By | August 22, 2008 25 Comments

Esther Elizabeth Reed: Profile of a female con artist and sociopath/psychopath

Sociopathy or Antisocial Personality Disorder is a psychological disorder that affects about 4 percent of the adult population. The extreme form of this disorder affects 1 percent of the adult population and is also called psychopathy. Among those with sociopathy/psychopathy, there is a spectrum of severity and the traits/behaviors that make up the disorder are also found in non-disordered people. These observations have led the American Psychiatric Association to consider a prototype approach to diagnosis. I believe the prototype approach is very useful to both professionals and the educated public so I will explain it.

The prototype method of diagnosis involves describing what someone with the disorder is usually like, then comparing a person to that prototype. Thus the degree of sociopathy/psychopathy can be assessed using the prototype approach. In this and later articles, I intend to examine con artists using the prototype approach and both the psychiatric criteria for sociopathy and the PCL-R criteria for psychopathy. You will see that the prototype sociopath and the prototype psychopath are similar, but that psychopathy more closely fits con artists.

Introducing Esther Elizabeth Reed

That brings us to Esther Elizabeth Reed who is 30 years old. She was profiled by Fox News this week because she pled guilty on Tuesday to a host of charges including identity theft. She faces up to 47 years in prison and $ 1million in fines for aggravated identity theft, mail fraud, wire fraud and loan fraud charges. This particular identity theft provoked public outrage because the victim was a missing South Carolina woman named Brook Henson, who disappeared from her hometown of Traveler’s Rest, S.C. on July 4, 1999. When Brook’s family received news Brook had been found, their hopes ignited only to be crushed again.

Interestingly, using aliases including Natalie Bowman and Brook Hansen, Esther who was a high school dropout was able to take the GED where she scored in the 99th percentile and the SAT where she scored 1400 or about the 97th percentile. It is unknown whether these were Esther’s actual scores or if she paid others to take these for her. In any case using these scores Esther was able to attend Cal State Fullerton, Harvard and Columbia University.

All the news stories say authorities at these Universities are still trying to figure out how she could have been admitted using false identification. I was unable to determine what grades she received at these institutions. Though, she apparently did so well that a professor from Cal State Fullerton wrote her the letter of recommendation that helped get her into Harvard.

Esther and the DSM antisocial personality disorder prototype

Now I will discuss the details of Esther and her life as provided by news stories that match the prototypes of antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy. Here is the description of antisocial personality disorder as given in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of the American Psychiatric Association: “A pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others (antisocial behavior-my definition) occurring since age 15 as indicated by three or more of the following:

1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.
2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.
3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead.
4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults.
5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others.
6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations.
7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.”

Our first question is whether Esther has a pervasive pattern of antisocial behavior occurring since age 15. In a very well done article written By MARIANNE GARVEY in Townsend, Mont., and LUKAS I. ALPERT in New York, and published Jan. 12, 2007 in the New York Post, individuals who knew Esther during her teen years were interviewed. Her English teacher, Mary Duede, said Esther’s mother encouraged her daughter to be “resistant” and “combative.” Mary Duede is quoted as saying “She had a real snippy attitude. She was passive-aggressive and very complicated. She never came to class. Her mom supported her in leaving. She kept showing up at the school saying it didn’t serve her daughter’s needs. She was one of those moms who always thought the kid was right,” Another teacher said Esther hung “with the wrong crowd.” So there is some evidence that this pattern of antisociality began at least during Esther’s teen years.

Criteria 1 is satisfied by a record that Esther has repeatedly performed criminal acts since 1999 when she was first arrested for theft.

Criteria 2 is clearly present . Esther has at least 2 documented aliases.

Criteria 3 is not really present unless the theft of a coworker’s purse could be construed as “impulsivity.” On the contrary the degree of forethought and planning present in her schemes is quite remarkable. At the age of 19, she said to her father, “Dad, I’m going to be doing things that you don’t approve of – things that are not in your value system.” Esther reportedly had multiple plastic surgeries to help her assume the other identities.

Criteria 4 not present in the news stories.

