|“||You don't have to do this, don't...have to do this. ...Yes, you do, you hate her, you...hate her...||”|
— Ellen ranting about her boss
Ten months prior to the episode, Ellen was involved in a car accident that also involved the car of teenagers Abby Benson and Hannah Miller. Ellen was the one who caused the accident, which happened after her tires slipped on the road that had been left wet following a rainstorm. Abby was paralyzed from the waist down, Hannah was killed, and Ellen suffered damage to her frontal lobe, forcing her to undergo six months of physical therapy. In October 2014, when she was finally released from the rehab clinic, Ellen was prone to randomly flying into rages, which were no longer held under control as a result of her damaged frontal lobe. As a result, one week after her release, she began killing random people she previously came across in her work to vent out her anger. Once every killing was done, she would become remorseful afterward.
"Did you take my idea?!"
After killing Jessica Randall by breaking into her salon and stabbing her to death, Ellen returns home the following morning, trying to calm herself and cleaning the blood off of her knife and clothes before joining her family for breakfast. At a board meeting at her job, she gets frustrated with her coworker, Sarah Ryan, for taking credit for something she had worked on, but Sarah fires back that she had covered for her during her stay in physical therapy. Later that night, she drives to Sarah's home, trying to convince herself not to kill her. She gets a call from her husband Michael, and she tells him that she has to meet with Sarah over another meeting at a bar before abruptly hanging up. Upon arriving at Sarah's house, she kills her boyfriend, Greg, before confronting Sarah, stabbing her once in the stomach. Sarah tries to flee but falls to the ground as Ellen asks if she had really taken her idea. When Sarah fearfully confesses to doing so, Ellen stabs her again, killing her, but then immediately regrets it and calls 911. However, she hangs up soon after without saying a single word to the dispatcher.
Driving home, Ellen has a flashback of the accident and sneaks back home, slipping into the bathroom to dispose of her bloody clothes while Michael sleeps. The next morning, she greets him with a smile and lies that her meeting went well. When she goes into work, Ellen sees a memorial of Sarah and turns around to leave, pulling her hair out in her car before returning home early. She finds Michael already there; he confronts her and reveals that he found her bloody shirt while she was away and that he saw a news conference of her killings that perfectly described her as a suspect. Confessing to her crimes, Ellen cries in Michael's arms, but when he tries to call the police, she stabs and kills him in a panic. While cleaning up the blood, her daughter Sky returns to see her father dead. Ellen grabs the knife and forces her daughter into the car. They drive to Abby Benson's house and Ellen knocks out the mother before confronting Abby herself. She demands that Abby confesses to being at fault for the accident, despite Sky and Abby's mother's protests. Just then, the BAU rush in, prompting her to hold Sky at knifepoint. They convince her to stand down after telling her about the damage she suffered to her frontal lobe, which would have prevented her from lashing out violently in the first place. As she is taken away, Sky looks on sadly.
Ellen came across her victims at some point in her work, which led her to select them randomly during her violent episodes. Whenever she attacked them, she would stab them a dozen times with a knife. However, as her killings became more personal, she stabbed the victims only once or twice. Then, once her rationality returned, she would wash their bodies, redress them in fresh clothes, and (in the case of her first three victims) pose their bodies in sitting positions. She would then put the original bloody clothes in washers, fold, and place them in the victims' closets. The victims were usually attacked at night in their homes, with the exception of Jessica Randall, who was killed in her workplace.
The unsub is a Caucasian woman aged between her 40s and 50s and is afflicted with intermittent explosive disorder. This condition usually occurs after a traumatic event and always involves repeated acts of impulsive and aggressively violent behavior, as well as angry outbursts in which the sufferer reacts in disproportion to the current situation. In this case, this unsub lets her anger fester and then lashes out when keeping her rage bottled up for too long. It is possible that she may have prior confrontations with her victims. After she kills her victims or is thinking about killing, she is pulling her own hair out (a symptom of trichotillomania) as a stress reliever tactic. She will appear rational at times but can be triggered by external disputes or confrontations. Her anger and remorse will make her feel like she has two separate, distinct personalities. She may have been hospitalized because of mental problems, but has since stopped taking medication after her release. Since she is no longer in an environment that helped her to control her urges, she was motivated into killing. There is no longer any reason for her homicidal feelings to dissipate, and she will continue to murder as long as she encounters stressors that set her off.
It is difficult to determine whether Ellen is a spree or serial killer. While her pathology is more close to that of a spree killer, it should be noted that she targeted her victims, had a very specific M.O., and had slight cooling-off periods between her first three murders.
Ellen is very similar to Paul Michael Stephani - Both were killers who were married and had a daughter, had mental problems, targeted primarily victims of one gender (Stephani targeted women, while Connell killed mostly men but also women), violently stabbed them to death, deviated from this M.O. at least once (Stephani drowned one victim, while Connell accidentally killed a victim in a car crash), were remorseful and (allegedly in Stephani's case) unable to control themselves, and called 911 at least once after killing a victim. It's also interesting to note that Stephani shares his middle name with Connell's husband's first name, Michael.
- January 27: The accidental car crash:
- Hannah Miller (killed)
- Abby Benson (barely survived, but was paralyzed from the waist down)
- Kevin Brown (stabbed twelve times in the torso)
- Rick Mendoza (stabbed at least eleven times in the left arm and torso)
- November 26: Jessica Randall (stabbed at least twelve times; killed in her workplace instead of her home)
- November 27: The attack at Sarah Ryan's house:
- Greg (Sarah Ryan's boyfriend; incidental; stabbed once in the back; was not cleaned and redressed)
- Sarah Ryan (her boss; stabbed twice in the torso)
- November 28:
- Michael Connell (her husband; stabbed once in the chest)
- Sky Connell (her daughter; abducted and held at knifepoint; was released)
- Abby Benson and her unnamed mother (both held hostage)
- January 27: The accidental car crash:
- Ellen seems to have been based on at least two unsubs from the show's past:
- Season Four
- Norman Hill ("Normal") - Both are psychotic spree killers who were married and had children, were involved in some sort of car-related accident that resulted in the death of a girl (Connell killed a teenage girl in a car accident, while Hill's daughter was run over by a car), and later killed their spouses (Hill also killed his other children).
- Season Six
- Shelley Chamberlain ("Hanley Waters") - Both are psychotic spree killers who were involved in car crashes that killed a minor (Connell killed a teenage girl in a car crash, while Chamberlain's son was killed in a car crash caused by Hanley Waters), and killed random people in fits of rage (though Chamberlain killed incidentally).
- Season Four