"Agent Rossi... Nice to meet you after all these years..."
In May 1966, Yates's mother, then-sixteen-year-old Georgina Yates, was raped by an unidentified man who was apparently never caught, and this resulted in her pregnancy with Yates. Eventually, Georgina gave birth to Yates and had to have an emergency hysterectomy during that time. While the birth was successful, she died from hemorrhaging. As a result, Yates was put under the care of his maternal grandparents, Trudy and Roy. This didn't turn out well for Yates, as he was physically and psychologically abused by Trudy, who viewed him as a demonic bastard because of the circumstances of his conception and birth. A flashback showed her shoving him down a flight of stairs, as well as forcing him to put on a dress and then locking him outside the house. She also starved him, sat on him, and made him sleep in a doghouse.
In school, Yates was also bullied and he began setting fires (making him eligible for one of the signs of the Macdonald triad) and getting himself expelled from two schools. One day, when he was fifteen years old, he eventually became enraged while being bullied and killed his tormentor, stabbing him to death and also kicking him repeatedly. He was tried as a juvenile and forced to spend three years in juvie hall, plus an additional seven years in prison, before being released on parole. As an adult, Yates became a chain smoker and acquired an unspecified day-laborer job. At some point, he began serial killing throughout the West Coast, traveling down the area starting with Seattle. He targeted women who lived either high-risk or low-risk lifestyles, alternating between the two types for unknown reasons.
"I used to hate birthdays as a kid. That's why I like celebrating yours."
After killing for at least seventeen years, during which he claimed a minimum of 101 victims, Yates returned to Seattle in 2009 after Trudy contracted lung cancer and was placed in hospital care. There, he murdered a prostitute named Rochelle Jenkins. The BAU, who had been devotedly following his case, were subsequently called in. Meanwhile, Yates abducted a soccer mom named Grace Powell. However, after Garcia found Georgina's hospital records and Prentiss and JJ interviewed Trudy at the hospital, the BAU were able to find Yates holding Grace captive in the storage container holding Trudy's old belongings. Grace is rescued by paramedics and Rossi arrest Yates, but not before he taunts the agent, as Rossi was the first BAU agent following his case. During interrogation, Yates constantly refused to answer questions given to him by the BAU, staying silent the entire time. Eventually, he was found guilty of his crimes and put on death-row.
The following year, however, he spoke up for the first time to the BAU, specifically to Rossi, when he gave him a list of forty of his victims, those who haven't been found by authorities, and reveals there are actually 101 victims. He then offered a deal to give the name of an undiscovered victim of his annually, on a day of his choosing, in exchange for the upturning of his death penalty as well as his relocation to the East Coast (his grandmother had passed away while he was in prison, and as such, there was no reason for him to remain on the West Coast anymore). Rossi accepts the deal after the BAU is able to find all forty victims. By the end of the episode, in the present day, Rossi visits Yates, who had been conveniently relocated near Quantico. Yates gives him the name of another victim and the location of the corpse before Rossi leaves. The "special day" he has chosen to disclose another victim is revealed to be Rossi's birthday. As a parting gift, Yates sings the 'Happy Birthday' song eerily.
"I'm back, Dave. And feeling like my old self again."
At some point during his imprisonment, Yates contracted terminal cancer from his chain-smoking. On September 28, 2016, he became one of thirteen serial killers who escaped from three different prisons, following a series of attacks by a group of anarchists, though this wasn't known at the time. Following his escape, Yates attempted to settle down and live a normal life in Richmond, Virginia. There, he met and dated an introverted woman named Jody Wilson. However, he felt he could not live up to his idealized fantasy, resulting in him killing Jody in 2017. Before he did so, he contacted Rossi to tell him he had started killing again. The next night, Yates called Rossi again, this time from Baltimore, Maryland, and tells him that he was aware of his family. Then, he informs him that he has his next victim, a prostitute named Regina Franklin, and forces Rossi to listen to her last scream before hanging up. After killing Regina, Yates dumps his car and steals a van. The next day, he observes a number of women at a park. As he does so, he begins coughing up blood.