Criteria 5 not present in the news stories

Criteria 6 may be present but she did apparently sustain some work behavior in the Universities she attended. One Fox News article says this which indicates that she may have lived up to some financial obligations, “According to Investigator Clark Brazier of the Traveler’s Rest police department, Reed has never run up any debt while using Henson’s identity, but instead used it to obtain money from the federal government in student loans and to attend different schools, including Harvard University and California State University at Fullerton.”

Criteria 7 Esther’s lifestyle shows a lack of remorse. If you read the statements by Esther’s family and visit the website her sister set up, you will see several family members have been hurt a great deal by Esther’s behavior and yet she has not acknowledged them. Esther’s attorney claims Esther is remorseful over stealing Henson’s identity, though when she was first caught, she conned police and escaped. (She conned the police and they are really supposed to know better!)

Esther and the psychopathy prototype

Now let’s examine the psychopathy prototype as described by the PCL-R.

The first facet of psychopathy is the interpersonal facet. It consists of Glibness/superficial charm, Grandiose sense of self worth, Pathological Lying, Conning/manipulative. I find evidence for all of these in the news stories though some said Esther had low self-esteem. In my opinion the fact that she thought she could make it at Harvard indicates high not low self-esteem. This facet best captures the nature of Esther Reed as she is portrayed in the news stories.

Facet 2 is the affective or emotional facet of psychopathy, it consists of Lack of Remorse/Guilt, Shallow Affect, Callous/Lack of Empathy, Failure to accept responsibility for actions. All of these traits are alluded to in the news articles.

Facet 3 describes the psychopathic lifestyle. It consists of Need for Stimulation, Parasitic Lifestyle, Lack of realistic long term goals, Impulsivity, Irresponsible Behavior. I found evidence for all of these in the news stories with the exception again of impulsivity. I can’t rule out Esther has impulsive behavior, it is just that the news stories do not describe much impulsivity outside of sexual impulsivity-to be discussed below. Notice that Lack of realistic long term goals a PCL-R criteria is more descriptive of Esther than is the DSM “failure to plan ahead” which tries to capture the same quality.

Facet 4 is the criminality facet of psychopathy it consists of Poor behavior controls, Early Behavior Problems, Juvenile Delinquency, Revocation of conditional release, Criminal versatility. By the news reports, Esther clearly displays poor behavioral controls and early behavior problems. As for criminal versatility that means- good at a lot of different crimes. She seems to be best at crimes related to theft and fraud, I’m not sure these are that different. As for juvenile delinquency, there is some evidence but not enough. Revocation of conditional release does not apply here.

There are two items of the PCL-R that do not fall into any of the four facets. These are sexual promiscuity and many short term marital relationships. Esther had no reported marriages but is a CNN report says, “authorities are investigating relationships she had with at least four officer candidates at West Point and Annapolis, as well as money transfers she received from outside the country. Officials want to make sure she’s not a spy.”

The nature of sociopathy/psychopathy beyond the DSM and the PCL-R

I don’t have room to go into a detailed analysis here but looking at the above you see that this con artist fits the PCLR-R prototype psychopath better than she does the DSM profile sociopath. There are other aspects to Esther that are discussed in the clinical literature but are not part of either the PCL-R or the DSM.

Some researchers have suggested that psychopathic con artists and pathological liars have high verbal IQs. The CNN story says this about Esther, “She had very poor grades in high school, but she had a high IQ, and her English teacher, recognizing her intelligence, had her join the speech team”¦ Reed won competitions with the speech team, and 10 years later her name is still on plaques at the high school.”

Psychoanalysts have said that a basic disturbance in identity underlies psychopathy. But what is the nature of this disturbance in identity?

According to Mariynn B. Brewer author of the book Self and Social Identity, “Self-concept and identity are what come to mind when we think of ourselves including both personal and social identities. She continues, “Being human means being conscious of having a self and the nature of the self is central to what it means to be human.”

