|“||I like to hear them scream. It reminds me of the rollercoaster! I like rollercoasters. Hey, especially in the summertime!||”|
— Cy while recording himself on his camera
Ben "Cy" Bradstone is a mentally-challenged, ephebophilic, "wound collector"-type serial killer, serial rapist, stalker, enucleator, and abductor who appears in Season Seven episode of Criminal Minds, "Proof".
"I grew up normal, in a normal house, the size of a castle. I played sports...sang in the choir for the President of the United States...and celebrated my birthdays with four-story cakes flown straight from Paris. My brother and I played kickball over there. And-And here is where we would hide from the police after stealing magic potions from the toy store. I don't know why they wouldn't believe me when I told them we were going to make things with it. I still build things now. I took apart a 1961 Desoto and built a generator from scratch. It's so powerful, it could light a Springsteen concert!"
Ben, who later started calling himself "Cy" for unknown reasons, was born with a lack of oxygen in his brain and a damaged frontal lobe, which rendered him developmentally disabled when he grew up. Throughout his life, he had a very poor sense of hygiene and was often bullied. He displayed some sociopathic traits when he was young, hitting a dog he owned just for fun. One night when he was a teenager, he attended a homecoming party together with a cheerleader named Lyla Smith, who would later marry his brother, Matt, years later, and have two children with him, named Tammy and Jason. At the party, the kids played spin the bottle. When it was Lyla's turn, it landed on Ben. They went into a closet together, where Ben felt her up. Having fallen in love with her, he started following her around at school but stopped doing so when he overheard her telling a friend how gross she thought he was. At some point, he spent time in a halfway house for some unspecified crime. After that, he began traveling around the area in an RV, occasionally working part-time jobs to get by, including at two mechanic shops, later being fired from at least one of them after being caught stealing supplies from there. He would also crash at his brother's home now and again. In 2011, when he learned that Matt and Lyla were having some marital problems, he saw this as an opportunity to be close to Lyla. However, when he tried to make a move, he was rejected by her again. As a result, he became a serial killer, targeting teenage girls who resembled Lyla when she was young and torturing them with sulfuric acid he managed to steal from his former workplaces.
Ben comes back to the shed where he keeps his victims, all the while describing his life (from his point of view) to his camera. He then proceeds to use sulfuric acid to burn the eyes of Beth Westerly. After killing Beth, he returns to Matt and Lyla's house, where the latter gives him some clothing, shampoo, and toothpaste. Matt then invites Ben in, and before he follows the couple into the house, he looks into the camera and says, "Every story has a beginning. But the part I like best, is the end." While staying at Matt and Lyla's, Ben plays with Jason before Matt asks him to permanently move in with them. Ben replies that he'd rather not, for he wants to be free, and he adds that he had a date with twins. However, Matt doesn't believe him, just like he didn't believe him as a child when Ben stated he felt up Lyla. Tammy returns home, and Matt announces that she is about to attend a homecoming party tomorrow night. Ben offers to videotape the party, but Lyla kindly turns down the offer, resulting in her and Matt having a slight scuffle that goes unnoticed by the children. Ben snaps because of this and later abducts a girl named Sarah at another bus station. At the shed, he burns Sarah's mouth and claps at the still-recording camera with child-like pleasure.
At Matt and Lyla's bedroom, Ben begins kissing photos of Lyla and sniffing a piece of Lyla's clothing before hallucinating about a teenage Lyla preparing to have sex with him before a hallucination of a teenage Matt interrupts them. The adult Lyla then returns home, interrupting his hallucinations, and he manages to hide from her when she comes into the bedroom. During the following night, Matt asks Ben to stay for the night, but Ben refuses. He then tells him and Lyla about Sarah, but doesn't reveal that he killed her, instead saying, "She's dead to me." Tammy then comes into the room, wearing the same dress Lyla wore during her homecoming party, attracting Ben's attention. Ben then follows Tammy to her party and waits for her to come out alone. When she does, he approaches her and offers to take her home, but she turns down the offer. However, she then changes her mind and goes with him.
