Scott Peterson is a cold-blooded murderer who, without compunction, killed his pregnant wife Laci and their unborn child Conner. Calculating, evil, twisted -- Peterson is all these things. Messy, however, he is not. [Update: Drew Peterson, the Chicago-area eraser killer, was finally arrested for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio]

By cleaning up his grisly mess with the precision of a Ritz-Carlton maid, Peterson was nearly able to erase all traces of his crime. And he's not the first perfect-husband-turned-murderer to do this, according to journalist Marilee Strong.

She says these highly-organized crimes have a distinct pattern that sets them apart from the family-obliterating murder-suicides or domestic violence killings we're used to hearing about.

Strong covered the Peterson case from the time Laci went missing all the way through Scott's trial. "I started to see that as horrible as this case was, it wasn't unique," she says. "It led me to develop a profile of what I call 'eraser killers.'"

Strong believes that by understanding eraser killers, law enforcement can investigate more effectively. She described these murderers in her book "Erased: Missing Women, Murdered Wives" and in a recent conversation with Lemondrop.

Click below to read her description of the motives and men (and yes, in some cases women) behind these chilling crimes.

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Eraser Killers
Marilee Strong, author of "Erased: Missing Women, Murdered Wives," explains a unique pattern of killings that often go undetected.
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Phil Walter, Getty Images

Eraser Killers

    Marilee Strong, author of "Erased: Missing Women, Murdered Wives" describes a particularly chilling type of murderer.

    A Different Type of Violence
    Your typical domestic homicide is sponatenous -- committed in a sudden rage or the heat of passion. There's a chaotic crime scene and often a history of escalating violence.

    In what I call "eraser killings," the domestic homicides are made to look like something else. In many cases, like
    Scott Peterson
    's, it's made to look as if the woman has vanished. There's no crime scene, no body, nothing for the police to work on. Other times the crime is staged to look like an accident or a suicide.

    These eraser killings, and I've found hundreds fitting the profile, involve extensive planning and they are carried out with meticulous precision.

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    Seemingly Perfect
    In many cases, there are no warning signs at all. There's no way Laci could have seen that coming, though Scott had long lived a secret life. There are very often secret debts, or completely phony lives – like Mark Hacking, who told his wife he was going to medical school when in fact he hadn't graduated college.

    Sometimes it's the unraveling of these secrets that leads to the killings. For Scott Peterson it may have been the impending birth of his son, which would put a cramp on his picture of himself as this available bachelor.

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    Something Not Right
    But some women had a feeling something would happen and in many cases told friends or relatives, "If something happens, check out my husband."

    In one case recently, a Baptist minister Matt Baker claimed to have found his wife Kari dead in bed with a bottle of over-the-counter sleeping pills. They later discovered on his computer that he's researched death by overdose of sleeping pills. She also told a counselor who came forward after her death that she had found a bag of crushed pills in her husband's briefcase. This took months of preparation.

    dontevengetstarted.blogspot.com / police photo

    What Makes an Eraser Killer
    There are three aspects to their psychological profile. First, they have psychopathic traits and no empathy. If they can take their pregnant wife's body and chop it into pieces and put them through a woodchipper or anchor them in the bay --- what person could do that if they had human emotion at that level? Yet these people aren't out of control, they're not Charles Manson. The violence is limited to their wife or girlfriend, sometimes their children or fetus.

    They're so narcissistic, and they want to be center of world they reach a point where they see these women and children as a burden, as an inconvenience. They're not motivated by jealousy, rage or revenge. Those things may be secondary, but what they want to do is wipe the slate clean and erase the person as if it never happened.

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    The third aspect of their psychology is Machiavellianism – the ability to manipulate others and strategize and plan in very dark ways. They have an image they portray to the world as very successful. Ira Einhorn, a world-renown peace expert, killed his girlfriend Holly Maddux and left her in a box in his home for 18 months.

    These men are so cold-hearted they're perfectly happy to lie to the media, police and loved ones. Part of the narcissism is that they think they're smarter than everyone and can pull off the perfect murder – they enjoy the battle of wit.

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    Getting Away With It
    Many of these men get away with murder once and then employ the exact same plan. Tim Boczkowski (shown) had two wives drown, one in a bathtub and one in a hot tub. It's very hard for a healthy adult woman to drown in a bathtub accidentally. It makes you wonder how many people stop at one and are never even suspected.

    A dentist named Barton Corbin staged both previous girlfriends' deaths to look like suicides. That to me is the saddest of all the phony ruses. It puts the added stigma of suicide on those who loved the woman to go on thinking that they could have done something – when in fact, these were straight-out murders.

    AP

    Easier Than Divorce
    Because of their unusual psychology, they believe it is easier, quicker and more emotionally satisfying to kill than to get a divorce. They're so selfish, they don't want to share anything or have to support a wife or a child – they just want to start over.

    Drew Peterson, another case in the news, two of his previous wives his 2nd and 3rd wives both allegedly told people they he said he'd kill them to make it look like an accident. The third wife ended up drowned, and there's suspicion he killed his 3rd.

    And some just can't handle the idea of potentially looking bad by getting a divorce. Scott Peterson didn't want to divorce Laci because that would hurt her – yet somehow, killing her wouldn't hurt her?

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    Cases Going Cold
    Many cases fall into this netherworld where nothing ever happens -- they're not officially closed, they're not prosecuted. Police don't even know where to start if there's no apparent crime. Especially with young women or teenagers, the cases sit there because they're assumed to be runaways.

    I sympathize with DAs because you only get one try. If he's exonerated because there's no evidence, even if the body shows up in his backyard after that he can't be retried.

    In the MeLisa Cleary case, the police have been closed-mouth so it's hard to tell, but there are definitely trademarks of an eraser killing. A couple is in the process of separating and she goes missing. She has kids she loves, there is no reason she'd walk away. And the minute her body is found, the guy behaves strangely.

    Tazewell Country Sheriff

    When Women Kill
    The profile I write about is men but I think there are some women who may fit this profile. You usually don't see women killing their spouse and children, it's maybe a spouse or children. Susan Smith drove her children into a lake, and her motivation appeared to be that the man she was dating didn't want kids. Her kids were suddenly inconvenient, so she had to get rid of them to have the life she wanted.

    There seem to be elements of premeditation with Casey Anthony (shown), if what we've heard in the media is to be believed – the not reporting Caylee missing, the clubbing after she disappeared, the researching chloroform. There's some indication that she thought of her child as a burden.

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    Sense of Entitlement
    Another woman who definitely falls into the category is Melanie McGuire. She's a nurse in New Jersey who killed her husband, and evidence emerged that she got a man she was seeing to prescribe a sedative. She gave it to her husband, killed him, cut up his body, stashed it in plastic bags and threw them off a bridge.

    Police found the husband's car parked in Atlantic City, so it would look like a professional killing over a gambling debt. That degree of planning and then the coverup is what you don't usually see in women. But in this case, the motivation is there – she had a man she didn't want to give up and she had that sense of entitlement about unburdening herself.

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