"This is your fault!"
Born in a Dutch-American family and living in the Netherlands, Tidwell was frequently abused by his father. The abuse involved him being locked into a closet, whipped him with a belt, and repeatedly drowned, among other things. However, his father never abused his American stepmother and half-siblings, which caused Tidwell to develop a hatred of his whole family and Americans in general. In 2004, when he was fifteen, the Tidwell family went on vacation in the U.S. Inside a hotel room in Florida, Tidwell killed the rest of the family by strangling them to death and was caught in the act. As a result, he was institutionalized until 2010, after which he was released and sent to live and work with his paternal uncle Jonathan, a fisherman. In 2013, Jonathan died, leaving the business to Tidwell. Still seething in hatred at his family, he began killing families who were on vacation during spring break. By 2015, he had killed the Everett family in Aruba in 2013, followed by the Isaacs in Florida in 2014.
After picking his next targets by tracking their flights and waiting outside the airport, Tidwell encounters the Sullivans, who have missed the last shuttle. Offering them a ride, he gives them drugged bottles of water that cause them to fall asleep. Once he has them bound and gagged, he drags the father Greg away from the group. He returns to the rest of the family and videotapes their crying and whimpering, having a flashback to his childhood where he was punished for breaking a glass. Tidwell rips off the mother Colleen's gag so she would cry out, and then returns to Greg to whip him with his belt. While he does so, Tidwell has another flashback where his father threw him into the closet and whipped Tidwell. He then proceeds to non-fatally drown Greg, all the while reliving his father doing the same to him. Once he is finished, he walks out to his boat deck, beginning to experience a psychotic break.
Later on, Tidwell makes the son Nick fish beside him, all the while videotaping the entire family. Once they are done, he has the children wash and make dinner, all the while brandishing the belt. Once dinner is ready, Tidwell forces them all to sit down and eat, while having the father Greg blow out the candle that is placed on a cupcake. When he hesitates, he grabs his head and orders him to do so. The daughter Alison then begins crying, to which he slams the belt on the table and screams for her to shut up. When Greg stands up to defend her, Tidwell brandishes a knife and tells him to sit down. He then sits down for dinnertime, but while recording, he notices Alison looking at Greg's back. Suddenly, Greg cuts himself loose and attacks him. The rest of the family break free and attempt to flee using a rowboat. Meanwhile, Tidwell overpowers Greg and holds him at gunpoint with a handgun. As the others try to escape, he fires into the air, stopping them in their tracks. Once they are back under control, he yells at Greg and hits him with the belt.
After tying up the Sullivans again, Tidwell resumes videotaping them from his boat deck. When he approaches Nick, Colleen hisses at him to stay away. That night, he attacks Greg once again before grabbing Nick and throwing him overboard, causing the other Sullivans to begin screaming in terror. Agitated, Tidwell yells at Colleen to stop screaming, but as he does, Alison frees herself and draws his attention. When he chases her inside the boat, Alison grabs a screwdriver from the table and tries to stab him, but he overpowers her and tries to shoot her with his handgun, but is distracted by flashbacks to his childhood. Further enraged, he drags Alison up to the dock and tries to shoot Greg and Colleen, but is confronted by the BAU and the International Response Team. Holding Alison at gunpoint, he shouts down their attempts at negotiation and tries shooting JJ and Jack Garrett. However, he doesn't fire, instead refocusing his gun and firing at an overseeing helicopter containing Hotch and Lily Lambert. JJ orders Alison to duck; when she does, Tidwell is shot twice and killed by Garrett. Nick is safely rescued from the ocean minutes later.
"What are you gonna do about it? Hmm?! Nothing! Sit down!"
The unsub is a white male aged in his mid- to late 20s. His obsessions are too personal to share, so he does not have an accomplice, and it is his intense preparation that gives him the upper hand against his victims. Given his age and aggression, he is an internal annihilator. His victims are surrogates for his own dysfunctional family. Once he gets them alone, he isolates the greatest physical threat, which would always be the father. Such an action makes him feel superior and he thrives on that power. It gives him the confidence to charm the rest of the family and then harm them. Because he is operating on foreign soil, he is adaptable, both socially and culturally, just like any other person frequenting a foreign country. This high level of intelligence makes him more dangerous. The unsub kills the father last, forcing him to watch the rest of the family be killed. He was likely neglected or abused in his childhood, which made him feel angry and alone as an adult. As a result, he is driven to kill his victims and he will stop at nothing to ensure that.
