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You took my money, and you hoarded my servers for your little crusade, and none of that is free. Even those women knew that.

John Nichols is a serial killer, hacker, one-time abductor, and later copycat and attempted poisoner who appeared in the Season Nine episode of Criminal Minds, "The Black Queen".


Little is known about Nichols, including why he started murdering prostitutes alongside his partner Sam Russell. However, what is known about him is that he became a hacker, which is how he met Russell, also a hacker, with whom they were partners in hacking money and infrastructure; Nichols acted as the silent partner. Also, considering the high-end style of his house and the fact that he seemed perfectly capable to buy an address with a large sum of money, he may also have access to a fortune (likely acquired through his hacking attacks). Together, they started killing in 2004. When Russell was arrested by the BAU as a suspect for the killings, he convinced him to take the fall in exchange for supplying him with drugs and prayer beads with hair from his victims. When Russell agreed to the deal, Nichols stopped killing but continued to send Russell strands of hair from his victims in order to reassure him that their deal was still in place. Sometime prior to "The Black Queen", he joined an activist organization of hackers called Star Chamber and came to hold a hatred of Shane Wyeth, its leader, when the latter repeatedly kept using the money he acquired for the organization's cyber-activities. He and the rest of Star Chamber eventually investigated Russell's case and annotated the original case file with their own research. They then hacked the U.S. Department of Justice's website in 2014 and voiced its support of Russell's innocence, stating that the victims "died in vein[1]". This prompted Nichols to start killing again, in order to ensure that Russell would stay alive.

The Black Queen

In "The Black Queen", he begins his second phase of killings by murdering two prostitutes on January 14, drugging them and then stabbing one and strangling the other as a reference to his and Russell's separate methods of killing. The next night, he kills another prostitute, strangling her, then stabbing her. The following day, Nichols learned from Shane Wyeth that he received a profile from the BAU, stating that the unsub is a member of Star Chamber. In response, he drugs Shane abducts him, and takes him to a house, intending to fatally poison him and cover up his death with the illusion of suicide, therefore setting him up as the killer. He drugs Shane excessively with Oxycodone that he purchased under Shane's name, all the while angrily ranting on to him about how he used his money to fund activities for Star Chamber and that the organization's purpose was useless. However, when Nichols is about to administer the fatal dose, he is confronted by MorganReid, and a SWAT team, who found that he purchased the house hours ago under Shane's name (despite the fact that Shane couldn't afford to buy it). He is arrested, while Shane is successfully revived by Reid.

Modus Operandi

Nichols targeted prostitutes alongside Russell, all of whom were drugged by a drink that they took. During the 2004 killings, he stabbed the victims to death and dumped their bodies in alleyways or other locations holding trash. During the 2014 killings, he specifically targeted prostitutes who went independent from prostitution services recently; because details regarding the 2004 victims were unclear, it is also possible that these victims shared that same attribute as well. During the double homicide, he copied Russell's method of killing onto one of the victims, which was later partially repeated on the murder of Debbie Bloom. Also, judging by a couple of scenes in the episode, he apparently seemed to allow his drugged victims to crawl on the ground for a brief moment, presumably to taunt and/or psychologically torture them. When he tried to kill Shane Wyeth, he instead tried to fatally poison him with Oxycodone.


For the profile, the BAU had two theories regarding the unsub:

  • One theory was that Russell was wrongfully convicted and the real killer has struck again. The unsub is controlled enough to stay dormant for a decade, but Russell's impending execution brought him back. Like Dennis Rader, he resurfaced to claim credit for his murders. The unsub's most recent murders could serve as a similar message.
  • The other theory was that the unsub was a copycat who was trying to cast doubt on Russell's conviction. To copy the case accurately, he would need access to the original case file, and since Star Chamber has the file, he is possibly a member. Certain types of hackers thrive on the cachet of infamy; in this case, the unsub wants to show his peers that he was so evil that he can commit the murders that Russell didn't.

Later on in the investigation, the BAU deduced that elements of both theories were correct in the sense that Nichols resurfaced due to Russell's impending execution and that the latter was indeed innocent for some of the murders, while Nichols was also a copycat and a member of Star Chamber who wanted to demonstrate his evil to his peers, specifically Shane, whom he harbored a hatred for.

Real-Life Comparisons

Nichols bears a physical resemblance and the same surname of Terry Nichols, the accomplice of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. It should also be noted that Terry Nichols was a member of a two-person killing team, although he didn't directly participate in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Nichols appears to have been based on Veronica Compton - Both are copycats and accomplices of serial killers currently in prison, attempted to kill victims to try and make the serial killers in custody seem innocent (only Nichols killed), had one living victim each, and were arrested by police in failed attempts to kill their last victims and then flee.

He appears to also have been based on Lonnie David Franklin - Both were serial killers who targeted prostitutes (at least some of whom were African-American, though Franklin also killed other women), disposed of them in dumpsters like trash, were active in California, became dormant for over a decade before resuming their murders, and in their later phase of killing they partially deviated from their original murder methods by strangling two of their victims. Also, Nichols having Russell as a partner could be a slight nod to Franklin's murder coenciding with the crimes of several other serial killers.

Known Victims

  • Unspecified dates in 2004: Four unnamed prostitutes (all were stabbed)
  • 2014:
    • January 14: Gloria Holden and Marguerite Churchill (one was stabbed, the other was strangled)
    • January 15: Debbie Bloom (incapacitated by injecting her with a drug; strangled, then stabbed)
    • January 16: Shane Wyeth (attempted, but barely survived; was drugged and poisoned with Oxycodone)




  1. Intentionally misspelled from "vain".