|“||The story's not over yet, princess.||”|
— Hatchett to his daughter, Jody
Wade worked as a trucker for an independent contractor and lived in Edgewood, New Mexico. His job would keep him away from the household for weeks at a time. In 2009, his wife Caroline died in a house fire, leaving him as their daughter Jody's sole guardian. Due to his busy schedule and the fact that he mostly lives in his truck, Wade was unable to properly care for Jody, and he was eventually charged for neglecting a minor and deemed an unfit parent, with the girl being remanded to the custody of Lynn Clemons until a foster home could be found. The thought of losing his daughter drove Wade to begin seeking out surrogate mothers, random women that he would pick up on his routes and hold them captive in his truck, strangling them to death if they failed to live up to the expectations and dumping their bodies off the highways that he drove through. He started with Erika Joy, a woman from Lexington, South Carolina, but apparently killed her after learning that she was a prostitute, which would have been a severe disadvantage for her as a surrogate mother. After killing, Wade would visit Jody, telling her sugarcoated stories of his escapades, where he was a lonely king, she was the princess, and his victims were all queens that the king was seeking out.
After abducting and killing a bartender named Tanya Hill, Wade makes his way to the Clemons house in the middle of the night, sneaking in and waking Jody up, whom he tells about his latest "adventures". After finishing his story and saying that Tanya wasn't the one, Wade said that he will continue looking for a queen, and when Jody asks what will happen if he does not find one, Wade says that he will "go to a better place". The BAU later decide to investigate after discovering Tanya and four of Wade's victims in the Highway Serial Killer Database and deducing a common dumping ground from the locations where their bodies were found. Sometime later, Wade is eating in a truck stop when he spots a hitchhiker named Bobby Lainsford. His interest drawn when he sees Bobby interacting well with a patron and her child. After overhearing Bobby asking an employee if she knows anyone heading west, Wade says that he is, and offers her a ride. After presumably knocking her out, Wade places Bobby in the back of his truck, and when she wakes up, he communicates with her through a ceiling-mounted intercom, telling her to be quiet when she asks what he wants, also saying that he wishes to talk. Eventually stopping, Wade enters the back of his truck with a water bottle, telling Bobby that he has some questions when she asks for some water. After quizzing Bobby, Wade grows dissatisfied with the initial answer that she gives him when he asks if she wants to have children, and as she desperately starts saying yes, he tells her that he does not believe her, and leaves.
A few hours later, immediately after Wade kills and dumps Bobby's body, he spots Nancy Campbell and her daughter Courtney pulling over at a rest stop. Following Nancy into the ladies' room, Wade bashes the door of the stall that she is in and abducts her. As the seemingly claustrophobic Nancy begins panicking in the back of his truck, Wade turns both the light and the intercom on, telling her that if she is quiet, the light will stay on, also saying that he wants her when she asks why he is doing this. As Nancy's anxiety escalates, Wade turns the light off. At a diner, Wade is having breakfast with Jody and Mrs. Clemons; when Mrs. Clemons leaves to take a call, Jody shows Wade a picture that she made; after looking at the picture, Wade tells her how much he misses her and Jody asks for another story. Wade tells Jody that he had almost given up hope until he found Nancy, who he claims is the one. Before Wade even finishes the story, Mrs. Clemons reappears, tells Jody that it is time to go to school, and gives her some money for candy. After Wade tells Jody that they will be a family again soon, Mrs. Clemons tells him to stop telling her that, saying that nothing has changed and that Jody is going to be adopted soon. When Wade becomes distraught, Mrs. Clemons tells him that he has known for months that this is a possibility, and that it is for the best since Wade can barely manage to take care of himself, as he is without any family or home and has been reduced to living in his truck. Refusing to admit Mrs. Clemons is right about this being the best for Jody, Wade, after stating he made a promise that he will always take care of her, says goodbye to Jody, telling her that the story is not over yet when she asks if he is sure that the latest queen is the right one.
Entering the back of his truck, Wade gives Nancy water (angrily telling her to take it when she initially refuses) and tells her that she is not like the others, as she knows how important family is. Wade begins questioning Nancy (referring to Jody as "our daughter") and, after being satisfied with her answers, pours sugar on her clothes to clean her up. He then leaves when Nancy starts talking about Courtney. Later, with a revolver in hand, Wade forces Nancy out of the truck and kills Mrs. Clemons, dumping her body by a highway, not bothering to pose it like the others that he has killed. Making his way to her home afterwards, Wade parks his truck and prepares to get out, only to spot SWAT agents surrounding the house. Getting his revolver, Wade enters the back of his truck, unlocking the handcuffs that he has Nancy in, and forces her to the front of the vehicle, where he uses her as a shield. When Jody starts communicating with him over his radio, asking him to tell her the rest of his latest story, Wade tells her that he and the queen are at the castle to pick her up, but the guards are in the way. At Prentiss' urging, Jody convinces Wade to let Nancy go. After Nancy is secured, Jody asks Wade why he isn't getting out too; Wade tells her that his search for a queen is over, and that he is going to live happily ever after, answering positively when Jody asks him if he is going to "the better place". Before anyone can reach him, Wade tells Jody to close her eyes, then commits suicide. Later, on the plane ride home, Prentiss tells Morgan that due to the murders, Jody's potential adoptive family backed out, but another relative, her maternal aunt, agreed to take her in.
