked her to help him select the best of three oil wells in which to invest. She held each of the investment portfolios, and picked one. Later he came to her office with a jar of oil.

Usually, however, Roberts simply counsels people who come to her for general guidance, versus specific advice. “People come to me in frustration, and they want me to give them direction or confirmation,” she said. “I don’t tell them anything they don’t already know.

“I try to teach my clients that they have all the answers they need. I may pick up a valid piece of information, and mistranslate it. So I tell them to test it or to confirm it themselves. Some people want to believe what they’re told because it sounds good to them. That’s why there are a lot of charlatans and frauds out there.”

Roberts said she sees more than 250 clients on a regular basis of three times or more a year. “But if they end up not wanting to make a move without talking to me first, I cut them off,” she said.

Not everyone has grown totally confident in her abilities, Roberts concedes.

“My husband, Bill, had an appointment in L.A. the other day and I told him not to bother because, when he got there, the guy wouldn’t be there. He didn’t believe me. He drove up to L.A. and the guy missed the appointment.

“Bill gets a little aggravated when I’m right.”


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