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Howard Epps or The Manipulator was the first serial killer featured on the show, debuting in the episode A Man on Death Row.


Howard had an estimated IQ of 180. His mother, Marianne Epps, had, in her words, a glandular condition which made her highly obese. She was highly religious and tried to raise him the same way and keep him "pure". Whenever he went out with women, all of whom his mother felt were "loose", she would make him bathe in ammonia "to wash their scent off". She also physically abused him regularly and would later lament not beating him more frequently. He tells Booth and Brennan that he had regretted not making her his first victim. In adulthood, Howard became a serial killer. He was arrested after killing one of his victims, April Wright. Since the other bodies were not found, no connection was made to their disappearances. Most of his victims were young, blonde women. Epps would later tell Brennan that no young woman was 'pure'. There was no indication that he ever made his victims suffer until after his escape from prison which is when he also expanded his range of targets because he "felt the need to grow as a person".


Season One[]

A Man on Death Row[]

Epps was introduced in the episode, where he was a prisoner scheduled to be executed in two days, while his lawyer enlisted Brennan and Booth to try and clear his name. They were successful in delaying his execution pending a further review of the evidence but this was only after tracing the location where the murder he was accused of had been committed. This proved that he was not only guilty but had killed multiple other victims; the execution was delayed only to try him for the other murders. While being questioned in the end of the episode, Epps explained that he read Brennan's book and saw a way out when he learned that she was working with Booth, who caught him the first time.

After thanking Dr. Brennan and Agent Booth for extending his life, as he had planned, Brennan turns to leave in disgust. As she does, Epps moves to grab her wrist. She responds by grabbing his wrist, and slamming it against the corner of the interview table, breaking it. She then walks away, without another word or backward glance.


Epps:You know... those hack doctors at the prison infirmary... did a miserable job setting my wrist. It aches all the time, and I don't have a full range of movement. And let me tell you, when you're stuck in a prison cell for 23 hours a day, there's really only one thing you can do to pass the time. And I need my wrist.

The prison doctors failed to properly set his wrist which was broken in self-defense by Dr. Brennan. This would later cause him pain. He began a relationship with a woman named Caroline, who knew he was guilty, but believed him to be a good person underneath it all. They got married, although Howard was not attracted to her. He simply married her because it was the "best he could do" as an inmate. The two even planned to have a child together.

Season Two[]

The Blonde in the Game[]

Where he is still in jail but has been directing an accomplice, Gil Lappin, to continue his crimes in his absence, leaving clues for Brennan and the team to solve to lead them to the next victims. Gil's murders were mostly consistent with Epps' own, except he tortured his victims by suspending them upside-down before beating them to death, something Epps never did. When Brennan and Booth corner Gil, Brennan is forced to shoot him to save the lives of Booth and the final victim. When questioned, Epps reveals that the objective of "the game" was to force Brennan to kill, something she had never done before, thus 'proving' his point about women all being guilty. He originally thought that it would be Booth that would kill Lappin, but after he discovered that it was Brennan who shot him, he thought that it was better that he could have hoped. As Epps had planned, Brennan feels deeply guilty for killing the man, but she eventually comes to terms with it thanks to Booth's advice.

The Man in the Cell[]

Epps successfully escapes from prison during a fire by killing a fireman, stealing his uniform, and leaving the body in his own cell. After Epps' escape, he becomes obsessed with Brennan. Using mind games, he makes her feel responsible for the deaths of his victims. He tests her and the rest of her team by leaving clues for them to discover, decipher, and follow to more victims; one of whom was Epps' ex-wife, Caroline, who broke it off with him after the events of The Blonde in the Game. He also leaves traps in the clues; Zack is caught in an explosion and Cam nearly dies during Caroline's autopsy after inhaling a deadly toxin that was hidden in the head. After being cornered in Brennan's apartment by her and Booth, Epps jumps off the balcony. He is temporarily spared from death by Booth, who grabs his hand as he falls over the railing. In the end, however, Epps lets go of Booth's hand which results in him falling to his death when Booth can no longer hold on.

The Girl in the Gator[]

Booth had some trouble coping with his guilt over his self-perceived role in Epps's death, but he eventually overcame this with the aid of psychiatrist Doctor Gordon Wyatt, who helped him recognize that he could have done nothing to save Epps and that letting go of him was totally unintentional and inevitable.

Modus Operandi[]

Howard targeted blonde women in their late teens and early 20s (he associated them with purity) and killed them by bludgeoning them with a tire iron. Afterward, he tied the bodies' hands and feet together and buried them face down. His accomplice, Gil Lappin, copied Epps' M.O. and victim type almost perfectly, although he tortured his victims by suspending them upside-down before killing them. However, despite his preference for blondes, while in prison he married Caroline Epps, a brunette woman who was later his final victim. Epps' method of killing her was much different from the others. He had decapitated her alive, leaving Caroline's head in the fridge containing a glass ball of poison that sickened Camille Saroyan, and Caroline's body in a tannery with poison on her body that triggered a pressure bomb, injuring Booth and Zack Addy who tried removing it. He always leaves clues on his victims to manipulate and target the people investigating their deaths. This proved to be his downfall when Brennan and Booth recognized the significance of plaster dust on Caroline's head.

Known Victims[]


The following crimes were committed by Gil Lappin under Epps' orders:


  • Epps appears to be heavily inspired by notorious serial killer Ted Bundy having killed multiple young brunette women, sat on death row, married in prison, and escaped prison. Ted Bundy only killed one blonde victim.
  • He also seems inspired from serial killer Edmund Kemper, who was abused by his mother and made his mother one of his last victims. As Howard describes abuse from his mother and says he wished she had been his first victim.
  • Epps' collusion with an accomplice on the outside appears to be inspired by the "Hillside Strangler" case, where one of the killers, Kenneth Bianchi, enlisted a fan named Veronica Compton to attempt to kill a woman and make it seem like Bianchi and the other killer, Angelo Buono, were still at large. The plan was a failure, and Compton was arrested, giving up Bianchi's involvement.
  • He shares many qualities with different serial killers, not just those mentioned above.