The direction that the unsub was heading when he dumped the bodies of his victims indicates that his comfort zone, the place where he feels most at home and safe, is Edgewood, New Mexico. Since no effort was made to hide the bodies, which were presumably dumped at night, the unsub either does not care if they are found, or knows that they cannot be connected to him. The bodies being posed to make it look like the victims are sleeping indicates either remorse or a simple act of staging. Metal shavings found under the victims' nails, traces of diesel fuel and sugar (which absorbs fuel) on their clothes, and the places that the victims were taken from (diners, bars, gas stations, etc.) indicates that the unsub is a trucker, whose preferred victim type is women in their mid-to late-twenties, whom he watches for some time, taking them when he is sure that there are no witnesses. Since he would need time to hunt and kill, the unsub is probably not a company trucker since their schedules are too tight.
It was odd for the unsub to take Nancy, a woman older than his usual type, from a rest stop, which is unlike his other abduction sites. While targeting rich and offender friendly, it could not allow him to blend in or have any extended interaction with a victim, so it's just a dumping and clean up site. Nancy may have been taken since she was older and more "sophisticated" than the other victims, who would not take more than a day to discern are not suitable for companionship, which the unsub appears to be after, since he holds the victims for hours, but does not rape or torture them. Delusional, the unsub has a romanticized view of himself, which is amplified by his isolation. He is looking for a wife, someone sweet, outgoing and warm, who, if they fail whatever "test" he puts them through, he strangles them to death in a rage.
Nancy was an anomaly, however; she may have been taken because she is a parent, which the unsub may be also, which would explain why he keeps coming back to Edgewood. He may be involved in some kind of custody dispute, which would be his stressor, and he could be a widower, since he would not want to tear his own child away from the mother.
Wade usually targeted Caucasian women in their twenties, with the exceptions of Nancy Campbell and Lynn Clemons, who were both older. The victims usually piqued his interest for one reason or another and were found in truck stops or similar locations that he stopped at along his routes, which were always public and crowded. However, his tenth victim, Nancy Campbell, was abducted from a rest stop he went to after dumping the body of his previous victim, Bobby Lainsford. Watching his targets for a short time, Wade would either blitz-attack them or somehow lure them into his truck, placing them in the trailer, which had a light and intercom attached to the ceiling. Eventually stopping his truck, Wade would enter the trailer and begin questioning his captives, asking things like if they were religious or if they wanted children.
If he received an answer that he did not like, Wade would deem them unworthy of being his daughter's new mother and strangle them to death with his bare hands, dumping the bodies off isolated areas near Interstates 40 and 25 at night. The victims were kept for various amounts of time, ranging for twelve to 24 hours, depending on how long they managed to pass his testing before ultimately failing. His signature was posing his victims' bodies to look like the they were sleeping, presumably out of remorse. After killing each victim, he would go back to Edgewood to see his daughter and tell her a storybook version of the events that happened. Initially, Wade operated monthly, but as he began to steadily lose contact with his daughter, he killed more frequently. His last fatal victim, Lynn Clemons, was killed in a fit of rage, and afterwards, she wasn't posed post-mortem since he had no sympathy for her.
Wade's job as a trucker and his targeting of women across the country for his killings appears to have been based on a number of killers: Bruce Mendenhall, a murderer and suspected serial killer; John Wayne Boyer, a suspected serial killer; Adam Leroy Lane, a murderer who stabbed two women to death and also attempted to kill two more; Wayne Adam Ford, a serial killer who stabbed and strangled four women; John Robert Williams, a murderer and suspected serial killer; Keith Hunter Jesperson, a.k.a. "The Happy Face Killer", a serial killer who killed at least eight women; and Volker Eckert, a German serial killer who killed at least nine women. Some of Jesperson's victims were killed after he picked them up, just as Wade did with at least one of his victims. Eckert's victims were also strangled, and like Wade, he committed suicide before he could be tried for his crimes. Ford also had a young child that influenced his crime spree indirectly (Ford killed women that were surrogates of his ex-wife, whom he hated for taking his child from him, and turned himself in because he thought he was about to murder her next and didn't want to make his son an orphan; Wade abducted women who he believed could be good stepmothers for his daughter and killed them when he found them inadequate) and harbored suicidal thoughts near the end of his murder spree.
- July 5, Lexington, South Carolina: Erika Joy (abducted from a truck stop)
- August 10, Las Vegas, Nevada: Amber Hardgode (abducted from a restaurant)
- September 1, El Paso, Texas: Karen Clay (abducted from a gas station)
- October 14, Williamsburg, Colorado: Benita Gibson
- November 5, Sun Valley, Arizona: Sam Marshall
- December 11, Belen, New Mexico: Michelle Aubrey
- January 2, Castle Rock, Colorado: Julie Marie
- February 14, Henryetta, Oklahoma: Violet Henderson
- Edgewood, New Mexico:
- March 8: Tanya Hill (abducted from a bar)
- March 10:
- Bobby Lainsford (abducted from a truck stop)
- Nancy Campbell (abducted from a rest stop; was released the next day)
- March 11: Lynn Clemons (Jody's foster mother; wasn't posed post-mortem)
- The aspects of Wade's wife dying in a house fire, his daughter being taken away from him, and his crimes revolving around her seems to be taken from Randall Garner, a.k.a. The Fisher King.