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I want her to pay for what she's done.

Greg Phinney, dubbed "The Co-Ed Killer" by the media, was a stalker, rapist, and serial arsonist and serial killer-turned-spree killer who appeared in the Season Six episode of Criminal Minds, "The Stranger".


Born in Chula Vista, California, on February 6, 1982, Greg was raised by his parents, Carl and Nancy Phinney. During his entire childhood, Greg began "experimenting" with animals and killed a household pet and a neighbor's cat. As a child, he watched his babysitter Kate Jones from the windows outside his home and later fell in love with her. His mother was killed in a car accident when Greg was eleven. His father remarried a year later, on March 10, 1994, to his old babysitter, who Greg came to greatly resent, believing she made his father forget his mother. On May 5 of the following year, when Greg was thirteen years old, he was arrested and sent to a juvenile detention center after threatening Kate with a knife. When he was seventeen, Greg was institutionalized by his father, after Kate filed numerous reports against him for violent behavior and animal cruelty. Greg had believed Kate was the one who had him institutionalized, as he never found out it was his father who was responsible. On March 16, 2011, his father passed away at the age of 53. Greg was released two weeks later and presumably started stalking and killing his victims, all of whom reminded him of Kate, once he started his work-release job as a data-entry clerk at the San Diego Register. After Greg brutally murdered three women, the BAU was called in.

The Stranger[]

In the beginning of the episode, Greg follows Amber Lasko as she enters her apartment outside her college campus. She begins to run the water to take a bath and changes into her robe. She hears something outside the bathroom door, but fails to notice an open window. Amber goes back to preparing for her bath, until she begins to hear music coming from the living room, where she finds a masked Greg waiting for her. She screams and runs to her bedroom door, trying to close the door behind her. Greg pushes against the door, as his arm is stuck in the doorway, swiping his knife at Amber. Before he can cut her, Amber runs to the bathroom and is able to close the door behind her after struggling to do so for a few moments. She breaths a sigh of relief, but suddenly Greg pushes the door open. Amber begins to scream as she loses her balance and falls through the curtain into the bath. Greg proceeds to viciously stab her to death. Later, he is seen going through a website of college students' IDs and finds Laurie Burgin.

However, he is actually in the same cafe Laurie is working, and strikes an online, flirtatious anonymously. He later follows her at the Jenkins home as she babysits the child, still continuing that online chat. He asks her for a picture. Laurie takes a selfie for him, unaware that he is outside and directly behind her. She later goes upstairs to respond to the child's cries as Greg enters the house. Following her upstairs, Greg watches as Laurie looks at the picture she took of herself and sees Greg. She looks behind her just as Greg attacks her in front of the baby, murdering her. The BAU later realize that he fed the baby its milk right after murdering Laurie. Also, he uploaded the picture she took to the Internet and continued to send tweets using her phone, posing as her to mock her. He then later arrives at the Ellison home and watches Lily Droubay as she talks with her boyfriend on the phone. Waiting until the Ellison parents arrive, Greg attacks them and Lily when the Ellison father opens the front door to let Lily out. Killing the father and Lily while forcing the mother and the baby in the nursery at knifepoint, Greg poses his victims' bodies so then they would be looking at each other before leaving the scene.

The next day, he watches Kate comb her hair and later confronts her inside her home right after organizing the items in the fridge. Strapping her to a chair and torturing her by cutting her wrists, Greg hears the BAU and local police arrive and allows Hotch and Seaver to enter when the former calls him on Kate's phone. During the following negotiations, Greg pulls out a gun from a drawer. Meanwhile, Rossi leads a squad of policemen to the back of Kate's house. When Greg becomes unstable, telling Kate that he loved her (implying that he was angry only because she married his father and didn't love him in return), Rossi enters the home through an open window and prepares to confront him when Greg notices him and attempts to shoot him, forcing Rossi to open fire on Greg, killing him instantly. Seaver later talks to Kate outside and reassures her that Greg didn't kill his victims just because of her; he did so because he was a sociopath.

Modus Operandi[]

Greg usually targeted female brunette Caucasian college students in their early twenties who resembled Kate, majored in childcare and/or education, and whose lives he gained access to through his job as a data entry clerk at the San Diego Register and/or by chatting them up on the Internet and killed them (always at night) by stabbing them repeatedly with a knife. The number of stab wounds would increase with each victim. His first three victims were killed in their apartments, while the last two female victims were also babysitting infants in their customers homes when they were killed. Neglecting opportunities to abduct his victims or kill them in the outdoors, Greg would always attack his victims when they felt the safest in their homes, so as to torture them both physically and psychologically.

As Greg's killings progressed, he developed habits of neatly organizing food packages in the house (a habit he learned from being institutionalized), smearing the victims' blood on the walls, and making a rather considerable effort to keep any babies safe in the homes he killed his victims in. In order to conceal his identity, Greg would dress up completely in black with a cap and wrap a scarf around the lower part of his face, and also wear gloves to avoid leaving behind any fingerprints. As his M.O. escalated, he sexually violated Lily with the knife used to kill her and also killed the father, posing their bodies so they would be looking at each other as a reference to his father's marriage to Kate.


