|“||I've put a lot of time and effort into making this a special night. Is it too much to ask for a little appreciation?||”|
— Belser to Erika Silverman
In his childhood, Joe went to primary and secondary school in the Nashville Public School District. In 2000, Joe was placed into the prestigious Southern Charleston Preparatory Academy by his wealthy parents, who died in a boating accident on December 13, 2003, the same year he graduated. Soon after that, he lost all of his inheritance in the stock market and began racking up large debts, trying to maintain the lifestyle he had grown up with. In April 2009, Joe became engaged to wealthy magazine editor Rose Smith but broke off the engagement when Rose was caught sleeping with the best man. As he had already fully paid for the wedding chapel, Joe was financially crippled by the breakup. This drove him to begin killing women who resembled Rose, learning information about them beforehand using the job of a parking valet he managed to acquire, taking them hostage in their homes for a couple of days, and forcing them to pretend that they were his spouse before killing them when they fought back. The murder of his second victim, Melissa Johnson, led to the summoning of the BAU.
The Slave of Duty
Joe takes another woman, Erika Silverman, hostage. However, she decides to pretend that she has actually fallen in love with him, even having sex with him one night to maintain the illusion. Joe, fascinated by this, is unaware of Erika's true intentions; when she asks him to take her out, something he usually doesn't do to his victims, he agrees to do so. Unfortunately for Erika, her boyfriend Grant Franklin comes over, enraging Joe, who non-fatally stabs him repeatedly before asking Erika angrily, "Why did he have a key?". He then proceeds to murder the both of them, and their bodies are shortly discovered. After a while, he takes another woman hostage, but she resists violently. His fantasy ruined again, he prepares to kill her, but the BAU, having found out his identity, break into the house and arrest Joe. Prentiss (who had become repeatedly disturbed by how the victims lived their final moments in fear and insecurity) places cuffs on Joe and says that when an inmate tries to have his way with him, to just play along, as he forced his victims to do.
Joe targeted upper-class brunette Caucasian women with professions of high power, all of whom resembled Rose. He found them through his job as a parking valet at high-scale venues for upper-class citizens. He used the cars' GPS devices to find his victims' home address and write it down and also used his universal garage door opener to open the garage doors of his victims and therefore open the door to the house. After making a small but brutal assault on his victims to ensure his dominance, Joe would then force the women to take part in his fantasy, and after a while, he would end his fantasy by stabbing them repeatedly when they broke the delusion.
His signature was the first part of his fantasy, which involved leaving rose petals at the doors for his victims to find (a reference to the rose petals that were scattered down the aisle of his cancelled wedding reception), which was followed by a dinner of chicken, broccoli, pasta, salad, and red wine, Joe cleaning the dishes afterwards. He would then try to sleep with the victim, with only Erika Silverman going along with it in an attempt to stay alive. He would always break into his victims' homes on Friday nights, except for his would-be victim Ann Heron. The first two victims were killed when he tried to give them a bath, as they believed it would be their most vulnerable moment and retaliated to survive. Erika Silverman and Grant Franklin were killed more brutally than the other victims, suffering more stab wounds and also being beaten more brutally.
The unsub is a white male who is already with his next victim. If he matches the patterns, the victim will be a successful, upper-class brunette in her early 30s to mid-40s who would be at home in Nashville's upper-class neighborhood. It means the unsub will fit in since he drives the right car and wears the right clothes. He is highly intelligent and probably comes from the same place of status. He is very sociable and endearing, so nobody could ever believe that he was capable of murder, but he will do whatever is necessary to maintain the fantasy that he is in a romantic relationship with his victims, which he is repeatedly recreating. The women he targets are strong and confident, but he is still able to overpower them. He may have lost a loved one very recently, either through death or a messy divorce, and is now targeting women similar in appearance, much like the motivations of Ted Bundy. The women are confident, successful, and strong, and they try to fight back, meaning he has the ability to fight back as well and overpower them easily. He believes or fantasizes that he is in a relationship with his victims, and no matter how fleeting the initial reaction is, it means everything to him,
It was initially assumed that because the unsub can easily follow his victims' upscale lifestyle, he most likely shared the same financial resources as them because of his upbringing and his sophisticated behavior, which are ingrained in him. It is a habit, something he would have learned as a child, not as an adult. If he did not have financial independence but was still trying to keep up his social status, he would be hemorrhaging funds. He might work at the venues his victims visited in the weeks prior to their deaths. He will be spending more money than he has made and has a large debt. He has purchased expensive cars and wardrobes and possibly has a scholarship-funded private school education.
When the BAU asked around for someone fitting Joe's profile, they described the unsub as being proper with very few, if any, disciplinary actions, a romantic who frequently spoke about women and love. He may recently have ended a relationship or, in some other way, lost a loved one.
- November 27: Bethany Heminger (gave her a concussion in the initial assault; beaten and stabbed 13 times in the chest and abdomen)
- December 4: Melissa Johnson (broke one of her ribs in the initial assault; beaten and stabbed repeatedly in the chest and back; her dog was also killed)
- December 11: Erika Silverman (non-fatally strangled in the initial assault; later beaten and stabbed 17 times in the face and neck; killed along with Grant Franklin the next day)
- December 12:
- Grant Franklin (Erika's boyfriend; incidental; beaten and stabbed 34 times in the back, face, and genitals)
- Ann Herron (stalked for an unspecified amount of time; later assaulted and attempted to kill)
- Joe is extremely similar to Season Three criminal Joe Smith. Both were misogynistic serial killers who targeted Caucasian women reminding them of women that have abandoned them in their personal lives (for Smith it was his wife; for Belser, it was his fiancée). Additionally, both held their victims as hostages for certain periods of time while forcing them to act as surrogates; for Smith, he had his captives act as mothers for his son while Belser had them act as his spouse. Lastly, both killed their victims when they felt the latter broke their delusions. Coincidentally, both episodes featured a team leader being absent while the cases were under investigation by the BAU, though for Hotch the absence was temporary.