Tommy Yates’ Character In Criminal Minds (& Why He Haunted Rossi) Explained


Criminal Minds: Evolution season 2 is also known as season 17 of the series, and a Tommy Yates mention in the most recent episode reminds viewers of the show’s long history. In Criminal Minds: Evolution season 2, episode 6, Voit brought up the past character when Rossi visited Voit in prison. It’s been years since Yates was mentioned in Criminal Minds, and one might need to know the past seasons well to remember who he was.

Criminal Minds had 15 seasons in its original run before being revived as Criminal Minds: Evolution two years after the finale. The Criminal Minds: Evolution season 2 finale will mark its 344th episode overall. Though Tommy Yates might have been a minor character in the grand scheme of things, he had a large impact, specifically on Rossi. With Criminal Minds already renewed for season 3, there’s the chance to bring back or reference more past characters.

Tommy Yates Was One Of The Most Prolific Serial Killers In Criminal Minds History

Tommy Yates Claimed To Have Over 100 Victims

Criminal Minds has had many memorable unsubs throughout its 17 seasons, and Thomas “Tommy” Yates was one of the show’s most prolific serial killers. He was introduced in a unique storyline, as most episodes follow the BAU’s profiling process. The original episodes typically ended with the team catching the serial killer(s). However, Yates’ first episode was Criminal Minds season 7, episode 22, “Profiling 101,” and his story was mostly told through flashbacks, as Rossi and the BAU team used his case to teach students how to profile.

They used Yates specifically because of how complicated his case was and how many victims he had: 104. Yates was also known as “The Womb Raider” because his signature included repeatedly stabbing his victims’ reproductive organs then fatally removing them. The BAU didn’t find Yates until he’d been killing for at least 17 years. He was put on death row, but the Yates case didn’t end with his arrest. He would continue to haunt Rossi for years and made a grand return in Criminal Minds season 12, episode 9, “Profiling 202,” when he escaped prison.

Why Tommy Yates Haunted Rossi In Criminal Minds

Tommy Yates Targeted Rossi To Get Inside His Head

The reason Voit brought up Tommy Yates in Criminal Minds: Evolution season 2, episode 6 was because he knew, through Rossi’s books, that the serial killer had haunted Rossi for years. Rossi has been hallucinating Voit in Criminal Minds: Evolution, which Voit figured out by profiling the profiler. Rossi claims it was different with Yates because the case wasn’t fully closed. This is because, every year on Rossi’s birthday, a date Yates chose, Rossi visited Yates in prison, and Yates would reveal the name and location of another one of his victims.

Though this was difficult for Rossi, he was willing to do it to bring justice to the victims’ families. To make matters worse, each visit would end with Yates creepily singing “Happy Birthday” to Rossi. In Criminal Minds season 12, Yates, who had terminal cancer, haunted Rossi again after escaping prison during a major prison break. He started a killing spree and forced Rossi to listen to his victim’s final screams over the phone.
Fortunately, Rossi was able to find Yates and killed him before he could kill someone else. Unfortunately, this meant the identity and location of the rest of Yates’ victims died with him, but it was a choice Rossi was willing to make to save more lives. Rossi ended “Profiling 202” by telling his students they’d have to learn to separate their home lives from their work, which Rossi still occasionally struggles to do.

A Real-Life Serial Killer Inspired Tommy Yates’ Character In Criminal Minds

The Criminal Minds Writers Drew Inspiration From Henry Lee Lucas

Criminal Minds has taken inspiration from real-life serial killers and cases for its characters and storylines, and Tommy Yates’ character is one of many examples of this. In a 2012 blog post,Criminal Minds writer-producer Virgil Williams confirmed real-life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas was the main inspiration for Yates’ character and the “Profiling 101” episode. Henry Lee Lucas was previously mentioned in Criminal Minds season 1 when Hotch said he didn’t want to name his son Henry, which ironically became JJ’s son’s name, because it would remind him of Lee Lucas.

Like Yates’ character, Henry Lee Lucas grew up with a relative who used psychological torture and forced cross-dressing as forms of abuse. They both primarily targeted women and their killings had sexual elements; Lucas engaged in necrophilia. One of the biggest ties between them was their confessions post-arrest. The difference was most of Lucas’ confessions were unfounded, as he claimed he’d killed hundreds. Tommy Yates is one of the show’s strangest, most interesting unsubs, and it was nice to see Criminal Minds: Evolution take a walk down memory lane, regardless of how creepy it was.