Robert Backus, Jr. (d. April 2004) was the son of Robert Backus, Sr., and the Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Behavioral Sciences Service in the early 1990s. In the late 1970's he helped set up the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP) database. He interviewed many high-profile killers including Ted Bundy. In the late 1980's he interviewed Bundy several times. At one such interview he retrieved a piece of Juicy Fruit gum that Bundy had chewed and thrown into a trash can. Backus saved this piece of gum and buried it in a grave in the Mojave Desert.
He was in charge of the FBI's research study into police suicides, as well as serving as a mentor to Special Agents Terry McCaleb and Rachel Walling. His final case with the FBI was the Poet investigation. Ironically, he suffered from a severe psychological disorder which resulted in him becoming a serial killer. He had a starkly split personality in which he could present as a competent FBI agent at times, while at other times he would display his "true" identity as a vicious, psychopathic killer.
Between 1992 and 1995, Backus murdered eight homicide detectives throughout the United States, including Clifford Beltran, John McCafferty, John Brooks, Garland Petry, Morris Kotite and Sean McEvoy. These murders were committed in conjunction with William Gladden, although Gladden was unaware of it. In this strange partnership Gladden would kill his molestation victims, then Backus would kill the detectives who were investigating Gladden's murders. Backus was eventually discovered by McEvoy's brother, Jack, and his own protege, agent Rachel Walling in March of 1995. He was attempting to kill both Ed Thomas and Jack McEvoy but was unsuccessful. He was shot by Agent Walling but survived the confrontation. However, three months later a body was found in a storm drain with Backus's clothes and identification. The body was badly decomposed making positive identification impossible.
He disappeared for a time, during which he went to Europe and got plastic surgery from a Czech surgeon to alter his appearance and even his voice. The surgeon and his wife were later found dead. Between 1998 and 2000, Backus murdered five American men in Amsterdam's red-light district, leaving the bodies in the Amstel River. He later wrote letters to the Holland police, signed "the Poet," requesting the involvement of the FBI and specifically Agent Walling.
Between 2000 and 2004, Backus returned to the U.S. and concocted an elaborate plan to commit murders, leaving clues to the burial site, kill McCaleb and Walling, and make the FBI look foolish. He murdered ten more men and buried the bodies near Zzyzx Road in the Mojave Desert. In one grave he deposited the piece of gum that Bundy had chewed. Using the alias Jordan Shandy he took a charter with Terry McCaleb and stole a GPS reader from the boat. He stalked and photographed McCaleb's family and mailed the GPS unit to Walling, with a waypoint to lead her to Zzyzx. Using the alias Tom Walling he got a job driving men from Las Vegas to Clear, NV and back. He left a note for Rachel with a bartender in Clear, then rigged his trailer to explode with another body inside. After the trailer exploded, Backus returned to Los Angeles to once again target Ed Thomas, then retired and running a bookstore in Orange County.
Backus lured Thomas to the home of Charles Turrentine, whom he had already killed, and was set to murder the former detective before he was interrupted by Agent Walling and private investigator Harry Bosch. Backus and Bosch fought, tumbling into the raging waters of the Los Angeles River during a torrential rainstorm, and Backus drowned in the water. His body was recovered from the River when it washed up at the Sepulveda Dam.
Backus' homicidal actions may have been rooted in his childhood. His father was both a hero-figure and a cruel, repressive parent. His mother appears to have been completely ineffectual in protecting the young Robert from his father's punishment. Bob was suspected of having killed his neighbor's dachshund and cutting it in half. As an adult he had many obsessive-compulsive symptoms in addition to his murderous tendencies. His childhood traumas may have been exacerbated by his work with the FBI in which he was exposed to countless murders and suicides. In any case, his work trained him how to select victims and avoid being caught.