His familicide in Aruba was less organized and lacked the intense torture performed on Hugh Isaacs, most likely because he had a year in between kills to perfect his M.O. His rage in Florida may have been a statement ("I'm going to punish American families on American soil"), so a traumatic event may have happened to him in Florida involving water. Based on the fact that he is torturing the fathers by drowning them and the salinity levels in the fathers' lungs, the unsub may most likely be holding the families captive on a boat. This boat would have been launched from somewhere isolated, located within twelve to 24 miles of the Barbados shore, and is big enough to hold five people, including the unsub himself. He doesn't drive far from the airports where he abducts his victims, so he would have kept his boat in a marina.
He is not old enough to be an experienced criminal, but the countermeasures he takes and his confidence suggests he has had a lot of practice. The unsub may have committed homicides in his teenage years of which he was arrested, specifically in a country which has a flag or sports team that uses orange and blue colors, the same colors of the hats he wears during his abductions. He may not be an American but has some connection to the states, which is why he is attacking American families. If he had committed murder in the U.S., it is doubtful the state would grant him a passport, but other countries would.
Tidwell targeted Caucasian, American families of four, consisting of a father, a mother, an older daughter, and a younger son, all references to his own family. He would abduct them while they were on vacation in different countries during spring break, using his fishing boat to get around. Prior to that, he would stake out the local airports and keep track of the flights the families were using, which is how he would find them. Each day until he found the perfect family, he would replace the license plates on his vehicle with ones he stole from junkyards and off rental cars as a forensic countermeasure. To avoid having his face seen by the surveillance cameras outside the airport terminals, he would wear a blue or orange hat, the colors referencing those of the Dutch soccer team. He was always active every April, since it was the month of his father's birthday.
Posing as a taxicab driver, Tidwell would take advantage of the families' adjusting of their new surroundings and lure them in at night when they were stranded. Once they were inside his vehicle, he would give them water laced with Rohypnol, which sedated them. Afterwards, he would take them to his fishing boat, where he would hold them captive, initially by keeping them in a room with their mouths covered with duct tape and their hands and feet tied together with zip-tie. He would first assert his control over them by separating the father from the others, locking him in a small room and whipping them repeatedly with a belt.
Tidwell would then force the families to reenact certain memories he had of his family while recording the moments with a video camera. All the while, he would continue torturing the fathers by whipping them and also non-fatally drowning in the boat's sink. After a while, Tidwell would kill the families by strangling them to death with his belt, making sure the fathers died last after watching the rest of them die. He would then dump all of their bodies in remote areas. When he killed his own family, he restrained their hands and feet together with duct tape, while his father was restrained by his arms to a bed frame, and killed them by strangling them with an unknown ligature.
During his attempt on the lives of the Sullivans, Tidwell also held them at gunpoint with a 9mm Beretta 92FS handgun, which he later tried to shoot them with. When they resisted, he threw the son off his ship and into the water as a further attempt to assert dominance. He also tried to shoot the BAU and the International Response Team with the same Beretta handgun.
Tidwell was likely inspired by Joran van der Sloot, who was discussed by Lambert and Reid in the episode. Both were young Dutch nationals investigated by the FBI for the disappearance of American citizens while on vacation in Aruba (the Everetts in Tidwell's case, Natalee Holloway in van der Sloot's). Though van der Sloot never went to trial for the disappearance of Holloway, he went on to kill Stephany Flores in Peru on the fifth anniversary of Holloway's disappearance, mirroring Tidwell's commission of crimes on a fixed date.
Tidwell also has some characteristics in common with serial killers Charles Sobhraj and John Martin Scripps. All three were European expatriates who had traumatic events in their childhoods that involved their fathers in some way (Tidwell's father physically abused him, Sobhraj's father abandoned him, and Scripps's father committed suicide when he was a child), targeted Western tourists exclusively, and were active in several tropical countries.
Tidwell is also similar to Jesse Pomeroy, in the sense that both were abused by their fathers, often with a belt, and subjected their victims to the same abuse after tying them up. Both also killed for the first time in their teens, and resumed their crimes after a period in which they were institutionalized minors.
