57. The Psychic Detective Challenge

Guest: Psychic detective Nancy Weber recounts her amazing work in the Amie Hoffman murder case.

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On this episode of Skeptiko, psychic detective Nancy Weber recounts her amazing work in the Amie Hoffman Murder Case.

I also went to speak to the then captain and I said to him, “You have an officer whose last name begins with a C.” He said, “I have two of them.” I said the, “The hard C.” He said, “You mean Costanza?” I said, “Yes, that man has ticketed the murderer. He will know who he is when you just ask him.  — Nancy Orlen Weber

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Alex: Welcome to Skeptiko where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris.

On today’s show, we’re going to pick up on a topic that I’ve covered a little bit in the last few episodes but I really need to nail down, that’s this challenge between hardcore skeptic and editor of the Skeptical Inquirer Magazine, Ben Radford, and myself regarding psychic detective work. Now if you recall, back in August Ben came on the show and we talked about psychic detective work. I said, “Why don’t you ever investigate very good cases,” and Ben said why is whatever case we pick never good enough? So, we decided that I should really pick the case and that we should investigate it together. Let me go back and play an extended clip from that show so that everyone’s up to speed on where we are with this challenge. Here it goes.

(Start of interview with BEN RADFORD)

Alex: You just kind of waded into a subject that I did want to talk about today in this whole idea of psychic detectives. I’ve read many of your articles and you’re obviously a very talented writer, you do a good job of summing up these cases. You’re not flying off the handle in a really incendiary way, but I do feel like a lot of times you pick on cases that have failed and make the case that that somehow proves something. I was reading and I was going, “Gosh, why hasn’t he looked at the best cases?”

Let me give you an example. Here’s someone who I’ve actually spoken with, a psychic I’ve spoken with, Nancy Orlen Weber is her name and she was on the psychic detective show. So I go to her website in preparation for this interview we’re doing here because I’ve seen your cases where you’ve said some of these psychics that appear on TV, they never solve any cases and all the rest of that. You go right to her website and you read her letters of reference from detectives; detectives who’ve been in the New Jersey State Police for 25 years and said, “Yes, I’ve worked with her on all these cases and she really helped. Yes, I spoke with these other investigators who worked on murder cases with her, she did a really good job. She received a letter of commendation.” I mean, there’s like this total disconnect. Do we really care that there’s all these failures or do we care that the phenomena does seem to happen sometimes with some people to the extent that it’s proven beyond the doubt to the very folks who were very skeptical to begin when you talk about a detective on the New Jersey Police. These are people that you’re not easily going in and dupe with some tall story. Where’s the investigation on the best cases?

Ben: Why don’t we do this, you find the best case you can find. Look through all the psychics you want, figure out one, and pick the one case you think is airtight. Give it to me and I’ll get back to you in a couple of months, and we’ll see what we’ll find.

(End of Interview with BEN RADFORD)

Alex: So that was the challenge, find the best case of psychic detective work. Now you may recall that before we did the best case, what we’re doing today, we faced off on another case that Ben had already investigated, the Charles Capel Case. I’m not going to go through that, that’s all documented in the previous episodes of Skeptiko. But what’s useful to remember is where we came to at the end of that, what it distilled down to was Ben’s criteria for analyzing a skeptical detective case. It’s not a totally inappropriate criteria, and it’s based in two things. One, was the information that the psychic gave to the police investigator remarkable? Two, was the information useful in the investigation?

We had quite a disagreement about the Charles Capel Case that we looked at, whether that information was remarkable and whether it was useful. I really felt like if the police felt it was useful, then it’s useful, and they could be the only judge of that. Ben felt very strongly that an independent skeptical investigator like himself could determine whether the information that was provided was remarkable and useful. But in the end, what became clear was that the case we were working on – and it was a case of Ben’s choosing – was not the best case to analyze that. That made it even more clear that we needed to pick this different case, this best case if you will.

I don’t know if this is the best case, but I went about finding a case that we could investigate. I have to tell you, it wasn’t hard to do, I just directly followed through with exactly what I said I was going to do on the first broadcast, I called up Nancy Orlen Weber who is a psychic detective who I know and I have spoken with before. I asked her, “What’s a good case?” Here is that conversation.

(Interview with Nancy Orlen Weber)

Alex: Hi Nancy

Nancy: Hi Alex, how are you?

Alex: I’m doing great, how are you?

Nancy: Wonderful, thank you. Thank you for calling.

Alex: Well, thanks you so much for joining me on this. I think it’s kind of an interesting project. I don’t know how much of my e-mail you were able to read. Were you able to kind of dig into any of that at all?

Nancy: I have no idea what we are going to discuss.

Alex: Okay, then let me kind of fill you in. What I’ve been doing for the last couple of years is I guess maybe try and level the playing field a little bit in the way that skeptics treat all these topics. Here’s what I’m focused on right now and the reason for my call, and I know that a lot of the work that you do is in the healing work. But I think the area of psychic detectives, even though it’s been so publicized on the TV, if you go into the skeptical world – and I’ve recently had this kind of running encounter with the editor from the Skeptical Inquirer Magazine. We’ve actually had a nice exchange, a pleasant, cordial exchange, but I challenged him on his skeptical investigation of a psychic detective case. So he said, “Well, what don’t you pick a case? You pick a case and we’ll investigate it together.”

