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How did I do?
Vargas' signature when he raped his victims

Pablo Vargas was a Mexican serial rapist and abductor-turned-serial killer who appeared in the Season One episode of Criminal Minds, "Machismo".

Background

Almost nothing is known about Vargas' early life, other than his mother died at some point (possibly at his hands) and that he was employed as the floor manager of women's plus sizes in a clothing factory in Allende del Sol, Mexico. He left his mother's corpse in the living room of their home, situated in front of a television that was constantly running. At some point in his life, he began cross-dressing for unknown reasons. In 2003, Vargas began raping young women, ambushing them in the street, forcing them into the desert at knifepoint, and blindfolding them before committing the act. Once it was over, Vargas would kiss the woman's neck, ask "How did I do?", and leave. In the fall of 2004, Vargas attacked his fourteenth victim, a waitress named Milagros Villanueva, who struggled more than the other women, managing to give him several minor injuries. After being wounded by Villanueva, Vargas was mocked and laughed at by the woman, who had noticed he was wearing a dress.

Discouraged and humiliated, Vargas fled the scene without being able to successfully rape her. A month later, he attacked the mother of his first victim, believing the elderly would be easier to rape. During the attack, Vargas, having been unable to get over the feelings of emasculation his failed rape of Villanueva left him with, was unable to rape the old woman, and in a rage, stabbed her, discovering murder was a satisfactory substitute for rape. Targeting the mothers of his rape victims, Vargas killed one about every nine weeks, committing eleven murders in two years. While the Mexican media was convinced a serial killer was on the loose, the government was reluctant to admit this, and the slayings continued.

Machismo

Going on vacation from his job, Vargas murders Lupe Trejo on his first day off and, seemingly in a frenzy, kills Isabel Santiago only two days later, taking a necklace she was wearing (which belonged to her daughter) and bringing it back to his house. Once home, Vargas places the necklace on his mother's body, along with other accessories he had stolen from his victims, and applies makeup to himself, throwing a fit in the midst of it and smashing the mirror, before going to caress his mother's hair. Later, Vargas heads to the home of Nina Villanueva (Milagros' mother) and is attacked on the property by his rape victims as well as Nina, who had discerned his identity due to the local police and the BAU's investigation of the murders. After being brutally beaten, Vargas is castrated with a kitchen knife (Milagros stating "He pretended to be a woman. Now he doesn't have to pretend.") and is left bleeding outside, where the BAU and police find him. He most likely died from his injuries, which appeared to be extremely severe.

Profile

The unsub is a Hispanic heterosexual male who is aged thirty-five to fifty, based on the number of times he has killed and the skill of gaining the trust of his victims. He blends into the poor neighborhoods he targets and (since the homes of his victims showed no signs of forced entry) appears non-threatening and is capable of making his victims feel at ease due to disguising himself as a woman, as evidence at the scene and the testimony of Roberto González indicated. Using his disguise, the unsub probably pretends to be a nurse or social worker, like most Old Lady Killer-type offenders. The heavy mutilation inflicted to the face, chest and genitals of the victims indicates the murders are sexually motivated, with the unsub attacking the subjects of his attraction. Before escalating to murder, the unsub probably committed other sex crimes, such as peeping and rape, and when rape stopped being enough, he began killing women who reminded him of a repressive authority figure in his life, like his mother or grandmother, who he blames for his perceived impotence.

After interviewing his rape victims, the unsub is classified as a power-reassurance rapist, meaning he is passive, non-athletic, lacks confidence, is incapable of having normal relationships with women, and lives or works near his victims. The unsub probably fantasized that the women he raped were his girlfriends, and would be dissuaded if they had fought back or screamed. The unsub asking "How did I do?" after the sexual assaults confirmed he lacked confidence, as the confidence do not need reassurance that they did a good job; they just assume they did. In his workplace, he may act somewhat inappropriately around female coworkers, would be unable to look his boss in the eye, and desperately wants approval from his superiors, no matter how small the job.

The stressor that caused the unsub to stop raping young women and begin killing old ones was assumed to be rape victim Milagros Villanueva fighting him off and mocking him, making him feel humiliated and emasculated. Deciding to attack an older woman after the incident, likely thinking she would be easier to overpower, the unsub found he was unable to go through with the rape, his feelings of emasculation still lingering heavily, and thus he grew enraged and murdered the victim, discovering killing gave him the same sexual release that rape did. Until he is stopped, the unsub will continue killing, his cooling-off period growing shorter as his need for sexual release grows.

Modus Operandi

As a serial rapist, Vargas disguised himself as a woman using plus-size clothing, presumably taken from his workplace, approached young Hispanic women in the streets, came up from behind them, put a knife to their backs, and took them out to the desert, where he would blindfold and rape them. His signature for the rapes was kissing his victim's neck, and asking "How did I do?" after he was finished. At home, he would place flyers showing his victim's faces on the living room wall, presumably using them to relive the rapes.

