Image of Shadow Lawn, the actual house, circa 1960.

Photo of author John Liebert.

🌳 John A. Liebert 🌳

John Liebert, MD is a practicing Psychiatrist specializing in complex Neuropsychiatric diagnostics, advanced Psychopharmacology combined with Psychotherapy of patients with suspected histories of traumatic stress disorders that lead to unremitting states of human destructiveness, whether violence, suicide, or suicidal violence towards others. He was retained by the Army in 2008 to clear a long wait-list of Fitness for Duty Examinations on soldiers returning from the surge and has extensive Forensic and Clinical experience in the field of trauma, violence, and suicide. Having served as a Flight Surgeon in the Vietnam War and then Chief Resident in Psychiatry at Seattle VA Hospital, he has lectured, testified, and published on the topic of Posttraumatic Stresss Disorder and traumatology of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI’s) since 1969. Dr Liebert completed his premedical training at Amherst College, his medical training at McGill University, and his specialized training in Psychiatry and Neurology at University of Washington, Seattle.

Dr Liebert is a Psychiatrist with over 30 years of experience in diagnosing and treating patients in hospital, forensic and outpatient settings. In most of these clinical sites - 50 in all, from Eastport, Maine to San Diego, he assessed and treated the seriously mentally ill and testified at hundreds of Involuntary Commitment hearings in numerous states with different commitment laws. At the Security Housing Unit (The SHU) at Pelican Bay Prison, he had the unique opportunity of performing in-depth interviews of cold-blooded psychopaths and sociopathic murderers. The latter were mostly hardened gangsters with various status of leadership in California gangs and drug wars.

He has served as consulting psychiatrist to the “Ted Task Force”, investigating the case of Ted Bundy in Seattle; The Atlanta Child Murder Task Force, responsible for successful detection and prosecution of Wayne Williams; The East Side Task Force (King County, Washington) responsible for the uniquely early detection, arrest and conviction of George Russell, subject of Jack Olson’s book, “The Charmer” - and The Green River Task Force in the case of Gary Ridgway - also in King County, Washington. Dr Liebert received the Washington State Corrections award for his development and leadership of the Ted Task Force, which proved an essential link in the ultimate identification of Ted Bundy, described by Ann Rule, as “The Killer Beside Me”.

Dr Liebert’s primary interest and expertise is in the psychopathology and neurobiology of suicide and disorders of aggression. Based on these cases he published “Contributions of Psychiatry in the Investigation of Serial Murder” (International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology). His textbook, “Suicidal Mass Murderers: A Criminological Study of Why They Kill”, is a product of both his extensive clinical experience and studies of dangerousness to self and to others. In his online Continuing Medical Education Course on Emergency Psychiatry for Non-psychiatrists, “EMPsych”,, he calls this “unremitting states of human destructiveness” to avoid reductionistic legal terms that risk missing commonly intertwined mental states of violence and suicidality. Such are the cases also examined and cited in his forthcoming book, “Hearts of Darkness”, (Arcade Press, In Press for March 2014). They include The Tucson Safeway Plaza Massacre by Jared Loughner; The Aurora Theater Massacre by James Holmes; the Oslo/Utoya Island Massacres by Anders Breivik and the Sandy Hook School Massacre by Adam Lanza.

To enhance clarification of the state of Forensic Psychiatry in cases of suicidal mass murderers, he has collaborated with an experienced criminology author and attorney, William Birnes.

Dr Liebert has presented papers that elucidate the association and psychopathological transduction of psychological trauma into violence. His “Prevention of Stress Disorders in Military and Police Organizations” was published in “CRITICAL INCIDENTS IN POLICING” 1991, from a scientific conference held at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virgnia. From both his experience as a Police Psychiatrist and graduate of The School of Aerospace Medicine, Brooks Air Force Base, Dr Liebert attempted in this publication to apply standards of Public Health to prevention of violence in a population now repeatedly profiled in the press as being at high risk for suicide and violence. He has presented this theme within various paradigms at the Annual Brian Buss Lecture, memorializing an Oregon Psychiatrist murdered by his patient; in his lecture at the Royal College of Psychiatrists Annual Meeting in Torquay, “Violence as a Manifestation of Post-traumatic Syndromes”; in his online course, “EMPscyh”, certified by University of Colorado Department of Emergency Medicine and produced by Challenger Corporation (; at The VII World Congress of Psychiatry, Vienna 1083, in his lecture, “Psychogensis of Brutality in Violent Occupations” and “Emergency Psychiatry for Non-psychiatrists” in combat medicine at Force Health Protection Conference, Albuquerque, 2008. His 1994 testimony with Dr Jonathan Shay on the subject is available in the Congressional Record; “VIEWPOINTS ON VETERANS AFFAIRS AND RELATED ISSUES; HEARING BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS, OF THE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS’ AFFAIRS. His latest book, “Wounded Minds: Understanding and Solving the Growing Menace of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” (Arcade Press), examines significant cases of Military Psychiatry from the War on Terror and expands upon the subject matter presented in courses and publications on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. The cases in include the Fort Hood Massacre by Major Nidal Hasan; the Afghanistan Atrocities of Sgt Robert Bales; the Great Bear Mountain Lake suicidal mass murder by Christopher Dorner; the murder suicide by warrior/surgeon, Dr Timothy Jorden in Buffalo, NY and the murder of The American Sniper by Eddie Routh.

