What’s It Really Like to Interview a Murderer? Troy Roberts From ‘Killer Motive’ Describes Death Threats and Shriners
Roberts took Showbiz Cheat Sheet on a journey into how he approaches an interview with a murderer, which included some harrowing but oddly hilarious accounts. Roberts said that, believe it or not, murderers usually look forward to having their big moment on national television and are delighted to be in the limelight.
What is the best way to approach a killer during an interview?
“When you interview killers, they’re in their cells,” Roberts explained. “It’s a big thing for them. I try to relay that to producers, that when you’re scheduling a network interview, the killer knows it’s coming. You want to do it quickly when they agree. Because you can’t let them start thinking too long. They’ll just be sitting there thinking, thinking, thinking about it.”
Typically, the killer will discuss the interview with other inmates who like to give their input into how it should be approached. “So then [the killer will] have their script prepared in their head,” he said. “And when we sit down I always just sit there and go to the meat of it, because I know that’s what they’re thinking. And I just let them speak.”
His strategy is to allow the subject to blurt out their “script” before he then goes into the actual interview. “Then I double back,” he shared.
“Uninterrupted, just say what you gotta say. Because they want to say what they have to say. But then you dissect it,” Roberts said. “You go back, you dissect it but what always stops them is, ‘Why are you here?'”
‘Preppy Killer’ Robert Chambers only talked to Troy Roberts
Roberts said he does not get overly nervous before talking with criminals. The hair doesn’t stand up on the back of his neck during the interviews either. But he has had some strange experiences that seem to just be part of the job. Roberts scored the only interview with “Preppy Killer” Robert Chambers after his release from prison in 2003.
In 1986, Chambers, then 19 years old and known for his clean-cut appearance and upper-crust background, was accused of murdering his 18-year-old friend Jennifer Levin in Central Park. Chambers’ trial became a media circus. He ultimately pleaded guilty to manslaughter and served 15 years in prison.
Roberts and his team picked Chambers up from prison and whisked him away to a hotel for a private, exclusive interview. “We picked him up after he was released,” Roberts recalled. “We went to a hotel outside of D.C. so yeah, I was with Robert for about a week. Along with his mother, and father … and Shriners…”
“I was stuck in the hotel with Robert Chambers and like 100 Shriners,” Roberts laughed. “We were all trapped.” Chambers was arrested again in 2004 and has been in and out of prison since.
Troy Roberts describes the ‘satanist wearing braces’
Roberts shared that having a good sense of humor is vital to maintaining perspective on the job, especially when the killer in question is threatening your life. Roberts found himself face-to-face with the 16-year-old who murdered radio journalist George Weber. The killer, John Katehis, stabbed the radio host 50 times in 2009.
Roberts met Katehis privately in juvenile detention, which is when he was threatened. “So I was locked in a room because it was so high profile,” he recalled. “And he came in, and he was a satanist, anarchist … all these things. So he came in and they locked the door, and he looks at me and goes, ‘Who are you?'”
“I told him who I was and he became enraged,” Roberts continued. “He started screaming that he was gonna kill me.”
“And then I realized, he had braces,” Roberts burst out laughing. “He was wearing braces! I’m like the door is locked and it was so much to process. I’m trying to hide my pen, but at the same time I’ve never met a satanist wearing braces!”
Go on more wild adventures with Roberts on his series Killer Motive, which airs Saturdays at 6/5c on Oxygen.