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Benjamin David Merva (born David James Merva), a.k.a. The Strangler, was a prolific serial killer and cult leader who appeared in Seasons Thirteen and Fourteen of Criminal Minds.


Not much is known about Merva. What is known is that he was born David James Merva and joined the Separatarian Sect prior to its destruction in 2008. Following this, he created his own cult called The Believers. He then became a serial killer, removing people's hyoid bones before strangling them in sacrificial killings.


Merva was first seen ordering an acolyte to prove his allegiance by burning off his fingerprints in hydrochloric acid. He is arrested by the BAU after Theo Holston and April Pearson tells them that he is in fact the serial killer known as The Strangler. He is held in the FBI building until he is broken out by Mary Meadows.


Meadows forced Spencer Reid to break Merva out of captivity by taking Penelope Garcia hostage. The Believers then abducted both Reid and Garcia. Later, after Garcia escaped, Merva, along with his cult, loaded into trucks and drove to Kentucky with the intention of sacrificing Reid and setting up a new base. Merva then took Reid to be sacrificed, but allowed him to speak first, letting Reid stall long enough for the BAU to get into position. Merva, upon realizing the BAU had arrived, rushed to extract Reid's hyoid bone, but was shot and killed by Emily Prentiss before he could.

Modus Operandi

Benjamin would kill young adults from all over the Continental United States. His victims were brought to him by Jerry Holston, a member of his cult. Benjamin would strangle his victims to death as his followers watched. His signature was torturing his victims by removing their hyoid bones, which were kept by in a suitcase, with seven being given to Jerry.

Real-Life Comparison

Benjamin is based in Dionathan Celestrino - Both are serial killers and cult leaders with ncknames and inspired by other horrific, infamous criminals to form paranoid religious cults and personally commit murders in the name of their spiritual mania. Each had rituals pertaining to their psychosis that brutalized their victims in the name of religion before leading their corpses out in the open to be found. Both cult leaders also had surviving victims in direct murder attempts.

Benjamin is also similar to Gilles de Rais - Both are prolific serial killers with murder counts in the hundreds and accomplices bringing victims to them to ritualistically murder. Both were also killed by officials to prevent more murders, with their numerous crimes being revealed after the fact in major breaks in the investigations when tracking crimes that broke the groups' patterns and led to mistakes.

Known Victims

Personal Victims

  • Unspecified dates and locations from all over the Continental US: 299 unnamed victims (removed their hyoid bones before being killed)
  • Spencer Reid (attempted to kill and remove hyoid bone; was rescued)

Victims by Proxy