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Don't make promises you can't keep, 'cause you can't always fix 'em!

Michael Vinoda is a schizophrenic spree killer who appears in the Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior episode "Devotion".


Born on January 28, 1987 as one of two children to Grant Nichols and an unnamed and deceased mother. When his wife died, Nichols abandoned Vinoda and Tami, having been told by doctors that Vinoda was disturbed some time earlier. After spending eight years in the foster system, Vinoda moved into a dilapidated old farm with Tami (her whereabouts during the time is unspecified) and lost a job because his employer noticed that Vinoda, a schizophrenic, was mentally unstable. Grant Nichols, in the meantime, had moved to Washington D.C., become a successful businessman and began running for city council. One day, Tami saw one of his campaign posters, which had a photo of him and his new wife and daughter on it, and committed suicide by hanging herself in her room. After some time, during which he just sat with her decaying corpse, Vinoda started driving towards Washington D.C. to confront Nichols, taking Tami's corpse with him and hallucinating that she was still alive, using molten candle wax to cover up the decomposition and perfume to cover up the smell. On the way, he began a killing spree, hanging fathers as a symbolic act of revenge towards Nichols.


Vinoda is seen stalking the Laughlin family and is given a casual wave from the Laughlin daughter, who believes he is friendly. He presumably tinkers with the family's camera, ensuring that the Laughlin father, Kevin, would stray from the family to fix it. As Kevin Laughlin attempts to fix the camera, Vinoda hits him from behind and puts him to sleep with chloroform. Laughlin awakes from his unconsciousness, only to see Vinoda talking to Tami's corpse before being hung. Vinoda, again thinking Tami is alive, makes his sister watch as Laughlin's life slowly slips away.

Later, while at a hotel, Vinoda spots Otis Meredith and later stages a car accident at an isolated highway to lure him in. Once again hallucinating, he orders Tami to watch as he murders Meredith, who spots Tami's corpse and yells in terror. He manages to get away before the Red Cell team arrives at the crime scene. They later realize from evidence at the hotel that Tami is dead and Vinoda is taking her corpse with him in his spree. Garcia later identifies Vinoda and Rawson and Griffith go to his house, finding several nooses in the barn.

Meanwhile, Cooper realizes that Vinoda is going back to Nichols, whom they interviewed earlier, pinpointing him as Vinoda and Tami's father. The Red Cell team arrive at Nichols' house, where Vinoda is prepared to hang Nichols in front of his new family and Tami's corpse. When Cooper tries to talk him down, Vinoda attempts to shoot himself in the mouth, only for Rawson to shoot Tami's corpse in order to attract his attention, allowing the local police to make the arrest.

Vinoda was most likely put in a psychiatric hospital to be treated for his schizophrenia.

Modus Operandi[]

Vinoda targeted blue-collar family men as surrogates for his father. He would wait for his victims to be isolated before subduing them by hitting them with a blunt object and then putting them to sleep with a rag with chloroform on it. He later began luring his victims with ruses. His signature was tying their hands with duct tape in a praying position and then tie a noose around their neck, while they were unconscious. When they awakened, he would tell them "Don't make promises you can't keep, 'cause you can't always fix 'em" (a response to Grant Nichols' campaign slogan "Because you can't always keep promises, but you can fix them!") and knock away the stool they were standing on, slowly killing them.


The unsub is a man (since he would need the upper body strength to attack someone, then drag, bind, noose, and lift a body) who drives an old American-made car. He could strangle his victims but he does not, and by hanging them, he seems to be making a statement. Kevin Laughlin's crime scene appeared to be staged, possibly to fulfill a fantasy ritual or to shock whoever finds the body. He is admiring his handiwork and also watching his victims suffer. It is possible that the deaths of the victims aren't meant as an execution by hanging, but instead as lynching, which is usually for an audience and is not a solitary event, meaning there is someone else with the unsub, who could be held against his or her will; the purchases of fresh flowers, cheap perfume, and blue candles at a gas station, makes it likely that this companion is a girl. He is forcing to this person watch these murders as their happening. The unsub is targeting his victims as crimes of opportunity and prefers taking the alternate roads as they are rural and less populated. Once the unsub targets his victims, he stalks them and then strikes, which says he is mission-oriented. There is no cooling-off period for him, since he targets his next victim right away, so he may have already chosen who he is going to kill next.

As the investigation continued, it became possible that the unsub could be at his endgame, judging by how he said "almost" in a 911 recording. It is possible the girl the unsub is traveling with might be deceased, based on how she doesn't react, struggle, or run away. He bought the perfume and candles not to romance her, but to conceal the smell. He also gives her flowers as a way of honoring her and to show her that she is precious to him. He could be a necrophiliac, as he is interacting with her as if she is still alive. The death of the female that the unsub has with him is probably the stressor; if the female died recently, he most likely lives in Nebraska, as that is where the killings started. The geographical profile predicts his next stop will be either Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C. For whatever reason, there is a direct connection to Grant Nichols's campaign, based on Nichols's slogan being similar to the unsub's message. Michael also has similarities to Veronica Day: After their families were shattered, they decided that no one else would have a happy family.

Known Victims[]

  • 2011:
    • March 20, Omaha, Nebraska: Armen Agüero
    • March 21, Joliet, Illinois: Kevin Laughlin
    • March 22, unspecified location in Ohio: Otis Meredith
    • March 23, Washington, D.C.: The Nichols family
      • Grant Nichols (his father; attempted to hang)
      • Kristen Nichols (Nichols' wife; tied up along with Erica)
      • Erica Nichols (Nichols' daughter and his half-sister)