Tidwell also bears some similarity to Oba Chandler, who also murdered a family on vacation in Florida. Chandler lured his victims onto his boat, then tossed them overboard with concrete blocks tied around their necks, a fact that was presumably referenced by Tidwell's action of throwing Nick Sullivan overboard.
- Unspecified date and location in 2004, Florida, U.S.: His family (all strangled with an unspecified ligature):
- His unnamed father
- His unnamed stepmother
- His unnamed half-sister
- His unnamed half-brother
- Early April 2013, Savaneta, Aruba: The Everett family (all strangled with a belt):
- Ian Everett (father; also tortured by whipping and non-fatal drowning)
- Mary Everett (mother)
- Jessica Everett (daughter)
- Franklin Everett (son)
- Early April 2014, Orlando, Florida, U.S.: The Isaacs family (all strangled with a belt like the previous victims):
- Hugh Isaacs (father; also severely tortured by whipping and non-fatal drowning)
- Sally Isaacs (mother)
- Hannah Isaacs (daughter)
- Mark Isaacs (son)
- April 7-9, Bridgetown, Barbados: The Sullivan family (abducted and held captive on his ship; all were rescued):
- Greg Sullivan (father; tortured by whipping and non-fatal drowning; later assaulted and held at gunpoint, then attempted to shoot)
- Colleen Sullivan (mother; attempted to shoot)
- Alison Sullivan (daughter; attempted to shoot)
- Nick Sullivan (son; attempted; threw overboard his ship, but was rescued)
- April 8-9, off the coast of Barbados:
- April 7-9, Bridgetown, Barbados: The Sullivan family (abducted and held captive on his ship; all were rescued):
- Tidwell seems to be based on numerous unsubs previously featured in the show:
- Tim Vogel, a serial killer featured in Season One. Both targeted a certain type of victim, lured their victims in vehicles before abducting them and holding them captive on their boats, killed their victims by strangling them with their own belts, and died after standoffs in which they used female hostages as human shields and shot at members of the BAU. In addition, Vogel appeared in the pilot episode of Criminal Minds, being the show's first official unsub, while Tidwell appeared in the backdoor pilot of the show's spin-off, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.
- Karl Arnold, a family annihilator, also featured in Season One. Both were abused by their fathers as children, targeted families of four of specific types (all of whom were going on or planning to go on vacation), tried to assume the role of the father while holding their victims hostage, and killed the fathers last after forcing them to watch the rest of the families die.
- Miranda Jakar, a prolific serial killer and family annihilator featured in Season Five. Both were psychotic killers who were born in European countries, committed their crimes in multiple countries (including the U.S.), and died after they intended to commit another familicide and attempted to kill at least one member of the BAU in the process.
- John Vincent Bell, a prolific serial killer and family annihilator featured in Season Five. Both abducted, restrained, and held their victims captive in a secluded location, committed their crimes annually in the month of April, were arrested for the first murders they committed, attempted to insert himself into the role of the father figure for the younger victims, and died after standoffs in which they used the younger victims as human shields and tried shooting at least one member of the BAU. In addition, the episodes they appeared in were backdoor pilots to eventual spin-off series of Criminal Minds.
- Blake Wells, a prolific serial killer featured in Season Six. Both were fishermen who held their victims captive on their boats, had an M.O. that involved torturing their victims (Tidwell used whipping and non-fatal drowning on his father victims; Blake forced his victims to stab themselves after drugging them), committed their murders in Florida (although Tidwell also killed victims in Aruba), were abused by their fathers whom they later killed (abuse which later led to their rage towards all fathers in general), were usually active once a year, and had high body counts.
- Johnny Ray Covey, a serial killer featured in Season Eight. Both were active at the same time every year, targeted certain types of victims, were abused in their childhoods by their true targets, had drowning involved in their M.O. (Johnny fatally drowned his victims while Tidwell used it as a torture technique), and died after engaging in shootouts with the BAU.
- Aspects of Tidwell's M.O. are similar to many previous criminals who have appeared on the show:
- Darri Ingolfsson, the actor who plays Tidwell, previously portrayed Oliver Saxon, a prolific serial killer in the popular drama series Dexter.