I will die without ever having done anything good

Note from Amy: The following is an excerpt from the beginning of my book, Diary of a Predator: A Memoir.

I can’t remember much about when I was real young except fear and shame and lack of courage.
—Brent Brents

This is the story of one of America’s most notorious sexual criminals, Brent Brents, from his childhood of horrific abuse to his adulthood on the streets of Denver, where he stalked, raped, and tortured multiple victims before police captured him in February 2005.

Brent pleaded guilty to eighty criminal charges, including sexual assault, kidnapping, and attempted murder, and in July 2005 received the largest sentence in Colorado history: 1,509 years.

At the time I started working on Brent’s case, I was a Denver Post criminal justice reporter, cynical and driven. I’ve often said this is
the tale of two predators—one a criminal, the other a journalist—for don’t we as journalists often prey upon people for their story? So this is also the account of my own awakening.

The year before his case erupted, I coauthored an all-consuming investigative series about sexual assault and domestic violence in the
military called “Betrayal in the Ranks.” Fellow Post staffer Miles Moffeit and I invested every fiber of our beings into those stories to honor the amazing women who counted on us to be their voice, leaving behind our families, our friends, and our health in the process. The series prompted investigations and spurred congressional reforms, but left me empty and exhausted. It took me months to truly care about journalism again, and then the Brents case caught my attention.

The prospect of writing about sexual crime from the perspective of the perpetrator, not the survivor, revived my interest.
He was the most predatory criminal I’d ever encountered, and I hoped that through him, I would perhaps understand all the faceless
men who had assaulted the hundreds of survivors whose stories I’ve told and carried all these years, like a heavy bag of so many broken hearts.

I scrutinized him as I would a bug under a microscope—indeed, that’s what I told him. Yet my curiosity was never tinged with
hate, a reaction that I soon learned to my surprise would alienate me from just about everyone I knew, especially those in my
own newsroom. There’s no such thing as objectivity in journalism.

Still, I was pumped by the amazing opportunity: Criminals on the scale of Brents rarely cooperate with efforts to pick their brain.
Coincidentally, it was my lack of contempt that prompted Brents to continue to call and write me. As one former FBI profiler told me,
“You did one thing right from the very beginning, and that’s why he talked to you: You never judged him.”

Instead, I began to judge myself.
I did not expect what would happen—that by probing Brents for the story of how he was made, I would uncover parts of myself in
the process. His case affected me in ways I could not have predicted, for it illuminated my growing disillusionment with the callous media of which I was a part. Those effects continue to this day, as does the correspondence between us that began shortly after his capture and included him sending me his journal, a meticulous record of his crimes and his history. I have been able to verify his accounts by corroborating the details through interviews with officials and witnesses, as well as court records and criminal and medical reports.

Because of the unprecedented access he allowed me, this book is more than simply the true story of the crimes Brents committed.
It is also the rare story of the psyche of the sociopathic man revealed and the impact it had on the journalist covering the case. Through Brents, I realized truths about the human condition and our assumptions of evil—that it is not assigned, but constructed. I also discovered I could no longer continue to be the reporter I once had been, forsaking myself and my family to pursue a story.

Throughout the book, I make use of excerpts from his journal, our letters, and interviews, in addition to the extensive research I conducted as a reporter. Anything attributed to Brents journal is exactly as he wrote it, including punctuation and spelling.

With his history and “jacket”—the notoriety of his crimes that accompanies him to prison—Brents expects to eventually be killed
by other inmates. “My biggest fear,” he wrote me, “is that I will die without ever having done anything good.”

His experience of the world is violent, calculating, pathetic, and wrenching—but it is still the same world in which we all live. It is
Brents’ hope, and mine, that by presenting his life in unflinching fashion, we will learn something from it.

November 2010
To the reader:
As you read this book, you may find yourself experiencing
a wide range of emotions. But I ask of you only to keep an
open mind.
You may very well find yourself full of opinion towards
myself and the author. No matter how you feel about me
or my actions—hate me, be wary of my sincerity if you
choose—please, if you are a parent, planning on being a
parent or are someone who is responsible for the wellbeing
of children: Treat them with dignity, respect and love. Be
good role models. Teach them empathy, compassion and
integrity. Regardless of your financial, emotional and
physical situations, show them how to overcome and achieve.
Be loving and attentive. Listen to them, hear them, spend
time with them and nurture them. Most of all, give them
your heart forever so that they will become good people.
—B. Brents

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