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Who sent you, the property mongers?
~ Matthew O'Dell as he is arrested.

Matthew O'Dell is the main antagonist of the Law & Order episode "Disappeared". He is a mentally-ill terrorist and serial killer who murders people with homemade bombs in order to wage a vendetta against wealthy property developers.

He was portrayed by Michael Medeiros.

Biography

Early life

O'Dell was born in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, and raised there along with his older brother Benjamin by their emotionally distant father after the death of their mother. O'Dell was intellectually gifted from a young age, graduating from Princeton in only three years with a degree in philosophy and getting accepted to Harvard, where he did graduate work in urban planning.

However, he also exhibited signs of severe mental illness, particularly his paranoid, violent obsession with wealthy property owners, whom he called "property mongers" and accused of disenfranchising the poor. He spent his 20s in and out of psychiatric hospitals.

While rarely employed, he was able to support himself with the inheritance left to him and Benjamin after their father's death, as well as a government disability check. He also volunteered with several neighborhood groups protesting the gentrification of New York City by property developers. He wrote several rambling manifestos denouncing these developers, though they attracted little attention.

"Disappeared"

Obsessed with his cause, O'Dell kidnaps Paul and Donna Ericson, two nouveau riche investors in a condo development in the Chelsea neighborhood, as well as the developer himself, Nathan Faber. He writes a manifesto to the media, in which Benjamin recognizes his brother's ideas and revolutionary language. He sends his lawyer to the NYPD, saying that he will help them arrest the kidnapper as long as they make every effort not to hurt him. Lieutenant Anita Van Buren agrees, and sends detectives Lennie Briscoe and Rey Curtis to arrest O'Dell. After they promise him a trial min which he can express his views, O'Dell directs Briscoe and Curtis to a warehouse, where they find all three victims dead, shot to death by O'Dell.

Assistant District Attorneys Jack McCoy and Jamie Ross offer O'Dell the chance to plead insanity, but he adamantly refuses, saying he would rather be executed than be deemed insane. Despite able representation from his lawyer, Danielle Melnick, O'Dell is found guilty. Knowing that his brother is facing execution, Benjamin refuses to help the prosecution any further, which presents an ethical dilemma for Ross, who believes that O'Dell belongs in a hospital, not on death row. McCoy agrees, but District Attorney Adam Schiff insists that they seek the death penalty.

McCoy tells Ross to handle O'Dell's sentencing, claiming to have another matter to attend to. Ross persuades Benjamin to testify, and while questioning him asks him why he turned his brother in to the police. Benjamin details Matthew's history of mental illness over Matthew's furious objections, and he ultimately flies into a violent outburst that results in his having to be dragged out of the courthouse, literally kicking and screaming. As Ross intended, this results in the jury voting to institutionalize rather than execute O'Dell, who is then put in a psychiatric hospital.

Trivia

  • O'Dell is loosely based upon the real-life terrorist and murderer Theodore Kaczynski, also known as "The Unabomber".

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