Criminal Minds Wiki

The soil will heal you.
Kerrigan to her daughter

Emma Kerrigan is a delusional, cannibalistic serial killer, and abductor who appears in the Season Eight episode of Criminal Minds, "The Good Earth".


A health store worker, Emma Kerrigan was married to John, who owned a large farm, and the two of them had a daughter together named Lexy. She was a firm believer in natural, holistic medicine, with her beliefs bordering the point of fanaticism. At some point, she developed scleroderma, a severe skin disease. This turned her into a hypochondriac (although it is possible she was one for her whole life) who wouldn't eat anything unless she grew it herself. On August 18, 2010, while she was still suffering from the scleroderma, John died in a car accident, and his body was cremated and his ashes spread in his wife's tomato garden. She healed soon after, which made her believe that her husband's ashes were what healed her. However, she would often hallucinate of having scabs on her arms and face, causing her to visit the hospital thirty times in six months. Becoming frantic and delusional, Kerrigan started abducting fit young males to use as fertilizer due to her belief her husband's ashes were what cured her disease, and possibly because she had used up all of the ashes.

The Good Earth[]

"How are you feeling, honey? [...] This won't hurt you. I made it all from roots and herbs. All it does is help you take a little nap. And when you wake up, you'll be the beautiful little girl that you are.
- Emma preparing to bury Lexy in her garden

In the episode, Kerrigan is first seen abducting Terry Rodgers after he drives off the road due to a melatonin overdose. She takes him to her farm and tends to him and three other men she abducted (Gary Ellard, Barry Deaver, and Paul Hicks), feeding them a cocktail of soil additives and animal feed. After some time, she realizes Rodgers has cancer, Kerrigan kills him, and dumps his body in the river. She is later seen chopping firewood, likely testing her ax's sharpness when Lexy surprises her. After hurriedly shutting the door and telling Lexy to go back inside, she starts up the wood chipper and kills Gary Ellard. Afterward, she washes the ax and the wood chipper clean. She and Lexy begin digging in the tomato garden and Kerrigan hallucinates scabs and itches on her arms. When she visits her doctor, he insists she is fine. She quickly leaves when he suggests that this is a mental problem and asks her if she contacted a therapist, but Kerrigan leaves. Later that day, she still scratches the imaginary scabs when she looks in the mirror and sees the disease on her face. Kerrigan then begins waiting outside a baby shower for Cheryl Winslow, who is due in three weeks. Kerrigan abducts her and does a C-section, taking the placenta and dropping her and the surviving newborn baby off at the hospital.

After consuming the placenta, Kerrigan looks in the mirror and sees her face has healed, much to her relief. Later, Lexy tries to investigate the barn, but her mother stops her. She then tries to feed her daughter the placenta, but the bowl is accidentally spilled, angering Kerrigan. She then hallucinates severe scabs and pustules on Lexy's face. Panicking, Kerrigan feeds Barry Deaver the sawdust cocktail and kills him for fertilizer. That night, she drugs Lexy with the melatonin and buries her up to her neck in the soil. Believing that her daughter will be healed by the soil and Hicks's blood, she drags him to her and starts cutting his wrist. The BAU arrive and attempt to convince Kerrigan to drop the knife. She refuses, claiming that it is all she has left. Blake tries to convince her that the blood will not help her, then gives Kerrigan a bag of ashes she found at a fireplace, which she claims are her husband's. Convinced that the ashes will heal Lexy, Kerrigan drops the knife and spreads them over Lexy, gleeful over believing the ruse and calling it a "miracle". She is then taken into custody, while Lexy and Hicks are saved, although judging by his's condition when he was last seen and the fact that the BAU did not comment on whether or not he survived, it is possible he later died of the injuries he sustained from the torture. It's safe to presume Kerrigan is institutionalized after her arrest.

Modus Operandi[]

"Stay away from the barn. There's a lot of dangerous equipment in there. You could hurt yourself."

Kerrigan sought out healthy Caucasian men and found all of her victims through her job at farmers' markets. Her first three victims were all healthy, employed, married with children, and born and raised in La Grande, but her fourth victim was a terminally sick, new resident who lived as a recluse. After giving them drinks drugged with melatonin, she would follow them until they fell unconscious, after which she would abduct them and take them to the barn on her farm. She would then strip them nude, gag them with duct tape, and hold them captive by restraining their wrists and ankles with chains. Then, Kerrigan would force-feed them a cocktail of soil additives such as gypsum; animal feed such as cotton and flax; and natural sedatives such as hops, catnip, and kavakava through a tube inserted into their nose and by injecting the blend with a liquid syringe. After killing them by decapitating them with an ax, she would dismember the bodies and grind the parts with a wood chipper. Afterward, she would use the chopped flesh as fertilizer for her garden, believing it would cure her of her scleroderma.

