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She's dead! There's no possible way she could've survived!
O'Brien as he is being arrested

Connor "Connie" O'Brien is a serial-turned-spree killer and one-time cop killer who appears in the Season Five episode of Criminal Minds, "Public Enemy".


O'Brien's father, William, a serial arsonist and apparent sociopath, often abused him when he was a child. In 1993, William set a fire that killed his wife Judy and made it look like an accident in order to acquire her life insurance. However, he was somehow apprehended on May 5 of the same year, and O'Brien testified against him, which was instrumental in putting him in prison. Sometime in his life, O'Brien got a job as a fry cook at the Quality Cafe diner in Providence, Rhode Island, which allowed him to strike a friendship with local police officers whose department station was located just across the street. One month prior to the episode, William got a reduced sentence, getting the possibility of parole in 2015. This caused O'Brien to snap and start killing. Within a span of two weeks, he killed two people in public places: one at the bathroom of a local restaurant and the other at a local laundromat.

Public Enemy[]

At the beginning of the episode, O'Brien is first seen entering a local church during Mass. He takes a seat behind Marine Captain Paul Collins and his family and begins to put on a pair of leather gloves. As Collins's wife Meg and daughter Sophia argue, O'Brien quietly reaches forward, slashes Collins's throat, and casually walks out of the church as everyone begins to panic. Later, a young woman is seen standing at a bus stop when O'Brien approaches. He pulls on the same pair of gloves and draws his switchblade. Fortunately, the bus arrives and the woman boards it. O'Brien casually waves at the woman as the bus leaves. When he later kills a flower salesman, he decides to become part of the crime scene by pretending to be a witness who tries to save the victim. The BAU arrive and block off the area, telling the police to detain all of the witnesses. O'Brien tries to slip away. When Officer Joseph Liddy attempts to detain Connor (who he knew), he fatally stabs him in the neck and flees.

When another officer insults the killer the next day, O'Brien leaves to go find a new victim, eventually killing a woman at the local library in front of her child. The BAU decide to falsely claim that the mother survived in order to lure O'Brien out into the open, knowing that he will verify the claims. The ruse, added with Meg's broadcasted statement for a candlelight vigil at the hospital where the latest victim was taken, worked; O'Brien arrives at the hospital with the intention of killing a member of the vigil and, after attempting to flee from Morgan, is caught by the BAU and local police. While returning home, the BAU remark that since the crimes were committed in the same jurisdiction, O'Brien and William will wind up sharing the same prison. O'Brien is then shown standing in line in prison. A fellow inmate strolls by and hands him a shiv. O'Brien approaches a man who is farther up in line. He identifies the man as his father and stabs him to death.


The unsub is a white male who is between the ages of 25 and 30. He is more appropriately classified as an arsonist, not a slasher, because the gratification he is getting is not from the physical act of murder, but from the public's reaction to it. Arsonists draw attention to themselves through the fires they set, and the locations they choose are highly symbolic to them. While this unsub will never set an actual fire, he has the same psychosis as one who does. The unsub fits that model, since the locations of his murders are pillars of the community and the victims he picks are not as important as the effect of killing them outside of one's favorite restaurant or place of worship. By picking locations with the highest visibility, he is creating the highest level of fear in that particular neighborhood, which reinforces his feeling of power. He also falls in the category of a sociopath, as his victims are there only to achieve his goal and he does not have the ability to empathize with them. To him, they are just tools for him to use, no different than a can of gasoline and a match. Even how he kills tells investigators something: that slashing a throat is a messy visual act, and it is designed to create attention just like a fire.

Arsonists are often mission-based, and they need to make sure their first fire has burnt out right before they set another one. They are also highly disciplined and focused; if the conditions are not right to set a fire (or, in this case, to slash a person's throat), they will move on. In addition to his need to kill, he has some control, but he has a short cooling-off period since he is enjoying what he is doing, and this, in turn, feeds his ego and keeps him covering his tracks. This makes him even more dangerous, and if he gets frustrated, encounters too many obstacles, or suffers a blow to his narcissistic ego, he could go on a killing spree. He may be in-between jobs, instead of working consistently, since he is hunting at his next location. He is also revisiting his old crime scenes to relive the fear of the public. Arsonists typically have a stronger relationship with their mothers than their fathers, so he will have lived in a single-mother household that involved a history of abuse, a bad divorce, or paternal violence. All of this may have manifested in the son; he may have a juvenile record, committed petty crimes, and had a significant drop in grades.

