"Let's do this."
James was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and came from a poor background. In 1982, his family lost their house and moved to the outskirts. Their old home was then moved into by a man named Donald Sanderson, his wife, and their two children. On the night of March 9-10, 1985, James, a closet psychopath who had become enraged at the loss of his home, manipulated Tommy Wittman and Mary Rutka, two locals and petty criminals, to break into the Sanderson residence with him. Both worked at the grocery store that was frequented by the Sanderson family. He killed Carrie Sanderson and the Sandersons' daughter Abby, but spared the son Joshua at Mary's request. While Don was convicted of the killings, James moved up in society and eventually became a successful businessman.
During those years, Mary extorted money from him using a video recording of the attack. She used the money to care for a son she and James conceived together and who apparently never knew his father. As he formed a family with another woman, James' psychopathy manifested itself as an explosive temper and a need to destroy. Among other things, he, in 1998 alone, fired 6,000 people from one of his companies despite its success. Some of them even committed suicide in response. Prior to 25 to Life, he began running for Congress, using "Let's do this", the phrase he said before killing the Sandersons, as his campaign slogan. In 2008, a stash of heroin was found in Don's cell. It is implied in 25 to Life that James arranged for it to happen to have his Internet privileges revoked because he was doing research about Tommy online.
25 to LifeEdit
Through his political connections, James learns that Don has been released on parole and killed Tommy in self-defense when he attempted to confront him about the night of the murder. As a result, he fatally wounds Mary in her apartment. The BAU and local police arrive while he is searching for the video recording, forcing him to flee through the window and down the fire escape. Nobody ever gets a clear look of his face. Fortunately, Mary was able to scratch him during the attack, leaving DNA under her fingernails. Using the offender profile coupled with the fact that the UnSub knew his way around the house, the BAU deduce that he lived in the house at some point. Garcia compares the list of suspects to the list of residents in the Sanderson house before they moved in there and narrows it down to James. Because he is running for Congress and is very well connected, Strauss is completely against the notion of accusing him of three murders based solely on the profile and the limited physical evidence.
Realizing that killing Mary has gotten James going and increased the chance that his inner psychopathy might be exposed, Morgan takes the chance and goes to a fundraiser hosted by the Stanworths along with the rest of the BAU. After James makes a speech, Morgan confronts him. Though James arrogantly dismisses his accusations as "worthless fabrications", his explosive temper begins to show when his wife makes inquiries. When Morgan shows the scratches Mary left on his hand, James claims they were made when he cut himself on a broken glass. Morgan then calls him a killer and a psychopath and begins telling James how he made a mistake when he panicked as a result of Sanderson's release, causing James's anger to grow even more pronounced. When Prentiss tells James that they found the recording, he flinches in concealed shock, but it is noticed by the BAU. He is then arrested by a D.C. detective and taken away. He isn't seen or mentioned for the rest of the episode, but was most likely incarcerated for the murders, while Don is exonerated.
James killed the Sandersons by stabbing them with some unspecified weapon, apparently a knife or some other bladed weapon. He broke into the house from the basement and used his knowledge of the house to navigate through it. How he killed Mary Rutka is unspecified, but judging from the blood on her and the fact that it took time for her to die suggests that she was stabbed as well.
The unsub is both a male and a closet psychopath who is smart enough not to kill again. The overkill on Carrie Sanderson suggests he was sending a message ("I am in control, I have all the power, and I hate you"). His killing of Mary Rutka indicates he is trying to hide a secret she knew about and is tying up loose ends. He framed Donald Sanderson for the murders of his wife and daughter and will do anything to ensure people will still believe it. This kind of secret would most likely cause him to become a pathological liar. He grew up in Washington, D.C. and came from a poor family. His ambition will define himself; he enjoys holding power and is extremely manipulative. He is trustworthy enough for people not to stop him. He is also destructive, a trait that would manifest itself in his work life. He never left the D.C. area because, for him, it is a target-rich environment full of people to victimize. He is not a politician, since he needs victims who will suffer directly from what he is doing (although later in the episode, Stanworth was revealed to be a Congressional candidate). He works as a businessman and owns a lucrative business managed with ruthless tactics that leaves innocent people affected in its wake, since businessmen share some narcissistic characteristics with psychopaths, such as a grandiose sense of self, deceptiveness, and a lack of remorse. He had intimate knowledge of the Sanderson home, so he may have previously lived in it.
- March 9-10, 1985: The Sanderson family
- Donald Sanderson (father; stabbed him non-fatally in order to frame him for the murders)
- Carrie Sanderson (mother; stabbed and killed along with Abby)
- Joshua Sanderson (son; attempted to kill, but was stopped by Mary)
- Abby Sanderson (daughter; also stabbed)
- Unspecified dates from 1998 to 2010: Numerous unnamed victims (his former employees; indirectly; caused them to commit suicide after firing them)
- December 8, 2010: Mary Rutka (his former lover and accomplice; killed, presumably by stabbing)
- James is the first unsub in the series to have a 25-year cooling-off period, the third-longest cooling-off period as featured in the show's history. The next two are Tory Chapman and Charles Johnson.