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Sandra Madsen is a narcissistic news director and incidental character who appeared in the Season Thirteen episode of Criminal Minds, "Neon Terror".

Background[]

Much of Sandra's personal history isn't revealed in great detail other than that she joined Channel 3 as a journalist sometime in 1997. Throughout her news career, she covered news stories ranging from the murder of fashion icon Gianni Versace to gang violence and cartel wars and was received numerous awards and nominations, earning a wall of fame in the offices of Channel 3. One of her first stories was the case of Jeffrey Whitfield, a six-year-old boy who witnessed the fatal shooting of his babysitter Gina Meadows in a carjacking while in the backseat of Gina's car. After the case was assigned to her, Sandra was one of the first to respond to the incident and covered the story extensively when it broke. In 1998, a year after the shooting, Sandra had an exclusive interview with Jeffrey about Gina's murder and its impact on him, which was his first and only on-camera interview regarding the incident.

During the interview, Jeffrey told her that, after Gina was shot, his cat licked the blood from his face and she also learned (likely from his parents) that Jeffrey was so traumatized from the experience that he hadn't spoken at all until she interviewed him. Afterwards, Sandra played back the interview and noticed the excitement on Jeffrey's face when he saw his face on the camera, but as Jeffrey started to communicate again following their interview, Sandra apparently did not think much more of it. At some point prior to the episode, Sandra was promoted to news director at Channel 3, however, she saw this as more of a demotion as it meant she was no longer receiving the attention and acclaim she had in the past. When someone started killing young women while they were in their cars, Sandra leaped at the opportunity to use the murders as a way of boosting Channel 3's profile, as well as her own, especially when one of her reporters, Kal Montgomery, presented her with exclusive footage of the murders, claiming to have filmed it at the crime scenes. Unknown to Sandra, Kal had really been given the footage by the shooter, who was in fact Jeffrey trying to recreate the media response to Gina's murder.

Neon Terror[]

After Jeffrey kills three more victims, he sends Kal the new footage of the crime scenes, this time including shots of hair clips he left behind at all three, allowing Channel 3 to air an exclusive linking the murders. Afterwards, Sandra discusses the case with her staff in the newsroom and commends Kal for presenting them with the footage. She goes on to say that they must now name the killer in a similar light as the Son of Sam, BTK or the Zodiac Killer. Examining a still of the latest victim's car parked beneath a neon light, Sandra decides to label the shooter as "The Neon Terror". Rossi and JJ then enter the room and the latter tells Sandra that naming the unsub is a mistake as it will romanticize him in the mind of the public, in turn giving him a sense of power and control he craves desperately. Sandra introduces herself before leading the agents to the hallway to speak more privately, where they see her collection of awards from over the years. They ask her how Channel 3 was able to make the hair clip connection when they are only visible in official crime scene photos and not in any media footage. JJ theorizes that the unsub reached out to one of Sandra's reporters. However, Sandra swiftly denies this, stating that if that was the case, she would know and claims they received the images from "a protected source". When they inquire if the source was a police officer, Sandra refuses to answer further until they present her with a warrant. She gladly states that it is her job to inform the public and the FBI's to protect them, again refusing to help them. The agents give her a card before leaving.

Sandra's nickname drives Jeffrey to kill again, now leaving a neon at the scene. Kal presents Sandra with new video, claiming to have filmed it himself before the police arrived. Under Sandra's instruction, they immediately air the footage before another news outlet can. Following the broadcast, she praises her staff for their work and informs them that their ratings have skyrocketed since breaking the story. Rossi and JJ return and ask to talk to Kal, having identified him as the source of the footage. When Sandra tells him to say nothing, Kal agrees to talk to them. Sandra then leads them all to her office, where they discuss the latest footage Kal produced. They voice their suspicions that Kal is the unsub, based on his outbursts regarding a former girlfriend who resembled the victims, which unsettles Sandra. This causes Kal to cave and confess that he wasn't the one who recorded the footage, much to Sandra's shock. He then explains how he received the video footage and shows them the messages sent to him by Jeffrey. After Kal gets a video showing Jeffrey killing another woman, Sandra calls the BAU. When they arrive, Prentiss voices her surprise at Sandra calling them. She answers that now that she knows the source of Kal's footage is the killer, she felt she had to before commenting that the new video is "brutal". She shows them the video and distraughtly expresses concern for the terrified young girl the victim was babysitting when the camera centers on her. The BAU then deduce the location on the murder from the video and find the girl, Alex Grayson, unharmed.

Jeffrey Whitfield's

Sandra being held at gunpoint.

Due to the graphic nature of the latest video, Sandra does not air it on the news, causing Jeffrey to become enraged and attack the Channel 3 newsroom. After killing two of her colleagues, Jeffrey knocks Sandra unconscious and takes her captive. Sandra regains consciousness and is restrained to a chair with Jeffrey's neon around her neck. He asks her if she remembers him and when she does not respond, he reveals his identity, much to Sandra's dismay. He briefly laments about how they faded into obscurity after their interview and that, with the new murders, they were both getting the attention they deserved until Sandra chose not to air Nancy's murder. Sandra tells Jeffrey that she couldn't because it wasn't clear that Alex wasn't hurt. Jeffrey counters by calling it a "cliffhanger" before starting a live stream, planning to kill Sandra in front of the world. He holds his gun to her head and forces her to recount what he had said to her twenty years ago in their interview, leaving Sandra on the verge of tears just as Rossi and Prentiss arrive with their guns trained on Jeffrey. After a brief standoff, they convince Jeffrey to surrender and Rossi frees Sandra from her restraints. Afterwards, Sandra approaches Rossi at the front entrance and thanked him for rescuing her. She talks about how she had always wondered what it felt like to be a victim before stating that she imagined it would be terrifying, but instead she found it exhilarating, which surprises Rossi. She then shows delight at the crowd of reporters gathering outside the building. When Rossi tells her that the glory is not real, Sandra replies that it is and asks him to thank Jeffrey for her. The episode ends with a disapproving Rossi walking away while Sandra recounts her first encounter with Jeffrey to the reporters.

Notes[]

  • Sandra bears many similarities to Jill Morris ("Limelight") - Both were glory-seeking professionals willing to use the cases at hand to achieve personal fame, despite the fact that lives were being lost, and created nicknames for the respective unsubs, who later attempted to kill them. Additionally, the attempts on their lives resulted in the death of at least one person to whom they were connected (Andrus killed a friend of Morris' while two of Madsen's colleagues were shot by Whitfield) but were rescued by the BAU. Finally, both episodes ended with a similar scene including Rossi in which the women could have avoided a crowd of reporters but choose to be interviewed instead while showing no remorse for what had occurred.

Appearances[]

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