|“||What did I tell you about the [duct] tape?||”|
— Vogel to Heather Woodland
Officer Timothy "Tim" Vogel, a.k.a. "The Seattle Strangler", was a serial killer, serial rapist, and abductor who appeared in the pilot episode of Criminal Minds, "Extreme Aggressor", and was, therefore, the show's first unsub.
Vogel worked as a guard at Cascascia Prison and was affiliated with a local sociopath, Richard Slessman, who served time in the prison and whom he protected in exchange for his later assistance. Vogel snapped at an unknown point of recent years (presumably because of his impotence) and started killing. Targeting Melissa Kirsch as his first victim and starting from there, Vogel's murders became well-known in Seattle, eventually earning him the name of "The Seattle Strangler".
Vogel is first seen arranging a test drive of his Datsun 240Z to a young woman, Heather Woodland, over the Internet. He sent her a picture and told her that the car has new paint and new tires. She asks him why the price is so low, and he tells her he's moving and has to sell the car. Vogel suggests he pick her up so they can go for a test drive. Woodland huddles under her umbrella on the sidewalk as the car pulls up. Vogel ushers her into the driver's seat and they both drive through the rain, talking about the car's features. After they look under the hood, he opens the passenger door for her, but, as he closes it, he removes the lock button on the door and pockets it. Woodland points out the turn to take her back to her office, but Vogel misses it. She begins to get nervous as Vogel now stares straight ahead and refuses to respond to her. She tells him to stop the car and reaches for the lock button, but it isn't there. She lunges for the door handle, but he hits her across the face.
Later, Woodland finds herself gagged in a wire cage in a room with one bare light bulb overhead. She reaches up to pull the duct tape that covers her eyes, but Vogel reminds her that she was warned not to touch the tape. He bangs on the cage and begins to open the chain on the door as she begs for mercy. He reaches in for one of her hands as she screams and cries and carefully clips her bloody fingernails. At Cascadia Prison, Gideon and Elle ask the warden who they can interview about Slessman. The warden suggests they talk to Timothy Vogel, the guard who worked at Slessman's block. Vogel walks the agents out of the prison, unlocking the security doors for them. He tells them that half of the guard's job is protecting the inmates from each other. Gideon notices that Vogel's keychain has a large metal "Z" hanging from it. On the road, Elle wants to pull Vogel over because something doesn't feel right. When they left him he was nervous but now his behavior has changed; he's stopping at every red light, using his turn signals, and going under the speed limit. They found out that Vogel asked a fellow guard to switch cars with him, effectively leading them from him and giving him time to get to Woodland.
Reid is eventually able to figure out where Woodland is being held captive, and Elle and Gideon drive to the shipyard and search quietly for Vogel's boat. Meanwhile, Reid and Morgan can see that Vogel is inside the room with Woodland, unlocking the cage. Morgan calls Elle and tells her to wait for backup, but she cuts him off and tells him if she waits, Woodland will die. She kicks Vogel as he opens the cage door and tries to run, pulling the tape from her eyes and mouth and screaming. She makes her way outside to the dock before Vogel catches up with her. Her screams alert Gideon and Elle, who approach him from opposite directions. Vogel holds Woodland at gunpoint in front of him as a shield as Gideon yells for him to stop and encourages him to point the gun at him, not Woodland. Gideon then taunts Vogel, calling him a lousy shot and telling him he's impotent and wondering what the girls called him in high school when he tried to have sex with them, saying, "Short stack? Very little Vogel? I've got it: Tiny Tim!" Vogel screams and drops Woodland, shooting Gideon, but he proves Gideon's statement of him being a lousy shot true when his shot merely grazes Gideon in the arm. Elle shoots Vogel multiple times in response before running to Gideon, who tells her that he is fine and that she should comfort a sobbing and hysterical Woodland instead.
Vogel targeted Caucasian women in their early to mid-20s. Operating monthly, he would meet with his victims in a chat room, plan a meeting with them about buying his car and use subterfuge to lure his victims into it. Slessman would then send an email with a time-delayed virus attached to it to wipe the hard drives of the victims' computers. Once the intended victim was in the car, Vogel would knock them out, take them to a shipyard, keep them locked in a small cage, bind and gag them by placing layers of duct tape over their eyes and mouth; the victim would be monitored constantly by a webcam, which would presumably record their rapes and murders, with the camera's video feed being sent to Slessman's computer.
Vogel apparently enjoyed it when his victims tried to fight back, so he left their arms unbound, but he also clipped their nails as short as possible as a safety precaution so they wouldn't scratch him deeply and get fragments of his skin under their nails. Vogel would rape them with various objects and, after a week of this, he would strangle them to death using a belt with a fitted crank, which allowed him to control the process and prolong the victim's suffering. He attempted to kill his first victim by strangling her with his bare hands, but he found out that the process took too long, so he stabbed her to death instead. The bodies would be dumped in secluded, often dilapidated places, with the belts still wrapped around their necks. He later held Heather Woodland at gunpoint with a 9mm Beretta 92FS Inox handgun, which he would later use to try and kill Gideon, but only wounded him.
"[You think I'm stupid?]I think you're an absolute moron. I know all about you, Tim. You're at the gym five times a week, you drive a flashy car, you stink of cologne and you can't get it up. Not even Viagra's working for ya. You know what that tells me? That tells me you are hopelessly compensating. It's not just in your head. It is physical. What'd the girls call you in high school? What'd they come up with when you fumbled your way into some girl's pants and she started laughing when she got a good look at just how little you had to offer? [Shut up!] Short Stack? Very Little Vogel? I got it: Tiny Tim!"
- Jason Gideon provoking Vogel
No official profile of Vogel was made by the BAU since their profile of the Seattle Strangler was more in sync with Slessman. When it was later realized that Slessman had a partner, Gideon would later assume from the killings that Vogel was the dominant partner, being authoritative, arrogant, having less intelligence as Slessman, and motivated by impotence, just as the original profile detailed.
Vogel seems to have been inspired by Ted Bundy (who was mentioned in the episode) - Both were serial killers, rapists, and abductors who had three-syllable names that began with "T" and were known by a shortened one ("Tim" and "Ted"), primarily targeted women (though Bundy also killed teenagers), lured them with ruses before abducting them in cars, operated in Seattle and killed monthly (Bundy briefly), strangled their victims to death (though this was only one of Bundy's methods), and were given nicknames for their crimes. Also, the fact that Vogel was a prison guard could be a reference to how Bundy sometimes lured his victims by pretending to be a police officer.
Note: The dates denote when the victims were abducted. All would be killed a week later.
- May 5: Melissa Kirsch (manually strangled, then fatally stabbed because the initial process took too long)
- June 14: Anne Cushing
- July 15: Amy Haberland
- August 13: Sondra Watts (dumped her body in a different state)
- September 15: Heather Woodland (abducted, presumably raped, held at gunpoint, and intended to kill; was rescued a week later)
- September 22: Jason Gideon (attempted, but survived; shot at him with a 9mm handgun, but only superficially grazed his arm)