A version of this post was published at Doubtful News.
by Bo Gardiner
Connecticut media needs remedial critical thinking training. Earlier this month, Connecticut Public Radio aired a bizarre and unquestioning interview with “psychic detectives” who made outrageously false claims about their supposed help to authorities in finding missing people. Now more news of Connecticut broadcasters’ obsession with psychics emerges. “Spiritual medium”
Lisa Lanno is best known for appearing weekly on a Hartford, CT, Fox TV morning “news” show called “Medium Monday.” In December 2012, Lanno was rather disappointingly invited on PBS station WGBY’s nightly public affairs program “Connecting Point” to discuss communication with the dead. She was joined by the mother of murdered 20-year-old Amanda Plasse, about a year after the August 2011 crime. The killer’s identity was still unknown, and the reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction had recently been upped to $10,000. Carrie Saldo was the show’s host:
CS: The 2011 murder of Chicopee resident Amanda Plasse remains unsolved… Recently [Amanda’s mother Michelle] Mathieson teamed up with medium Lisa Lanno to see if that would result in any new information…
MM: Nothing right now. No… no leads.
CS: No new information since…
Psychic Lanno is incoherent in her attempt to explain her failure:
LL: [Amanda] will give me some validations that are very specific, and I’ll bring them to her mother… I’ll ask Michelle, “Does that make sense to you? Does that make sense to you?” And even if I don’t know exactly what’s going on, she will tell me “Yes, that makes sense.” Because in order to do this type of work, I have to validate with her that these things make sense. Because otherwise—people should be skeptical, it’s good, you should be. So it’s my job to prove it and say “Does this make sense to you?” And when she says, “Yes, that makes sense…”
CS: [Interrupting] So, Lisa, in terms of information that Amanda has communicated to you, do you feel that you’ve received any information that might help lead to the person who murdered Amanda?
LL: Good question. She’s given me a lot of information, but there’s not necessarily anything I can do personally with that information. It’s a big puzzle. What I see may make sense to Michelle, it may make sense to the police, but I don’t have the authority to go in and arrest somebody…
CS: Well, of course.
LL: And if you think about it, it’s all a big puzzle. If any medium were able to get every little speck of information… our lives would be in danger, and then there’d be no need for police…
Lanno did go on to say that Amanda had revealed her interest in sunflowers, tattoos and Pink Floyd. Another year later, an arrest was finally made in November 2013. Amanda had filed a police report of a burglary before her death, which led police to obtain DNA evidence on the man she suspected of being the burglar:
A state police report made public in March stated that DNA evidence led investigators to Rosa-Roman, whom Plasse suspected of breaking into her apartment several weeks before she was killed.
A third year passes. And as usual, the psychic’s story has evolved into something unrecognizable and bigger than life. Lanno claimed yesterday in a TV interview that she did help the police find Plasse’s killer: The interview, billed as one in which “Lanno discusses how she assists investigators in such cases,” was by Theresa Dufour on WTNH, a Connecticut CBS affiliate. Dufour introduces the segment with a highly questionable claim of her own:
TD: When an investigation hits a stone wall, sometimes the police turn to an unlikely source of information: psychics, or mediums… How do you help out, Lisa?
LL: …If they’re speaking to you from a spirit point of view, you know they’ve probably passed.
TD: Do you tell [the family]?
LL: What we usually say is “Whether this person is deceased or alive, I can connect with them….”
We’ll just pass by for now the fact that psychics have caused horrible grief to families this way, either telling them wrongly their children were dead, causing them to give up searches prematurely, or the opposite– encouraging them to hang onto false hope long after they should have been trying to move on with their lives.
Lanno then offers the Plasse case as a supposed example of “police turning to psychics when they hit a stone wall.” She describes “seeing” Amanda being stabbed by a man with a knife, scratching at him, and later learning there was DNA found under her fingernails. Dufour replies, “Wow, that was pretty accurate!” Of course, there had already been a tremendous amount of information about the murder in the papers, including most controversially, photos of the crime scene itself, that would have led anyone to make such a guess. We’re not told how many of her guesses were wrong, of course. But then Lanno makes her strongest claim to date:
LL: I could see his face… I was able to figure out where he was from and what he looked like…
She then goes into the nearly identical excuse-making as before:
LL: Could I give a name…? Not really. And if you think about that logically—people say ‘why can’t you just solve it?” If a psychic or anybody was able to completely one hundred percent solve it, that would really put us in a lot of jeopardy. It would put us in danger.
I guess that’s why no detective ever solves a crime, because it might put them in danger. If I saw a killer’s face and knew where he lived, I wouldn’t hesitate a second before sitting down with a police artist. But hey, that’s me. Lanno ends with the bizarre statement:
LL: Whenever [Amanda’s mother] wants to talk to Amanda, all she has to do… is just call me.
Huh? Why doesn’t Amanda just talk to her own mother instead of to a complete stranger? Why doesn’t Amanda share the identity of her killer instead of sunflowers, tattoos and Pink Floyd? Does Amanda not want to keep this monster from killing again? Does she not care that her mother remains greatly troubled, wanting the case solved more than anything in the world? The fact that the mother claims to find some comfort in Lanno doesn’t erase that Lanno is publicly insulting this dead woman’s memory.
As is inevitably the case for every one of these claims, there’s no evidence to support Lanno’s claim. Worse, the evidence we do have contradicts her claim:
- If Lanno had in fact “seen” the killer’s face and “where he was from,” why did the murder remain unsolved for two years?
- Why do police and court reports give a very different account of how they came to identify the killer?
- Why, if Lanno had such critical information, did the mother say that months of working with Lanno had produced “no leads” and no new information? The killer’s face and location would seem like pretty strong leads to me.
- Why is there no mention of Lanno in any of the many news reports of the alleged killer’s arrest and court proceedings?
- Are we to assume Lanno received the $10,000 reward, and is too humble to mention it on her website, Facebook page or many press releases? Sure.
I find no reference in the news or on Lanno’s website to other police cases she’s “helped.” There are, however, plenty of unquestioning media profiles of her which dutifully parrot her press bio, citing her “paranormal work with police on missing person or murder cases.” And what’s with the complete absence of challenging questions or skepticism on the part of any of these interviewers? Dufour is billed as Connecticut’s “favorite on air personality in both Hartford and New Haven Magazines over the years and was recently named to Connecticut Magazine’s ‘40 under 40 list.’”
I guess that’s how you get noticed these days.