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You know what? I've howled for ten years against a system that wouldn't even notice me until the Star Chamber embarrassed them, and then it noticed. I'm not gonna cooperate and help you find the Star Chamber. They're the only ones fighting to keep me alive.
Russell to Hotch

Sam Russell is a serial killer, hacker, and a member of a serial killing team alongside John Nichols. They appeared in the Season Nine episode of Criminal Minds, "The Black Queen".


Little is known about Russell, including why he started murdering prostitutes alongside John Nichols. However, what is known about him is that he became a hacker well-known among his peers, including Garcia, whose own hacking skills were built from studies of his activities. At some point, he met Nichols, also a hacker; they became partners in hacking money and infrastructure, with Nichols acting as the silent partner. He also seemed to have an apparent hair fetish. Together, he and Nichols started killing in 2004, killing a total of eight women. When he was arrested as a suspect in the killings because of his numerous offenses of trespassing in the homes of street-walkers and drug addicts (the types of prostitutes that he and Nichols killed), Russell agreed to take the fall for all eight murders he committed with Nichols, even though he was responsible for only four and despite the fact that it would guarantee a death sentence. In return, Nichols supplied him with drugs and prayer beads containing his victims' hairs in prison, as well as the fact that he would delay the execution.

After a trial, Russell was eventually sentenced to death. Since he didn't exactly fit the profile the BAU gave at the time of the original investigation, plus the fact that the profile stated that there were possibly two unsubs due to the concrete, alternating pattern of stabbing and strangulation as used methods of killing, there were some doubts about him being responsible for all eight murders. To cover up the deal he made with Nichols, Russell eventually began protesting against his incarceration, and converted to Buddhism. This allowed him to keep a prayer bead he had Nichols give him and routinely received locks of hair taken from his victims that reassured him the plan was in motion. When the hacking activist group Star Chamber hacked the U.S. Department of Justice's website, displaying an image that claimed Russell was innocent and that the prostitutes "died in vein[1]". Russell then claimed that he was fed drugs by the police in order to confess.

The Black Queen[]

In the episode, he is visited by Hotch and JJ in the middle of his prayer. He gives them a friendly greeting, and then claims his innocence in the face of Hotch's skepticism. At first, he refuses to help them find Star Chamber, which they assume he is in contact with and declares that they are helping him keeping him alive. However, on the second visit (after which Nichols killed another two prostitutes), Hotch claims to believe he is innocent, which convinces him to help him set up a meeting with the Star Chamber leader, Shane Wyeth, but he tells him that only Garcia, whom Shane is familiar with, can speak to him. Immediately afterward, Hotch states that he still believes Russell is hiding something. On the third visit, JJ explains what they have deduced from the investigation (that the strangulation victims had their hair pulled to their throats while being choked) and begins pulling her hair to her neck, mimicking what he did to his victims. This causes him to fall into a satisfied trance and accidentally snap his prayer bead necklace, scattering several of them onto the table where Hotch places them in a bag. The agents promise that he and his partner will both spend the rest of their lives in prison, and Hotch tells him that the governor has agreed to delay Russell's execution so they can retry him for the strangulation murders. As Hotch and JJ walk out, he starts screaming for his beads.

Modus Operandi[]

Russell targeted prostitutes alongside Nichols, all of whom were drugged by a drink they took. He would then kill his individual victims by strangling them to death with his bare hands. While doing so, he would also keep the hairs of his victims in his grip and hold it so tightly during the strangulation that the hairs would be torn off by their roots.


No official profile of Russell was made since the BAU was more focused on Nichols.

Known Victims[]

  • 2004: Four unnamed prostitutes



  • Sam Russell is the eighth of only nine serial killers in the show's history to have successfully kill all of the victims they targeted. This is a very rare occurrence, as almost all serial killers depicted on the show have at least one survivor. The others are:
  • During the briefing scene, Russell was referred to by JJ as "The Prostitute Killer", though as a general reference to the type of victims he killed, not a nickname.


  1. Intentionally misspelled from "vain".