"An innocent will die before the wise, but a Devil's Wife will surely rise."
James's mother, textile heiress Catherine Heathridge, also known by her stage name "Cate Harris", was a psychotic who stopped taking her medication when she became pregnant with his sister, Lara. An aspiring actress, she had a minor part in a 1996 production of the Shakespeare play The Merry Wives of Windsor, during which she suffered a psychotic reaction and became convinced that the lead actresses were "The Devil's Wives", prompting her to stab one of them. Afterwards, she went home and chopped off the then-infant Lara's left arm with a meat cleaver "to make her less appealing to the devil". Caught afterwards, she was institutionalized at St. Baldwin's Psychiatric Hospital, where she died in a fire on May 1998 that killed five others; it was suspected that she was the one who started the fire. Since James and Lara's father had died in a speedboat accident not long before Lara was born, they were raised by their maternal grandfather, Winston Harris, who died in 2011. James then spent some time living at a seminary, but was kicked out in 2009 due to poor academic performances and disciplinary infractions, after which he moved into the family home, Heathridge Manor, with Lara, who had gotten a prosthetic arm. He isolated her from her friends and apparently developed a kind of incestuous fondness for her. Winston's death also proved to be a stressor for James, who went under a delusion that he was fighting the Devil's Wives. As a result, he killed Christine Torres and Emma Baker. He kept Christine's body in the manor cemetery, while Emma's body was discarded at the now-abandoned St. Baldwin's.
After placing Alice Pritchard in his well and filling it with water, James "sees" Catherine in one of his trance-like states; she tells him to be ruthless and vigilant against the Devil's Wives and to send a warning to the Devil. Later, Lara brings him both breakfast and lunch and asks him when she can go back to school. James refuses to bring her back, saying that people will laugh at her because of her condition and that her friends don't recognize how special she is. With Lara watching, James later takes the unconscious Alice out of the now-full well, arms himself with a fireplace poker, and waits for Alice to wake up. When she does, he identifies her as a wife of the Devil and proceeds to dress her in another homemade dress. After Alice dies, James dumps her body in an empty storefront that was on the opposite side of a theater currently showing the Shakespeare play Hamlet. Later, Lara is visited by her friend Chloe, and the two talk about going to the prom. Their conversation awakens James, who hastily escorts Chloe out when she spots a picture of Catherine. Lara assures James that Chloe came on her own and asks if she can go to the prom, to which he refuses to let her. James later has another trance-like state and tells Catherine that Lara is starting to "question their mission"; she tells him to strike fast and first before the Devil gets to her. James promptly goes to a nightclub and charms Sarah Gammon into going with him, to which he brings her to the Heathridge Manor and throws her into the well. Afterwards, he sets up a makeshift "prom" for Lara and dances with her.
When Sarah Gammon falls unconscious in the now-full well, James pulls her out as Lara watches and they both wait for her to wake up. But when she doesn't, Lara yells at him for killing "an innocent" and tries calling the police, but James stops her and tells her that they must find the last of the Devil's Wives. Lara sadly tells him that there won't be a last Wife. James later has a trance-like state and is told by Catherine to kill "her". When James leaves the trance, he finds that he has painted a picture of a woman with only a right arm. He then goes to Lara's bedroom, attacks her, puts her in a nicotine-soaked dress, and kisses her. At the same time, the BAU, having discerned James as the unsub, arrive and spot a bound Lara by a top window. Hotch and Prentiss go into the house and split up. Prentiss finds and frees Lara, taking her dress off before its effects can be lethal. Meanwhile, Hotch ventures into the basement, where he finds Sarah Gammon's body and the well before James attacks him with his fireplace poker. Hotch drops his gun and gets into a struggle with James, which ends when James accidentally falls headfirst into the well. Hotch tries to save him, but it is too late and James is killed by the fall. Morgan and JJ later find Christine Torres' body. By the end of the episode, Lara, now under the care of a foster family but still living in Heathridge Manor, goes to the front door, having been summoned by the ringing doorbell. When she opens it, she finds the Devil standing there, saying, "I've waited so long for you, Lara. It's time to come with me now." She takes his hand, as it turns out that she has been hallucinating, as demonstrated by using her left hand, despite only having a usable right arm in reality.
