In the late 1970s, Richard Walter took a job as a low-paid staff psychologist at a prison on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. But somehow, away from the prison, he successfully invented for himself a more attractive persona: genius criminal profiler. Walter co-founded a club of elite investigators called the Vidocq Society, and for years has touted bogus work credentials and claimed to have reviewed thousands of murder cases he actually knows little about. There’s so much more in this wild, unbelievable story of an impostor, excellently reported by David Gauvey Herbert.

On the stand at Drake’s trial, Walter related an impressive — and fictional — résumé. He falsely claimed that at the L.A. County Medical Examiner’s Office, he had reviewed more than 5,000 murder cases. Walter also said he was an adjunct lecturer at Northern Michigan University (he had spoken there informally, possibly just once), wrote criminology papers (he had never published), and had served as an expert witness at hundreds of trials (he’d testified in two known cases — about a simple chain-of-evidence question and in a civil suit against a car company).

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.