Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Saddest Death In Criminal Minds History

CBS' long-running crime drama, "Criminal Minds," rarely pulled its punches. Over the course of 15 seasons, the Behavioral Analysis Unit encountered truly horrific crime scenes that often shocked and frightened audiences. With over 300 episodes, the series served as an unsettling look into the worst of humankind. Thankfully, the writers behind the show balanced the violence and mayhem with strong relationships among the BAU's agents that added a much-needed levity to a program focusing on serial killers and mass murderers.

In addition to the camaraderie shared between the agents of the BAU, the series' writers also included various love interests for its main characters. While those relationships initially lightened the dark tone of the series, fans of "Criminal Minds" know very well that no character is safe from a terrible end. Such was the case in Season 5, when audiences were left to process the horrific murder of a recurring character in what is inarguably the saddest death in the entire series.

Haley's murder broke the hearts of the BAU and viewers

Haley Hotchner (Meredith Monroe) was introduced in the pilot episode as the wife of BAU Unit Chief Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson). Though the couple eventually divorced due to Hotch not being present in the marriage or in the life of their son Jack, the two remained close. The depth of their bond, however, was truly revealed in the Season 5 episode, "100."

In "100," the BAU is closing in on George "The Reaper" Foyet (C. Thomas Howell), a serial killer who terrorized the Boston area with a series of gruesome murders. The unit's investigation into Foyet leads the killer to target Hotch, finding in him a worthy adversary in his twisted game of cat and mouse. When the team realizes that Haley and Jack are also in danger, they place mother and son into protective custody. Despite the protection, Foyet manages to trick Haley into returning to the family home with Jack.

As Hotch races to their rescue, Foyet lets the agent speak with his son (whom Hotch tells to hide) and Haley over the phone. It's clear the former couple knows how the situation will play out. Haley asks Hotch to tell their son about their happy times together, how Hotch used to make her laugh, and to teach Jack to believe in love. Within seconds of Hotch making the promise, Foyet shoots Haley in the head, killing her while Hotch listens.

Haley's death remains the saddest moment in Criminal Minds

When the episode originally aired in 2009, there was likely a collective gasp among viewers as the startling scene concluded. Despite all the many deaths already featured in the series, Haley Hotchner's murder was as shocking as it was brutal. Even all these years later, the shock of that moment maintains its impact.

Outlets like Variety rank "100" as one of the best episodes of the entire series, while TVInsider includes "100" on its list of the nine most haunting episodes. In 2020, Buzzfeed asked its users to vote for the most heartbreaking "Criminal Minds" scene, and "100" topped that list as well. On platforms like Reddit and IMDb, fans have described the episode and Haley's death as "soul crushing," "gut wrenching," and the "single most poignant scene on 'Criminal Minds.'"

Though the team faced heartbreak and defeat in the preceding seasons, the victims had largely been "others." Now, the BAU itself was the victim. Hotch lost his love, Jack lost his mom, and the team lost any sense of security they may have had. Few network shows have ever dared to do what "Criminal Minds" did with "100," and the result is the saddest death in the series, one that still has fans reaching for the tissues.