Some argue that those who score high on psychopathy tests are less aware of themselves than are most people. That idea does not fit well with my own observations of psychopaths. If you examine the stories of psychopaths and get to know them, what jumps out at you is the wide difference between their self-concepts and their true social identities. For example, Esther has a self-concept that she is bright, capable and belongs in the IVY league. That self-concept does not match her actual social self. She therefore invented a series of social selves who more accurately reflected her self-concept. My former husband appears to have done the same thing.

In the end, we end up saying, “Esther, you could have done things legitimately.” When I say that about sociopaths/psychopaths, a friend of mine counters with the quip, “That’s too much like work.” But I say, “Isn’t being a con artist a lot more work?” Being a con artist and having that amount of power over people is just the kind of work this group of people like to do. They enjoy it, so it doesn’t seem like work to them.

Many ways to encounter a sociopath/psychopath

Esther’s story also gives us a window into the many opportunities we have to be affected by this disorder. First there are the victims she stole from and all of us who read about Esther in the news. There are the police, prosecutors, judge and her attorney.Then there are the West Point Officer Candidates who had romantic relationships with her and her friends in high school and the universities, including the professor who wrote that letter of recommendation. Lastly there is Esther’s family.

No matter how we are touched by sociopathy/psychopathy we ask why

Why does sociopathy/psychopathy happen? What would cause someone to become a con artist? Many of the people interviewed in the news stories had their own answers. Esther’s father (and school teachers) blamed Esther’s mother, but perhaps this blame is misplaced, since even good mothers have a tough time managing a child who is developing sociopathy. “Esther wanted to do what she wanted to do. When she was living here, I didn’t allow any sex or violent videos. But when she went to her mom’s, that was acceptable,” Esther’s father said. “I don’t know what turned her – maybe living with her mom?” Esther’s father also blames Hollywood, “”Profanity and nudity and things of that nature were not permitted in the house. Videos were banned”¦ My own feeling is the movie industry influenced her – they molded her thinking that wasn’t good,” Teachers also say she didn’t like herself and that she had low self-esteem.

As for me, I see Esther as a very disordered person. It seems there is evidence that both genetics and early environment may have played a role in her developing psychopathy.

The system is trying to help Esther

According to her attorney Fritz, she has gone through counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). “Fitz cited “a lot of things” in Reed’s background to explain her client’s behavior. ”˜It was more of a way of life for her,’ Fitz said. ”˜It was moving past Esther Reed and who she was.’

I hope Esther will keep working at the CBT. I am one of those who can’t give up hope. Although Esther hurt many people the level of hurt does not appear at the surface to be as great as other con artists. Though with a con artist one can never be sure about what else they have done. Remember “Rockefeller”.

If you knew Esther personally and can give us more information about her, please email [email protected]

Here are links to the news stories I used in writing this:




New York Post1

New York Post 2

Seattle Times

Comment on this article

Please Login to comment
Notify of
Ox Drover

This is sooooo very typical of the “conning” that people who ARE very bright do instead of focus on doing things the “right” way.

My P-son had been in gifted and talented programs since grade school, and was in the Duke University gifted program where the kids take the SAT in 7th grade and if they score well, they get scholarships out the kazoo. My son scored remarkably well and could have gone to ANY school in the world if he had not dropped out of high school to become a thief.

He was NOT in any way deprived in his home life or in our financial position. We weren’t “rich” but he had everything he needed and much of what he wanted. Education was very important to our family and he would have been provided with whatever resources he would have needed to attend college. He would have EASILY been able to provide himself with “the good life” as far as having a career in ANYthing he wanted to do. There were many things he enjoyed doing that would have provided him a “nice” income from computers to flying aircraft. He was getting flying lessons from my husband and doing well. He could have had a great career in aviation, computers or both, just as my husband had had.

SO WHY? He enjoyed the risk taking and the excitement. He was unwilling to delay gratification, he wanted THRILLS and he wanted them NOW–and acheiving things honestly wasn’t a thrill, it was “too easy” to do, and therefore didn’t give him a “challenge.” He made all As without studying, he got what he wanted “thrills” and risk taking and challenges by doing things illegally and “getting away with them”—and even if he didn’t get away with it, it still gave him a “thrill” to get caught! Just as a compulsive gambler gets a thrill (adreneline rush) when he wins OR when he loses.

