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Rykov to the Acklin family

Arthur Rykov is a serial killer, family annihilator, stalker, and robber who appeared in the Season Eight episode of Criminal Minds, "Through the Looking Glass".


Rykov was born sometime in 1966. After his mother died, he was sent to live with his strict Russian Orthodox father, who regarded him as little more than an obstacle for his faith. As a result, the family dynamic was dysfunctional in some unspecified way, most likely through neglect and/or abuse. Rykov would watch the family across the street, fantasizing that they were the "perfect" family and that he was one of them. However, while still at school, he caught the family's father having an affair with one of his teachers. His image shattered, Rykov attacked the teacher, but the crime went uncharged due to a lack of evidence. As an adult, Rykov eventually went into business and founded A.R. Electrical, making a lot of money for himself and enabling him to build a house where he could live out his fantasy of punishing dysfunctional families. He would use his job to infiltrate their homes and plant cameras and microphones all over, watching the families to learn about their sins. Upon learning that the Yamada family, whom he was particularly interested in, were planning to send the daughter Kristen to a boarding school in Ohio, Rykov enacted his plan, abducting the family and eventually killing them. He then dumped all of their bodies (except for that of the son Scott) alongside a highway, making it look like a murder-suicide committed by the father John. The bodies were soon discovered by a schizophrenic drifter named Nathan Eades.

Through the Looking Glass

At the beginning of the episode, the BAU is called to investigate because Scott Yamada is still missing and the suspicious circumstances of the murder-suicide. As they are briefed on the case, Hotch gets a call which confirms the abduction of the entire Acklin family by Rykov, and this prompts the team to go to Kansas. Meanwhile, Rykov puts the father Mike, the mother Debra, and the daughter Mackenzie in the basement of his house. Rykov cuts Mackenzie's bonds so she can remove the blindfold and remove the bonds and blindfolds from her mother and father before trying to escape. As for the son Braden, he talks with Rykov, who gives him three guesses to what his motives are, and states that if he gets all three guesses wrong, his family will die. Throughout the scene, Rykov is seen painting small wooden samurai figures, and at one point, he explains what they were to Braden. Soon, Rykov communicates with the rest of the Acklin family via intercom, taunting them. He then shows them a bound Vanessa Hall, Braden's tutor for his Asperger's syndrome, in another room and asks Mike who she is. When he replies that she is Braden's tutor, Rykov shoots and kills her in front of the family. Rykov asks Mike who she is again, and the father admits that he had slept with her twice, enraging Debra and invoking an argument between the parents. Later, he shows the family a bottle of painkillers Debra took from her surgery two years ago, which were initially assumed to be stolen by the housekeeper until Mackenzie admits that they were her first drugs, as she is a closet junkie. Again, Debra is enraged and the family argues. When Rykov leaves Braden alone to abduct Darren Wilson, Mackenzie's boyfriend who introduced her to drugs, the boy manages to pick the lock of a door to open and is able to escape.

Rykov returns with Darren and presents his beaten form to the Acklin family, alongside several wads of money. He asks Debra to make a choice: spare Darren and lose the money, or get the money in exchange for the loss of Darren's life. Being extremely greedy for money and also angry at Darren for ruining her daughter's life, Debra chooses to take the money, not even caring the slightest when Rykov warns her that Darren is someone's son. However, instead of killing Darren, he spares his life, unbeknownst to the family. Rykov then leaves the house to recapture Braden before he can reach a nearby house, presenting the boy before the family. After giving Mike instructions to find a Smith & Wesson Model 10, he then gives him a choice: he kills Debra and Mackenzie, then himself, with the gun and Braden is spared, but if he refuses, Braden dies. Mike and Mackenzie are reluctant, but Debra begs Mike to do it. Mike reluctantly agrees and points the gun at Debra, but then refuses at the last second and hugs Debra and Mackenzie. Rykov angrily warns the family that the Yamada family made the same exact decision and paid the consequences. This prompts Debra to grab the gun from Mike's hands and shoot herself in the chest. At the same time, the BAU, having deduced Rykov to be the killer after Scott Yamada's body was discovered near his workplace, burst into the house and arrest him, while it is revealed that the gun he gave to the Acklins is loaded with blanks, and Debra isn't shot at all. Relieved, Mike and Mackenzie embrace her. By the end of the episode, the Acklin family, plus Darren, are safely rescued from the house, and Rykov is arrested. He is presumably incarcerated for his crimes afterwards.

Modus Operandi

"They needed to appreciate what they had."

Rykov would use his job to plant microphones and cameras inside the houses of families who were viewed as perfect by others, enabling him to watch and hear them on computers in his home and learn about their private sins, such as gambling problems, drug addictions, and infidelity. Another thing the families would have in common is that the sons were, in some way, antisocial (Scott Yamada was reported by his teacher to be withdrawn and quiet; Braden Acklin was recently diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome), as well as the fact that they attended the same family camp. Once he had learned enough, he broke into the homes at night through the son's bedroom window. Upon confronting the son, he forced the son out of the room, abducted the rest of the family by threatening the son at gunpoint, and had all of them put on blindfolds and bindings. Then, he took them to a special house on his ranch that had a sealed room in the basement. There, he would keep them hostage for usually a couple of days.

Once the family was in place (keeping the son separate as a bargaining chip), he would leave them to stew for some time before revealing their sins, one at a time, to drive the families to their breaking point. In the case of the Acklin family, he also abducted people related to their private sins. He would put these victims in a room with a one-way window, allowing them to be seen by the Acklins, tying them to a chair, and killing them by shooting them with a 9mm Tanfoglio TA90 pistol after he used them to reveal the respective family member's sins.

