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Ben

Ben Foster is a schizophrenic arsonist-turned-spree killer and robber who appeared in the Season Six episode of Criminal Minds, "With Friends Like These...".

Background

Ben was born on October 4, 1985, suffering from schizophrenia, in which he kept seeing imaginary friends. He also suffered from insomnia. His mother, a strict and demanding Christian, believed that he was possessed by demons and took him over to a local church for an exorcism. The exorcism "worked" for a short time, and Ben befriended three of the people who performed the exorcism, Matt, Tony, and Yolanda, but something happened that caused him to set a fire that killed them (what happened is never specified). He was arrested for setting the fire, but was acquitted. Ever since the fire, Ben began hallucinating about them and began spiraling downward. In 2008, he moved to Portland, where he later got involved in an apartment fire a month prior to the episode, which prompted him to get medication after his insomnia returned. On March 25, 2011, he was pressured by these hallucinations to kill Jay Johnson, a disc jockey, and take several of his items to pawn.

With Friends Like These...

Ben being tortured by his hallucinations.

Ben is first seen shopping at a supermarket with Matt and reunites with Tony and Yolanda. As a clerk begins scanning his food, Ben spots Karen Heywood and tries to talk to her but is rebuffed. Matt, Tony, and Yolanda force Ben into following Heywood to her house and killing her. He later hallucinates Tony fixing his sink and he states that he doesn't want to kill anymore but is scolded by them. The following night, his hallucinations force him into killing another man. At the same time, the BAU arrive at Portland. Knowing he is unable to control his hallucinations, Ben attempts to go get another exorcism, but, as they aren't performed anymore, he is turned down and goes aboard a bus. There, Matt, Tony, and Yolanda pressure Ben into following a female passenger off of the bus and kill her at her home. Ben does so, and later sleeps beside her body before escaping. The BAU later realize from the overkill of all of the victims that Ben is stabbing them repeatedly so he can sleep, which allows his hallucinations to go away. Ben later hallucinates that he is killing Matt, Tony, and Yolanda, but they stand back up, "alive".

The BAU and local police later identify Ben as the unsub and track him down at his home. As a result, he and Matt, Tony, and Yolanda flee to a neighbor's house where Ben takes the two children living inside hostage, ordering them to shut the curtains. Hotch and Reid spot one of the children doing so, and the BAU arrive inside the home. Ben is convinced by them to release the children after Hotch tells him that Matt, Tony, and Yolanda are dead, and therefore, they are unable to hurt him anymore. However, Ben hallucinates Reid ordering him to stab him in the neck alongside Matt, Tony, and Yolanda (stating that his problems will all go away if he does so), and, as a result, he is non-fatally shot by Hotch when he tries to do so. Ben is put into an asylum, where he continues to hallucinate despite the electroshock therapy that is supposed to remove them. Ben asks them why they are there and they respond with that they "have been there his whole life". Ben tells them that he's only seen them since the church fire and they retort with, "Are you sure about that Ben?" The screen then fades to him on his mother's lap at the age of five, with three shadowy figures moving around.

Modus Operandi

Ben killed Matt, Tony, and Yolanda with a fire, setting it using a lighter. The 2011 killing spree he committed was completely disorganized as a whole, with the acts being mostly unplanned in advance. He killed his victims in their homes, except for Jay Johnson, who was killed in an alleyway. He would blitz-attack them by bludgeoning them with a blunt object he brought along to subdue them, but in the murder of Karen Heywood, he would use any blunt household item that caught his eye. He would then kill his victims by stabbing them repeatedly with a knife he also brought along (the number of stab wounds being at least thirty times each), even after death so then he could be able to tire himself out and sleep in order to escape his hallucinations. After the murder of Joe, he would only use a knife against his victims. In the murders of Johnson, Heywood, and presumably Joe, Ben would also steal several belongings and sell them for money for his medication.

During each murder, Ben hallucinated that Matt, Tony, and Yolanda were helping him. As a result, he would sometimes switch between his left and right hand with each stab, and also leave both shallow and deep stab wounds of wildly varying degrees. He also used multiple household objects to bludgeon Karen Heywood because of this.

