Yeah, I'll show you a sick, deranged coward, you ignorant son of a bitch.
Stiles ranting

Vincent Stiles was a serial arsonist, and serial killer, family annihilator, and stalker-turned-spree killer who appeared in the Season Two episode of Criminal Minds, "Ashes and Dust".

Background

Little is known about Stiles' personal life, other than he was once married, but was divorced with his wife six weeks prior to the episode. He also had a morbid fascination with fire. He worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative and harbored resentment towards businessmen, whom he thought was more successful than him. About three weeks following his divorce, he joined the Earth Defense Front, an environmental activist group mostly infamous for setting fire to the objects of their protests. Stiles didn't know the EDF's true motives and believed them to be an arson club. Wanting to fit in, he decided to use fire as his weapon of choice when he decided to become a serial killer, targeting men who worked for rival companies of the EDF's that were guilty of supervising Leaking Underground Storage Tanks, acronymed LUST, not because they worked for said companies, but because of his resentment towards businessmen. This resulted in the deaths of the Jarvis family; three weeks later, Stiles killed the Cutler family.

Ashes and Dust

At this point, the BAU is called in and made the connection between the fires and the victims, proven when Stiles kills Thomas R. Dunleivy (who also worked for a LUST-guilty company) and his two children in their car. As a result of the murders, the terminally cancer-sick local EDF leader, Evan Abby, shuts the chapter down. He also blames the unsub for his actions, labeling the arsonist a "sick, deranged coward" among other things. Enraged at being talked about in this manner, Stiles throws a Molotov cocktail at the first businessman he sees on his way home. When given the profile by Hotch, Abby identifies Stiles as the unsub. Abby then contacts Stiles himself, tells him that he is planning to start a benzene-fueled fire at a vacant lot and that he needs his help. His vanity appealing to him, Stiles agrees to help with the intention of shooting Abby at the site. When the two meet again, Abby has doused a basement floor with benzene, making it impossible for Stiles to fire his gun as the shot would cause the air to ignite and immediately kill them both. After he puts the gun down, Abby brings out a lighter, having already called the fire department in order for them to contain the fire. As he is dying anyway, Abby turns on the lighter, setting off the fire and killing himself and Stiles, whose protective suit can't stand the temperature of the benzene fire.

Modus Operandi

Stiles' fire suit.

Stiles targeted Caucasian families with dark-haired fathers aged in their late 30s who worked successful jobs as businessmen, stalking and taking pictures of said fathers beforehand. Before attacking the targeted families, Stiles would sneak in and hide somewhere in their homes, waiting for everyone to fall asleep. He would then seal all exits, turn off the water, douse the interior with kerosene, and light it with a candle lighter. In the case of the Dunleivy family, he attacked them during the daytime hours, trapping them in their car, dousing it with kerosene, and lighting the car on fire, killing the family in the subsequent explosion. He always wore a protective suit with an oxygen tank in order to be able to watch his victims burn. When he killed the Cutlers, he sealed the front door with a pair of wedges lodged between the door and its header that he could remove from the inside before he left. When he killed Greg Ballou, Vincent selected him at random, using a Molotov cocktail that he brought along to kill him. He later intended to shoot Evan Abby using a 9mm Smith & Wesson 5946 pistol.

Profile

The unsub is a highly intelligent but underachieving white male aged between 35 and 45, who has a severe narcissistic character disorder. Nothing in his life works for long. If he was married, he is now divorced and he is not able to keep a job for long. He craves admiration, but he lacks respect or concern for people, not for their feelings and especially not for their safety or their lives. He also feels entitled to do as he pleases and behaves like a petulant adolescent. He both resents and yet expects others to care for him. He most likely lives with some female relative whom he exploits, such as mother, grandmother, or an aunt, as very few male relatives would tolerate his behavior. His arson suit is expensive, suggesting that he is employed, but, given his personality, it would be impossible for him to work closely with others in an office environment. This, combined with the information on his car, suggests that he is some sort of traveling salesman who works for a company that is too big to notice that he is a sociopath.

Real-Life Comparison

Stiles was likely inspired by serial arsonist Paul Kenneth Keller, to whom he was compared in the episode - Both were murderous serial arsonists who were driven to commit arson fires after a divorce, and it was believed at one point that Stiles used his job, as well as a company car, to select where he would commit his crimes, much like Keller.

The Earth Defense Force (EDF), which Stiles was a member of, was likely inspired by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a group of normally radical environmentalist known for committing arson as a tactic to punish and sabotage companies they deem anti-environment. Both groups share a non-violent philosophy, resulting in zero deaths from their arson, but are stilled viewed as dangerous because fires may spread. Both groups are said by the FBI to only have not killed someone out of pure luck, although the EDF if accused of this out of ignorance of their non-violent philosophy while the ELF is accused of this due to the unpredictability of fire.

Known Victims

  • 2007:
    • February 27: The Jarvis family
      • Matthew Jarvis (father; also stalked for an unspecified amount of time)
      • Sue Jarvis (mother)
      • Two unnamed daughters
    • March 19: The Cutler family
      • Dennis Cutler (father; also stalked for an unspecified amount of time)
      • Charlotte Cutler (mother; survived the fire, but later died from her wounds in the hospital)
      • Paul Cutler (son)
    • March 20:
      • The Dunleivy family (set their car on fire with them inside; all killed by the subsequent explosion)
        • Thomas Dunleivy (father; also stalked for an unspecified amount of time)
        • Brad Dunleivy (son)
        • Katie Dunleivy (daughter)
      • Greg Ballou (was fatally set on fire with a Molotov cocktail)
    • March 21: Evan Abby (intended to shoot with a handgun)

Notes

  • Stiles is similar to Karl Arnold ("The Fox" and "Outfoxed") - Both were serial killers and family annihilators who targeted families (specifically the fathers) whom they would kill inside their homes and had stressors that involved being divorced by their wives. Arnold also appears in Season Five.
  • It should be noted that, although he sets arson fires, Stiles is not just an arsonist; he is a serial killer whose weapon is purely fire. Kaman Scott ("Devil's Night") was described the same way.

Appearances

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