The murder of Officer Joseph Liddy means he will be feeding off the grief of the police officers; if that is so, then he has something new to get off on. He may work in an establishment where the officers socialize, such as a bar, a restaurant, or a pool hall.

Modus Operandi[]

Targeting random victims, O'Brien sought them out during the day and in crowded public places in Providence that held some significance in a person's daily life, had no surveillance cameras, and also reminded him of his father. The locations of the murders were usually old and fixtures in the community. Approaching a pedestrian who was out of view for others, O'Brien would put on a pair of gloves (so he would not leave any fingerprints), sneak up behind them, slash their throats with a switchblade (with the exception of Officer Joseph Liddy and his father William, both of whom he stabbed several times), and flee the scene when panic set in, leaving his weapon behind (with the exceptions of Officer Liddy, who was killed incidentally while he was fleeing; and Julia Vecchia, who he didn't leave a weapon at her crime scene for unknown reasons).

O'Brien would later return to the crime scenes to see the public's reactions to his murders. As his need for attention grew, O'Brien began lingering at the crime scenes, even pretending to be a panicking bystander after murdering the marketplace florist.

Real-Life Comparison[]

O'Brien is similar to The Axeman of New Orleans - Both were serial killers who targeted random victims, killed them by throat-slashing (though the Axeman used other means as well), prowled specific locations valued by the cities they operated in (the Axeman targeted Italian and Italian-American neighborhoods, O'Brien targeted historical landmarks), left the murder weapons behind at the scenes, and had at least one surviving victim.

He also bears some similarity to Gary Taylor - Both are serial killers who had previous histories with the justice system (Taylor was repeatedly incarcerated for petty and violent crimes, while O'Brien testified against his father to jail him for the murder of his mother), committed assaults and murders in public places, changed their M.O.s out of convenience, targeted at least one female victim at a bus stop, and were sentenced to life imprisonment at the ends of their sprees.

O'Brien may have been based on Brazilian serial killer Pedro Rodrigues Filho - Both were serial killers who were abused as children by their fathers, their fathers later murdered their mothers and were sent to prison, both killed their victims with bladed weaponry (though Rodrigues used other means), committed an attack at a religious ceremony (O'Brien killed a man during a mass, while Rodrigues and accomplices killed several people at a wedding), and finally both avenged their mothers' deaths by stabbing their fathers to death in prison.

Known Victims[]

  • 2010:
    • January 26: Mike O'Donnell (killed in a restaurant bathroom)
    • February 3: Karen Lagrassa (killed in a laundromat)
    • February 7: Captain Paul Collins (killed in a church)
    • February 9:
      • Unnamed woman (attempted to kill at a bus stop; she got onto a bus before he could act)
      • The farmers' market killings:
        • Unnamed male florist
        • Officer Joseph Liddy (incidental; stabbed twice in the neck and collar while escaping)
    • February 10: Julia Vecchia (killed in a library)
    • March: William O'Brien (his father; shanked at least nine times in the stomach while in prison)


  • The BAU profiled O'Brien as an arsonist because of the enjoyment he gets from the aftermath of the crime scene.
  • O'Brien's murders are similar in detail to murders committed in New York City by the New York Terrorist Cell; the murders took place in broad daylight in very public places. Their victims were also targeted at random.
  • O'Brien being profiled as essentially "attacking" a community through public murder was also similar to Tommy Wheeler ("House on Fire").
  • The fact that this episode took place in Providence, Rhode Island, may be a slight nod to George Foyet, a recurring serial killer who made his last appearance in Season Five; he would often leave The Eye of Providence at his crime scenes. These two concepts are completely unrelated, but, in nomenclature, are similar. Coincidentally, O'Brien and Foyet's killings, both targeting random victims, were also inspired by a need for public fear and attention.