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The Believers are a cult that appeared in Seasons Thirteen and Fourteen on Criminal Minds.


The Believers are a religious cult that operated throughout the Continental United States with the goal of obtaining 300 hyoid bones. The group was founded by Benjamin David Merva, a former member of Benjamin Cyrus' Separatarian Sect that has been disbanded since 2008 following the Separatarian Sect/The Liberty Ranch hostage crisis.

Following Cyrus’ downfall and the disbandment of the group, Merva, Mary Meadows, and several others went into the witness protection program. This, however, caused them to develop an animosity toward the BAU, who they blame for the death of their leader.


The Believers play a crucial part to the episode when two of its members, Donna and Jerry Holston, held former FBI agent Owen Quinn captive and tortured him for almost a year; Quinn believed that the BAU missed an unsub working up and down the North-East Corridor, who he named The Strangler.. They later attempt to get their son, Theo, to kill him. Theo knocks Quinn out, but then kills his parents instead. Theo then locks Quinn in a storage unit and emails Reid to tell him where he is. Towards the end of the episode, Meadows and another Believer held Garcia at gunpoint and forced Reid to choose between breaking Merva out of FBI custody or letting Garcia die.


Following the events of "Believer", Mary Meadows and two other members of The Believers convince Reid to help them bust their leader out of FBI custody by causing a distraction via pulling a fire alarm and evacuating the entire building. Once the task is completed, the cult escapes and takes Reid, Garcia, and Theo hostage and bring them to a warehouse where they had been hiding out.

At the urging of Meadows and threatening to kill Reid, the Believers force Garcia to help them become untraceable by blocking the signal of the traffic posts so they as well as the weapons within their trucks wouldn’t be traced.

Once Garcia finishes what the cult wanted, Theo and Reid distract the Believers, which gives Garcia enough time to steal a car from the Believers and escape. Unfortunately, the Believers kill Theo in the process and worrying that the FBI may be coming for them, the cultists flee with Reid to Kentucky.

Back at Quantico, the team sees camera footage of Merva's escape and decipher Reid's sign language to signal them of "Ben's Believer's". This leads them to looking back at the Liberty Ranch hostage crisis and establishing a connection between that case and the current one. With the help of Garcia, they were able to track the Believers to Arcadia, Kentucky.

Meanwhile in Kentucky, the Believers prepare to sacrifice Reid, for he was the reason why Benjamin Cyrus met his downfall for being to trusting. As the cult is distracted by giving Reid a chance to speak, the BAU and several SWAT team members dispatch five members of the Believers before coming out hiding and placing the remaining cult members under arrest.

Before Merva could kill Reid, Prentiss shoots him, killing him instantly.

Following Reid’s rescue, Meadows and the rest of the Believers were incarcerated for their crimes.

Modus Operandi

Their modus operandi was to promise families in the United States to kidnap and kill people and extract their bones from them, but not before burning their chlorine prints in order not to be discovered. Some members were also armed with CZ Scorpion EVO 3 A1 submachine guns.


Mutual Victims

  • Penelope Garcia (abducted; was rescued)
  • Spencer Reid (abducted and attempted to be murdered by Merva; was rescued)
  • Theo Holston (nearly killed by two followers, but failed; shot dead by followers and left to be found in the warehouse)