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Fascinating true story of a woman who hunted and arrested dozens of brutal murderers for the FBI

By Emily Lefroy for Dailymail.Com

18:28 June 15, 2024, updated 18:32 June 15, 2024

A three-part Hulu true-crime docuseries tells the story of serial killer profiling — and the woman who changed the way murderers are hunted forever.

Dr. Ann Burgess, 87, was working as a psychiatric nurse specializing in rape victims in the 1970s when she was recruited by the FBI to help the agency understand and capture the psyche of violent sex offenders and murderers.

Burgess' story of revolutionizing serial killer profiling – while raising four children – is told in the upcoming Hulu series “Mastermind: To Think Like a Killer,” from executive producers Elle and Dakota Fanning.

In a statement to Entertainment Weekly, the sisters said they wanted to tell the story of an “unsung heroine” for the first time.

“It shows deep compassion for the victims and their families, is a real journey through the lens of the psychology of profiling and ultimately a stirring message,” the Fanning sisters said in the statement.

Dr. Ann Burgess' story of revolutionizing serial killer profiling is told in the upcoming Hulu series “Mastermind: To Think Like a Killer,” executive produced by Elle and Dakota Fanning. Dakota and Ann are pictured here with series director Abagail Fuller.
Burgess was working as a psychiatric nurse specializing in rape victims in the 1970s when she was recruited by the FBI to help them understand the psyche of violent sex offenders and murderers in order to catch them

The two said they were drawn to Burgess' ability to stay positive despite the trauma of her work.

“That, along with her courage and conviction, made us instant fans,” they said. “She was underestimated, but she persevered until she changed the entire landscape.”

Here, FEMAIL takes a look at Dr. Ann Burgess and her six-decade career working for the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit, tracking down some of America's most notorious serial killers.

The documentary series is inspired by the 2021 book “A Killer by Design: Murders, Mindhunters, and My Quest to Decipher Criminal Minds,” co-authored with Steven Constantine, assistant director of marketing and communications at the Burgess and Connell School of Nursing.

Early life and college

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

She attended Boston College to study nursing, where she attended a psychiatric unit that sparked her interest in human behavior.

Burgess spent many years studying human behavior and often interviewed victims of crime, learning how to extract the right information from them to identify their attackers.

The expert noted that she and her colleagues were often the first medical professionals to see victims after a crime, putting them in the best position to observe their behavior and reactions.

She attended Boston College to study nursing, where she visited a psychiatric unit that sparked her interest. Pictured here with Lynda Lytle Holmstrom – a sociologist at Boston University
Burgess spent “many years” studying human behavior, with a particular interest in victims and their behavior

Consulting for the FBI

Burgess completed her dissertation and became an assistant professor at Boston College in 1969, which led to her meeting Lynda Lytle Holmstrom, a sociologist at Boston University.

Holmstrom approached her with the idea of ​​publishing a study on victims of rape and sexual abuse, which was groundbreaking at the time, as psychologists and law enforcement often ignored such victims.

“The attitude toward rape back then was that you didn't talk about it, or if you did talk about it, there was a mentality that blamed the victim,” Burgess explained in an interview with Boston College.

In collaboration with Boston City Hospital, the two interviewed rape victims after they were admitted and, over the course of a year, spoke to a total of 146 survivors between the ages of three and 73.

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, the focus on the victims was groundbreaking because “the attitude towards rape at that time was that it was not talked about, or, if it was, there was a mentality that blamed the victim.”
In the trailer for the series, Burgess was working as a nursing professor at Boston College when she was asked by the FBI to help with an investigation

Their findings were published in 1973 in an article titled “The Rape Victim in the Emergency Room,” which suggested that rape was more about power and control than about sex.

They also examined how the police, health care facilities and criminal justice system deal with rape victims.

Burgess and Holmstrom also called for doctors to be trained to recognize the signs of rape, especially when patients do not mention an assault.

The article caught the attention of the FBI in 1978, and then-director William Webster asked Burgess for help in caring for rape victims and their attackers.

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

Burgess and Holmstrom also called for doctors to be trained to recognize the signs of rape, especially when patients do not mention an attack.
Her work included listening to and analyzing interviews with serial killers such as Ed Kemper, Ted Bundy (pictured) and “Skimask Rapist” Jon Barry Simonis.

Mastermind: 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 that time, the FBI consisted primarily of men and sexual violence against women was not taken seriously.

Through her research, Burgess made a discovery that forever changed the way criminals are tracked: she got inside the minds of killers.

After working with both victims and listening to tape recordings of the perpetrators, she concluded that it was imperative to look at an attack from both perspectives to understand the events.

The series documents the evolution of the FBI's Behavioral Science Division's investigations and the refinement of the methodology for catching serial killers.

This included listening to and analyzing interviews with serial killers such as Ed Kemper, Ted Bundy and the “Ski Mask Rapist” Jon Barry Simonis.

In the trailer for the series, Burgess recalls her time as a nursing professor at Boston College when she was asked by the FBI to help with an investigation.

'I [was] Working with patients with traumatic experiences. One day I got a call from the FBI,” she recalls in the trailer.

“The problem was that we had to make sense of the interviews. I started listening to the tapes and found them fascinating,” she continued.

An article co-authored by Burgess caught the attention of the FBI in 1978, and then-director William Webster asked Burgess for help in caring for rape victims and their attackers.
Burgess' co-author Steven Constantine described her approach to the violent crimes as “through the lens of the victim” – something that had never been done before.

As the nursing professor continued to listen to confessions and talk to the killers, she discovered patterns she had “never noticed before” and began expanding her method of catching killers to cases across the country.

Burgess' co-writer Constantine described their approach as “from the perspective of the victim” – which had never been done before.

“Everyone else focused on the perpetrator and the victim was rather incidental in the cases,” he said in an interview with Boston University.

“She was one of the first people to bring the idea of ​​victimology to the BSU and ensure that the victim was considered an equal part of a case,” he explained.

“Not only could the victim contribute to solving the case, but he was also a real person affected and the agents also had to think about the impact on that person's life.”

Constantine said Burgess had “expanded the definition of what a victim can be.”

“She has changed the cultural perception of who might be a victim, and I think that's really important,” Constantine added.

“She brought a human element to the whole process that had not existed before her. And she continued that in her legal work.”

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