Between the Lines With Keith Ablow

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When it comes to the Laci Peterson case, forensic psychiatrist and Court TV expert Keith Ablow knows all the angles. His new book, Inside the Mind of Scott Peterson (St. Martin's Press) painstakingly analyzes what Ablow, 43, calls the psychological "perfect storm" that created Scott Peterson, Murderer. Can Albow, a graduate of Brown and Johns Hopkins Medical School, really get inside the mind of Peterson? You be the judge:

Galley Girl: Why do you think this case had such traction with the public?

Keith Ablow: Why would a man who is good looking, who's married to a pretty woman, who's about to become a father, has no known history of violence and who's held down a job—why would such a person end up a killer, and in such a grotesque way? That's probably the primary reason that people were galvanized. I also think, however, that the notion of women being hurt during pregnancy is in this case. He's the most malignant version of something that I think affects many men, who come to my office [Albow's clinical practice] for instance, who never share with anyone else the fact that they have very grave misgivings about fatherhood. Some of them are simply anxious; others are very depressed. There is a whole spectrum, and Scott Peterson is an [extreme] on that spectrum, but he still is a way for us to get into the question, what are men really thinking when their wives are pregnant.

GG: How did you get into this so deeply?

KA My involvement in the case started as a commentator for Court TV, and then on Oprah, providing the beginnings of my theory about what had created Scott Peterson. That resulted in Sharon Roche [Laci's mother] calling me, and saying that it was the first one that made sense to her. Anne Bird [Scott's half-sister] called and said the same thing.

GG: Why do you regard Scott Peterson as a sociopath?

KA: Basically, the core human characteristic that I think is so magnificent, and that allows us to relate to human beings as human beings, is empathy. For Scott Peterson and the rest of sociopaths, they don't have that. Having been crushed psychologically in childhood, they have made a decision to live in denial of their own feelings. Once they no longer feel fear, or any kind of real love or anxiety themselves, they no longer can feel any of those things for anyone else. They can't resonate with the pain of others. So they're free, in a terrible way, to do very bad things at that point.

GG: Was he born a sociopath, or made one by his past?

KA I've found no one to be born a sociopath. In every case I've looked at, the story is—once revealed—very, very compelling. The story of their destruction as a person is very obvious.

GG: Have you met Scott?

KA No. That was in the offing. I was working with Lee Peterson [his father], and he was granting me interviews. But when he got the tape of my appearance on Oprah, he was displeased. I guess his hope had been that maybe I believed his son didn't do it, which I'd never suggested to him. Obviously, on Oprah, I said that I think he had absolutely did it, and he's a classic sociopath...I would have loved to interview him. I still would like to interview him. It's my deepest hope that he would read this book and say something...When I wrote this book, my caution to myself in my mind in order to make it as compelling and true as I could, I said to myself, "Write this so that it would have the possibility to cut through all the denial in Scott Peterson's psyche."

For a graduate degree in Petersonology, go to