|“||Beautiful, ain't it?! Wrath of God himself!||”|
— Travis to Eric Genelle during a storm
"Come on, get it together. We're gonna have fun, bro. Like before. Remember that time we stole mama's bourbon? Rode our bikes, what, 10 miles to go see them girls? God, what were their names? You thought you were gonna get laid. Ha ha ha! And that chick. Puked herself so bad, I thought I'd die. Do you remember that?"
Travis grew up in a trailer park in Enid, Oklahoma with his mother, Jan, and older brother, Tucker. A pedophile named Roscoe Gulch also lived in the trailer park and molested a number of young local boys, including Travis. Tucker did his best to protect his brother and was in several physical confrontations with Gulch. Along with Gulch's other victims, Travis would eventually testify against him at his trial in 2001, but he was acquitted anyway. The same day, while a tornado was approaching, Tucker went to Gulch's mobile home to confront him again and took Travis with him. They got into a fistfight, but Gulch managed to grab a pan and strike Tucker from behind when he was distracted by blaring tornado sirens. Travis sought shelter in an empty drainage pipe and watched as the tornado passed by, consuming the house along with Tucker and Gulch. Tucker was found in pieces and so badly damaged by the storm that his identity had to be confirmed by DNA and dental records. Since his mother was also killed in the tornado, Travis was placed in foster care.
Starting with shoplifting in 2001, Travis built up an extensive criminal record over the years for vandalism, possession of drugs, driving under the influence, and, finally, prostitution. In 2003, aged 13 or 14, he ran away from his foster home and began living in an old RV. On May 12, 2010, Travis stole a left leg from the body of a 47-year-old man who died of leukemia and was buried at a Tulsa funeral home. Thunderstorms and tornadoes were occurring at the time. In the following year, a tornado tore up the cemetery in which Tucker was buried. This was presumably his stressor, as Travis then started killing boys similar to Tucker and taking certain body parts to "rebuild" him, believing the same thing that killed him, a tornado, could also bring him back to life (Reid compares this delusion to Frankenstein). He also took advantage of the recent plague of storms to cover up his tracks. Eventually, he killed Jason Meredith on October 29, 2011, and Eric Genelle a week later, taking Jason's right leg and Eric's arms, and their murders are what call in the BAU.
There's No Place Like Home
In the episode, Travis lures another boy named Gary Dysen and incapacitates him with his dextromethorphan-laced beer. Storing Gary in a compartment in his RV with some difficulty due to his struggling, Travis then opens up the compartment containing the stolen body parts and begins talking to it, believing he is talking to Tucker, and even shakes the hand of one of Eric Genelle's arms. When another storm approaches, Travis murders Gary and decapitates the corpse and also dismembers it, taking the torso. He then travels to a gas station, where he spots Shaun Rutledge and his brother Billy, and they remind him of himself and Tucker. Approaching the two, Travis offers to give them a ride, but Shaun declines the offer and leaves with Billy. However, Travis follows them in his RV and approaches them again, this time to ask for directions, before knocking Shaun out with a crowbar. He then takes Shaun and leaves Billy behind as a witness. The BAU become puzzled with Travis's choice of Shaun, for Shaun doesn't fit most of his victimology, and Reid concludes the motivation behind Travis's killings. Garcia uses the information to pinpoint Travis as the unsub, and the BAU, knowing that Travis is stationing himself near a potential zone where a tornado will touch down, split up; JJ, Reid, Morgan, and a police lieutenant find Travis's RV near an old house. There, they find Travis about to kill Shaun next to the body parts of his previous victims, all stitched up together, but they convince Travis to release the boy, just as a tornado approaches. Travis grabs the body and allows himself and it to be sucked up by the tornado, while the others manage to get into a tornado shelter and escape the storm.
Travis targeted Caucasian teenage boys who were runaways, had criminal records for drug possession and prostitution, and were very protective of someone very close to them. After abducting them using a simple ruse like soliciting them, he would give them beer mixed with dextromethorphan, a type of cough medicine, to tranquilize them, tie their wrists and ankles with flex cuffs, gag them with duct tape, and hold them captive in a lockable compartment of his RV.
Upon hearing a tornado warning on the radio, he would drive with the boys towards it. When he is close, he would drag them outside and kill them with a single strike to the head with a tire iron. His signature was dismembering the victims' bodies post-mortem with an ax and taking a certain part of their body. He planned to assemble enough parts to recreate Tucker and then stitch the parts together; these parts were kept in another, ice-filled compartment of the RV to preserve the cadaver. He left the rest of the body parts to be swept up by the tornadoes as a forensic countermeasure and to give off the appearance that the victim was killed by the storm.