The next day, Ben explains to his camera why he kills women before going back into his shed, where Tammy has just recovered. He then takes her at knifepoint and explains the time of how he felt up her mother to Tammy. Tammy is shocked and begins telling him of what Lyla told her, that he took advantage of her while she was drunk. She then makes an attempt to escape, kicking him in the crotch, but she is unsuccessful. Snapping, Ben ties her back to the same chair he ties all of his victims to and begins laughing at his camera. Meanwhile, the BAU, having discerned Ben as the unsub, convince Lyla to get Ben back to the house under the pretense that Matt has been arrested for hurting Tammy. The ruse works, and Ben arrives at the house, hugging Lyla while hallucinating her in her homecoming dress. Rossi and Morgan then burst out of their hiding places and arrest Ben, causing him to yell out angrily at Lyla as Matt watches painfully.
With Tammy still missing, Rossi and Hotch convince Ben to disclose Tammy's location, but as long as he speaks to Matt only. When Matt is in the room, Ben begins going off-topic, talking about Tammy rather than where she is. He then tells Matt, Rossi, and Hotch of Tammy's location, that he burned Tammy's hands with his sulfuric acid, and that he was always meaning to attack Matt by using the information to figuratively take away his sense of hearing. Enraged, Matt tries to attack Ben, but Rossi and Hotch hold him back as he laughs maniacally. Morgan and Prentiss then arrive at the shed, where they find Tammy still alive, as well as pieces of clothing and/or belongings from his previous victims and boxes filled with tapes of his murders, suggesting that he may have killed more. Later, Matt watches one of the aforementioned taps, and covers his ears as he views Ben burning Tammy's hands. Ben was then either incarcerated or institutionalized afterwads.
"What, you don't like the way I taste?"
"Well, I can help you with that!"
Ben targeted Caucasian blue-eyed, blonde girls in their late teens, all of whom resembled Lyla when she was their age. He would approach them at a bus station using a simple ruse such as asking for directions to a street (his mental state made him appear more trustworthy). Once they approached him, he would force them at knifepoint with a Buck hunting knife into his car and take them to an old shed where he and Matt had hung out when they were younger, dress them in 1980s-style clothes, strap them to a chair, and rape them. Once he was done, he would kill them by stabbing them in the genitalia, chest, and neck with a knife. Initially, he targeted high-risk victims, such as prostitutes and runaways, and killed them without any usage of sulfuric acid, instead stabbing their eyes repeatedly.
He then switched to low-risk victims. While these victims were still alive, Ben would torture them by dripping a sulfuric acid solution onto their faces in such a way that it would destroy one of their five senses. He blinded both Abby Alcott and Beth Westerly by dripping acid on their eyes with a turkey baster, taking away their sense of sight after stapling their eyes open; the latter also had her nostrils burnt to take away her sense of smell. His murder of Sarah only involved her mouth being burnt; he did this by pouring acid down her mouth and throat to take away her sense of taste. During his attempted murder of Tammy, he managed to burn her hands by putting them in dishes with acid to take away her sense of touch. The bodies of his victims were dumped in alleys, with the exception of Beth Westerly, who was dumped in a field. He would also record himself torturing and killing his victims with a handheld camera, keeping the tapes as trophies and putting them in protective cases with his victims' first names written on them.
"I see on the news, on the TV, that people question. They question why-why people do this. It's the same reason people do anything, 'cause, 'cause they feel like it, they like the way it feels. When I was a kid, my dog, Poppy, running across the grass. When I hit her, I liked that feeling. That has not changed."
The unsub is a white male aged in his early 40s who is reacting to a rejection of him done by a woman when he was a teenager in the 1980s, and he is getting his revenge by torturing his victims through taking away their five senses using sulfuric acid. He may work part-time as a janitor or a mechanic, where he could have gotten hold of the sulfuric acid he uses to torture his victims. Because he dumps his victims on the streets, he is probably homeless, but has a car. His fixation on the woman who rejected him all those years ago is all-consuming and it has caused him to develop an obsessive love disorder. He most likely has tunnel vision and believes she holds the key to his happiness. He will do whatever it takes to be near his love interest, even stalking her. The fact that she still rejects him furthers his rage and he will eventually spiral to such a degree that he will stop killing surrogates and attack the real source of his anger.
While nothing is wrong with him physically, he may be mentally disabled and is smart enough to use it to his advantage to appear harmless. When he is alone with his victims and they reject him, he becomes easily enraged. He may have lived in a halfway house or a mental health center that existed in the 1980s and moved out in the last five years. His abduction of Tammy Bradstone suggests she knew the unsub or thought she did and she may have been his true target, as he appeared to have prior knowledge of her presence at her homecoming party. It would also explain why he abducted her from her homecoming party and not at a public transportation area like his previous victims.
