Chris Ambrose’s Psychopathy Score: A Wake-Up Call for Family Court and Child Protection Services
Days after 16-year-old Mia fled from her father, he embarked on a mission to force her back. Mia sought refuge with her mother.
However, Chris Ambrose of Madison, CT, chased Mia with his car, involved the police, stalked her at her workplace and her mother’s residence, and managed to obtain a restraining order against her mother on Mia’s behalf. In a twist of justice and against Mia’s preferences, she found herself separated from her mother’s protection.
Connecticut Family Court Judge Thomas J. O’Neill, who issued the restraining order, made Mia and her brothers, Matthew (16), and Sawyer (13), homeless, leaving them even more vulnerable to their persistent father, Christopher Ambrose.
Karen Riordan, the children’s mother, turned to Dr. Bandy Lee, MD, MDiv, a forensic psychiatrist and expert on violence, in a bid to protect her children from their father. The original purpose of Dr. Lee’s visits with Riordan was to assess the mother so that she could provide testimony to the court as to where the children should live.
Upon examining the situation, Dr. Lee came to believe that Ambrose exhibited psychopathic tendencies.
Dr. Lee employed the Hare Psychopathy Checklist–Revised (PCL-R), the gold standard for diagnosing psychopathy. This condition is defined by a lack of empathy, a conscience deficit, cruelty, deceit, and anti-social actions. Psychopaths have a predatory and manipulative approach in relationships, causing widespread harm to those they encounter.
On May 3, 2023, Dr. Lee conducted the PCL-R test on 61-year-old Christopher Ambrose.
The PCL-R uses a 20-item symptom construct, where each answer is scored between 0 and 2. A total score of 30 or above indicates psychopathy. Typically, non-offenders score around 5, while many non-psychopathic criminals score about 22. The PCL-R doesn’t depend primarily on interviews since psychopaths often lie and manipulate.
According to Dr. Lee, Ambrose’s score was 32, placing him firmly within the psychopathy range.
Dr. Lee noted that to make a fuller diagnosis, Ambrose should be interviewed. However, she pointed out that an assessment of psychopathy relies more on actual behavior patterns, reports from victims, and interviews with those familiar with the individual, like relatives, friends, and colleagues.
Dr. Lee said:
“It is a common characteristic of psychopathic individuals to mislead, cheat, or otherwise violate the rights of other people.
“They, through a superficially charming presentation, are often capable of eliciting exceptional levels of sympathy from others as an effective means of escaping accountability for their violence—for example, they may recruit others as ‘patrons’ or ‘pawns’ to help them turn the narrative around to incriminating their victims instead.”
The statements of a psychopath to an evaluator using the Hare Checklist are not deemed reliable.
Dr. Lee, a former faculty member at Yale School of Medicine and Director of Research for Harvard’s Center for the Study of Violence, highlighted that a PCL-R score of 30 or more is alarming and may even contraindicate parenting. Ambrose’s score of 32 suggests a psychopathic diagnosis or, at the least, alarming psychopathic traits.
Dr. Lee pointed out once of Ambrose’s traits:
“Separating growing children from their mother and primary caregiver [which Ambrose did] is one of the worst forms of abuse, which can have lifelong ramifications as well as decades of loss of life for each child—and can be a sign of this dangerous personality disorder.”
Dr. Lee has an extensive resume: she contributed to the World Report on Violence and Health for WHO, co-wrote the UN Secretary General’s chapter on “Violence Against Children”, and spearheaded the 2014 Global Status Report on Violence Prevention. With over 100 peer-reviewed articles, 17 edited scholarly publications, and a textbook titled “Violence: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Causes, Consequences, and Cures” to her name.
She also expressed concern over the family court’s ability to recognize “successful” psychopaths.
Dr Lee wrote:
“The family court system or child protection services are often ill-equipped to deal with ‘successful’ psychopaths, such that their litigation abuse has amounted to an international crisis, as declared by the United Nations, as a form of violence against women and children.”
Ambrose’s PCL-R breakdown, leading to a total of 32 points out of a possible 40, is as follows:
- Glibness/superficial charm: 2
- Egocentricity/grandiose sense of self-worth: 2
- Proneness to boredom/low frustration tolerance: 2
- Pathological lying and deception: 2
- Conning/lack of sincerity: 2
- Lack of remorse or guilt: 2
- Lack of affect and emotional depth: 2
- Callous/lack of empathy: 2
- Parasitic lifestyle: 2
- Short-tempered/poor behavioral controls: 2
- History of promiscuous sexual relations: 1
- History of early behavior problems: 0
- Lack of realistic, long-term plans: 2
- Impulsivity: 2
- Irresponsible behavior: 2
- Frequent marital relationships: 0
- History of juvenile delinquency: 0
- Revocation of conditional release: 0
- Failure to accept responsibility for own actions: 2
- Many types of offense: 2
In 2013, Dr. Lee’s expertise was recognized when an evaluation she wrote for a San Francisco violence prevention project won the Ash Institute Award. The plan she wrote was adopted in U.K., Poland, New Zealand, Singapore, and Mexico.
But now the violence prevention Dr. Lee is concerned about involves three teenagers from Connecticut, banned from their protective mother, and now fled to an undisclosed location in NY to avoid their father, who is hunting them from place to place.
Dr. Lee warned, “This potential for Mr. Ambrose’s dangerousness, especially where children are involved, should not be overlooked.”