Lecter was caught in 1975 by FBI Special Agent Will Graham. Graham was investigating the murders in the Baltimore area, and had turned to Lecter for professional (and personal) advice. When Graham questioned Lecter at his psychiatric practice, he noticed some antique medical books in his office. Upon seeing these, Graham suspected Lecter was the killer as the sixth victim had been killed in his workshop and laced to a pegboard in a manner reminiscent of the Wound Man – an illustration used in many early medical books. Graham left to call the police, but while he was on the phone Lecter attacked him with a linoleum knife. Graham survived the encounter and Lecter was arrested.
After Lecter's arrest, Graham was briefly committed to a mental institution, and retired upon recovering from his wounds.
The courts found Lecter insane. Thus, he was spared prison and sent to the Baltimore State Forensic Hospital (later the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane). Many of the families of his victims pursued lawsuits against Lecter to have their files destroyed. The FBI investigated four more patients who had died under Lecter's care. He was nicknamed "Hannibal the Cannibal" in the National Tattler, a tabloid that also published unauthorized photos of Graham in the hospital after being attacked by Lecter.
Another officer retired from the FBI after being the first to discover Lecter's basement. His electroencephalogram (EEG) showed a bizarre pattern and, given his history, was ultimately branded "a pure sociopath" by the hospital's administrator, Frederick Chilton. Lecter was considered far "too sophisticated" for most forms of psychological evaluation, especially considering the fact that he enjoyed staying abreast of all of the latest developments in his field: since he knew how the tests worked, no one could use them on him.
Lecter was a model patient until the afternoon of July 8, 1976. Upon complaining of chest pains, he was taken to the infirmary where his restraints were removed. He attacked a nurse who was then placing leads for an electrocardiogram (EKG) onto his chest, tearing out her eye, dislocating her jaw and eating her tongue. His pulse never went above 85 beats per minute. During the struggle with the orderlies, his shoulder was dislocated.
Following the incident, Lecter was treated very carefully by the hospital staff. He was often confined to heavy restraints, a straitjacket and muzzle, and he was only transported when strapped to a hand-truck. A new administrator, Chilton, was appointed. Chilton and Lecter's relationship was marked by mutual hatred. What Lecter saw as Chilton's mediocrity and inflated self-importance offended Lecter, who often humiliated his keeper, while Lecter's "constant mind games" and "slipperiness" infuriated Chilton, who punished him by removing his books and toilet seat. Lecter diagnosed this form of punishment as indicative of the damnation of society by half-measures. "Any rational society would kill me, or give me my books."
By contrast, Lecter reached a mutual respect with his primary caregiver and warden, Barney Matthews, and the two often shared thoughts over Barney's correspondence courses.
During his stay in the hospital, Lecter would help with two FBI cases. Graham came out of retirement in 1978 to help out with the "Tooth Fairy" case and, while at a dead end, he went to Lecter for help. Lecter "helped" by sending a coded message to the killer, Francis Dolarhyde, to kill Graham and his family, resulting in Graham being permanently disfigured in an attack by Dolarhyde.
Five years later, Jack Crawford sent FBI trainee Clarice Starling to Lecter. Starling thought she was there for a class assignment, hoping to get Lecter to take a questionnaire, but she ended up getting him to help her in the "Buffalo Bill" case. In both of these instances, Lecter used word play and subtle clues to help Crawford and Starling figure it out themselves.
Buffalo Bill's latest kidnappee was Catherine Martin, daughter of Sen. Ruth Martin. Lecter told Chilton he would reveal Buffalo Bill's real name to Martin and was promptly flown to Memphis and held at the Shelby County Courthouse. During his stay in Memphis, Lecter lied to Martin, giving her the fake name "Billy Rubin." (Bilirubin is a pigment found in feces, the same colour as Chilton's hair, Lecter's hint that the name was fake).
Following Hannibal Lecter's escape, Lecter had plastic surgery and also had his distinctive sixth finger removed. Lecter avoided reconstruction of his nose to protect his unctuous enjoyment of fragrances.
Lecter relocated in Florence, Italy. In Florence, he took the pseudonym "Dr. Fell," a reference to the Tom Brown translation of Martial's epigram "Non amo te, Sabidi" ("I do not love thee, Doctor Fell / The reason why, I cannot tell.") As Dr. Fell, Lecter's charm won him the recently vacated position of museum curator, who he had murdered.
Modus operandi and victim profiles
- Paul Momund - eviscerated with a katana and beheaded
- Vladis Grutas - had large letter 'M's carved in his chest and body; was reduced to ash when Lecter rigged his yacht to explode
- Zigmas Milko - drowned in Formalin solution in a cadaver tank
- Enrikas Dortlich - his head was ripped off after Lecter tied his neck to a horse; his cheeks were then cut off. Hannibal later confessed that he had eaten them.
- Petras Kolnas - was stabbed through the head with a tanto dagger
- Bronys Grentz - was beheaded by Lecter who then mailed the head to a taxidermist
Chesapeake Ripper Murders
- At least nine anonymous clients of Dr. Lecter's psychiatric practice
- An unnamed census taker - liver eaten
- An unnamed bow hunter
- An unnamed Princeton student
- Mason Verger - drugged and mutilated
- Benjamin Raspail - pierced in the heart, later cannibalized
- Dr. Frederick Chilton