Criminal Minds Wiki

What do you think? I couldn't care less [if I shot a woman or not]. It wouldn't have made a difference to me.

Thomas Lee Dillon, also known as "The Roadside Sniper", was an American serial killer and arsonist who committed a string of sniper shootings across Ohio.


Little is known about Dillon's early life, other than he was born on July 9, 1950 in Canton, Ohio, and resided in Magnolia. He also had a wife and a son, had a college education, and worked as a draftsman for a Canton waterworks company for twelve years. For reasons unknown, he embarked himself on a string of random shootings, starting with Donald Welling, who was walking or jogging alongside Road 94 in Tuscarawas County. After the third murder of the series, Dillon sent a typewrite letter to a local newspaper, detailing the killing of Jamie Paxton (the second victim), and claiming that although he had no personal animosity towards the young man, he was prompted by an irresistible compulsion to shoot him. The FBI soon became involved in the investigation when the fourth victim, Claude Hawkins, was shot while fishing near the Wills Creek dam in Coshocton County, the location being classified as federal property. Soon, a task force consisting of the FBI; officers from the Tuscarawas, Belmont, and Coshocton Counties; and officials from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources was assembled. During the investigation, during which there were only three known murders, it was discovered that a man named Kevin Loring, who died in Muskingum County while out deer hunting and the death being concluded as an accident, had actually been murdered. Ten days after the task force meeting, Dillon claimed his final known victim, Gary Bradley, who was fishing in Caldwell, Ohio. Sometime afterwards, he was placed under surveillance after a friend of Dillon's recognized him from a behavioral profile released by the FBI.

Despite the surveillance, Dillon would attempt to kill Larry Oller in Tuscarawas County, but he missed him and Oller escaped uninjured. Sometime later, he sold the rifle used in the killings to an unidentified gun dealer. On November 27, 1992, Dillon was arrested on a weapons charge and placed under probation for illegally owning a silencer. It was apparently at this point that he confessed to having committed the sniper shootings, and on July 12, 1993, Dillon plead guilty to the five murders in court. During the ensuing trial, he was interrogated by psychiatrist Jeffrey Smalldon, who deemed him to be sane to stand trial despite allegations made by Dillon that a voice in his head commanded him to commit the murders. Also, investigators were able to find the gun dealer who bought Dillon's rifle and successfully recovered the weapon from him. He was soon found guilty and sentenced to five consecutive sentences of thirty years to life with no possibility of parole for aggravated murder, being incarcerated in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. Afterwards, Dillon began sending letters to Smalldon, in which he stated that he felt guilt from his actions. An attempt had been made to sell Dillon's story to Hollywood, which was responded by the passage of the Paxton Bill, named after Dillon's second victim Jamie Paxton; the bill prevented killers or their relatives from profiting from their crimes. In 2011, Dillon became ill from cancer and died three weeks later in the prison wing of Corrections Medical Center, on October 21.

Modus Operandi

Dillon targeted random men, all of whom were alone along byways in rural areas and doing activities of leisure at the time of their deaths, such as hunting or fishing. He would shoot them at least twice from a distance with a high-powered .308 Mauser rifle.


Dillon was profiled as an educated white male in his 20s with a predilection for crimes, such as arson and killing pets and farm animals, and lived a short distance from the crime scenes. He might be a nominal family man, but was likely a loner in life. He had a drinking problem and a history of compulsive crimes such as vandalism and arson. Stress would trigger the shootings, which usually would be committed while he was drunk.

Known Victims

  • Pennsylvania: November 28, 1984, McKean County: John Joseph Harvat (possibly; shot to death)
  • Ohio:
    • April 1, 1989, Tuscarawas County: Donald Welling, 35 (shot once in the heart)
    • 1990:
      • November 10, Belmont County: Jamie Paxton, 21 (shot three times with a rifle from a distance)
      • November 28, Muskingum County: Kevin Loring, 30 (shot once in the head with a rifle from a distance)
    • 1992:
      • March 14, Coshocton County: Claude Hawkins, 48 (shot once with a rifle from a distance)
      • April 5, Noble County: Gary Bradley, 44 (shot twice with a rifle from a distance)
      • July 21, Muskingum County: two unnamed hunters (attempted; aimed at, but fled when they saw him)
      • October, Tuscarawas County: Larry Oller (attempted; shot at, but missed)
  • Notes:
    • Dillon also confessed to committing two other murders, one occurring thirteen years prior to his first confirmed murder, the other in which the victim had long hair and was presumably a woman. Jeffrey Smalldon also expressed the likelihood that Dillon may have committed numerous other murders.
    • Dillon was also responsible for setting over 100 fires and killing more than a thousand pets and farm animals.

On Criminal Minds

  • Season Eight
    • "The Silencer" - While directly referenced in this episode, Dillon may have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, John Myers - Both were serial killers who were profiled as being intelligent, their killings were triggered by stress (at least according to Dillon's profile), were arrested for illegally owning a silencer, and wrote letters to someone while incarcerated. Also, Meyers being tormented by a loud buzzing sound in his head could be a slight nod to Dillon alleging that he heard voices in his head telling him to kill.
    • "The Apprenticeship" - Dillon was mentioned alongside Joseph Duncan as an example of serial killers who don't start committing murders until they are middle-aged.
  • Season Twelve
    • "In the Dark" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in the episode, Dillon appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Trey Gordon - Both were organized serial killers who targeted outdoorsmen in the woods, shot them with scoped rifles, removed incriminating evidence (such as shell casings) from their murder scenes, and were investigated and profiled by the FBI.