"Do you feel that? Not the pain. Do you feel your heart starting to beat a little faster? It's not your mind panicking. It's your body. It's fighting to adapt."

The unsub's murders indicate that he is a white male in his early 20s who is working out of his house or a part-time job, since he is stalking his victims. He strikes inside the safety of a home rather than outside where he could easily abduct his victims, which indicates that his social skills are most likely lacking and that he may not have the confidence to talk to women. His confidence with killing, however, is growing. He has gone from hesitant strikes in the victim's house to painting the walls with their blood, showing that he is developing a taste for the kill. His victims share similar features and backgrounds, so therefore, his victims most likely represent someone who the unsub thinks has wronged him and he is taking out his rage on them.

Because the unsub shows signs of one neat aspect and started killing suddenly and effectively with no break, it is believed that he was recently incarcerated or institutionalized. Since the Jenkins family found Laurie online, the unsub may be using similar methods; profiles, job listings, anything that gives a little too much information the unsub could use to hunt his victims. With this type of unsub, time is not on the side of the authorities, as it is believed that he already has targeted his next victim.

He is meticulous and plans everything out. By attacking his latest victims in the homes of others, he is sending some sort of message to the authorities. He is narrowing down on his ideal victimology and babysitting somehow fits into the scenario he is trying to recreate. His murder of Lily Droubay was more personal than the other murders and is the first time he has shown aggressive sexual behavior. By posing her and Jake Ellison to look at each other, he might have wanted them to watch each other die. He knew the Ellisons were at home with Lily, but he adapted and attacked anyway despite the risk of handling multiple victims at once. He could have taken out the entire family, but he chose to spare the mother and the child, and in the case Laurie Burgin, he fed the baby she was watching. This caring nature towards the children seems to indicate he is protecting them. He would have had a mother who was in her 30s and died in the last ten to fifteen years, while his father filed for a new marriage license. He has always been troubled, so he may be a youthful offender and fits within the sociopathic triad.

Real-Life Comparisons[]

"It looks like he's taking his anger out on women who represent someone he knows."
"Yeah, like Edmund Kemper. He most likely can't confront his true target yet, so he's going after women who look like her until he can build up the confidence to complete his endgame."
- Morgan and Reid

Greg shares some distinctive traits with serial/spree killer Edmund Kemper, who, as stated above, was even compared to him by Reid - Both were serial/spree killers who had close relationships with their fathers, were enraged when they were separated from them after they were institutionalized prior to their killings (in Kemper's case, his father remarried, moved to another state and got a stepson, in Phinney's case, his father remarried and died), killed animals as minors, were active in California, targeted female college students as surrogates for the women who were the true targets of their rage - their mothers (though it was a stepmother in Phinney's case), chatted them up before killing them, stabbed them to death (though Kemper's M.O. was various), performed ritualistic actions on them post-mortem, had some sexual element in their crimes (Kemper had sex with his victims' remains, while Phinney sexually violated his last victim), and were both given the nickname "The Co-Ed Killer".

He may have also been based on Richard Ramirez - Both were rapists and serial killers who were given nicknames, dressed in similar black clothing (cap included), broke into their victims' homes at night and killed them by stabbing them to death (though that was only one of Ramirez's killing methods).

Greg is also similar to Ted Bundy - Both were psychopathic and organized serial killers who targeted women who were surrogates for women they had fallen in love with, broke into their homes at night to kill them, wore dark clothing as a countermeasure, had some sexual element in their crimes (Bundy engaged in necrophilia, while Phinney sexually violated one of his victims with a knife), and devolved towards the end of their murders.

Also, Greg seems to be similar to Danny Rolling - Both were serial rapists and serial/spree killers who had strenuous family lives, spied on women, were arrested for petty crimes prior to their killings, targeted female brunette college students, broke into their apartments and stabbed them to death with a knife, and were given nicknames for their crimes. Interestingly enough, Rolling was the inspiration for Ghostface, the fictional killer in the Scream franchise, which was vaguely referenced during the episode.

Known Victims[]

  • Unspecified date in 1999: Kate Jones (his stepmother; threatened with a knife)
  • 2011:
    • April 8: Monica Shanley (shallow cuts; died from a direct stab through the cut)
    • April 11: Natalie Wallace
    • April 13: Amber Lasko
    • April 14: Laurie Burgin (was killed while inside her employers' home)
    • April 15: The killings at the Ellison home:
      • The Ellison family
        • Jake Ellison (father; incidental; killed along with Lily Droubay and posed his body post-mortem)
        • Amy Ellison (mother; incidental; forced her and her baby son inside the nursery at knifepoint; was left alive)
        • The unnamed baby son (was also left alive)
      • Lily Droubay (target victim; also sexually violated with a knife and posed her body post-mortem)
    • April 16: The standoff at Kate Phinney's house:


  • Greg is similar to Earl Bulford ("The Eyes Have It") - Both were organized serial killers who devolved despite continuously evolving their M.O.s, had stressors that involved the deaths of their fathers, had mothers who died in car accidents during their childhoods, and were given appropriate names by the media for their murders.
  • According to his arrest record, Greg's Social Security number is 965-10-1701.