People have claimed to possess clairvoyant powers allowing them to predict the future and solve mysteries for thousands of years. Today, many are scornful of the idea that psychics help the police with criminal cases, yet law enforcement personnel, trained to be skeptical and discerning, admit to using psychics as investigative tools.
While serious publications may resist the idea that there are psychics who aided the police, there is one medium that allows police, psychics, and victim's family members to tell their stories to the public: reality television. Shows like Psychic Investigators and Psychic Detectives present viewers with firsthand accounts of citizens who use their paranormal abilities to uncover clues in criminal cases. In going public with these stories, law enforcement personnel are willing to put their professional integrity on the line.
The stigma surrounding psychic ability is apparent in the dated cliches some reporters use to describe psychics, painting them as carny types staring into crystal balls. The New York Times manages to sniff at the idea of cops working with psychics while simultaneously citing a survey that acknowledges 35% of the 50 largest US police stations admit to doing just that. That percentage could be even higher. As Captain Bob Ingalls notes in the "Blood Money" episode of Psychic Detectives, "using psychics is employed by many police agencies. Some agencies don’t talk about it, and some do.”
It's clear that many psychic claims are bogus and may even hinder investigations, but the testimony of detectives and police officers who've worked successfully with psychics is difficult to summarily dismiss. In the following police investigations that used psychics, the psychic was credited by law enforcement as providing helpful information.
Etta Louise Smith lived in north Los Angeles and worked at a Lockheed aerospace plant. It was 1980, and Smith was listening to a news update on the radio about nurse Melanie Uribe, missing for two days. Smith didn’t consider herself a psychic, yet when she heard police were doing a house-to-house search, she felt certain the search was heading in the wrong direction.
“She’s not in the house,” Smith thought. In her mind’s eye, Smith reportedly "saw" where Uribe was: in brush, less than two miles away in Lopez Canyon. In 2004, Smith described her psychic vision on Larry King Live, “I could visually see where she was. I didn't know the name of the street, but I knew how to get there. And I couldn't shake this.”
After work, Smith went straight to the Foothill station of the LAPD and showed Detective Lee Ryan on a wall map where she "saw" Uribe’s body. On Larry King Live, Detective Ryan said that Smith "had top security clearances. She lived in the community. She was obviously a professional businesswoman."
Smith left the station with plans to meet up with Detective Ryan the next morning, but instead, feeling an intense sense of urgency, she went to Lopez Canyon where she discovered the body of Melanie Uribe.
After Smith alerted the cops of her discovery, she quickly became a suspect in Uribe’s death. According to the LA Times, “Detectives questioned Smith for about 10 hours before arresting her on suspicion of having murdered the nurse. Smith was released four days later and never charged. Three men with no known connection to Smith eventually were convicted of the murder and are serving sentences of up to life in state prison.”
Smith ended up suing the LAPD for wrongful arrest, and was awarded $26,184 in damages.
In 2009, Psychic Investigators aired the episode "Till Death Do Us Part" about the 1996 murder of Jenifer McCrady. Ohio state trooper Jack McCrady reported his wife Jenifer missing to the Belpre Police Department, claiming she “cleaned out everything she owns. Wedding rings were lying on the kitchen counter.” Jenifer’s mother immediately dismissed the idea that her daughter ran off with another man and abandoned her children.
Georgia Rudolph was a local psychic said to have worked with the police for two decades. Rudolph told Belpre Police that “she was connecting with Jenifer’s spirit, and that Jenifer was dead.” Rudolph went on to tell Detective Dave Garvey that Jenifer was “shot in the back of her head” and that the man who murdered Jenifer was “like a cop.”
Rudolph also reportedly told Garvey that he could find Jenifer’s body south of town, near a road with the numbers “298." A day later, Detective Garvey checked out a local woman’s report of seeing a State Highway Patrol car in an out-of-town area "off Highway 298" around the time of Jenifer's disappearance. Garvey called a local detective to the scene, and together they found the fresh grave of Jenifer McCrady. A jury later found Jack McCrady guilty of the murder.
In the episode, former Belpre Police Dispatcher Moni Tanner states, “Georgia’s information made a world of difference. It solved the case.”
