Crminal Minds Fact-Check: Episodes 101-102

Somehow, while reviewing Criminal Minds, I’ve neglected to cover one really important facet – the true cases that these episodes are based on. While not all of them qualify, I’m sure that there are enough true crime serial killer stories out there that the writers couldn’t help themselves from basing a few episodes on actual crimes. This affords me the opportunity to compare how the actual serial killers were caught, in comparison to the manner in the episodes.

The first real case we’ll look at is the ‘Footpath Killer’ from Episodes 101 and 102. A stuttering gas station attendant in the foothills of Virginia, he’s captured when Mandy Patinkin, who predicted that the killer would have a stutter, randomly happens across his place of employment.

So let’s take a look at the real case – the Trailside killer, who murdered women on hiking trails in the wide assortment of parks around San Francisco. John Douglas (The Mindhunter!) examined the evidence and came up with a profile much like Mandy Patinkin’s from the episode: Bad in social situations, likely a stutterer. Other elements in the real profile that didn’t make it into the episode: He would be intelligent, and have spent time in prison.

In the episode this profile was integral to catching the killer. Knowing that the killer would stutter was almost as important as the creepy wall of victim polaroids that the killer kept in plain view behind the counter of his gas station. A gas station that Mandy, and I can’t stress this part enough, completely randomly stopped at one day.

In the real story, the profile wasn’t so vital. So how was the trailside killer caught? Left a victim alive. When killing a couple he didn't pay enough attention to the man and wound up leaving the guy alive. That victim was able to give a good description of the killer and the kind of car he drove, minus the license plate. Interestingly, a car and physical description of the guy weren’t enough to catch him.

But then the killer decided to murder someone he knew, and the next victim had mentioned to friends that she was going to meet with ‘David Carpenter’, a local teacher, on the day she was murdered. The police checked this David Carpenter out, and discovered that not only did he look just like the witness’ description, but he also drove the exact same kind of car. He’d previously been convicted of sexual assault, and, proving Douglas right, he did, in fact, stutter.

Also, he was the last person known to be with the victim, and that guy winds up being the killer like eighty percent of the time.

Note that, in the real case, while the profiler was dead on with his analysis, it was in no way useful in actually catching the killer. While knowing that he’s a smart, stuttering criminal might be fun, it’s nowhere near as good as having a witness who can describe him or a victim implicating him as her last act on earth.

Real Life Profilers 0, Real Life Policework 1


Morten Eide said...

Love your analysis. This is great reading. Thanks for your hard work.

CSI Miami Sucks

JOSEPH from SPAIN said...


CSI Miami Sucks.