After he escalated from raping young women to murdering their elderly mothers, Vargas would still disguise himself as a woman using the same plus-size clothing, knock on their doors, pretend to be a nurse or social worker from a city, and enter their homes when they answered. Once inside, Vargas would overpower the victims, and stab them repeatedly in the face, chest, and genitals (except for his last victim, Isabel Santiago, who was only stabbed in the chest and genitals) with a knife, possibly taken from the kitchen (since it would have been difficult to hide a knife in his disguise), as was the case in Lupe Trejo's murder. Once the victim is dead, Vargas would take pieces of jewelry belonging to their daughter and bring it home to place on his mother's corpse. In the case of Lupe Trejo, he placed jewelry on her body, presumably out of remorse. He would always kill his victims in chronological order in accordance to his rapes.

Real-Life Comparisons

Vargas appears to have been heavily based of Juana Barraza - Both were Mexican serial killers with rocky relationships with their mothers, targeted lone old women, gained access to their homes by posing as a nurse or social worker, used objects taken from the house to kill their victims, took trophies, and were captured while fleeing the home of their last victim. Also in both cases, local law enforcement was criticized by the media for refusing to admit that a serial killer was involved at first, and later for centering their suspicions on a transvestite prostitute despite having little reason to do so. However, unlike Barraza, who was only believed to be a transvestite male before her capture, Vargas really was one.

Vargas is also similar to Andrei Chikatilo (whom he was compared to by Gideon) - Both were serial killers who committed sexual assaults prior to their killings, their mothers died before their killings, had managing jobs in a factory, were very shy and insecure with other people (particularly with women), felt mocked and humiliated by them, and were sexually impotent, only managing to ejaculate when they stabbed their victims to death in fits of rage because of their impotence.

He also appears to have been based on José Antonio Rodríguez Vega - Both were serial killers and rapists who had difficult relationships with their mothers, were active in Spanish-speaking countries, targeted younger women before switching to raping and killing elderly women (though Vargas was unable to consummate during his second spree), took mementos from their victims, and remained active for longer periods of time because law enforcement initially did not recognize the presence of a serial killer despite the outward signs, and both were ultimately killed with bladed weaponry by numerous individuals outside of law enforcement at the end of their murders. Vargas' (possible) murder of his mother may have also been a reference to Rodríguez Vega wishing he did the same to his own mother.

Known Victims

Rapes

  • 2003:
    • May 1: Julia Torres Morales
    • May 22: María Gómez Fuentes
    • July 6: Michelle Cortez Torres
    • August 7: Rosario Reyes Espinoza
    • September 12: Juana Robles Pérez
    • November 1: Carmen Morales Rivas
    • November 28: Nicolasa Martínez Reyes
    • December 9: Conchita Ochoa Morales
  • 2004:
    • May 27: María Sánchez Tovarez
    • July 2: Susana Montes Hernández
    • July-August:
      • Trevino (first name unrevealed)
      • Rosa Trejo
      • Anna Santiago
    • August 30: Milagros Villanueva Cruz (attempted; was fought off by her and she escaped)

Murders

  • Unspecified date: His unnamed mother (presumably)
  • September 21, 2004: Elena Gutiérrez Torres (Julia Torres Morales's mother)
  • 2005:
    • January 14: Juanita Rodríguez Gómez (María Gómez Fuentes's mother)
    • March 6: Patricia Fernández Cortez (Michelle Cortez Torres's mother)
    • April 3: Marielys Espinoza Reyes (Rosario Reyes Espinoza's mother)
    • June 27: Gloria Rivas Robles (Juana Robles Pérez mother)
    • September 19-26: Carla Chávez Morales (Carmen Morales Rivas's mother)
    • December 19: Adriana Flores Martinez (Nicolasa Martínez Reyes's mother)
  • 2006:
    • January 31: Isabel Silva De Ochoa (Conchita Ochoa Morales's mother)
    • February 14: Regina Cortez Sánchez (María Sánchez Tovarez's mother)
    • June 30: Linda Quintanilla Montes (Susana Montes Hernández's mother)
    • September 6: Raquel Trevino (his eleventh rape victim's mother)
    • November 1: Lupe Trejo (Rosa Trejo's mother)
    • November 3: Isabel Santiago (Anna Santiago's mother; stabbed in the chest and genitals)
    • November 4: Nina Cruz Villanueva (Milagros Villanueva Cruz's mother; attempted)

Notes

  • Pablo Vargas is the first of only twelve serial killers in the show's history to have killed at least a dozen victims, yet not be a prolific killer because the span of their crimes was less than three years. The rest are:
  • The BAU team makes the connection that the unsub kills the mothers of the raped women by matching their last names; for example, the first rape victim is called "Julia Torres Morales" and her mom is "Elena Gutiérrez Torres". However, in Mexico (in all Spanish-speaking countries, actually), married women tend to keep their last name instead of replacing it with their husband's, and people typically use both of their parents' last names in their full name (in Julia's case, "Torres" would be her father's last name and "Morales" her mother's). So either the mother should have as her first last name "Morales" or her name should be "Elena Gutiérrez De Torres", which is the only way married women use their husband's last name. This was likely just an error on the writer's part.
  • Vargas has some similarities to Norman Bates, the fictional serial killer from the Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho - Both killed their victims by stabbing them, both dressed as women during their murders and both kept the skeletal bodies of their own mothers at their homes.

Appearances

References

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