Phillip Stroh
Vital statistics
Name Phillip Stroh
Profession Defense attorney, specializing in sex crimes
Gender Male
Notability Serial rapist/serial killer
Played by Billy Burke
First appearance Power of Attorney
Latest appearance By Any Means, Part 4

Phillip Stroh is a defense attorney and serial rapist/killer during The Closer and Major Crimes.

Stroh acted as a major recurring antagonist for Brenda Leigh Johnson and the Major Crimes Division until his death in “By Any Means, Part 4”.

History[edit | edit source]

Not much has been revealed about Stroh personally besides the fact that he was a skilled defense attorney. He specialized in defending accused sex offenders, arguing that because they are labeled as such for the rest of their lives if found guilty they deserve the best possible defense.

Among his clients was Chris Dunlap, whom he defended twice for sex crimes against children and who was desperate for money to obey his mother's wishes and "fix his face". In 2008, Stroh became a serial rapist himself, having Dunlap, who worked at a delivery company, use his job to find victims for him, paying him $1500 per victim. Though Dunlap wasn't happy about it, he felt obliged to help him to repay him for keeping him out of prison. Over six months spanning from 2008 to February of 2009, Stroh performed six increasingly violent rapes that way.

On his attempted seventh rape, the victim, Jessica Goodall, fought back too much and eventually he was forced to kill her before he could rape her and flee, leaving his partner behind. When his partner was captured Stroh marched to his side and used this as an opportunity to look at all the evidence they had on him. While going through the evidence he discovered one of his victims, Lauren Clark, could I.D. him and went to visit her to contaminate her memory. Afterwards he had Chris reveal that he was the serial rapist they wanted and the Major Crimes Division believed they had him, until his conversation with Lauren was revealed when she went to pick him out of a lineup and he walked away.

After this, Brenda started stalking him everyday to try and catch him while he was taking a break from his life of crime for awhile. He eventually started up again without Brenda's knowledge because this time he killed his victims and buried them where no one would go looking. But eventually her harassment was enough so he decided to join his colleague, Peter Goldman's lawsuit against her which eventually forced her bosses to have her reel back.

Eventually he was suspected of another rape-murder when a woman named Gweneth Adler turns up dead in a hotel room. The room is registered to a man named George Harris, a man arrested for rape twelve months prior, though the DA declined to prosecute him because the victim went missing. Further investigation shows that both women drank at a bar called Stella's before the rapes.

It was later discovered that Stroh defended him against these charges and was suspected to be George's partner-in-crime. They eventually found the other woman George was accused of raping named Natalie Gilbert and try to get her to identify Stroh as George's partner. But things do not go exactly as planned as Natalie instead identifies Charlie, the bartender at Stella's. With that Stroh convinces his client to testify against his partner in exchange for a deal in George's favor.

One of his clients was Wade Weller, a rapist and serial killer whom he helped when he got spooked by the investigation into one of crimes he committed. Stroh gave Weller advice and told him he'd call in the favor one day.

Stroh continued raping and murdering women. He tried to kill Rusty Beck, who witnessed him dumping a body. Rusty's report rekindled Brenda's vendetta against Stroh. Stroh eventually tried to kill both the witness and Brenda in her own home. Brenda shot Stroh and arrested him for two counts of attempted murder. Since he used the same MO to break into her house he is currently on trial for the rape-murders he committed.

During his time in prison he met a man named Florentino Reyes charged with rape and offered him a deal: find inmates in the infirmary about to leave to pass along a message to an accomplice named Wade Weller on the outside and Stroh would draft his legal motions expertly for free. Through this he started communicating with Weller who has him send threatening letters to Rusty and when the messages were delivered Stroh had him kill the channels so there couldn't be any direct link to him.

After about a few months when Rusty didn't back off Stroh sent another message to Weller stating that he start writing letters to Captain Sharon Raydor in addition to Rusty. Finally after they both stood firm in the case, Stroh decided to give Weller a new objective: kill either Rusty or Sharon. At the same time, Stroh offered his knowledge about Weller to the LAPD in exchange for a deal, but they turned it down. In order to fulfill Stroh's orders, Weller started communicating with Rusty under the guise of being part of his security team and killed someone in Sharon's building to prepare for the kill. He lured Rusty into the apartment and tried to kill him but Rusty managed to dodge it just in time as the police arrived and the killer escaped. While Rusty was testifying against Stroh, the Major Crimes division tracked down and killed Weller who was a major serial killer, partially thanks to the information Stroh gave them giving them a starting point. Afterwards, Stroh was thrown into solitary until they decide what to do with him.

In “Leap of Faith”, Stroh fires his attorney and decides to represent himself. He then begins trying to work out a plea bargain to get the death penalty taken off the table in exchange for him telling them about crimes his clients have committed. He has to check with another attorney first about privilege before he does this and Rusty has to make an Impact Statement.