Ben appears to have been inspired by both Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi - All three were ephebophilic serial killers and serial rapists, were sociopathic and sexually devious and committed numerous petty crimes in their youth, had tumultuos relationships with high school crushes, they worked numerous menial jobs (at least some of which involved mechanics) and were fired for stealing supplies, both Bradstone and Bunono victimized a younger female relative (Bradstone tortured his neice, while Buono raped his daughter), Bradstone and Bianchi had neurophysical problems (Bradstone was born with a lack of oxygen in his brain and a damaged frontal lobe, while Bianchi suffered from petit mal seizures), and as serial killers they targeted young women, lured them into their cars with ruses, took them to a secluded location to be raped and tortured before being killed, and later switched their victimologies from high to low-risk victims. Also, the way Bradstone called himself "Cy" and his interrogation with Rossi and Hotch could be a slight nod to how Bianchi claimed to be insane due to having dissociative-identity disorder and being uncooperative throughout his trial.
Ben also seems to have been inspired by William Bonin - Both were ephebophilic serial killers and serial rapists with a specific gender preference (males in Bonin's case, females in Bradstone's), targeted high-risk victims, lured or abducted, then raped, tortured them with acid ingestion, and finally killed via stabbing in the neck and genitals (though this was only one of Bonin's methods).
Ben is also similar to Derrick Todd Lee - Both were serial killers, serial rapists, and stalkers who were mentally challenged and bullied in their adolescences because of it, targeted low-risk women, and raped them before stabbing them to death (although this was only one of Lee's methods).
Ben is also similar to Leonard Lake - Both and serial rapists, torturers, and killers of young Caucasian women (though Lake also killed other people), were motivated by rejection, and held women captive in personally owned, isolated torture chambers, as well as recorded their murders.
Ben is also similar to David Parker Ray - Both are serial rapists and killers (alleged killer in Ray's case) with poor social skills with girls in their youth and were teased as a result, kidnapped, raped, and tortured Caucasian women and girls, had a personal torture chamber fitted with implements and a seat with straps, and recorded the rapes and tortures even with disclaimers in the beginnings of the tapes.
- Presumably killed numerous other unnamed women prior to Proof
- Unspecified date-2011: Lyla Bradstone (his sister-in-law; stalked only)
- Unnamed prostitute (raped and her eyes stabbed repeatedly; no sulfuric acid was used)
- Unnamed runaway (raped and her eyes stabbed repeatedly like the previous victim)
- September 26: Abby Elcott (blinded)
- September 28: Beth Westerly (blinded her and burned her nostrils; dumped in a field instead of an alley)
- September 29: Sarah (burned her mouth)
- September 30: Tammy Bradstone (his niece; abducted, burned her hands, and left to die; wasn't raped; was rescued the next day)
- Ben seems to have been inspired by at least five unsubs from the show's past:
- Season One
- Pablo Vargas ("Machismo") - Both were serial killers and rapists who targeted women, changed their victimologies at somepoint (Ben went from targeting prostitutes and runaways to college girls; Pablo went from targeting elderly women to their daughters), used a ruse to make themselves appear as non-threatening to their victims (Ben used his disability; Pablo disguised himself as a woman), abducted their victims at knifepoint (although Vargas only did this with with rape victims), and killed their victims by stabbing them (particulary in the chest and genitals).
- Season Three
- Floyd Feylinn Ferell ("Lucky" and "Lucky Strikes") - Both were serial killers who exhibited disturbing behaviors as minors, were institutionalized prior to their killings, targeted high-risk women before moving on to low-risk women, abducted them and kept them captive at a secondary location, killed their victims with bladed weapons, and both were interviewed by someone outside of the BAU whom they enraged by bragging about their crimes, causing them to attack them and call them a "sick son of a bitch" (laughing all the while). Ferell also appears in Season Thirteen.
- Season Four
- Henry Grace ("Masterpiece") - Both were serial killers whose triggers were being rejected by women whom they had romantic feelings for, targeted women who acted as surrogates for the very same women, abducted their victims in broad daylight, and used acid on their victims (Ben used it torture his victims; Henry used it to dispose of his victims' bodies).
- Roderick Gless ("Cold Comfort") - Both are serial killers and abductors with almost identical victimologies (blonde, blue-eyed females, as surrogates for the object of their affection), had sexual components in their crimes (Ben raped his victims; Roderick had sex with his victims' corpses), and dressed them similarly to those objects.
- Season Six
- Season One
- The amount of videotapes and belongings found at the shed suggests many more previous victims