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I've put a lot of time and effort into making this a special night. Is it too much to ask for a little appreciation?
Belser to Erika Silverman

Joe Belser, a.k.a. "The Nashville Killer", is a delusional and misogynistic serial killer and stalker who appeared in the Season Five episode of Criminal Minds, "The Slave of Duty".


In his childhood, Belser went to primary and secondary school in the Nashville Public School District. In 2000, Belser was placed into the prestigious Southern Charleston Preparatory Academy by his wealthy parents, who died in a boating accident on December 13, 2003, the same year he graduated. Soon after that, he lost all of his inheritance in the stock market and began racking up massive debts, trying to maintain the lifestyle he had grown up in. In April 2009, Belser became engaged to wealthy magazine editor Rose Smith but broke off the engagement when Smith was caught sleeping with the best man. As he had already fully paid for the wedding chapel, Belser was financially crippled by the breakup. This drove him to begin killing women who resembled Smith, learning information about them beforehand using the job of a parking valet he managed to acquire. He would take them hostage in their homes for a couple of days and force them to pretend that they were his spouse before killing them when they fought back. The murder of his second victim, Melissa Johnson, led to the summoning of the BAU.

The Slave of Duty[]

Belser takes another woman, Erika Silverman, hostage. However, she decides to pretend that she has actually fallen in love with him in a bid to survive, even having sex with him one night to maintain the illusion. Belser, fascinated by this, is unaware of Silverman's true intentions; when she asks him to take her out, something he usually doesn't do to his victims, he agrees to do so. Unfortunately for Silverman, her boyfriend Grant Franklin comes over, enraging Belser, who non-fatally stabs him repeatedly before asking Silverman angrily, "Why did he have a key?". He then proceeds to murder both of them, and their bodies are shortly discovered. After a while, he takes another woman hostage, but she resists violently. His fantasy ruined again, he prepares to kill her, but the BAU, having found out his identity, break into the house and arrest Belser. Prentiss, (who had become repeatedly disturbed by how the victims lived their final moments in fear and insecurity), kicks him to the ground. She puts her gun to his head and says that when an inmate tries to have his way with him, to just play along, as he forced his victims to do. It is safe to presume he is either incarcerated or possibly even institutionalized afterwards.

Modus Operandi[]

Belser targeted upper-class brunette Caucasian women with professions of high power, all of whom resembled Rose Smith. He found them through his job as a parking valet at high-scale venues for upper-class citizens. He used the cars' GPS devices to find his victims' home address and write it down and also used his universal garage door opener to open the garage doors of his victims and therefore open the door to the house. After making a small but brutal assault on his victims to ensure his dominance, Belser would then force the women to take part in his fantasy, and after a while, he would end his fantasy by stabbing them repeatedly when they broke the delusion.

His signature was the first part of his fantasy, which involved leaving rose petals at the doors for his victims to find (a reference to the rose petals that were scattered down the aisle of his cancelled wedding reception), which was followed by a dinner of chicken, broccoli, pasta, salad, and red wine, Belser cleaning the dishes afterwards. He would then sexually assault the victim to attempt intercourse, with only Erika Silverman not fighting as much in an attempt to stay alive. He would always break into his victims' homes on Friday nights, except for his would-be victim Ann Heron. The first two victims were killed when he tried to give them a bath, as they believed it would be their most vulnerable moment and retaliated to survive. Erika Silverman and Grant Franklin were killed more brutally than the other victims, suffering more stab wounds and also being beaten more brutally.


