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And if they would lie about that, then they would absolutely lie about a metal detector. So let me make one thing clear going forward. When I say 'they', I mean YOU!
Melissa to Tara Lewis

Melissa Miller is a psychopathic killer who appeared in the Season Thirteen episode of Criminal Minds, "False Flag".

Background

Not much is revealed about Melissa's early life other than she was a lifelong resident of Roswell, New Mexico and at some point, developed a psychopathic personality, which she kept well hidden. In her adult life, she came to believe various conspiracy theories, including the JFK magic bullet theory and that the moon landing was faked, and hosted a podcast called "Truth Notices", in which she discussed these and other theories for her listeners. Alongside all conspiracies, Melissa showed a particular interest in the concept of staged shootings and believed that the recent surge of gun violence throughout the U.S. were staged by the government to establish grounds to later revoke citizens' right to bear arms. After watching news reports on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, believing that all of the "grieving parents who were thrown in front of cameras" were merely actors hired by the US government, an enraged Melissa shouted "You're lying!" at her television in response. She became a member of the Truther Movement[1], an online gathering of conspiracy theorists who share their beliefs with like-minded individuals, and joined the local chapter of the movement, becoming friendly with the other members.

Melissa eventually entered a romantic relationship with Carl Lee, who was also a member of the group. However, due to the very nature of the Truther community, Melissa and Carl chose not to go public with their relationship and went to great lengths to hide any digital evidence, presumably out of concern that one of their fellow truthers would pry into the matter. Carl, an avid gun owner, kept numerous firearms in his house hidden in secret compartments built into furniture and, at some point, showed Melissa where they were and how to open them. Shortly before False Flag, Carl bought a copy of The Catcher in the Rye, republished by a local conspiracy commentator named Bob Orci, that he planned on giving to Melissa as a gift. However, before he could, Carl somehow discovered that Melissa was cheating on him and voiced his suspicions to a friend and fellow truther named Brian Behar, adding that he was close to "figuring out who it is". He later identified Melissa's lover as Doug Downey, yet another Truther group member, and confronted her in his home about it. During their argument, Melissa took one of Carl's guns from its compartment in a rage and proceeded to shoot him in the throat, killing him.

Now forced to cover her tracks, Melissa planned to make Carl's death look like a conspiracy in which law enforcement was trying to conceal the truth, first by collecting the bullet and shell casing from Carl's home and passing them onto Gary Hiles, another truther with a distrust of government authority. Telling Hiles that the items were evidence of a plot to cover up Carl's death, Melissa had him keep them safe to prevent this. Incidentally, Brian mysteriously drowned in his own aquarium the previous day. This left local police to suspect that both were killed by the same person, leading to the BAU being called in to conduct an equivocal death investigation[2]. Deciding that it was best to give the truthers the profile, the group are told to gather at the Legion hall, providing Melissa with the opportunity to slip the gun into Doug's pocket. As a security measure, the sheriff made the truthers go through a metal detector which, unknown to the officers, was not working properly and so did not alert them to the gun Doug had no idea he was carrying.

False Flag

Melissa is first seen listening to the BAU deliver their profile along with the rest of the truthers in the Legion hall. When the agents are interrupted by Hiles, JJ offers the truthers reassurance that they are not under surveillance and Melissa thanks her for not referring to them as 'conspiracy theorists' as the group is not fond of the term. Before JJ can continue, Doug notices the gun in his pocket, takes it in his hand and approaches the agents. This causes the BAU to draw their weapons trained on Doug and the rest of the truthers, including Melissa, to scatter. As Prentiss and Lewis try to talk Doug down, Melissa comes into Doug's sight from the doorway. Doug realizes that Melissa has set him up to take the fall for Carl's murder and shouts "I know a false flag when I see one, you bitch!" before committing suicide. Afterward, at the police station, Lewis enters where Melissa is placed in and informs her that she and the remaining truthers are being held as persons of interest in the murder investigation. Lewis then tells her that, although Doug killed himself, they cannot prove that he is the unsub before Melissa deduces that, based on Doug's final words, he thought the BAU were trying to frame him. Lewis states that the FBI doesn't frame people to which Melissa snaps back "Not anymore". When Lewis mentions that Melissa is the only truther who did not request a lawyer or insult them, she concludes that she wants to find the truth just as much as the BAU does. At this point, Melissa says that if she is going to talk to Lewis, she is given her phone and is allowed to record their conversation for her podcast, refusing to do so otherwise. Lewis then leaves to discuss it with the team.