Once all of the sins have been revealed to the whole family, he would give them a Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver loaded with blanks and tell them that to save the son, they had to kill each other. The Yamadas refused, after which he killed them by shooting them with the same 9mm Tanfoglio pistol. In the case of the Yamada family, he dumped the bodies of the parents and eldest daughter on the side of a highway and staged it to look like the father had killed them all. The son, being the last family member to be killed, was dumped at his workplace (presumably as a way of injecting himself into the investigation into his murders). It is possible that if the families had done as he asked, he would have killed them anyway to further hide his tracks and/or to ensure their family bond would never shatter again.


Familicides committed by perpetrators who are not related to the targeted families are rare. The unsub is someone without a family, who is envious and wants to destroy the very thing he cannot have. He was raised in a dysfunctional family, which he lost or may have even murdered. The abductions weren't chosen at random; he monitored the families on the Internet and picked them because their dynamics mirror his own, yet they project the appearance of a perfection that he fantasizes about. He blames the fathers for their mistakes, then punishes the families and make it appear as if the father is the culprit. The young sons are likely to be surrogates for the unsub himself, and they may be at the age he was when a negative life-threatening event happened to him. Yet, he connects to them, therefore he may be at a state of arrested development. This doesn't protect the children, however, as evidenced by Scott Yamada's murder; the unsub may have seen his death as a merciful act.

He is familiar with the abduction and body disposal sites, and there is a secondary crime scene in-between, where he holds and interacts with the families. This secondary location is secluded, has been set up in advance for the crimes, and allows him to be in complete control. He is likely to be in his mid-40s and he has the intelligence to plot, plan, and put into effect the abductions and murders. The vehicle he drives is a dark minivan or cargo van, possibly with tinted windows and soundproofing as well as retrofitted restraints to hide his victims in. Given his timeline, he is likely already surveilling his next family.

Real-Life Comparisons

Rykov's attempted frame job against John Yamada for the killing of his family appears to be based on Jeffrey MacDonald - Both fathers are accused murderers of their wives and children, whch was attributed to burglars the fathers had allegedly witnessed during the murders.

Rykov also appears similar to Yoo Young-chul - Both are internationally-hailing serial killers and familiy annihilators with abusive childhoods, a hatred for higher class families, and killed entire families in home break-ins while trying to disguise them as other crimes.

Rykov seems to have been partially inspired by Joseph Duncan III - Both are serial killers, family annihilators, stalkers, and abductors who had a habit of killing the parents and the oldest child before dumping them both together, yet dumping the youngest child elsewhere.

Rykov was also compared to Matthew Hoffman by the BAU in the episode - Both are killers and abductors (Hoffman once) who dumped three of their victims in the wilderness. Also the fact that the BAU initially profiled Rykov as being sexually motivated may be a further nod towards Hoffman.

Known Victims

  • February 6, 1982: Cooper Lupton[1] (his high school teacher; assaulted)
  • 2012:
    • October 15: The Yamada family (stalked for an unspecified amount of time; all were shot with a 9mm pistol two days later)
      • John Yamada (father; shot in the head; dumped his body alongside the below two; tried to frame him as the killer)
      • Tricia Yamada (mother; shot in the chest)
      • Kristen Yamada (daughter; shot in the chest)
      • Scott Yamada (son; shot in the neck; his body was dumped at Arthur's workplace)
    • October 19: The Acklin family (stalked for an unspecified amount of time, abducted, and presumably intended to kill; all were rescued two days later)
      • Mike Acklin (father; attempted to force him to shoot Debra, Mackenzie, and himself with a revolver loaded with blanks)
      • Debra Acklin (mother)
      • Mackenzie Acklin (daughter)
      • Braden Acklin (son; briefly escaped; was later strapped to a chair)
    • October 20: Vanessa Hall (Braden's tutor and Mike's lover; abducted, strapped to a chair, and shot in the chest)
    • October 21: Darren Wilson (Mackenzie's boyfriend; abducted, presumably beaten, strapped to a chair, and intended to kill; was rescued)
  • Note: At one point of the episode, Arthur is seen watching secretive video recordings of other families, which suggests that he planned to abduct them as well.


  • Rykov seems to have been based on at least four unsubs from the show's past:
    • Season One
      • Karl Arnold ("The Fox" and "Outfoxed") - Both are serial killers and family annihilators who targeted entire families they found through their jobs, viewed them as dysfunctional, and would make the father appear to be the killer. Both also killed the fathers by shooting them in the head and trying to make it look like a suicide. Arnold also appears in Season Five.
    • Season Two
      • Tobias Hankel ("The Big Game" and "Revelations") - Both were serial killers and abductors who were able to find their victims through their jobs, which involved the ability to set up secret cameras in their homes and using them to observe their daily lives, and they would later break into their homes and attack them. The scenario of the BAU stumbling across Rykov observing many households at once via multiple computer screens seems reminiscent of a similar scenario of Hankel doing the same thing.
      • Charles Holcombe ("Legacy") - Both were serial killers who abducted victims (though Holcombe did so by proxy) and kept them in a chamber of some kind, and also torment them through communication devices planted in said chambers.
    • Season Five
      • Robert Johnson ("The Internet Is Forever") - Both are serial killers, stalkers, and abductors (once in Johnson's case) who used their jobs as opportunities to plant spy cameras in their victims' homes, using them to spy on said victims from computer systems, and would later break into their victims' homes at night to attack them.



  1. It is unknown if this is the real name, as it was indiscernible during the shot of Garcia's computer screen