The unsub is a white male who is already with his next victim. If he matches the patterns, the victim will be a successful, upper-class brunette in her early 30s to mid-40s who would be at home in Nashville's upper-class neighborhood. It means the unsub will fit in since he drives the right car and wears the right clothes. He is highly intelligent and probably comes from the same place of status. He is very sociable and endearing, so nobody could ever believe that he was capable of murder, but he will do whatever is necessary to maintain the fantasy that he is in a romantic relationship with his victims, which he is repeatedly recreating. The women he targets are strong and confident, but he is still able to overpower them. He may have lost a loved one very recently, either through death or a messy divorce, and is now targeting women similar in appearance, much like the motivations of Ted Bundy. The women are confident, successful, and strong, and they try to fight back, meaning he has the ability to fight back as well and overpower them easily. He believes or fantasizes that he is in a relationship with his victims, and no matter how fleeting the initial reaction is, it means everything to him,

It was initially assumed that because the unsub can easily follow his victims' upscale lifestyle, he most likely shared the same financial resources as them because of his upbringing and his sophisticated behavior, which are ingrained in him. It is a habit, something he would have learned as a child, not as an adult. If he did not have financial independence but was still trying to keep up his social status, he would be hemorrhaging funds. He might work at the venues his victims visited in the weeks prior to their deaths. He will be spending more money than he has made and has a large debt. He has purchased expensive cars and wardrobes and possibly has a scholarship-funded private school education.

When the BAU asked around for someone fitting Belser's profile, they described the unsub as being proper with very few, if any, disciplinary actions, a romantic who frequently spoke about women and love. He may recently have ended a relationship or, in some other way, lost a loved one.

Real-Life Comparison[]

Besler may have been inspired by Ted Bundy (whom, as stated above, he was compared to by Reid) - Both were serial killers who attended prestigious schools, were generally regarded as charming and intelligent, their crimes were triggered by the rejection of women, and subsequently targeted brunette Caucasian women who resembled the women who rejected them, both broke into their homes at night (though Bundy's MO was widely varied), bludgeoned them (though Belser did this only to subdue and dominate his victims), they became more brutal and devolved overtime, and were apprehended after a fight with law enforcement shortly after both killing a victim who didn't fit their victimology and attacking a last surviving victim. Their names also mirror each other slightly.

Known Victims[]

  • 2009:
    • November 27: Bethany Heminger (broke one of her ribs in the initial assault; beaten and stabbed 13 times in the chest and abdomen)
    • December 4: Melissa Johnson (gave her a concussion in the initial assault; beaten and stabbed repeatedly in the chest and back; her dog was also killed)
    • December 11: Erika Silverman (non-fatally strangled in the initial assault; later beaten and stabbed 17 times in the face and neck; killed along with Grant Franklin the next day)
    • December 12:
      • Grant Franklin (Silverman's boyfriend; incidental; beaten and stabbed 34 times in the back, face, and genitals)
      • Ann Herron (stalked for an unspecified amount of time; later assaulted and attempted to kill)


  • Joe Belser is extremely similar to Joe Smith ("In Name and Blood") - Both were misogynistic serial killers who shared the same first name, targeted Caucasian women (though Belser also killed a man) reminding them of women that have abandoned them in their personal lives (Smith's wife and Belser's fiancée), held their victims as hostages for certain periods of time while forcing them to act as surrogates (Smith had his captives act as mothers for his son, while Belser had them act as his spouse), and both killed their victims when they felt the latter broke their delusions. Coincidentally, both episodes featured a team leader being absent while the cases were under investigation by the BAU (though Hotch's absence was temporary).
  • Joe bears some similarities to Nick Ruskin, a.k.a. "Casanova", the main antagonist in the James Patterson novel Kiss the Girls and its film adaptation. Both are serial killers, rapists, stalkers, and captors who targeted higher-class women in the Southern U.S. motivated by erotomania. Both killers set scenes for the women, sexually assaulted them, and forced them to act out fantasies for the killers' delight. When the women broke the fantasies by fighting back or refusing to encourage it, they were murdered in a rage, before both killers searched for another woman to target.
  • Belser may have taken inspiration from the DC Comics villain Victor Zsasz - Both are psychopathic serial killers whose wealthy parents died in a boating accident when they were in their 20s, racked up heavy debts, were left bankrupt by someone (Belser paid for a wedding that was called off after his bride slept with the best man, while Zsasz lost his money in a casino game rigged by the Penguin), primarily targeted young women (but also killed men), and killed them with knives.