Kevin Rings, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, also says, “Without that information and the resultant discovery of Jen’s body, I don’t think there would have even been a charge filed in the case against Mr. McCrady. It would have been simply an unsolved missing person’s case. Not only did she (Rudolph) say where the body would be discovered. She said she (Jenifer) was dead before anyone else had reached the conclusion. And then she said, you might not want to hear this, but the person who killed her is a cop.”
Now-retired Detective Sergeant Garvey added, "Following Georgia’s guidelines, or thoughts, whatever you want to say, led us to finding Jennifer. We found Jennifer. We found the bad guy.”
In 1979, a Central New York town was rocked by a quadruple murder inside a local nursery. In the "Blood Money" episode of Psychic Detectives, Sheriff Bill Hasenauer says the killings were “probably the most hideous crime during my term of office.” Shot execution-style, the victims were the owner of the nursery, who also ran a coin shop out of the building, his employee, and two bystanders.
After an extensive investigation that led nowhere, Sheriff Hasenauer called psychic Phil Jordan to ask for help in the case. Jordan was reportedly able to describe the murders from the point of view of the perpetrators. He led detectives to a location outside of the nursery where stolen coins dropped by the killers were then discovered - an area the police had previously searched, finding nothing.
Jordan also said the getaway car was “a small vehicle, with a custom design.” He reportedly stressed that the “front end was funny, and it looked like a Rolls Royce, with that kind of front grill.” His vision corroborated a report left on a police tip line that a Volkswagen was seen near the crime scene.
When detectives tracked down a suspect in Florida, the suspect was driving a Volkswagen. Authorities canvassed local body shops and confirmed that the suspect had altered the car so it no longer had the customized “Rolls Royce” front end. Detectives now had probable cause to search the Volkswagen, where they found some of the stolen coins.
That suspect and two other men stood trial for the murders. All were found guilty.
Kurt Hameline, Assistant D.A. of Oneida County, concluded that, “We were able to use a psychic who gave us certain information that helped us in the investigation.”
As detailed in an episode of Psychic Detectives, Palm Beach County police contacted psychic Phil Jordan for help after John Futch’s car was found submerged in a canal. Jordan was brought to a picnic site that the cops believed the teen couple had visited on the day of their disappearance.
At the scene, Jordan reportedly told investigators that “they (the couple) were approached by two men. One had a shotgun, and one had a rifle. I'm pretty sure they’re dead.The cause of death was gunshot wounds to the head.”
Among the psychic images Jordan said he received, one was a dilapidated white house with dark trim. “We had already looked at an old white house," says Detective Rendell of the Palm Beach County sheriff’s office. "But now that Phil mentioned this, I wanted to go back again. So I went back. Now, the house is empty. We find shell casings for a .22 rifle.”
The investigation stalled until two months later, when a bicyclist reportedly found the bodies of Rediger and Futch in a rural area east of the picnic site. The cause of death for both teens was gunshots to the head. A bullet fragment pulled from John’s skull reportedly came from a .22 rifle.
Detective Rendell contacted Phil Jordan again, asking him to try and get a description of the two suspects. Jordan gave Rendell a composite drawing of what he envisioned the shooter looked like. He reportedly also stressed that the initial "A" was tied to the suspects, and that one or both of them were “Latino or Mexican.” Finally, Jordan told Rendell that "a dog" would be important to the case.
Another crime rocked the area: a young woman was reportedly kidnapped and sexually battered, but she was able to escape. Palm Beach County's Detective Sessa tells Psychic Detectives that the victim identified a man named Adam Herrera as the man who kidnapped and assaulted her. "I subsequently placed him in hand cuffs and arrested him,” says Sessa.
Then a tipster contacted police claiming that he'd sold his dog to a man who said, "I know who killed the Boca Raton high school sweethearts. He’s in the Palm Beach County jail. He just got arrested for sexual battery.”
Detective Rendell compared Herrara’s photo with Phil Jordan’s composite sketch. “It was a strong match,” said Rendell. Palm beach County detectives also determined that Herrera had once lived in the same white house where Rendell found the shell casings.
Herrera and an accomplice were found guilty in the killings of Rediger and Futch, with Herrera eventually receiving two life sentences with no chance of parole.
“Every cop in this investigation did their best,” Detective Rendell says about the convictions. “Phil (Jordan) had that investigative ability too, he just had it in a different way.”