The Washington Times-Herald

Community News Network

November 29, 2012

Why handsome criminals seldom show up on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted

NEW YORK — Last week, the FBI announced the capture of Jose "Joe" Luis Saenz, an alleged gang member and murderer who, since 2009, had been on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. Saenz was captured in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he had been living above a beauty parlor. According to the Associated Press, Saenz had gone to great lengths to disguise his identity: losing weight, removing tattoos, disfiguring his fingerprints. But it's unclear whether he was able to alter his fat, distinctive baby face.

That baby face may have helped Saenz get on the list in the first place. Ever since the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list was created in 1950, many have assumed that the list contains the worst of the worst — that it's something like a power ranking for crooks. And, indeed, the list has contained fugitives who've loomed large in the public imagination: Osama bin Laden, James Earl Ray, Whitey Bulger, Eric Rudolph, Ramzi Yousef.

But in a New York Times article this June, Michael S. Schmidt noted that "bureau officials have also tried to select other dangerous fugitives who may have been hiding in plain sight but could be recognized by the public because they have distinctive physical features." In other words, a weird-looking fugitive is more likely to make the list than a criminal without distinctive marks.

This makes sense. The whole point of the list is to motivate the public to help identify fugitives, and it's easier to identify someone whose face is hard to forget. Joe Saenz has the sort of broad cake-eater's face that would stick in your mind if you saw it, and might trigger recognition when you saw that face on a wanted poster.

The FBI issued its first "wanted poster" in 1919, in an effort to catch a runaway soldier named William N. Bishop. (Bishop had four vaccination scars and a "massive lower jaw.") The Most Wanted list was created after a wire service reporter in need of column copy asked the FBI for a list of its 10 worst fugitives. The subsequent story generated enormous positive publicity, and prompted J. Edgar Hoover to institutionalize the format; in 1950, the bureau issued an official list of 10 notorious murderers, kidnappers, escape artists and car thieves. An American legend was born.

Text Only
Community News Network
  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 28, 2014

  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.33.11 PM.png VIDEO: High-dive accident caught on tape

    A woman at a water park in Idaho leaped off a 22-foot high dive platform, then tried to pull herself back up with frightening results. Fortunately, she escaped with only a cut to her finger.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CATS-DOGS281.jpg Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.-and all over the world

    We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Inequality crisis shot with factual problems, hypocrisy

    President Obama, various media and political liberals say inequality, of all things, is the defining issue of our times. Yet this message is delivered by multimillionaires and a president who jets from tee time to stump speech on the taxpayer's dime.
     

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • How spy agencies keep their 'toys' from law enforcement

    A little over a decade ago, federal prosecutors used keystroke logging software to steal the encryption password of an alleged New Jersey mobster, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., so they could get evidence from his computer to be used at his trial.

    July 25, 2014

  • Russia's war on McDonald's takes aim at the Filet-o-Fish

    Russia said earlier this week that it had no intention of answering Western sanctions by making it harder for Western companies to conduct business in Russia.
    But all bets are off, apparently, when you threaten the Russian waistline.

    July 25, 2014