The following night, he goes into a seedier area of Baltimore and lures a prostitute named Stephanie Weatherly into his van. He is initially nonviolent with her and even gives her a cigarette at her request. Then, he starts coughing and asks Stephanie to give him a bag at her feet, which she does. Yates then takes out a knife and holds it to her neck, threatening to kill her if she screams and does not cooperate. He proceeds to hold her captive for three days, starving her all the while. Eventually, he arrives at Rossi's small estate in Quantico, Virginia, with the intention of killing Stephanie and burying her there under Rossi's nose. However, Rossi, who was home at the time, deduces Yates's intentions and confronts him in the backyard, holding him at gunpoint just as he finishes digging a grave. Yates holds Stephanie at knifepoint and proclaims that he doesn't want to die in jail. He then tauntingly says that the agent is faced with an ultimatum: if he shoots him, he will not get to know where he buried all of his undiscovered victims; if he doesn't shoot him, he will kill Stephanie anyway. Despite Rossi's protests, Yates tries to stab Stephanie in the stomach, forcing Rossi to shoot him three times in the torso. Yates then falls back onto the pile of dirt, breathes out a sigh of contentment, and dies.
Yates targeted Caucasian women who were surrogates for his grandmother, targeting high-risk victims such as prostitutes and drug addicts, then shifting his focus to low-risk victims like college students and soccer moms, with the victims always in the same age range as him. It was initially believed that Yates killed two women every time he struck. When it was discovered that Yates, by his own account, claimed hundreds of lives, it can be assumed that he never followed such a pattern as rigidly as originally thought or only did so occasionally. He would kill in different cities on the West Coast.
He abducted and restrained his victims by their wrists and ankles for days, starving and dehydrating them endlessly in order to keep them weak, referencing how his grandmother would starve him as a child. They were then killed by stabs directed at the genital area with a knife. When he disposed of the victims, Yates would dump the bodies of his high-risk victims as if they were trash, while he took some time to bury the bodies of his low-risk victims. Initially, he would repeatedly stab his victims' reproductive organs, but as he evolved, he began fatally removing said organs completely, referencing his mother being forced to have a hysterectomy and subsequently dying when she was giving birth to him. He also escalated to removing his victims' vocal chords post-mortem.
Following his escape from prison, Yates started killing in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. His overall M.O. devolved, since he was dying and he was focused on killing as many women as he could. As a result, he did not go through the lengthy process of starving them, exclusively targeted high-risk victims such as prostitutes (since access to them was easier compared to low-risk victims) and would bury their bodies instead of dumping them, targeted victims of other races, and no longer targeted women in his age range. The only exceptions to that were Jody Wilson, who was a low-risk victim and his girlfriend, and Stephanie Weatherly, who he starved for days in an attempt to return to the peak of his killings. After Yates abducted each of his victims, he would call Rossi with prepaid cellphones to avoid being found. During these calls, he would tell him their names and where their bodies would be found after he killed them to psychologically torture him.
The unsub is a white male in his early- to mid-thirties and is antisocial and has low self-esteem, so he probably keeps to himself. He needed money, so he is most likely a day laborer, with a menial and temporary job, such as a janitor or a handyman. He is personal enough to get a job wherever he went, but unassuming enough to not stick out. He held and restrained his victims for days, so the unsub would need a contained space to do that. However, he is also mobile, which means he has his own transport, most likely a truck or van. When he is on the move and not settled, he would most likely live outside the vehicle. He always started with a high-risk victim first, like a prostitute or a runaway, then moved on to a low-risk victim, so it is likely his next victim would be a soccer mom in her 30s. The fact that he buried the bodies of his low-risk victims, compared to how he dumped the bodies of his high-risk victims, suggests he felt more connected towards them and expressed pity and remorse when it came to their deaths.
The removal of the victims' reproductive organs may indicate that he feels a great deal of self-loathing and wishes that he was never born or had a traumatic life-changing event associated with his birth. He could have hated his own mother, as the strained mother-child relationship is a hallmark for many killers. The removal of the vocal cords was symbolic of his own silence, since he was raised to believe he was worthless and unwanted, so he never had a voice of his own. His victims became surrogates for his rage and a means by which to exact his revenge.