I’ve heard the phrase, that “He/she would rather steal 50 cents than make an honest dollar” and I think that applies to the psychopaths among us. It’s no “fun” to do it the honest way, it is much more thrilling to do something they know is wrong and possibly get away with it. To “Put one over on the stupid rubes.” Especially if they are very bright, as this woman apparently was.


I found this very interesting. I didn’t know Esther well, but knew her mother and some of her siblings very well. I also personally know an extremely reliable source that did knew Esther and was concerned for her as a teen. While distance ended up limiting my own contact with Esther as she grew, I find the accusations levelled against her mother rather ludicrous. I was a guest in the home on several occassions in earlier years, and know that the mother did her best to maintain a well-balanced home. I have a very high moral standard, and say from that standpoint that I continue to maintain a deep respect for Esther’s mother. Knowing what I do about the family, I simply cannot believe that Esther was allowed to watch porn under any circumstances. Did she tell her father that she was, and managed to con him into believing it? I have no clue, but it would be a line of questioning worth pursuing. I would love to see you interview Esther’s mother’s employers, coworkers, other children and pastors. I understand that when there’s a problem, teachers might blame the parent. I would encourage you, however, to complete your research and do so arbitrarily, having interviewed individuals across the spectrum of Esther’s contacts. Please be careful of a rabbit trail. You seem to have misssed some details.


here’s a link to a very old story about a female spath. i heard a radio show about her today, and went snooping for some info on her. audacious doesn’t cover it.

when i am further along in my recovery from the spath i will look for the people whose photos she used to represent ‘him’ and his family and friends. someone suggested that it might be needle in a hay stack, but i somehow don’t think so, i think i may be able to find them.

and there may be a chance that they might be interested in suing her for identity theft.

the more of us who connect (her dupes), the better. the more we expose her, the better. the work we are doing is only a small drop in the bucket, and she has the whole world wide web in which to muck about. but if enough people bust her, if it becomes really irritating – then she is taken away, even momentarily, from chewing on fresh supply.


okay – gem cover your eyes. i have been really holding back, but this is gotta fly.




WOW. It does help me to see how absolutely discardable EVERYONE is to her. the woman who blogs about her is really pithed, too. i have to calm down – when i get this mad i want to rush forward with my plan – but i have to go according to the time line i set out.




Patience. Revenge is a dish served cold….

Boy the fraud, versatility, multiple names,intelligence,invention.

It sounds all too familiar. Did I miss sex addication? Oh well, I was skimming and the further I skimmed the worse it made me feel.

Breathe. One Step Breathe. You aren’t alone.

S*.* did I learn a bunch of info today. I feel just ill thinking about what I didn’t know I didn’t know. Or have any IDEA how to ask.

Wonder if the phone call I got the other day was a phishing expediditon. … Wondering why he hasn’t been served in jail for 3 weeks with no reason given except not yet.

Wonder if this knot in my stomach that keeps rising to to my throat will ever go away.

Wonder who it is who sits here writing this- she is so far estranged from the delirious wife who sat in this same place weeks ago. Now the snow is gone and the dandelions are out there in plain sight.

Now, instead of shoveling the walk I am shoveling through the Betrayal Bond trying to see if underneath that, there is any one I know. That I like.

God, this sucks.

Look at this one here.
What is true, really?
Well, today it is that the laundry needs done.
I can’t handle more than that.

The anxiety cost is too high.
I’m trying to do in weeks what others have in months or years.

Today brings down the notion I am outrunning my headlights, but the clock is ticking.

Tell me how you make a plan so that you can follow a plan of action that others can’t take control of and take away….

