The Killer Behind The Camera

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Visionary Professor Donald Johnson, in association with LAVA and Esotouric, invites you to participate in a special four-hour event at LA’s regional crime laboratory, on the campus of Cal State LA. Space is very limited and pre-reservation required for this unprecedented opportunity to tour the crime lab, learn from working forensic investigators and educators, and discover the real art and science of crime scene investigation.

The Killer Behind The Camera focuses on two criminal cases in which sexual offenders used the role of professional photographer in order to gain the trust of hired models, who they then murdered. These strikingly similar cases happened four decades apart, and illustrate the evolution in police work and forensic science from the 1950s through the 1990.

Lecture #1: Linda Sobek, a swimsuit model and former Los Angeles Raiders cheerleader, was murdered in 1995 by photographer Charles Rathbun, who lured her to a remote dry lake bed in the Mojave Desert to shoot photos with a new Lexus SUV. Her body was dumped in the Angeles National Forest, north of Los Angeles. Rathburn lead deputies to the body after confessing he had accidentally struck Sobek while trying to teach her a car stunt on the lake bed; in fact, she was asphyxiated. Heidi Robbins, the Assistant Director of the Scientific Services Bureau crime lab of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the lead investigator on the case, will outline the forensic investigation which debunked Rathbun’s testimony and the faked photos offered up as evidence of consensual sex in Rathbun’s defense. Charles Rathbun was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in 1996.

Lecture #2: Harvey Glatman was a serial killer who was active in Southern California and Colorado in the late 1950s. Obsessed with the posed crime scene photographs illustrating pulp magazines, Glatman posed as a professional photographer in order to lure models into posing for scenes illustrating his murderous fantasies. Glatman photographed his victims while assaulting them, then strangled and dumped their bodies in the desert. Mike Fratantoni, an LASD Deputy who sits on the board of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Museum, will talk about Glatman’s crimes and his extraordinary capture, which took place after the model who could have been his last victim overpowered and beat her assailant on the side of the highway. Harvey Glatman was convicted of two counts of first degree murder and executed in 1959.

Between the case history lectures, the hands-on lab section will focus on methods of forensic photography and analysis.

By the afternoon’s conclusion, attendees will have a deeper understanding of the real work that’s done in the field by forensic investigators, and the tools and techniques used to interpret crime scenes for the benefit of investigating officers and juries.