James targeted women of various ages, races, and professions, who all resembled the Devil's Wives, images of whom he would paint during trance-like states. He would always lure them two days before particular dates that related to sacrifices in the Satanic calendar. After bringing them to his house, he would place them at the bottom of a well with a lockable grate and gradually fill it with water. When the well was full and the victim passed out from drowning, he would pull them up. If they woke up on their own, James would consider them as one of the Wives (based on a similar way of "testing" suspected witches during the Salem witch trials), bind their wrists and ankles with rope and sew them into a Renaissance-style, homemade dresses that were identical to the dresses from The Merry Wives of Windsor made by Lara, which would be soaked in a nicotine-based pesticide, leading to them dying from nicotine poisoning within at least an hour. James then applied white makeup and red lipstick on their faces and placed the bodies on their backs in symbolic locations as messages to the Devil. In the case of his last victim, Sarah Gammon, he accidentally drowned her after putting her in the well and leaving her there too long.
The unsub is a white male who is probably aged in his 20s-30s and is living in an elaborate fantasy world, as shown by the elaborate makeup and dresses found on the bodies. He believes that he is special, possibly acting on behalf of the devil. The fact that he tortures his victims by submerging them in water for days before killing them indicates that he is patient and deliberate. He has a vivid imagination and is either knowledgeable about history or a fan of Shakespeare, as shown by the clothes that he puts on his victims. Since killing by using nicotine as poison isn't common, he is either well-read or under the guidance of someone else.
His interests and delusions have driven him into social isolation, but he can still appear normal in front of his potential targets. His crimes are not driven by sex or greed, but instead by his delusional belief system. Since he is willing to travel great distances to abduct his victims, he has very specific criteria for whom to target. He has a female or underage accomplice who sews the dresses that the victims are found in, but she may be coerced into helping him or even a victim herself. He is also working according toward a specific timetable that corresponds to the Satanic calendar and has plans to abduct another victim.
He is forcing his victims to wear dresses from The Merry Wives of Windsor, one of Shakespeare's rare plays about the middle class, despite putting white face-paint on them post-mortem, which was worn by upper-class women. He may believe that death is purifying them. He is not drowning his victims to torture them, but as a test in which death is the only possible outcome, much like the Salem witch trials, in which women accused of being witches either died from the drowning and were deemed innocent, or survived, only to be deemed as witches and executed. He most likely thinks that he is a vigilante or a protector against evil. The way he poses his victims could be a message to the Devil, as well as a symbol of victory and a warning, which means that he is not worshiping the Devil, but trying to fight him. His choice of victims are not random, and while they have nothing in common, to him they have to look a certain way. He is also willing to travel a great distance to find them. The unsub suffers from folie à deux, a psychotic disorder between two people who are extremely close.
Note: The dates denote when and where the victims were lured.
- 2012, Oregon:
- February 28, Eugene: Christine Torres (lured two days before St. Eichatadt Day; died on an unknown date; left her body in the manor cemetery)
- March 19, Medford: Emma Baker (lured two days before the Spring Equinox; dumped her body at St. Baldwin's; found on April 2)
- March 22, Portland: Alice Pritchard (lured two days before the Feast of the Beast; died on April 3; dumped her body near a theater showing Shakespeare at the time)
- April 4, Portland: Sarah Gammon (lured two days before Good Friday; was accidentally fatally drowned on the next day; left her body in the manor basement)
- April 5, Salem:
- Note: In addition to these victims, James intended to lured two more women two days before Easter Sunday and Walpurgis Night and kill them, but was stopped by the BAU before he could do so.
- Kyle Gallner previously starred alongside Will Rothhaar, both portraying a killer pair of mass murderers, akin to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, in the crime drama Cold Case.
- James has some similarities to Season Four criminal Tommy Wheeler. Both were psychotic killers whose mothers died in fires (although Tommy also lost his father in the same fire), had incestuous relationships with their sisters (who they would later try to kill), started killing at the exact same age of 25, and deviated from their original M.O.s in the case of their last murders.
- ↑ French for "a madness shared by two". The disorder is also sometimes referred as "the theatric of two" and, more recently, "shared psychotic disorder" and "induced delusional disorder".