Profile

The unsub is a white male and a paranoid schizophrenic who suffers from hallucinations. He probably lives nearby and is in his early 20s, as that is the typical age when schizophrenic breaks occur. He is hyper-vigilant, and in this condition, he is unable to travel far from his home. He kills at night, and he is very violent. However, during the day, he is probably a loner and cannot keep a job. Something probably happened to this unsub in his childhood, as childhood voices are telling him to kill (or he is misinterpreting them as doing so). The unsub has probably been coping until now, but a recent stressor is causing him to act out. He will spend his days wandering around, fighting the desire to kill, yet he feels trapped by his hallucinations. No matter what he does or tries to do, the hallucinations' power is greater than his own. Because of his limited social circle as a child, it is believed the incident involved close friends or family. After finding out the stressor and the recent incident causing the unsub to relapse, it will be that much easier to deduce his identity. He strikes at night and will not retreat until found.

His hallucinations are vivid and clear, not fractured like a typical schizophrenic. He purchased large amounts of salt and water the night he murdered Karen Heywood, which he could use as a torture technique on his victims, despite there being no evidence to support that, or to remove his victims' blood from his clothing. Schizophrenics often interpret the hallucinations they see as demons, so the unsub could be using the salt and water for an exorcism. He may have also recently visited a church within his comfort zone to get one. The unsub suffers from psychogenetic stuttering, which is either caused by the schizophrenia medication he is taking or by situational circumstances. His last victim, an elderly woman, may represent someone to him, such as his mother who had him exorcised as a child; now that he cannot get one, he is taking his rage out against a surrogate.

The unsub also has insomnia, which makes his hallucinations clearer when he is awake, leaving sleep to be his only escape. The way the unsub stabs and bludgeons the victims more than at least thirty times suggests that he would tire himself out and fall asleep, giving him some relief from the hallucinations. He might have recently been arrested for mugging, lewd behavior, or car theft, and also purchased sleeping medication for his insomnia as well.

Real-Life Comparisons

Ben seems to have been inspired by Herbert Mullin - Both are spree killers with schizophrenic delusions, stabbed their victims (though this was only one of Mullin's methods), were exactly the same age when they committed their crimes, committed at least one triple homicide, and had an elderly last victim. Also the scene where Foster visits a priest for an exorcism seems to be a callback to Mullin's visit to Father Tomei. The only difference is Mullin killed the priest, while the unsub didn't (although it can be initially assumed that he did so due to the rage he flew into before the scene abruptly cut out).

Ben and his hallucinations may have also been inspired by The Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs - Both were groups (Foster's were made up) of spree killers and robbers who targeted random victims, bludgeoned and stabbed them to death, and sold their belongings. Also the way the BAU initially assumed that Foster's murders were being committed by a pack of thrill killers seems to be a further nod to the Maniacs.

Known Victims

  • March 12, 1996: Three killed in the church fire:
    • Matt
    • Tony
    • Yolanda
  • 2011:
    • March 25: Jay Johnson (bludgeoned with a pipe and stabbed 31 times in an alleyway; stole his watch, cellphone, and laptop)
    • March 27: Karen Heywood (stabbed 40 times and bludgeoned with eight different blunt household items; stole her computer, jewelry, and a framed photo)
    • March 28: Joe (bludgeoned with a hammer and stabbed at least 40 times; presumably stole items from him)
    • March 29: Unnamed woman (stabbed 71 times without being bludgeoned; was not robbed)
    • March 30: The standoff at Sarah and Evan's house:
      • Sarah and her brother Evan (two children; held both at knifepoint)
      • Spencer Reid (attempted to stab in the neck)

Notes

  • Ben has some similarities with two unsubs in the show's past:
    • Season One
      • Eddie Mays ("Blood Hungry") - Both are psychotic, disorganized spree killers who had strained relationships with their mothers, a religious aspect in their lives, performed overkill and had a varying M.O., killed at least two of their victims in their homes, killed elderly Caucasian women as their last victims, and would be institutionalized after they were arrested.
    • Season Four
      • George Foyet ("Omnivore", "To Hell and Back, Part 2", and "100") - Both were spree killers (though Foyet was only briefly) who murdered their first victims in childhood, had similar M.O.'s, and killed one of their female victims by stabbing them 71 times. Foyet also appeared in Season Five.

Appearances

References

  1. On Garcia's screen, it erroneously states that Ben was born in 2001, not 1985, which would make him ten years old at the time of the episode's events
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