I am so weary of the legal profession.


silver – i am so glad you are here. i will write more, just give me a minute


silver – hi!

my plan is diff, unfortunately the legal system isn’t involved. well, not with me, but with another and the spath. the one who blogs about her.

i keep going slow because it overwhelms me. i am impulsive, i just want to do it and get it over with – BUT, partially in response to the fact that she threatened my livlihood (and could have cuase me trouble when the threat was made – at least enormous social embarrassment) and partially due to council here – i go slow.

actually many folks here said, no don’t do it. and what i took from that was – be careful and have a strategy. so i do.

my fake boy fake died in mid sept. i received a resurrection phone call in late oct. i have been NC since. changed all my contact info. waited out the job that could have been damaged. searched and researched, found her – and have found others who have been duped by her.

she’s been at it for about 3 decades. now, it is worse, now she has the web.

i want to cut out her tongue and cut off her hands.

i have become very old testament.

it takes months and months to let all this stuff sink in, then to let it rise up again. hens said the other night about 2.5 years. so, we have to allow it.

i struggle with anxiety. sometimes it wins. sometimes i just give in. my needs are pressing – i have no work. but sometimes i cannot make myself step up and do what needs to be done. other moments, it is easy.

what we are swimmming through is ancient. so we need to be as old and get as wise. and in the process, i think we shatter. how can we not? really?! it takes time to fathom the unfathomable.


…and ty for your opening line. i think i may have that tattooed on my ever expanding anxiety cache, known as my belly.


Anxiety cache – I get that.
It is so hard not to fall barkwards – out of balance.

Could I rationalize that he did what he did for love? That he was protecting? That is the likely persuasion. No, I can’t because the real world isn’t like that and things just don’t work that way, but the trap is still there.

Like walking through the forest knowing there are loops hidden under the leaves that will snap me up by my ankles for misstep. Oh look, the tatoo!

I don’t know which way is up because there are so many secrets. I don’t know who or where to trust. I hate that. Its a stark lesson in I have to trust myself and grow on up. And if he raises nonsense on the professional front which we were involved in together for that short time, then I’m going to have to rise above it.

There will be some price to pay that goes beyond anxiety but I don’t know what yet. I admit, it frightens me. A lot.

Maybe I made a mistake talking to the woman who said she is his wife. I don’t know. Was she real? maybe I made a mistake doing what I did today, but I did it and it will cause a problem at some point.

I keep saying to myself, he didn’t care about you except for what he could see that he wanted. He has no remorse and he is talking to somebody who isn’t you because he isn’t asking for your help or swearing his love to you any more. And he hates to be isolated.

The good guys won’t tell me anything because I have no need to know. I represent nothing to them. And they are in no hurry to serve my interests.

What a bucket of crap to have stepped into!



The beauty of geting angry about these things is that we can use that energy to keep going.

Even if everything else is a mess, feet still work.
All courage comes up from the soles of them.

Feet are really important it turns out.
They carry the anxiety cache around….

So, looking at this article and reflecting on his nibs, I know I wont spend my days that way what ever else will be true. And having made that decision, all I have to do now, is finish the laundry…..


i too have made what felt like misteps – and i suspect there will be a few more. but it’s almost done.

i have used the anger today to work on ‘the plan’.

there is fear under the anger. i can feel it worming around.

get facts. get as many facts as you can silver. you need to ground yourself in what is real. the illusions are so strong, and when we see that they are illusions we get knocked off center. finding our axis is about doing the old wise work – but grounding as we stand with the smashed bits of illusion is about having and repeating the EVIDENCE to ourselves.

one of my challenges was – she made many characters. some like syrup, some like thorns. i had to get them all into one shoe, and get them to stay there. it was REALLY hard. the next big challenge was to blend the words of the syrup running down my chin with the thorn words in my heart and spirit – I came back time and again to a few key things that the awful ones said (after i knew something was very wrong, but before i knew exactly what). that shear ugliness was the same person as the syrup.

now, those tings hang together for me. but i have never engaged with her since the big nastiness started – i never responded, and i cut her avenues to get to me.

my next big challenge is going to be the backlash. from the dupes who will understandably be disoriented, and from her. i will not respond to her. she can go fuck herself. but the others….not sure. that is the next piece of the plan – sorting that out. the more i talk the more i reveal – and i like being anonymous just fine.

there are big challenges. but lordy, we can only come out deeper and better. the betrayal bond is really good. it says why.
there is evil in the world. and it isn’t personal. and it can cut to our core. but i know you have the power to go through and move through. as do i. its a weird freaky ride. and i would rather no one goes through it – but damn, we WILL BE HEARTWOOD.

and they will still be heartless, disordered children of evil, who will know no redemption.


