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Sorenson to Ellie Zumwalt

Patrick Sorenson was a delusional serial killer, abductor, and one-time family annihilator who appeared in the Season Eleven episode of Criminal Minds, "The Sandman".


Sorenson originally lived in Oswego, New York, with his mother Betty, who had substance abuse problems. On February 25, 1993, when Sorenson was nine, he was abducted from his bed by a pedophile at 10:00 p.m., while Betty was passed out drunk in her car, which was parked behind their house. As a result, she never heard his screams for her. Sorenson was sexually abused by the man for several hours before being released in a park the next day. He later told the police that his attacker made him stare at an hourglass while the abuse went on, telling him that if he didn't cry until all the sand ran out, he wouldn't be killed. While Sorenson was recovering in the hospital, Betty left a goodbye note on the kitchen table and disappeared, feeling guilt over not being able to help her son. The entire ordeal left Sorenson with a seething hatred of Betty, feeling he deserved an explanation from her about why she didn't help him. He was put in the foster care system afterwards.

The traumatic experience caused him to become obsessed with time itself, and he began building hourglasses of extraordinary mathematical precision, using sand taken from the Seneca River. Sorenson later moved back to Oswego, where he initially lived quietly. Six weeks prior to the episode, Betty, who moved to Wichita, Kansas, under an assumed name, died from kidney failure. When Betty's real identity was subsequently determined, Sorenson was called to Wichita as her next of kin to identify her body. Realizing her death caused him to steal Betty's body from the morgue, extract her bones and teeth, and ground them to make sand for his hourglasses. With his chance for answers dashed, Sorenson became dissatisfied by the outcome of the situation, and eventually suffered a psychotic breakdown. As a result, he set out to create a scenario in which Betty apologizes to him and admits her weakness in failing to protect him. He planned to target a mother as a surrogate for Betty, by killing the husband to get him out of the way, abducting the couple's only child, and telling the mother that she has eleven hours to comply or the child would die.

The Sandman[]

"Lies. Lies, lies, LIES!"

One night, Sorenson breaks into the residence of the family of a boy named Ronnie Brewer. First, he goes to the parents' bedroom, kills the father Jim, and puts glue and sand in the parents' eyes. Afterwards, he goes to Brewer's bedroom and proceeds to abduct him. While doing so, the boy yells out for his mother. The mother Lyla hears his screams and tries to find him, but due to Sorenson putting glue and sand in her eyes, she is unable to see. She finds her husband dead, gets his blood on her hands, and stumbles around the upstairs floor to find her son. Sorenson confronts her, just as she slips and fatally hits her head on a table placed by Sorenson to prevent her from falling down the stairs. The next day, in Sorenson's hideout, he puts sand from a bowl into a small bag, as a skull sits in an incinerator. Off-screen, Sorenson strangles Brewer to death and dumps his body where it is found by authorities. Later, he watches the news of Brewer's body being found. Then, he turns off the television and proceeds to target another child.

Patrick spies on a girl named Josie Zumwalt from his car and waits for the right moment to abduct her. The following night, after Zumwalt's parents Luke and Ellie go to bed, Sorenson proceeds to their bedroom, killing Luke and putting glue and sand in the parents' eyes. After Patrick abducts Zumwalt, he goes back to the parents' bedroom, where a conscious Ellie tries to get to her daughter and finds Luke dead. Sorenson promptly knocks out Ellie, then takes Zumwalt to his hideout. Later, he retrieves a tooth and puts it along with the other teeth taken from Betty. While Sorenson looks at his collection of hourglasses and places one upside-down, Zumwalt begs him not to hurt her. Afterwards, Sorenson changes channels on the television while Zumwalt asks why he abducted her, adding that she didn't do anything to him and doesn't understand anything. This frustrates him, who takes her to another room and locks her in there while ignoring her protests. He then proceeds to turn each of his hourglasses upside-down compulsively.

Later, Sorenson spots a live news report announcing Ellie's intention to broadcast a message to Zumwalt in an hour. An hour later, as Ellie gives her message with Sorenson watching, he projects Betty's image onto Ellie. Afterwards, he goes to the room where he is holding Zumwalt captive, and gives her a phone, instructing her to call her mother. While Ellie talks to her daughter on the speaker, Sorenson projects Betty's voice onto Ellie's. However, during the phone conversation, Ellie accidentally says her daughter's name, causing Sorenson to take the phone away from Zumwalt and lock her in. He becomes frustrated and yells out that they are all lies as he throws the phone to the ground, destroying it. He then grabs a ball-peen hammer and goes to the other room to kill Zumwalt, but finds Rossi and Morgan. Rossi holds Sorenson at gunpoint and orders him to drop the hammer, but he instead furiously charges at Rossi, who shoots him twice. He falls back into the shelves holding his hourglasses, breaking every single one of them. As he succumbs to his wounds, his face is sprinkled in falling sand from the shattered hourglasses.