Her first fatal victim, Terry Rodgers, was drowned and dumped in a riverbank instead when she found him undesirable due to him being terminally sick. When she attempted to cure Lexy from her alleged scleroderma, she drugged her with the melatonin and buried her up to the neck in the soil in her garden, then cut Paul Hicks's wrist and parts of his neck in an attempt to pour his blood all over the aforementioned soil. She later briefly targeted Cheryl Winslow, a pregnant woman, abducting her without drugging her, taking her to her farm, gagging her, and performing a Caesarean section on her with a serrated-edge knife (sterilizing it with a lit candle beforehand), removing her entire placenta to use for consumption. She then crudely stitched up her abdomen and uterus before leaving her and her unharmed baby in a hospital parking lot.


The unsub is a Caucasian woman who is highly organized, thorough, and patient. Based on the amount of complexity and sophistication demonstrated in the abductions, she is most likely between the ages of 30 and 40 and is familiar with the rural area surrounding La Grande, being either a native or someone who had lived there for a while. She is keeping her victims in isolation in the countryside, which means she has access to land or a structure that is remote, hidden, and private. Her targets are exceptionally health-conscious men, who represent ideal specimens for fertilizer (although it was originally believed that these victims were selected for their ability to father children, since they are all age-appropriate and all of them are fathers). The unsub killed her first victim because she saw him as flawed, being the least physically fit of the four and making him undesirable. It was initially thought the victims could be surrogates for a man that she wanted but could not have. Because she killed the last two victims, it is possible the unsub is engaged in some sort of elimination process: pre-selecting a handful of prime candidates and then whittling them down one by one until she has her ideal human fertilizer.

Real-Life Comparisons[]

Kerrigan appears to be partly inspired by Gary Heidnik - Both were mentally unstable killers and abductors who lost a relative prior to their crimes (Heidnik's mother and Kerrigan's husband, respectively), had a daughter, targeted victims of specific races and genders (Kerrigan targeted Caucasian men, Heidnik targeted black-American women), held multiple victims captive at the same time, stripped, restrained, and tortured them by force-feeding, killed one victim whose health worsened, killed another victim from the extent of the torture (presumably in Kerrigan's case), used remains of some of their victims for cannibalism (including projected cannibalism, which was the only cannibalism Heidnik partook in), were both profiled as wanting to conceive children with their victims (though this was only true for Heidnik), each had at least one surviving female victim, and were arrested from a victim being saved by a ruse.

Kerrigan also appears to be partly inspired by Jeffrey Dahmer - Both were cannibalistic serial killers who had jobs in the food industry, targeted Caucasian male victims (once in Dahmer's case, but he mostly targeted black-American and Asian-American men and boys), drugged their victims through drinks they gave them, killed their first victims spontaneously and outside of their primary M.O.s, tortured them by means involving their heads to fit their motives (Kerrigan force-fed her victims mixtures to use them as human fertilizer, while Dahmer bore holes in his victims' skulls and poured acid or boiled water in their brains to try and make them "zombies"), buried their victims' remains in their backyards (though Dahmer only did this with his first victim), had surviving victims including male and underage victims (though while some of Dahmer's surviving victims were both male and underage, while Kerrigan had a surviving male victim and the separate surviving underage victim was her daughter), and were arrested during confrontations with the police.

Kerrigan is also similar to Karl Denke - Both were cannibalistic serial killers who lived on a farm, lost a male family member prior to their crimes (Kerrigan's husband and Denke's father), killed their victims with axes (though Kerrigan also killed by drowning), dismembered and cannibalized the remains of their victims (including projected cannibalism, reportedly in Denke's case), worked at their local food markets, and had one surviving victim who was slashed in a murder attempt (though Kerrigan presumably killed her victim, despite it never being confirmed).

Known Victims[]

The dates denote when the victims were abducted.

  • 2012:
    • Abducted four men, held them captive, tortured by force-feeding, and killed at least three of them. They are, in order of abduction:
      • September 17: Gary Ellard (died on October 26; the second fatality; decapitated with an ax, dismembered post-mortem, and put his body parts into a wood chipper)
      • October 6: Barry Deaver (died on October 27; the third fatality; decapitated with an ax, dismembered post-mortem, and put his body parts into a wood chipper like the previous victim)
      • October 18: Paul Hicks (his wrist and neck were later cut with a knife; was rescued on October 27, but possibly died from the torture and injuries)
      • October 25: Terry Rodgers (died on the day after he was abducted; the first fatality; drowned him and dumped his body in a riverbank)
    • October 26: Cheryl Winslow (abducted, performed a successful Caesarean section, removed her entire placenta, and consumed some of it; was released)
    • October 27: Lexy Kerrigan (her daughter; survived; drugged with melatonin and buried up to the neck in soil; did not intend to kill)