Following Yates's escape, the BAU expanded their profile on him. Yates removes his victims' reproductive organs because he hates the fact that he was even born. Historically, his victims have been right around the same age he is, but Jody Wilson and Regina Franklin are significantly younger than him. This shift in his victimology is about availability for him. Regina lived a high-risk lifestyle and therefore was an easy target. Also, the age of his victims most likely does not matter to him anymore. He definitely has a vehicle, such as a van or a truck, which he most likely stole.
In the past, he had a pattern of moving from high-risk victims to low-risk victims and then back, but this is no longer the case. He also used to starve and hold his victims for days, but he removed that aspect of his M.O. in the case of his last two murders. It is believed that Yates is sick and that he feels he is running out of time. Unfortunately, that sentiment could cause him to go on some kind of spree in which he kills as many people as he can before he dies. When serial killers know their death is imminent, they typically either feel the urge to confess to their crimes, or they try to achieve a high body count, both so they can go down in history. The fact that Yates is killing again means the latter scenario is in effect and he may do that somehow through Rossi.
According to Virgil Williams, Yates was based on real-life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. This is a correct revelation, as both killers were physically and psychologically abused by their mother figures (Lucas by his own mother, Yates his maternal grandmother), in which one of the punishments inflicted upon them was forced dressing into girls' clothing. Both also continuously gave confessions to hundreds of unsolved murders in various parts of the country (Lucas's confessions were usually limited to the eastern states while Yates's murders were committed in the western ones), though Yates was sincere and truthful while almost all of Lucas' confessions, for various reasons, were found to be false; some called it a hoax by law enforcement to clear up a number of unsolved crimes, though Lucas may have lied simply for the fame or some other personal reason. Like Lucas (at least during his confirmed murders), Yates also killed his victims by stabbing them. Both also claimed to have killed in multiple states (though it was only confirmed in Yates's case).
In addition to Lucas, Yates may have drawn some major inspiration from Gary Ridgway, a.k.a. "The Green River Killer". Both were raised in turbulent households ruled by a domineering maternal figure (mother in Ridgway's case; grandmother in Yates's) who abused them as children, and both committed their first crimes as minors, which involved them stabbing a young boy (though Yates's victim died whereas Ridgway's survived). During their tenures as serial killers, both Yates and Ridgway killed women in the dozens and likely over the hundreds; targeted prostitutes, runaways, and other high-risk victims (though Yates also targeted low-risk victims); and were active in Washington state (though Yates was also active in California and Oregon). After their captures, they offered to disclose the locations of over 40 then-undiscovered victims in exchange for the judicial system upturning their death sentences. Finally, Yates's relationship with Jody Wilson, which temporarily motivated him to stop killing altogether, may have been an allusion to Ridgway's third marriage with Judith Mawson, which is cited as a possible reason why Ridgway's frequency of kills lowered significantly.
Yates is also similar to Daniel Camargo. Both were prolific and misogynistic serial killers who targeted women, had mothers who died when they were young, were bullied in school by other students, were abused by maternal figures (Yates was abused by his grandmother; Camargo was abused by his stepmother), were forced to wear girl's clothing as part of the abuse, and committed crimes that they were incarcerated for prior to their serial killings.
"It's actually 101 names. And I remember all of them."
- Yates is similar to Season One criminal Vincent Perotta. Both were prolific, psychopathic, and organized serial killers who were abused by family members (Yates was abused by his grandmother; Perotta was abused by his father); had signatures that involved torturing their victims; committed hundreds of murders in multiple states; committed acts of arson during their childhoods; exclusively killed victims of one gender with only one exception (Yates killed mostly women; Perotta killed mostly men); and were based on infamous real-life serial killers (Yates was based on Henry Lee Lucas; Perotta was based on Richard Kuklinski).
- With a final body count of at least 103 people, Yates is the fourth of only seven unsubs in the show's history who are confirmed to have claimed the lives of hundreds. The first three killers (all serial killers) are Vincent Perotta (who killed hundreds of people, with an exact number unspecified), Frank Breitkopf (who killed at least 176 people), and Billy Flynn, a.k.a. "The Prince of Darkness" (who killed approximately over 200 people), while the next three are Hayman Vasher (a mass murderer who killed 151 people), Sharon Mayford, a.k.a. "The Bomber" (a hitwoman who killed at least 173 people), and Cat Adams, a.k.a. "Miss .45" (a hitwoman who killed approximately over 200 people).
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