When he attempted to kill Shaun Rutledge and take his head, he planned to decapitate him with the ax while he was still alive and was careful not to attack the head beforehand, presumably to avoid damaging the brain. Unlike the other victims, Shaun wasn't a runaway and instead reminded Travis of Tucker because he had a younger brother. He approached him while the latter was out with his brother, struck up a conversation with him, knocked him out by beating him with the tire iron, abducted him, and left Shaun's brother behind as a witness.
The unsub is a white male aged in his mid-to late 20s. He is mobile and travels great distances to follow storms. He drives and probably lives in a beat up and rusted truck or van. He needs a lot of ice or salt to preserve the body parts. He is paying for all of that and gasoline. He doesn't have the social skills to hold a job for long, so he is most likely a day laborer, handyman, or anything transitory. He uses the weather to destroy evidence, but he is also a symphorophiliac, one who is sexually aroused by disasters, such as fires or traffic accidents. In this case, the weather enhances his excitement. He hunts street kids, so he is probably from a similar background. He is likely uneducated but charming enough to engage his victims. The unsub has a sadistic streak when it comes down to the removal of body parts. He was initially suspected of being a sexual predator due to his targeting of high-risk boys, an extremely violent one if he was responsible for damage done to the bodies, especially the missing limbs. He could have been keeping the bodies or body parts for a sort of fetish. This was ruled out when no sexual assault was found on the bodies. While fetishists are loyal to the body parts they take, this unsub is loyal to the whole of the body parts, for he is trying to assemble an entire body. Instead of taking bodies apart, he is putting one together.
The unsub is impulsive, young, and a loner with nothing to lose. The storms and tornadoes mean something to the unsub, not just as a forensic countermeasure. He knows enough about the weather to use it to his advantage. Due to the loving and protective nature of his late older brother, the unsub targets people who looks out for other people. He is suspected of being one of them, for people could see right through a poser.
Based on his M.O. and the motivations for his crimes, James can be considered an organized visionary-type serial killer.
"Jeffrey Dahmer, serial killer, was under the delusion they he could create young male sex zombies that wouldn't resist his advances".
"And when Dahmer's test subjects died, he kept their body parts as souvenirs".
"Skulls, hearts, even genitalia."
- Reid and Prentiss
Travis appears to have been based on Jeffrey Dahmer (who was mentioned in the episode) - Both were serial killers and abductors who had similar victimologies (Caucasian teenage boys with high-risk lifestyles), would lure their victims to their homes with beer and sex, incapacitated their victims by lacing the drinks they gave them tranquilizers, and dismembered their victims post-mortem and kept some of their body parts. Travis being molested by someone living in the same trailer park as him is an allusion to the claim that Dahmer was molested by a neighbor.
Travis may have also been based on Robert Berdella - Both were serial killers and abductors (once in Berdella's case) who lost a parent during their adolescence (Berdella's father died of a heart attack, James's mother died in a tornado storm), were victims of sexual abuse of some kind (James was molested by Rosecoe Gulch, Berdella was allegedly sexually assaulted by a male coworker at the restaurant he worked at), and had the same M.O. of luring Caucasian male prostitutes to their homes, drugging, imprisoning, gagging, and restraining them, dismembering them post-mortem, and keeping certain body parts of their victims.
Travis is also similar to Marcelo Costa de Andrade - Both were mentally-ill serial killers who were sexually assaulted when they were minors, made money through prostitution before their killings, targeted young boys, killed their victims by bludgeoning them (though Andrade also killed some victims by strangling them), and performed post-mortem rituals on their victims.
- October 29: Jason Meredith (dismembered his right leg post-mortem and took it)
- November 5: Eric Genelle (dismembered his arms post-mortem and took them)
- November 8: Gary Dysen (dismembered his entire body post-mortem and took his torso)
- November 9: Shaun Rutledge (abducted, beaten with a tire iron, and attempted to decapitate; was rescued)
- Alex Weed, the actor who portrays Travis, previously appeared as Hank in an episode of Suspect Behavior, the short-lived Criminal Minds spin-off.
- Though Garcia says he is 22 years old, his rap sheet list his year of birth as 1998. This is likely due to a mistake by the creators.