Modus Operandi[]

Though Sorenson attacked families, he was specifically targeting the mothers and children with the intention of not killing them, while the fathers were killed to eliminate immediate threats. He would break into their homes at night, walk into the parents' bedrooms, and slash the fathers' throats with a blade while they were sleeping, then sprinkle sand from the Seneca River into them and glue them shut post-mortem. Then, he would sprinkle the same sand into the mothers' eyes and glue them shut while they were sleeping and sprinkle sand taken from the Seneca River all over their faces, as well.

Afterwards, Sorenson would abduct the children from their bedrooms at night while they were sleeping (as a reference to his own abduction), taking the time to let the mothers wake up at the sound of the children screaming and stumble around blindly first. When Lyla Brewer was accidentally killed as a result of being blinded, Sorenson killed her son Ronnie by strangling him, then dumped his body on a road a few miles from his home. His signature was leaving hourglasses in the victim's homes that contained sand from a local river, as well as bone fragments and tooth enamel taken from Betty's body. Furthermore, when he abducted Josie Zumwalt, he planned to kill her eleven hours after abducting her (unless he got an apology from her mother), a reference to how he was held prisoner by his abductor and sexual abuser for eleven hours when he was a child. When he attempted to kill Rossi, he tried to bludgeon him with a ball-peen hammer.


The unsub is a white male aged in his early to mid-30s who is intelligent, well-organized, and meticulous. He was initially profiled as a traditional family annihilator seeking to wipe out entire families in his attacks. While most family annihilators are quick and ruthless, this unsub prolongs the suffering of his victims. He kills in stages: the father dies first, the mother second, and the child last. The mother seems to be the primary target of his rage as she is forced to endure a sense of helplessness for a maximum of an hour while the child is in danger. Despite the savagery of his attacks, the unsub is a psychological sadist who does not derive gratification from inflicting physical pain, but from observing the panic in his victims. This suggests something happened in the unsub's childhood when he felt unprotected, possibly his own mother turning a blind eye to either a real or a perceived danger. By placing both sand and glue in the parent's eyes, he is symbolically blinding them as punishment. The fact that Ellie Zumwalt survived her injuries may either discourage the unsub and make him more cautious or infuriate him and spur him to attack again with increased violence.

It was later revealed in the investigation that the unsub was not seeking to wipe out entire families like a traditional family annihilator, since the deaths of Lyla and Ronnie Brewer were unplanned. He also left Ellie Zumwalt alive, as he wanted her to do something for him later.

Real-Life Comparisons[]

Sorenson has similarities to Joseph Duncan III - Both were serial killers, family annihilators, and abductors who abducted children from their homes after killing the rest of the family, and, in one case, killed the sons they abducted before they could be saved.

Sorenson is also similar to Matthew Hoffman - Both were family annihilators, stalkers, and abductors who were born in the early 1980s, were obsessive collectors of things they somehow implemented into their crimes (Hoffman was obsessed with leaves and left his victims' dismembered remains inside a tree, while Sorenson left hourglasses in his victims' homes and glued sand in some of their eyes), their crimes occurred in the 2010s, they attacked families with one member being the primary target (mothers in Sorenson's case, the daughter in Hoffman's) and killed the rest to get them out of the way, killed their victims with bladed weapons or some form of blunt trauma on one victim (throat slashing and an accidental fall in Sorenson's case, slashing and one bludgeoning in Hoffman's), and held the daughter of a family they attacked captive in their hideout who was rescued.

Known Victims[]

  • 2016:
    • September 5: The Brewer family
      • Jim Brewer (father; slashed his throat; put sand in his eyes and glued them shut post-mortem)
      • Lyla Brewer (mother; indirectly; blinded and subsequently died after accidentally hitting her head on a table while falling)
      • Ronnie Brewer (son; abducted, strangled, and dumped his body in a different location)
    • September 6:
      • The Zumwalt family
        • Luke Zumwalt (father; slashed his throat; put sand in his eyes and glued them shut post-mortem)
        • Ellie Zumwalt (mother; blinded and assaulted, knocking her out)
        • Josie Zumwalt (daughter; abducted and attempted to kill by bludgeoning with a ball-peen hammer; was rescued)
      • David Rossi (attempted to bludgeon with a ball-peen hammer)


  • Though Sorenson himself wasn't directly based on them, the episode in general was inspired by Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, a pair of family annihilators who murdered all four members of the Clutter family during an attempted robbery.[1]
  • Sorenson appears to have been partially based on William Taylor ("Awake") - Both were serial killers (budding at least) and abductors whose stressors involved child abductions from cars (Sorenson was abducted as a child while his mother was drunk and asleep in her car, while Taylor's daughter was abducted from his car), later killed victims who were surrogates for the one they held responsible for their abductions, and were ultimately shot and killed by the BAU while attempting to kill both an agent and a final victim.