Thank you for visiting my website. Briefly, I’d like to introduce myself and sketch in the broad contours of my background.

I had a peripatetic early childhood. Every year or so, up until the time I entered fourth grade, my dad, who was a special agent with the FBI, received transfer orders that required him, my mom, my older sister, and me to pack up, leave home, and transition to a new location. By the time I turned nine, we’d already moved seven or eight times.

During those early years, I felt the first stirrings of an abiding interest in the outsider’s point of view—in part, perhaps, because I often felt like an outsider myself. Even back then I was drawn to all sorts of strange and unusual people. When I got just a little bit older, I became a conscious collector of uncommon experiences, the kind I could use as grist for stories.

In a 1956 letter to one of her girlfriends, the poet Sylvia Plath wrote from Europe, “I was so hungry for color.” I was hungry for color, too, even as a kid. Further on down the road, my hunger would land me in the company of snake handlers, punk rockers, sports legends, Aran islanders, spiritualists, celebrities, sex offenders, sideshow freaks, literary iconoclasts, the criminally insane — and killers. Lots of killers.

In 1973, when I was a junior in college, I first began learning about the late-sixties murders that had been committed by members of the so-called Manson Family. My interest in the case began with my reading of Ed Sanders’ terrifying book, The Family: The Story of Charles Manson’s Dune Buggy Attack Battalion. A year later, in a single, caffeine-fueled all-night binge, I devoured Helter Skelter, co-written by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry.

Site photography by Hailey Gonya at

It was during the fall semester of my senior year that I hung around after class one day to discuss the Manson case with my professor for a course in abnormal psychology. In his lecture, he’d mentioned that he, too, had read Helter Skelter. I was startled when he suggested that as a way of satisfying my curiosity about the congruence—or lack thereof—between the people who comprised the Manson Family and the portrayals of them that had appeared in the popular press, I should consider writing letters to Manson and some of the others.

Not immediately, but before much time elapsed, I decided to follow through on his suggestion. What ensued was an extensive correspondence, not just with Manson himself but with a number of his most zealous acolytes, among them Susan Atkins, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, and Sandra Good.

In September 1975, just months after I’d taken steps to extricate myself from the correspondence with Fromme and Good because the women’s rhetoric had become increasingly violent and alarming, Squeaky attempted to assassinate President Ford in a park in downtown Sacramento—not far from Folsom Prison, where Manson was incarcerated at the time.

My dad was still in the FBI when federal agents discovered a cache of my letters in the women’s attic apartment.

 In the meantime, I’d begun work toward my master’s in English at Purdue University. After completing that degree (1976), I returned to my alma mater, Valparaiso University, and taught there for a year as a member of the English faculty. Then I was awarded a one-year fellowship to study Gaelic and complete a post-graduate degree in modern Anglo-Irish literature at Trinity College in Dublin (1979).

Not long after my return from Ireland, I decided—for reasons that now seem trivial almost to the point of absurdity—to change gears and head down an entirely different career path. I enrolled at George Washington University, where I completed a master’s degree in health services administration (1982). For the residency portion of that degree, I was assigned to Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, then the largest private general hospital in Ohio. Following my year-long residency, I was invited to stay on at Riverside, where the expectation was that I would proceed along a track toward becoming a member of the hospital’s senior administrative staff.

By 1983, I’d been named an assistant vice president and given responsibility for a 138-bed mental health and addiction services unit, as well as a number of other departments, including the medical research laboratory, a small operation that was staffed by six employees and located just off the hospital’s main corridor.

On December 30 of that year, two of the department’s employees, both women, were brutally murdered in their workplace sometime between 4:30 and 5:05 in the afternoon. The police investigation produced no viable suspects among people known to have been in the vicinity of the lab, which had a single door that served as both entrance and exit.

Months went by, and there were no arrests. During the period of escalating anxiety that followed in the wake of the murders, I made the decision to leave my job, in fact to abandon the field of hospital administration altogether. I enrolled at Ohio State and began work toward my PhD in psychology. My goal? To become a forensic psychologist and secure a close vantage point from which to study the minds and motivations of murderers.

By then, nearly a decade had elapsed since the period of my involvement with members of the Manson Family. More and more, the past was beginning to seem like prologue. Murder then, murder now.

In 1990, I opened my private practice. During the next quarter century, I earned board certification in forensic psychology, consulted on close to three hundred death penalty cases in both state and federal court, performed more than a thousand other criminal forensic evaluations, acted as the court-appointed expert in approximately a thousand child custody cases, and served as an adjunct assistant professor at Ohio State, where, for many years, I taught a graduate-level seminar called Topics in Forensic Psychological Assessment.

During the years that followed the baffling murders at Riverside, I exchanged letters with Ted Bundy, who was on death row in Florida at the time; conducted a three-year correspondence with John Wayne Gacy and spent close to twenty hours with Gacy in a death row visiting room in Illinois; interviewed medical serial killer Donald Harvey—then thought to be the most prolific serial killer in American history—at the Warren Correctional Institution in southern Ohio; and acted as an expert consultant on numerous death penalty cases that involved serial and mass homicide.

One of the most notorious of those was the case of serial sniper Thomas Lee Dillon. When journalist Scott Pelley was introducing a 60 Minutes II segment on the Dillon case, he told members of his television audience, “Jeffrey Smalldon may know the mind of sniper Thomas Dillon better than anyone.”

Harry Trombitas, the FBI’s case agent on the Dillon case, would later say, “I read [Dr. Smalldon’s report] and found it to be spot on. It matched perfectly what I knew based on my hours of engagement with Dillon.”

Former judge, FBI agent, and long-term county prosecutor Michael Miller, who was appointed Special Prosecutor on the Dillon case, would add, “Dr. Smalldon’s psychological assessment of Dillon was highly professional and very specific. Both the prosecution and the defense agreed with his findings. Throughout the many years of his outstanding career, Dr. Smalldon’s work was respected and admired by both prosecutors and defense attorneys, without exception.”

During the three-week period in fall 2002 when residents of southern Maryland and northern Virginia were being terrorized by the so-called DC Sniper, I appeared as an invited guest not just on 60 Minutes II but on Larry King Live, the CBS Morning News, 48 Hours, Good Morning America, and Connie Chung Tonight.

I was also a featured guest on the three-part Canadian Broadcasting Corporation series called Creating Conscience, about psychopathy and its treatment. (Another of the guests was Dr. Robert Hare, the world’s foremost authority on that subject.) In addition, I acted as a frequent consultant for programs that were broadcast on cable television channels that are devoted exclusively to true crime, among them Oxygen and Investigation Discovery.

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist James B. Stewart requested my consultation when he was at work on Blind Eye (2000), his Edgar Award-winning book about medical serial killer Michael Swango.

In my forthcoming memoir, That Beast Was Not Me, I look back on my five decades of encounters with killers and recount my experiences with Manson, Atkins, Fromme, Bundy, Gacy, Harvey, Dillon, and many others.

I’m now retired from the active practice of forensic psychology. Since 1981, when I first arrived in Columbus as an administrative resident at Riverside Methodist Hospital, I’ve called Ohio’s capital city my home. My wife Betsy and I have two adult children and four grandchildren.

I hope you’ll subscribe to my newsletter and return to my website from time to time. As soon as I have a firm publication date for my book, I’ll announce it here and provide details about how to obtain a copy.

The Newsletter 

The Newsletter