Del Mar psychologist provides commentary for ‘True Crime’ show
By Diane Y. Welch
When reality television contestant Ryan Jenkins made headlines in 2009 for the brutal murder of his wife, model Jasmine Fiore, then his own suicide, people wondered why it happened. Del Mar’s Dr. Richard Levak, a licensed clinical psychologist, said he believes he knows what may have triggered Jenkins to become a murderer.
“Jenkins was an intelligent, attractive male who was able to look good on the surface, but if he was crossed he was angry and explosive. He was a psychopath,” Levak said.
An expert on personality traits, Levak was recently invited by the producers of the TV series “True Crime with Aphrodite Jones,” which airs on the Investigation Discovery channel, as a guest expert to provide commentary on the personality of Jenkins, who had reportedly stayed at L’Auberge Del Mar just prior to Fiore’s murder and Jenkins’ subsequent suicide.
True Crime delves into high-profile crime cases, which have included those involving OJ Simpson, Phil Spector and others.
Aphrodite Jones, author and the host of the show, recently interviewed Levak in his Del Mar home to get his perspective on the case. Levak was filmed with Jones for an episode on the Ryan Jenkins case that will air during the spring season. Jones sought his opinion on Jenkins and what caused him to kill.
The producers of the VH1 reality series, “Megan Wants a Millionaire,” that featured Jenkins, liked him so much they wanted to cast him in their new show, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” recalled Levak. But when the producers changed their minds and rejected Jenkins he instead married Fiore in Las Vegas. “It was a boomerang effect,” said Levak.
Then something snapped inside Jenkins where he spun out of control. “When psychopaths are rejected they can become violent, especially if they feel emotionally wounded.” This was a possible scenario for the murder case, he said.
Unlike most psychologists, who are trained in the principles of behavior, Levak’s training focuses on personality traits.
“What I’m interested in is, what is the genetic personality type and how the environment aggravates it, shapes it, enhances it,” said Levak. When he understands the personality type, Levak is able to predict the type of behavior that a person may engage in.
To do so, Levak uses the “Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory,” which was developed more than 60 years ago, but remains the most used test in the world. Levak has developed an adaptation of the test that measures the personality of normal people, and so he is able to use it to couples to show compatibility or possible conflicts that may arise. (On his web site Levak says he works “primarily with individuals and couples who are looking to improve their relationships, work through life transitions, or just find happiness and a greater sense of well-being.”)
Levak also consults for companies, works in the media and is an expert witness in forensic cases.
Past TV appearances include Larry King Live, 20/20, Nightline and the Anderson Cooper Show. His skills are utilized to cast reality TV; he was instrumental in casting contestants for “Survivor,” “Amazing Race,” “Apprentice” and others.
Levak is currently working on a possible pilot for a TV show that looks at the personalities of all types of couples — brothers and sisters, husband and wives, mothers and daughters, co-workers — who are having relationship problems or issues.
“We test their personalities and work with them on TV to help them understand each other’s personalities. The idea is to really help people know each other and to get the best out of each other,” Levak said.
A native of England, Levak came to the U.S. in the mid ’70s. He obtained his degree in psychology, specializing in personality assessment, from the California School of Professional Psychology. He is a member of: American Psychological Association, California & San Diego Psychological Associations, and is a charter member and Diplomate of the American Board of Assessment Psychology, and a fellow of the Society for Personality Assessment. He has been in private practice for more than 30 years.
To find out more about Levak, visit his website at www.drlevak.com. The “True Crime with Aphrodite Jones” segment on Ryan Jenkins will air on the Investigation Discovery channel, at a date yet to be determined, during the 10-episode season which kicks off March 31. For more, visit http://investigation.discovery.com/tv/true-crime/
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