|“||Don't you ever wish upon a star?||”|
Claire's mother, Jennifer, was institutionalized on March 8, 1990. As a result, she was raised solely by her father Edward, a pedophile whose favorite target was presumably his own daughter. As a child, she would be read bedtime stories by her father when he wasn't abusing her, which caused her to become heavily fond towards books. Her favorite story was the Cinderella fairy-tale. When she was five, she was abandoned at a shopping mall by Edward after he lost his job and was struggling financially, with only a note of apology attached to her blouse. She wound up living in a foster home with a mother and her three daughters, where she was presumably abused. Edward would go on to be arrested on May 5, 2002, for sexually assaulting two girls. He later died of a heart attack on June 23, 2005, while he was still imprisoned. As an adult, Claire got a job as a seamstress at a dry-cleaner, although she got into conflicts with her boss due to her poor work ethic and tendency to steal some of the dresses that were dropped off. She also befriended her boss's son Chris Jensen, another employee at the dry-cleaners who came to pity her and had a crush on her. She would also visit the grave of a woman who died in 1923, being under the deluded belief that it was where her father was buried since, in reality, she didn't really know where he was actually buried.
Due to being abandoned and all of the apparent abuse she had suffered, her mind became increasingly unstable (which was likely inherited from her mentally unbalanced mother) and she began developing a childlike delusion in which she was Cinderella. On November 3, 2014, she became impressed with the car of an affluent college student named Douglas Clark, a closeted homosexual who was dating women as a cover for his sexual lifestyle. The two went out one night, which caused Claire to believe that she may have finally found her Prince Charming. However, the date went into a downward spiral when Claire found out that he was lying about himself and realized that he was using her. As a result, she angrily stabbed Clark in the neck with her stiletto heel. Her fantasy shattered, Claire then flew into a rage and stabbed Clark repeatedly with a pair of gardening shears she had conveniently brought along, killing him. Afterward, her mind continued to break down and she sought to find her Prince Charming, killing any potential suitors if they didn't meet her criteria of being a kind gentleman.
If the Shoe Fits
"You take love and beauty and enchantment and you turn it into something ugly!"
Claire's second victim, Kevin Brubaker, who secretly recorded other female college students as he had sex with them and then distributed the videos online, is found just as the BAU arrive to investigate Douglas Clark's murder, which they initially believed was connected to an unrelated hit-and-run that sparked a conflict between the college students and the permanent residents in the area. The next day, Claire is seen reading a romance novel at a college campus when a student, Colin Baylor, approaches her and flirts with her, impressing her. She takes him to her home and ties him to her bed. Claire then goes into the bathroom, leaving Colin alone. He notices that the room's walls and ceiling are covered with childish drawings and pictures of the stars and asks Claire about it, to which she responds if he has ever wished upon a star, puzzling Colin, who doesn't give a straight answer. Realizing he had only wanted sex from her, Claire covers herself in ashes and then returns to kill Colin in a fit of rage. After cleaning up her room, dumping Colin's body, and disposing of her bloody dress, Claire goes to work. There, her boss criticizes her for being frequently late and docks her pay, but Chris offers to compensate her and invites her to a movie. She tells him that she already has plans for a date, then steals a bridesmaid's dress while no one else is looking. The following night, Claire goes to a bar and orders champagne while wearing the dress. She attracts the attention of John Franklin, who flirts with her and decides to play along with her desire to dance.
Afterward, John gives her a ride to a secluded area, and they engage in a conversation about dating. When he tries to force her to have sex, she lashes out and gets herself out of the car. When John tries to drive away, Claire comes back around and bludgeons him with a rock. When he steps out of the car, she bludgeons him the second time. Afterward, Claire uses her stiletto heel to stab John in the neck, killing him. It gets caught, and she is forced to remove her shoes as she flees. The following morning, she is cutting flowers with her gardening shears when Chris arrives to tell her to return the dress she stole and that she is fired. After telling him that she is going to leave flowers at her father's grave, he offers a ride, which she takes. At the cemetery, she tells Chris about her father and places the flowers in a glass vase. Chris then notices the date on the gravestone and removes some vines to see that it is not her father's grave. Enraged at having her fantasy being challenged, Claire smashes the vase over his head, knocking him out, and then starts chipping away at the gravestone, continuing to believe it is her father's. Just as she is threatening Chris with her garden shears, JJ and Reid arrive. Reid acts the part of Prince Charming, claiming that they shared a dance and he has searched the entire city for someone who would fit the shoe he has (the murder weapon she had left behind). He places the shoe on her foot and kisses her hand, offering to take her to their carriage, which in reality is a police vehicle. She goes with him, and is most likely institutionalized afterward.
Staking out public places, Claire targeted handsome male Caucasian college students in their 20s, all of whom would approach her first after being captivated by her beauty. After going out on only one date with them, she would talk with them about finding the right person to love, and when their responses or behaviors were unsatisfactory, she would attack them in fits of rage.
