What do you think? I couldn't care less [if I shot a woman or not]. It wouldn't have made a difference to me.

Thomas Lee Dillon was an American serial killer and arsonist who committed a string of sniper shootings across Ohio.


Little is known about Dillon's early life, other than he was born in Canton, Ohio, and resided in Magnolia. He also had a wife and a son, had a college education, and worked as a draftsman for a Canton waterworks company for twelve years. For reasons unknown, he began his murders, starting with Donald Welling, who was walking or jogging alongside Road 94 in Tuscarawas County. The FBI soon became involved in the investigation when the fourth victim, Claude Hawkins, was shot while fishing near the Wills Creek dam in Coshocton County, the location being classified as federal property. Soon, a task force consisting of the FBI; officers from the Tuscarawas, Belmont, and Coshocton Counties; and officials from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources was assembled. During the investigation, during which there were only three known murders, it was discovered that a man named Kevin Loring, who died in Muskingum County while out deer hunting and the death being concluded as an accident, had actually been murdered. Ten days after the task force meeting, Dillon claimed his final known victim, Gary Bradley, who was fishing in Caldwell, Ohio. Sometime afterwards, he was placed under surveillance after a friend of Dillon's recognized him from a behavioral profile released by the FBI.

Despite the surveillance, Dillon would attempt to kill Larry Oller in Tuscarawas County, but he missed him and Oller escaped uninjured. Sometime later, he sold the rifle used in the killings to an unidentified gun dealer. On November 27, 1992, Dillon was arrested on a weapons charge and placed under probation for illegally owning a silencer. It was apparently at this point that he confessed to having committed the sniper shootings, and on July 12, 1993, Dillon plead guilty to the five murders in court. During the ensuing trial, he was interrogated by psychiatrist Jeffrey Smalldon, who deemed him to be sane to stand trial despite allegations made by Dillon that a voice in his head commanded him to commit the murders. Also, investigators were able to find the gun dealer who bought Dillon's rifle and successfully recovered the weapon from him. He was soon found guilty and sentenced to five consecutive sentences of thirty years to life with no possibility of parole for aggravated murder, being incarcerated in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. Afterwards, Dillon began sending letters to Smalldon, in which he stated that he felt guilt from his actions. An attempt had been made to sell Dillon's story to Hollywood, which was responded by the passage of the Paxton Bill, named after Dillon's second victim Jamie Paxton; the bill prevented killers or their relatives from profiting from their crimes. In 2011, Dillon became ill from cancer and died three weeks later in the prison wing of Corrections Medical Center, on October 21.

Modus Operandi

Dillon targeted random men, all of whom were alone along byways in rural areas and doing activities of leisure at the time of their deaths, such as hunting or fishing. He would shoot them at least twice from a distance with a high-powered .308 Mauser rifle.


Dillon was profiled as an educated white male in his 20s with a predilection for crimes, such as arson and killing pets and farm animals, and lived a short distance from the crime scenes. He might be a nominal family man, but was likely a loner in life. He had a drinking problem and a history of compulsive crimes such as vandalism and arson. Stress would trigger the shootings, which usually would be committed while he was drunk.

Known Victims

  • Ohio:
    • April 1, 1989, Tuscarawas County: Donald Welling, 35
    • 1990:
      • November 10, Belmont County: Jamie Paxton, 21
      • November 28, Muskingum County: Kevin Loring, 30
    • 1992:
      • March 14, Coshocton County: Claude Hawkins, 48
      • April 5, Caldwell: Gary Bradley, 44
      • April, Tuscarawas County: Larry Oller (attempted; shot at, but missed)
  • Notes:
    • Dillon also confessed to committing two other murders, one occurring thirteen years prior to his first confirmed murder, the other in which the victim had long hair and was presumably a woman. Jeffrey Smalldon also expressed the likelihood that Dillon may have committed numerous other murders.
    • Dillon was also responsible for setting over 100 fires and killing more than a thousand pets and farm animals.

On Criminal Minds

Dillon was mentioned alongside Joseph Duncan in The Apprenticeship as an example of serial killers who don't start committing murders until they are middle-aged. Also, while he wasn't mentioned in The Silencer, John Myers's arrest, which occurred prior to the episode, seems to draw heavily from Dillon's November 1992 arrest.