Brian Dugan admits he is a master manipulator.
"If someone catches me doing something wrong," said Dugan, with a snap of his fingers, "I can come right out with a story to convince them."
But is the multiple murderer pulling another con?
That question lies at the heart of his DuPage County death penalty sentencing hearing as the emotional proceedings stretch into the fifth week of testimony.
Jurors listened intently Tuesday to his two-hour videotaped interview with Kent A. Kiehl, a forensic psychologist who will testify this week for the defense. The University of New Mexico professor studies diagnosed psychopaths, including Dugan, and found they share a defect or inactivity in an area of their brain that processes emotion, inhibition and self-control.
That point is not in dispute. At issue is whether that structural defect impacts Dugan's ability to control his deadly actions.
In the Sept. 5 interview, Dugan said something inside of him would just "click," sparking him to rape and kill. Dugan said he didn't view his victims as real human beings and, it was only when he did connect with them on some level, that he let them live.
"When that part of my brain engages, it makes me unreasonable," he said. "There's not a lot of self-control that I exhibited."
He continued: "I knew I was a (expletive) lunatic before I got locked up, but I didn't know what I could do to stop it. There's just no 1-800-NUTS line that people can call."
Jurors found Dugan eligible for a possible death sentence for the Feb. 25, 1983, abduction, rape and bludgeoning of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico of Naperville. They still must decide his punishment - execution or life in prison without parole.
Dugan, 53, has been serving life terms since 1985 for the slayings of nurse Donna Schnorr, 27, of Geneva, on July 15, 1984, and 7-year-old Missy Ackerman of Somonauk, on June 2, 1985. He also admitted attacking many other young women who survived.
On the video, conducted at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, a relaxed Dugan described himself as a "nymphomaniac" who, while high on drugs and alcohol, impulsively abducted many victims.
Dugan said he has tried to better himself in prison and glean an understanding of why he committed such violence. Dugan said he long ago had an epiphany and chooses to no longer deceive or harm others. Dugan said he does feel remorse.
He spoke specifically about Jeanine.
"I think I was a sex maniac," he said. "I think something clicked inside of me. I turned into Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll. I was terrified after I committed the crime in Naperville, but it didn't stop me. I couldn't stop."
It wasn't the first time the jury heard Dugan's words. They also listened to hours of 1986 audio recordings in which Dugan in a matter-of-fact tone details his killings.
Orest Wasyliw, a psychologist who testified Tuesday for the defense, diagnosed Dugan as a psychopath with anti-social personality traits. Dugan is not psychotic or legally insane, Wasyliw said, and can understand the difference between right and wrong.
Wasyliw found Dugan to be sincere, and agreed the aging killer has made progress.
But Dugan admitted to Kiehl that he still is sexually attracted to little girls. Dugan denied he'd ever act on those impulses, though.
"I think I'm different (than) I used to be," he said, "but I'm still twisted. I've been locked up 25 years with all these (expletive) and I'm one of them."
Prosecutor Michael A. Wolfe listed instances in which an imprisoned Dugan conned mental health experts into false findings to get what he wanted, be it medication, a transfer or other privileges. Dugan has a high IQ and is known to read psychiatry books.
Wolfe said Dugan admits he enjoys messing with the system, and has reported everything from false suicidal thoughts to a belief "Russian communists control his mind." Dugan, who is usually unemotional and passive in court, chuckled at that reference.
Kiehl and Wasyliw agree psychopaths have a diminished ability to control their actions, but other experts such as psychiatrist Jonathon D. Brodie strongly oppose that view. Prosecutors later will call the neuroscientist to the witness stand in rebuttal.
Dugan also told Kiehl he's philosophically opposed to the death penalty. That segment was played in court outside of the jury's presence.
"To me, it's, like, useless," Dugan said. "It's overkill. It makes society as bad as somebody who shows no remorse. Otherwise, I don't care about dying. I'll have an early release."