Fascinating true story of woman who hunted down brutal murderers (2024)

A three-episode Hulu truecrimedocuseries is set to tell the story of serial killer profiling - and the woman who changed the way murderers were hunted down forever.

Dr. Ann Burgess, 87, was working as a psychiatric nurse specializing in rape victimology in the 1970s when she was recruited by the FBI to help them understand the minds of violent sexual offenders and killers in order to catch them.

Burgess' story of how she revolutionized serial killer profiling - whilst raising four children - will be shared in the upcoming Hulu series, Mastermind: To Think Like a Killer, made by executive producers Elle and Dakota Fanning.

In a statement to Entertainment Weekly,the sisters said they wanted share the story of an 'unsung female hero' for the first time.

'It's deeply empathetic towards victims and their loved ones, a real journey through the lens of the psychology of profiling, and ultimately a galvanizing message,' the Fanning sisters said in the statement.

Dr. Ann Burgess' story of how she revolutionized serial killer profiling will be shared in the upcoming Hulu series, Mastermind: To Think Like a Killer, made by executive producers Elle and Dakota Fanning. Dakota and Ann are pictured with the series' director, Abagail Fuller

Burgess was working as a psychiatric nurse specializing in rape victimology in the 1970s when she was recruited by the FBI to help them understand the minds of violent sexual offenders and killers in order to catch them

The pair said they were drawn to Burgess' ability to stay positive - despite how traumatic her work was.

'That, plus her bravery and conviction, made us immediate fans,' they said. 'She was underestimated but still persisted until she changed the entire landscape.'

Here, FEMAIL looks at Dr. Ann Burgess and her six-decade-long career, where she worked with the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit and tracked down some of America's most notorious serial killers.

The docuseries is inspired by the 2021 book: A Killer by Design: Murders, Mindhunters, and My Quest to Decipher Criminal Minds, which was co-written by Burgess and Connell School of Nursing Associate Director of Marketing and Communications Steven Constantine.

Early life and college

Burgess grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, in the 1950s, and made the choice to become a nurse after being inspired by three of her uncles who were all doctors.

She attended Boston College to study nursing, where she did apsychiatric unit which piqued her interest in human behavior.

Burgess spent 'many years' studying human behavior and frequently interviewed victims of crime, learning how to draw the right information out of them to help identify their attackers.

The expert noted that a lot of the the time she and her colleagues were often the first medical professionals to see victims after a crime, which put them in the best position to observe their behaviors and reactions.

She attended Boston College to study nursing, where she did a psychiatric unit which piqued her interest. Pictured here withLynda Lytle Holmstrom - a sociologist at Boston University

Burgess spent 'many years' studying human behavior, becoming particularly interested in the victims and how they behave

Consulting for the FBI

Burgess completed her dissertation research to become an assistant professor at Boston College in 1969, which lead to her meetingLynda Lytle Holmstrom - a sociologist at Boston University.

Holmstrom approached her with the idea of publishing a study about the victims of rape and sexual abuse, which was groundbreaking at the time since psychologists and law enforcement often disregarded such victims.

'The attitudes toward rape at the time were that it was not talked about, or, if it was, there was a blame-the-victim mentality,' Burgess explained in an interview withBoston College.

Working with the Boston City Hospital, the pair interviewed rape victims after they had been admitted, speaking with a total of 146 survivors in total who ranged in age from three to 73 over the course of a year.

The docuseries is inspired by the 2021 book: A Killer by Design: Murders, Mindhunters, and My Quest to Decipher Criminal Minds, which Burgess co-wrote

At the time, focusing on the victims was groundbreaking as 'the attitudes toward rape at the time were that it was not talked about, or, if it was, there was a blame-the-victim mentality'

In the trailer for the series, Burgess was working as a professor of nursing at Boston College when she was approached by the FBI to help with an investigation

Their findings were published in a 1973 article titled The Rape Victim in the Emergency Ward, suggesting that rape was more about power and control than sex.

They also highlighted how police, health institutions, and the criminal justice system treated victims of rape.

Burgess and Holmstrom also urged for clinicians to be trained to recognize the signs of rape - particularly if patients don't mention an attack.

The article caught the attention of the FBI in 1978, and the then-directorWilliam Webster reached out to ask for Burgess' help with rape victims and their attackers.

Webster invited Burgess to the FBI academy share her knowledge about rape victims and how talking to them helped track down their rapists.

Burgess and Holmstrom also urged for clinicians to be trained to recognize the signs of rape - particularly if patients don't mention an attack

Her work included listening to an analyzing interviews with serial killers including Ed Kemper, Ted Bundy (pictured), and 'Ski Mask Rapist' Jon Barry Simonis

Mastermind: To Think Like a Killer

The series documents Burgess' recruitment by the FBI, and how she pioneered research on sexual assault and trauma in the 1970s and 1980s.

At the time, the FBI was made up primarily of men, and sexual violence against women wasn't taken seriously.

Burgess' research led her to a discovery which changed the way criminals are tracked down forever - by getting in the minds of the killers.

After working with both victims and listening to tapes from the offenders, she ascertained it was imperative to understand an attack from both perspectives in order to understand the events.

The series documents the evolution of FBI's investigations in the Behavioral Science Unit and fine tuning the methodology to catching serial killers.

This included listening to an analyzing interviews with serial killers including Ed Kemper, Ted Bundy, and 'Ski Mask Rapist' Jon Barry Simonis.

In the trailer for the series, Burgess recalled working as a professor of nursing at Boston College when she was approached by the FBI to help with an investigation.

'I [was] working with patients with traumatic experiences. One day, I got a phone call from the FBI,' she recalled in the trailer.

'The problem was, we had to make sense out of the interviews. I started listening to the tapes, and what I found was fascinating,' she continued.

An article co-authored by Burgess caught the attention of the FBI in 1978, and the then-director William Webster reached out to ask for Burgess' help with rape victims and their attackers

Burgess' co-author, Steven Constantine, described her approach to the violent crimes as being 'through the lens of the victim' - which hadn't been done before

As the nursing professor continued to listen to confessions and interact with the killers, she found patterns she had 'never noticed before,' and how her methodology to catching killers began to expand to cases around the country.

Burgess' co-author, Constantine, described her approach as being'through the lens of the victim' - which hadn't been done before.

'Everyone else was focused on the offender, and the victim was fairly incidental in the cases,' he told Boston University in an interview.

'She was one of the first people who brought the idea of victimology to the BSU and got them to think about the victim as an equal part of a case,' he explained.

'The victim could not only help solve the case, but was a real person who was affected and the agents needed to think about the impact on that person's life as well.'

Constantine said Burgess 'expanded the definition of what a victim could be.'

'She changed cultural perceptions about who a victim could be, and I think that is really important,' added Constantine.

'There was an element of humanity that she brought to the whole process that didn't exist before her. And then she continued that in her legal work as well.'

All three episodes of Mastermind: To Think Like a Killer will be available to stream on July 11 on Hulu.

Fascinating true story of woman who hunted down brutal murderers (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: The Hon. Margery Christiansen

Last Updated:

Views: 5888

Rating: 5 / 5 (50 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: The Hon. Margery Christiansen

Birthday: 2000-07-07

Address: 5050 Breitenberg Knoll, New Robert, MI 45409

Phone: +2556892639372

Job: Investor Mining Engineer

Hobby: Sketching, Cosplaying, Glassblowing, Genealogy, Crocheting, Archery, Skateboarding

Introduction: My name is The Hon. Margery Christiansen, I am a bright, adorable, precious, inexpensive, gorgeous, comfortable, happy person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.