After some deliberation, the BAU allow Melissa to record herself and Lewis. She starts by asking Lewis how she really feels about the truthers, to which she answers that she received her degree by forming a theory, testing them and proving the results by seeing if others can replicate them. She further explains that if it cannot be done, then said theory was flawed and that is how science works, arguing that what truthers do is different as their theories are impossible to prove before asking for an example of one. Melissa mentions the skepticism regarding Barack Obama's citizenship and Lewis argues that she can present Obama's birth certificate, but Melissa will just claim it was falsified and use that to dispute any subsequent evidence. Melissa quickly shifts focus to the murders and Lewis tells her how the BAU was invited to assist in the case. When Lewis mentions a discovery made during their flight to New Mexico, Melissa refers to Garcia by name and reveals that she had researched the entire team beforehand to learn more about the "illegal surveillance" used by the FBI. Lewis again denies that their methods are illegal, but Melissa responds it depends on what was found and how Garcia found it, which was the encrypted text exchange between Bryan and Carl. As Lewis resumes telling her about the speculation made by the team on the flight, Melissa is greatly surprised to learn that the BAU has its own jet, even stopping the interview momentarily.

Lewis then proceeds to discuss what they found at the two crime scenes and their decision to present the profile to the truthers before asking if they had missed anything. Melissa answers that they didn't miss anything, but instead covered it up, telling Lewis about the sheriff making the truthers go through a metal detector, which the BAU were not aware of, and accuses them of planting the gun on Doug and the BAU of coming to Roswell to aid in the cover-up before mockingly asking if she is the unsub. Melissa then states that she wanted behavioral science to provide answers, but only she, a "crazy conspiracy theorist", is currently making sense. After leaving to examine the malfunctioning metal detector, Lewis returns and explains that it was not working at the Legion hall because its calibrations were incorrect. However, Melissa adamantly dismisses this claim. Lewis then changes the subject to JJ and Simmons' discovery of unknown chemical burns on Bryan's face and a page from The Catcher in the Rye covering Carl's neck wound, briefly catching Melissa off-balance. She lists several infamous killers that the book was linked to and calls it "the original brainwashing tool" of the US government. Melissa then angrily mentions the Aurora, Orlando and Sandy Hook shootings and states that the government opened fire on empty buildings and "traded everything amongst themselves" to make them out to be mass shootings. When the agent lingers on the Sandy Hook shooting, a frenzied Melissa makes her feelings about the incident clear and talks about her personal reaction. This causes a startled Lewis, who was traumatized by the carnage of the rampage, to leave the room.