Dear Morgan Le Fay,

Heartwood is good.



Thank you mother.



Are we not all initiates of the place beyond mist to have landed here.

I want to reach out to him so badly the last few days- And when I write those letters the truth pours out, it wasn’t what it was supposed to be, it was secrets too far. It was too much looking back, to fathom. He broke every pormise he made to me.

Everyone around me questioned and could not find the answers to match. She told me he lies, he cheats and its compulsive. What part of me can’t be content to know this is so?

And I am feeling ripped again. I found out what I knew all along. One fact that makes the story start to come together. And it makes me doubtful of everything I see. What if I am wrong about it all? It could be a problem with a very final answer.

I know I’m not wrong to work forward from fact and rule, but that other part of me is writhing because if it wins, it doesn’t have to grieve for all which is lost when the last barge has sailed…..

So fitting this be black friday before Easter when he who forgave us and made himself the example of one betrayed made a never ending promise to advocate for us here, for the betrayed.

I’m having lots of deep thoughts in between.

Two months NC. Time flies when you’re having “fun” I guess….

The fat lady bends over the tomatoes
A full moon.


getting close to haiku there silver 😉

silver you are not wrong about it. trust.

i went through the same thing. it’s concern for the truth, but it is also bargaining. it is you bargaining with you; causes tears in the fabric.

you can’t go back. you know now. you can reach in to the part of yourself that feels the longing for what was – see what you can do for her. it is no longer about him. you have to let him wither, he is not in the pain you are in. it is not a broken partnership. it was a lie and he is a liar.

xx one step


One Step and Silvermoon your post above are so poetic and heartfelt and full of wisdom and truth…those are words of healing hearts,,,silvermoon those first two months I went no contact where longer than the two years that followed – so let the fat lady sing and the tomatoes ripen.


hey hens!!!


hens – am having a spathy day.

she conned some folks – AND GOT CAUGHT!!!!!!!!

OMG, i was SO angry to find out she was at it yet again. not that she stops, she rolls like a tank, but to find out about more people being sucked down.

but she got caught. 🙂 🙂

and is busy being REALLY pathetic. suspect she’ll burst into flames when i unroll ‘the plan.’ snort.

breathing in andddd ouuuut. 🙂

i am SO glad she got caught…hehe.

don’t have any details yet. hope they come, but fine if they don’t.


one step – let me share a famous quote by harry s. truman [don’t kick a fresh turd on a hot day] your x is smellin bad again let somebody else kick her ass – you have had enuff let it cool off and forget about her….


if you want to throw tomatoes.. I’m game!
I will watch the horizon for a fiery blast.
Sounds like there is going to be one about the color of tomatoes……..


hens -i’ll remember that the next time i go for walk in the park.

i can’t not do it hens.

it won’t be my career, but it will be a moment in time.


silver – 🙂


Have a Happy Easter!
Gonna be out and about a few days.

Thanks again for the recipe = we’re gonna make ’em tomorrow!



eat well!


Check out her eyes people:
and also how the smile doesn’t meet them.

Spotting a horror by looking into their eyes isn’t all that far fetched…after all our pupils are not black spots but deep holes leading into our brains. It makes sense that the electromagnetic energy of someones brain/mindset can make it through that hole into the outside world and anyone looking into it can pick up on it.
Just think about how different we all all feel when looking into different peoples eyes.
Her eyes to me? Not unlike those of someone else I’ve suspected of being a sociopath before. Very cold, logical eyes that give you a chill when you look into them. Nothing wrong with being logical but that’s all a sociopath is about and I think the eyes have it, with many of them….
Interesting huh! 😉

Lovefraud is being upgraded. Comments and forum posts are temporarily disabled. Dismiss

Send this to a friend