Nancy, I don’t know if you run into these people, but he maintains that there is not one single case in history – he denies that even the police ever do this. When you point out the police have said, “Hey, I was super skeptical when I came in…” Then he’s, “Well, that office was just office head.” So, would you be willing to help me go through a case that we can find, that’s reasonably well documented, where there’s law enforcement that would at least spend a few minutes confirming the information that’s already been out there and that we could kind of go head-to-head with this guy?

Nancy: Absolutely. In point, during the publicity for the beginning of the Biography Channel series that I was part of, they asked if I would come out to all the TV shows and do a little PR work along with the detective who I had worked with who is now kind of a big wheel in the state police. He got permission from his superior to go with me anywhere, speak about anything, do it anytime. It was the case on James Koedatich, the serial killer.

Alex: Nancy, who again was the victim and who was the perpetrator?

Nancy: The victims were Deidre O’Brien and Amie Hoffman, this was in the 1980s. It doesn’t mean I catch the people. What it means is there were two officers, one was a captain of homicide in Parsippany, the other was a detective out at Mount Olive, and they were teamed up as part of the task force. When I was with them, several of the things that they will recall and repeat…

Alex: I just wanted to jump in here and clarify something because Nancy’s about into go to listing out the specific information that she brought to the police. I just want to make that clear that that’s what she’s doing here.

Nancy: The man who did this, his first name is James, his last name is Polish, multiple syllables, beginning with a K and ending in an “ish.” He came up from Florida where he had been imprisoned for murder. He was released inappropriately, the state will be sued. He lived in an area called of Morristown called the Hollow. His brother owned or worked at a gas station, where he took a car out of there. Ha has use of several cars, but he had a car he was driving that would have forensic evidence, blood or hair; and everyone said absolutely impossible also. He grew up here, he came from a very insane family, particularly mother. He was about 5”10, very narrow, angular features, dark hair that strangely enough I kept seeing the hair being pulled off like wig with a V. That other part was that there were strange tire tracks that would be very unique and pertinent to catching him.

No one caught him. One night, I sat with my group meditating and I told them, “I had never spoken to you about my work with the police,” this is in 1980s. I would not tell them cases. I said, “This case I must talk about because I’m curious.” I also went with these two men to the township to speak to the then captain, who’s now retired, and I said to him, “You have an officer who’s last name begins with a C.” He said, “I have two of them.” I said, “The hard C.” He said, “You mean Costanza?” I said yes. Costanza is now the chief of police there. Just so you know, Tommy Costanza who was in the movie with them. I said, “That man has ticketed the murderer. He will know who he is when you just ask him.” It turns out, I sat with my class, I went to the entire case with them because I was disgusted. I thought, “I don’t get it. I know we know who did it. No doubt about it.” I go and reveal everything to my five students that night instead of the usual number. I trusted them, I knew them for years. I said, “You cannot tell anybody about this. But hold my hands and we’re going to ask God that if it’s within the spiritual path of everyone – victims, their families, James K – to bring him in and stop him from causing pain to anybody else, and for him to have his own pain the way he’s given it to women.” He would abduct them, knife them in the back, torture them, rape them, murder them.

There was more to the story about what I saw that was confirmed by Bill and Jimmy Moore. I knew the newspapers reported Amy’s body was found clothed and they couldn’t determine death. I went, “No, she was raped, murdered, tortured, no clothes.” That’s the truth. Then it was found. When we did this prayer, we finished, we go to sleep. The next day Jimmy Moore calls me, he goes, “Nancy, what did you do?” I said, “What do you mean what did I do?” He said, “What did you do?” I felt guilty, I said, “I had a class last night and I did talk to them about it. We said a prayer and blah-blah-blah.” He said, “Well, a man named James Koedatich…” When he said that, I went, “Oh my God, he’s caught.” He said, “No, he caught himself. He claims that somebody with long, brown hair ran him off the road the way he ran others, knifed him in the back. He called in to the police, they brought an ambulance and they took a look at his car,” it answered the description, and he’s been booked. Now forensics finds out, a few weeks later, one hair in the trunk – or wherever it was – of Deidre’s and one drop of blood left that was Amy’s. He was of Polish descent, he grew up in Morristown, went to Morristown High, lived in the Hallow. His brother owned a gas station, that’s where he got his car. The parole board in Florida let him out after he was put in for murder and then murdered his roommate there. They let him out, and the State of Florida was sued.

Alex: That’s an extraordinary story. It’s off-the-charts extraordinary. Now, what’s our best way to nail this down? Who should I speak to in law enforcement and what other documentation do you have?

