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What Really Drove Criminal Minds Serial Killer Karl Arnold To A Life Of Crime

In addition to endless hours of entertainment, watching all 15 seasons of CBS' long-running crime drama, "Criminal Minds," can feel like a crash course in murder investigation and criminal profiling. "Criminal Minds" taught us the difference between a serial killer and a spree killer. We learned that serial killers typically are white males in their late 20s or early 30s. The hit series also educated us on the main motives and various types of serial killers.

For instance, in Season 1, Episode 7, "The Fox," viewers met the series' first family annihilator: a type of serial killer who targets and murders family units. Before the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) apprehended Karl Arnold (Neal Jones), he had killed at least 17 people, most of them members of eight different families. As the episode reveals, two events from Arnold's past helped craft him into the monster who terrorized, tortured, and destroyed so many innocents.

Karl Arnold's past trauma helped shape him into a killer

As the BAU investigates the murder of multiple families, viewers learned that a young Karl Arnold was both physically and sexually abused by his father. Despite the horrific trauma of his childhood, Arnold seemed to build a healthy life for himself. He became a successful family therapist, married a woman named Kay, and had two children with his wife. The marriage, however, ended badly, with Kay divorcing him and winning full custody of their children after Arnold became overly controlling.

Using alcohol to treat the pain of losing his family, Arnold grew increasingly erratic and angry, and h eventually began targeting families among his therapy clients that he deemed dysfunctional. He'd stalk them, spending weeks watching and learning their habits. Then, when the timing was right, Arnold would break into their home and hold them captive for days. During their imprisonment, he would wear the father's clothes and envision himself as the head of the household. After days of physical, mental, and sexual torture, Arnold would bring the entire family into the basement, killing the children and mother while the father watched. He'd then kill the father, staging the scene to look like a suicide.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Karl Arnold's murders fulfilled his many urges

Through his murders, Arnold satisfied several needs. By targeting "dysfunctional" families, he believed he was sparing them eventual pain — a common trait among "mission-oriented" serial killers who view their acts as benevolent. When he posed as a family's father, he fulfilled his need to regain the family he lost in his divorce, as well as to gain the unquestionable power and control he lacked as the head of his own home. By molesting a family's daughter, Arnold received sexual satisfaction, another driving urge for serial killers. Forcing the fathers to watch the murder of their families made the men experience the loss and pain Arnold felt after his divorce. In killing the patriarch, Arnold satisfied his need for revenge against his own abusive father.

Unlike most serial killers, who are driven by one overriding urge, Karl Arnold used his murders to fulfill multiple desires, which points to the chaos of his twisted mind.