Next, we're gonna go upstairs. And you're gonna be really, really nice to the boy. Not like the little bitch we both know you are. You understand?
Joe to Claire Thompson

Joe Smith was a misogynistic serial-turned-spree killer and abductor who appeared in Season Three of Criminal Minds.


A resident of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, Joe specialized in building custom furniture. On March 2007, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, news which caused his wife to leave him and their young son David. Being abandoned caused Joe to develop a deep hatred of women and, six months after his wife left, he began abducting women using David as bait. Joe would have the captives act as surrogate mothers to David before killing them by cutting their hearts out.

In Name and Blood

About three weeks later, having already killed five women, Joe has David bring him another victim, a woman named Claire Thompson, who is shopping at the local mall. The boy lures her in and brings her to a secluded part of the mall, where Joe abducts her under the threat of killing David with a box cutter. Taking Claire home, Joe has Claire, like the others before her, treat David like her own son, all the while verbally abusing and terrorizing her. While picking David up from school the next day, Joe gets into an argument with his son, who wants Claire to stay with them. Eventually slapping his son, Joe angrily tells him he is doing all this for him and takes him home. He then kills Claire later on and dumps her body outside an old cement plant, realizing the authorities would have his usual dump sites in the 3rd Ward under heavy guard.

After David brings home a school nurse named Lisa Phillips, Joe is in the midst of tying her up in his workshop when he hears Prentiss approaching, the agent having been let into the house by David. Ambushing Prentiss when she opens the door, Joe hits her with a wooden board and grabs her gun when she drops it. Giving the weapon to his son, Joe orders him to kill Prentiss, saying they (women) are the cause of all their problems, not noticing Prentiss has signaled the rest of her team to enter with a cellphone. When agents swarm in, Joe surrenders tells David to drop the gun, and is taken outside. While being taken away, Joe states that he will be dead before this ever gets to trial and, noticing his son in the back of a police cruiser, muses that he didn't even tell the boy to bring the school nurse home for him. It is assumed Joe died from his brain tumor while in custody.

Joe was later mentioned years later, though not by name, in Supply and Demand. He was then mentioned again in The Silencer after a serial killer is apprehended off-screen by the BAU; the unsub had an M.O. extremely similar to Joe's, up to the point of using his own child to lure in his victims.

Modus Operandi

Joe targeted Caucasian women in their thirties, all of them married and with children of their own, presumably as surrogates for his ex-wife. He used David to lure them to him, having the boy take them from a public place to a secluded area, where Joe would make them come quietly by threatening to harm them or David. Keeping the women alive for two days, Joe would have them act like a mother to David. He would then take them into his workshop, tie them to a support beam, crudely cut their hearts out with a chisel, and dump their bodies in alleys near highways he would travel on while taking David to school. Joe kept his victims' hearts in cases filled with preservation fluids on a shelf in his workshop as trophies. He would also dump the victims' bodies in the 3rd Ward, disposing them as if they were trash. His last murder victim, Claire Thompson, was left at a different location after the authorities began to close in on him. The times of the victims' abductions and disposals occurred around David's school times.


"I know you're old enough to understand this. I will not always be around! They all leave. All of them. They leave, they leave, they leave. Do you understand me? It's all right. It's ok, all right? I'm just trying to teach you something."
- Joe to his son

The unsub is a white male in his 30s and due to how crudely the victims' hearts were removed, it is believed that he would be good with his hands and is used to hard labor, or at the very least is not afraid to get dirty. He would likely have rather severe misogynistic tendencies, as the victims were all female and the bodies were dumped like garbage in trash-filled areas. He is probably not driving something that stands out, and the vehicle may have a company logo on the side of it. He abducts his victims from Wauwatosa and dumps them in the 3rd Ward. Most unsubs keep their area of control where they kill their victims triangulated between the two points, which means that he probably lives in Wauwatosa or the 3rd Ward, or somewhere in that area. The people who live there know him. There is no sexual component to his crimes, which means they are more about him making a point. He is cutting their hearts out, which might just be the sickest way the unsub knows to disfigure the women and throw them out like trash.

The unsub may also be suffering from borderline personality disorder, which means that they think that any relationships they have revolve around them and anything they decided was absolute, with no gray areas or room for argument. As such, this kind of unsub would take rejection badly and may have some emotional problems that would intense spouts of anger, depression, or drinking problems.

Real-Life Comparison

Joe is possibly a combination of serial killers Gary Ridgway (who was considered a loving father by his son Matthew and would sometimes use him or his photograph to lure women, though he left him in the car while he killed his victims, and never made him interact with them); Gordon Northcott (who used his underage nephew to lure and abduct his victims, and kept them captive in his home for a time before killing them); and Charlie Brandt (who killed women and carved their hearts out, and described carving hearts out as his "revenge" of choice).

Known Victims

Note: The dates denote when the victims were abducted. The murdered victims would be killed two days later.

  • 2007:
    • September 10: Unnamed victim
    • September 18: Unnamed victim
    • September 24: Unnamed victim
    • September 26: Unnamed victim
    • October 1: Pam
    • October 3: Claire Thompson (dumped her body at a different location)
    • October 5:
      • Lisa Philips (attempted; was lured by David on the latter's own accord)
      • Emily Prentiss (incidental; attempted; struck in the head with a piece of wood and ordered David to shoot her, but he relented)