To Melissa's surprise, JJ re-enters the room to explain that they identified Bob Orci as the publisher of the edition found on Carl, sending Simmons and Alvez to bring him in. Melissa then recognizes Orci's address, describing him as an "anarchist" and tells JJ he lines his isolated desert home with fertilizer that acts as an explosive. JJ rushes to alert Prentiss as Melissa adds that they won't reach the agents by phone that far into the desert. Hours later, Prentiss comes in, waking a dozing Melissa and advising her to sit. Prentiss explains that her agents arrived to find that herself and Sheriff Mike Bowman had already arrived at Orci's cabin by helicopter due to Melissa's warning. They learned from Orci that he was, in fact, harmless, had been scamming the truthers and that Carl had asked him to write a dedication to Melissa on the inside cover, uncovering their hidden relationship. Realizing that they had allowed preconceptions to guide them the whole time, the BAU re-examine the case and discover that Bryan was killed by a palytoxin released by the coral in his aquarium while cleaning it. They also return to the Legion hall to reconstruct Doug's suicide and deduce that his last words were to Melissa and not Lewis or Prentiss as previously thought. Agreeing that finding the missing bullet and casing from Carl's murder is their best chance of solving the case, Lewis returns to Melissa, admitting her bias against her and giving her an opportunity to confess while her house is searched by Simmons. However, to her surprise, Melissa deletes the recording from her phone. Not finding the evidence in Melissa's home, Lewis thinks back to Melissa's exact words when discussing the mass shootings and realizes that she gave it to another truther. Approaching the group and their lawyers with the theory, Hiles soon admits to accepting the evidence from her and hands it over to the BAU. Lewis presents the "magic bullet" to Melissa, who defeatedly looks at her as she is arrested by Rossi.

Modus Operandi

Because Melissa only killed one victim, the term "M.O." is somewhat misused. When she killed Carl Lee, she shot him once in the throat using a Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380, one of many weapons he kept in hidden compartments in his home. Immediately after murdering Carl, she collected the bullet and the ejected shell casing and gave it to Gary Hiles, another member of the Truther group, telling him it was evidence that law enforcement was going to cover up the truth behind Carl's death. This ensured that if the evidence was found, it would not be connected to her. Before gathering with the group, she planted the gun on Doug Downey to frame him, making it appear that Doug killed Carl so his own relationship with Melissa could resume unopposed and, later, that Doug himself had been framed by law enforcement, particularly the BAU, for Carl's murder. She directly stared at Doug when he found the gun so he'd realize the conspiracy and shoot himself dead in a panic.

Profile

The unsub is a male who is most likely in his twenties based on the two victims so far. However, it must be emphasized that age is the most difficult variable to predict. This means the unsub could instead be in his forties. If so, he is also physically fit for his age. The unsub knew his victims personally, which is why this profile is being released to the Truther group because they also knew the victims. Normally, the profile would not even be delivered very early on but the Truthers are the best chance to discover the identity of the unsub. The unsub is hiding within the Truther group so it is important not to make them feel uncomfortable, suspicious or that they are under surveillance so the profile will be released to them at their Legion hall instead of the police station.

In the early stages of the investigation, the BAU believed the unsub may have been killing truthers based on the conspiracy theories they believed in. Bryan Behar was convinced that drinking water was being tainted with an unknown agent in order to keep society docile and he drowned in his own aquarium while Carl Lee was a JFK assassination conspiracy theorist who was shot in the throat, where President Kennedy himself was first shot back in 1963. This was before Bryan's death was discovered to have been an accident. The fact that Carl was killed in his own home with a weapon he owned that was hidden in a secret compartment means that the unsub would have had to be extremely close to him in order to have that kind of access. The only other people the truthers would trust that much are other truthers so it's more than likely the unsub is a member of the group.

Following Doug's suicide, the BAU speculated that Melissa may have been an accomplice to the unsub as she was the only cooperating truther. After Melissa was identified as actually being the unsub, Lewis described her as a "cunning, manipulative psychopath" and, true to form, she would not have responded well to Carl confronting her, resulting in her killing him. Alvez also describes her as the "undiagnosed psychopath" as psychopaths aren't known for their small egos or impulse control, so when Melissa got angry when Carl accused her of cheating, she waited for Carl to turn around before killing him to affirm her own sense of superiority.

Known Victims

  • November 20, 2017: Carl Lee (shot in the throat with his own gun)
  • November 21, 2017: Doug Downey (planted Carl's gun in his pocket to frame him; provoked him into committing suicide by shooting himself in the head)

Notes

Appearances

References

  1. A truther is described as a person who doubts the generally accepted account of an event, believing that an official conspiracy exists to conceal the true explanation; in other words, a conspiracy theorist.
  2. An investigation where all possibilities must be considered; murder, suicide, accidental or even natural causes.
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