Her first victim was non-fatally stabbed in the neck with her stiletto heel in a spontaneous act, then killed by being stabbed repeatedly with a pair of gardening shears. Her second victim was tied up and tortured by being stabbed in the neck with the same stiletto heel, then stabbed repeatedly with the gardening shears, but less so than the first victim. Her third victim was also tied up, though it was consensual as the victim believed it was part of the sex he had expected; afterwards, she fatally stabbed him with the garden shears and then sprinkled ash over his body and his car for unknown reasons (possibly as a reference to the fairy godmother featured in Cinderella). Her fourth victim, killed out of self-defense, was killed more violently than the others: he was bludgeoned twice with a large slab of rock, then fatally stabbed in the neck with her stiletto heel while she wore it, which she left in his neck as she was unable to remove it. She would then put her victims' bodies in their cars, drive to a random location, and dispose of them. However, the body and car of her fourth victim were left where he was killed, as the act was more spontaneous than the others.
Common signatures for all four murders was that she would leave a personal item of the victims stuffed in their mouths, like cellphones and wristwatches that she set to midnight (undoubtedly a reference to the fairy godmother's spell on Cinderella wearing off at the stroke of midnight) and smash their cars in fits of rages afterwards. The only exception to this signature was the fourth victim, whose murder was committed spontaneously.
The unsub is a female annihilator, a kind of "black widow"-type serial killer who lures men in with the promise of sex and then kills them (although this was later revealed to be incorrect). What triggered the murders is unknown, but it was most likely connected to a specific person or event. She is an attractive white woman in her early 20s, which is how she is able to draw in her victims, all affluent, handsome young men. She herself lives humbly, though without much money. The killer inserts cellphones or wristwatches into her victims' mouths and sets the alarm for midnight as a way of saying "Time's up" or "A new day dawns, but not for you". Putting objects in the victims' mouths is also a symbolic way to silence or gag victims. This could also indicate that the unsub feels her own voice has not been heard; if the triggering event was an assault suffered by the unsub herself, she might feel that she was denied the justice she deserved. As a result of this perception, she takes on the role of judge, jury, and executioner, killing surrogates for her own assailant. She may have been a victim of sexual assault, but charges were not filed because the suspect was either wealthy or connected. With the third victim, ash residue was found on his body and inside his car. This particular ritual aspect could symbolize the unsub's rebirth, much like the phoenix rising from the ashes to live again. With this sense of resurrection she experiences with each murder, it is expected of her to become more emboldened and more dangerous.
It is difficult to determine whether Claire is a serial or spree killer. While she targeted specific victims, planned out most of the murders beforehand, and had a specific M.O., it should be noted that she attacked her victims within a three-day span and was disorganized during the actual kills.
Claire' murder of John Franklin is based on that of Ana Trujillo's murder of her boyfriend. Both victims were killed by being stabbed with a stiletto heel.
- November 3: Douglas Clark (a homosexual; stabbed once in the neck with a stiletto heel and twelve times in the chest with a pair of gardening shears; stuffed his cellphone down his mouth post-mortem)
- November 5:
- Kevin Brubaker (would record himself having sex with women; tied up, tortured by stabbing once in the neck with a stiletto heel, stuffed his cellphone down his mouth, and fatally stabbed twice in the chest with a pair of gardening shears)
- Colin Baylor (only wanted to have sex with Claire; consensually tied up and stabbed at least once in the chest with a pair of gardening shears, then covered with ash and stuffed his wristwatch down his mouth post-mortem)
- November 6: John Franklin (only wanted to have sex with Claire like the previous victim; bludgeoned twice with a rock and fatally stabbed once in the neck with a stiletto heel in self-defense; did not stuff an item down his mouth)
- November 7: Chris Jensen (attempted, but survived; was non-fatally bludgeoned with a glass vase and held at knifepoint with a pair of gardening shears)
- Claire seemed to alternate between her surnames for unknown reasons. The house she lived in was registered to Claire Rawley (her mother's maiden name was Rawley), although her work records register her as Claire Dunbar.
- Claire has some similarities with Samantha Malcolm, a serial killer apprehended by the BAU in Season Five. Both were psychotic, female serial killers who held childish delusions, were obsessed with an item associated with childhood in general (Samantha was obsessed with dolls, Claire with the story of Cinderella), had fathers who were pedophiles, targeted a certain type of victim related to their obsessions, were talked down by Reid when he appealed to their delusions, worked as seamstresses, and were institutionalized after being arrested.
- Claire also bears some similarities with Wade Hatchett, a serial killer in the Season Five episode Solitary Man. Both devolved into spree killers, had stressors that involved the death of a close relative (for Claire, it was her father; for Wade, it was his wife), held romanticized views of themselves, were obsessed with finding the perfect romantic partner (albeit for different reasons), killed those they deemed to be unfit to their images, and deviated from their original M.O.s in the case of their last murders.