Dr Liebert is a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he learned from Coach Dick Geske to lead his high school offensive line as Center in support of a state championship; “Errors are rarely reversible - yet, overcome, with great effort, but not often reversible before several thousand sreaming people.” He completed premedical training with a BA in English at Amherst College, where American Literary Critic, Roger Sale, “gave me confidence to write a book”. The Neuroscience Curriculum of McGill University, with the teachings of Penfield, Jaspers, Hebb, Selye and Milner, he believes, gave him an early start in preparing for the explosive growth in understanding neurotransmission in the human brain - both its perturbations in disorders of suicidality and aggression - and its treatment with modern psychopharmacology. Conversely, he believes, his clinical clerkship under D Ewan Cameron at the Allan Memorial Institute inculcated in him both unique insights into the arrogance and dangers of “The Imperative to Treat” and respect for “Do no Harm”; patients are not for experiments of one’s wildest dreams, as described so horrifically by “In The Sleep Room about those days at The Allan Memorial Institute under Cameron. Dr Liebert learned the ethical necessity of Informed Consent back in those days of brainwashing experiments depicted in the book, “In the Sleep Room”, because, as a clinical clerk, he worked in Cameron’s Sleep Room.

Dr Liebert served a rotating internship in Medicine and Surgery at Santa Clara County Hospital in San Jose before being drafted - along with all US interns - following the assassination of John F Kennedy. His Air Force career as Flight Surgeon for a specialized transport squadron carrying nuclear warheads provided him broad experience and deep respect for principles of Human Reliability in prevention of man-made Disasters from weapons of mass destruction, as well as Triaging in Mass Casualty Incidents. It was this military experience, he believes, more than any other, that informs the chapters on Best Practices in “Suicidal Mass Murderers”; “Wounded Minds” and “Hearts of Darkness”. “Running an ER alone at night in San Jose for two months as a 27 year-old intern - and later associating with Professors Thomas Holmes, Wayne Katon and David Dunner while completing his Residency in Psychiatry at University of Washington, Seattle, were the final major influences in understanding the complexity of every clinical presentation at any point of entry. They also taught him to beware the current hazards of reductionist thinking and research that hinder valid clinical assessments - again a theme that runs through his books. Diagnosis is only of value if it is valid in predicting outcomes, either with or without treatment; anchoring patients with invalid diagnoses - too common a practice in today’s high volume practices - sets the stage for both medical errors and disasters - again the caveat gleaned from all his books. He graphically demonstrates this via Computerized Clinical Decision Support of Triaging patients @

Dr Liebert considers himself psychoanalytically informed in his treatment of patients, but depends significantly on the current work of psychiatrist, Dr Stephen Stahl, of Neuroscience Education Institute for understanding the complexity of the human brain. “For me, Stahl takes off where Jaspers, Penfield and Milner left off at the Montreal Neurological Institute for effectively applying safe and ethical treatment for the complex dynamic neurocircuitry function and dysfunction in the human brain. I had the unique opportunity to witness the introduction of antipsychotic treatment into North America while studying in Montreal; I was exposed to patients before Thorazine was available, and then saw how it revolutionized Psychiatry, both for better and for worse.” His unique witness to contemporary Psychiatry is the foundation experience core to all of his books.

Coauthor with William J. Birnes

Cover of Hearts of Darkness. Cover of Psychiatric Criminology. Cover of Suicidal Mass Murderers. Cover of Wounded Minds.
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