Nancy: You have the TV shows of which Jimmy More and Bill Hughes both speak. They are on camera doing it. Jimmy’s retired but he was captain of homicide. I’ll give you Jimmy’s number. Bill Hughes is not easy to get a hold of because he also does terrorist training. When he ran a newspaper article that was the reporter story before the [bio Tennel][ph 00:13:51] came out was saying that he was bald. No one had ever heard Billy get angry, no one. I mean, she was in shock, we were all together. He was fuming and cursing. I have never heard him curse, I’ve known since 1980. Now everybody’s heard me curse but nobody’s ever heard him cruse. It was 1980 and we heard him all day long steaming mad at this reporter who twisted things. Anyhow, that’s the story.

Alex: That’s a great story. Thank a bunch.

Nancy: Okay, bye Alex.

(End of interview with Nancy Orlen Weber)

Alex: Okay, so that was my conversation with psychic detective Nancy Weber. I have a little bit more to say about this case in just a minute. But I want to kind of put these pieces together in chronological order. So the next thing that I did was to call Ben Radford from the Skeptical Inquirer again and close the loop that I had selected my case, give him the information on that case so he could start investigating it at the same time that I was. Here’s a clip from that conversation.

(Start of interview with Ben Radford)

Alex: Your points on the case were pretty straightforward, you just wanted to make sure that this was the case I wanted to hang my head on, and that’s the Amy Hoffman Murder Case where Nancy Orlen Weber was the psychic detective. That’s fine with me. I’ll hang my head on it while you hang your head on it.

Ben: Sure, absolutely. Let me just say the onset, before you sent that name in that case, I’ve never hear of it before. In fact, I know almost nothing about it that what you said. I look forward in the coming weeks, as time allows, looking into it. I’ll be very interested to sort of see how it all hashes out. If it really is a good example of a psychic detective, then great.

Alex: Okay, great. If it’s not, I’ll be at your mercy.

Ben: Okay, I’m sure we can come up with something.

(End of interview with Ben Radford)

Alex: So we now have a lot of the pieces in place for us to begin out investigation. We selected a case, I’ve spoken with the psychic detective, and she’s made it clear what information she provided the investigators. But let me take another step in framing up this case and how we’re going to investigate it because I think this is another area where confusion can come in terms of how skeptics can look at things and how believers can look at things, and we need to kind of really frame up exactly what we’re trying to measure.

In this case, I want to go by Ben’s criteria; is the information remarkable and was it useful to investigators? But I want to trim out some of the other information that came through, not because I don’t think it’s valid but because I think it’s harder to validate and really nail down, that’s the part of how he’s eventually captured and how Nancy’s prayers led this guy to turn himself in. I think the fact that he turns himself in is indisputable, but I think there’s other elements to that that may become a gray area and will just get us off track.

So, for this case I want to focus on and verify whether Nancy provided the investigators the first name of the perpetrator, when that name was not known to them; whether she provided information regarding the last name, that it had three syllables; was of Polish decent, ended in an “itch” sound. I want to verify whether that was provided to investigators prior to them knowing that. I want to verify whether she provided information about him being a convicted murderer who had left Florida and return to New Jersey, that he was originally from New Jersey and that he lived in the area of the Hollow. I think I can stop right there. I think any reasonable person would acknowledge that if the police had no prior information about the perpetrator, and that they were provided that information, that that would be incredibly useful to any investigation. I hope that doesn’t become a point of even an argument because it would just be bizarre. Of course providing the first and last name of the perpetrator, when that is unknown, would be useful. I think there’s little argument that if she provided that information, when it was not known, that would be truly remarkable. We have no way of explaining how she could provide all that information when it was not known to anyone.

So, that’s the course I’m going to take in pursuing this. Along the way, I’m also going to investigate some of the other claims that she makes because they are truly just off the charts, they have that “wow” element to them that I think compels us all to kind of look in there. But in terms of this investigation, let me emphasize this, these are the criteria we should look at; whether she provided information about the name that he had fled from Florida and he was an escape murderer, he was from New Jersey and that he lived in the Hollow. That’s where I’m going off of in terms of this investigation. You can be sure that you’ll hear much more on this case. I’m going to have the interviews with the police detectives involved, I’m going to have snippets from the New York Times and any other publications in can lay my hands on. I’m also going to try and get some information from the TV show that was produced on this. I also want to make that clear, there’s tons of information on this. All the key players are still alive, these investigators don’t forget double homicide, serial killing cases. It’s been well publicized, everyone has a good recollection on all these things. That shouldn’t be a problem.

So, much more to come on this, on the Amy Hoffman Murder Case, you can Google it yourself. I really, really welcome any thoughts or ideas that anyone has at this point, from what you’ve heard on the investigation, whether you think this is a valid case to investigate and whether you think the criteria that I’ve established for the determining whether or not she provided useful and remarkable information is valid. Let me know. Drop me an e-mail, you can find my e-mail address of course as always at Skeptiko.com. You’ll also find some show notes on this episode as well as links to all our previous episodes and a link to our forum where you can get involved in a discussion on this. So that’s going to do it for today, take care, bye for now.