Former FBI profiler signs books in Carbondale

By Austin Flynn

An SIUC alumna and ex-FBI agent will make an appearance from 6:30 to 8 p.m. today at Barnes and Noble for a book signing.

Mary O’Toole has worked on several high profile cases, including the Green River killer, the Zodiac serial murder case, the 2002 bombing in the Salt Lake City Olympics, the Unabomber and the Columbine shootings.

O’Toole said it was unlike any other time in her life when she attended graduate school at SIUC, and she looks forward to spending time in the area again.


“There might be some folks interested in an FBI career in profiling,” O’Toole said. “The FBI is a great choice and maybe people will want to hear about that.”

The title of O’Toole’s book is “Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us,” and it informs people how to accurately evaluate others based on everyday dialogue and other interactions. She was inspired to write the book after she retired from the FBI and wanted to pass on useful information she acquired in the field to the general population.

O’Toole received her master’s degree in rehabilitation from SIUC in 1977. After her time in college, she pursued a career in law enforcement in San Francisco, she said, where she started in an unpaid position for the San Francisco Police Department. She quickly moved up the ranks and secured a position as a criminal investigator for the San Francisco District Attorney’s office before moving to the FBI.

“I was already familiar with the FBI,” O’Toole said. “My father was an FBI agent and my mother worked for J. Edgar Hoover, so they didn’t really have to persuade me.”

After time spent in the FBI academy, O’Toole said she was assigned to the San Francisco FBI office where she specialized as a profiler in violent crimes.

“Joseph Paul Franklin was really interesting, and I interviewed him for NBC,” O’Toole said. “I also interviewed at length the Green River Killer in Seattle, Washington … those two probably come to mind just because of the magnitude of what they did.”

O’Toole said she loved  analyzing behavioral patterns in murder cases and interviewing convicted murderers to figure out their personalities and the way their minds worked.


After retiring, O’Toole said she wanted to do something with all of her knowledge and experience as a profiler. She said she decided to write something that could inform and benefit people instead of writing a book that talked about her cases.

She also took part in a few workshops at John A. Logan College which taught parents, teachers and police officers how to detect and prevent threats in the classroom.

Deborah Runion, principal of Washington Elementary school in Marion, said she was O’Toole’s close friend in graduate school and thinks it’s beneficial to get experts in criminal violence to host workshops on this important issue.

“Teachers in particular need to understand that bullying is not just something kids will do,” Runion said. “It can have some devastating effects in school communities.”

Stewart Tremlow, an expert in psychoanalysis, psychiatry and social systems interventions, said he will also attend the workshop and talk about violence occurring on the Internet.

“This is a chance to get the public to look at themselves,” Tremlow said. “This will expose educators on how to help manage threats in schools.”