In “Special Master Part One” and “Special Master Part Two”, Stroh begins going over his previous cases with a judge before suddenly predicting a murder. Stroh offers information to stop further killings, but demands a new deal which includes meeting with Rusty. During the meeting, Stroh claims that he and Rusty changed each other's destinies. After getting the terms of the deal fulfilled, Stroh murders the judge and escapes, leaving the message "find Jesus of Nazareth" and an arrow on the wall. He later makes it seem like he's buying a rifle to draw the police away and successfully escapes the city. Sharon Raydor believes that the true deal Stroh is giving them is the chance to catch the killer, who they call Burning Man in exchange for him having a chance to escape. Raydor eventually realizes he was tracking the killer through astrology and DDA Rios is able to identify the killer as Markos Christakis, a man Stroh had defended as a juvenile for disfigurement charges. With the help of an astrologer, they locate and capture Christakis who tells them the advice Stroh gave him on escaping which includes being prepared in advance and leaving no witnesses.

In “A Rose Is a Rose” there have been sightings of him in Cyprus and Crete and the LAPD believe that he has fled the country though Raydor kept a secret protective detail on Rusty for awhile.

In “Heart Failure”, Fritz Howard brings Sharon a report from Pennsylvania that Stroh may have returned to the United States. Fritz tells Sharon that the connection is thin, but felt she deserved to know.

In “Intersection”, Sharon shares a report with Andy Flynn that three people connected to Stroh's past have all mysteriously died. Sharon is now worried that Stroh is indeed back and may be planning to seek revenge on Rusty.

In “Sanctuary City, Part 1”, Stroh's step-mother is found dead, making it five people connected to Stroh's past that have turned up dead. Despite no sign of Stroh himself, protection is ordered for Brenda, Emma Rios, Rusty and possibly Linda Rothman. Sharon is forced to tell Rusty about Stroh's possible return and he decides to become "more proficient" in protecting himself in case Stroh has returned rather than letting Stroh ruin his life again. In “Sanctuary City, Part 2” Rusty begins seeking a permit to carry a concealed gun in case Stroh comes after him and creates a map board in his room of Stroh's possible victims.

In “Conspiracy Theory, Part 3”, Rusty brings Sharon a possible sighting of Stroh in Palm Springs, but it is unconfirmed. Sharon suggests that to figure out the reason for Stroh's return, they must first figure out why he came to LA in the first place as Stroh had no reason to set up a law practice there.

In “Conspiracy Theory, Part 4”, Stroh, now sporting a beard, is confirmed to have returned. He is shown to have visited the restaurant where Rusty's ex-boyfriend Gus works and engaged in conversation with an oblivious Gus about Rusty in the guise of a patron. As a result, Stroh learns of Sharon Raydor's collapse and states that he might see Gus again "before I go," suggesting that Stroh will target Gus.

In “By Any Means, Part 1”, “By Any Means, Part 2”, and “By Any Means, Part 3”, the victims Stroh has left in his wake during his journey in the U.S. are fully revealed. These include: Gordon Ducrest, Stroh's sixth-grade science teacher who Stroh burned as a child with sulfuric acid. He was found electrocuted on the side of his house about a year ago; Lynn Porter, Stroh's former high school girlfriend. She was a former lifeguard from Ohio who drowned in her own pool. Her parents state that Lynn and Stroh broke up when they were sixteen but they don't remember much about him aside from being "odd"; Clyde Fowler, Stroh's former law school professor from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Supposedly shot himself a month after Lynn's death despite showing no signs of depression and leaving no note; Elizabeth Dunn, lived in Colorado and died in a car accident. Identified by Rusty Beck as the sister of Mary Wellington, Stroh's first victim; Carolyn Sayles, Stroh's first step-mother. She fell off a hiking trail in Arizona.

During these episodes, the earliest victims of Stroh were also revealed, these being: Mary Wellington, disappeared in Chagrin Falls, Ohio in 1985 and was never found. According to Gwendolyn Stroh, Phillip's mother, Mary was murdered and raped by Phillip Stroh. She is suspected to be Stroh's first victim. Her body was buried in the foundations of a house by Gwendolyn and Phillip. Her body was later located by the Chagrin Falls Police Department due to information obtained from Gwendolyn Stroh. Mary is the sister of Elizabeth Dunn, one of Stroh's current victims; Emily West, went missing in August of 1992 and never found. Claimed by Gwendolyn Stroh to be one of Stroh's victims while he was in law school; Donna Anderson, went missing in November of 1992 and never found. Claimed by Gwendolyn Stroh to be one of Stroh's victims while he was in law school.

At the beginning of “By Any Means, Part 1”, Stroh drowned DDA Emma Rios, the prosecutor in his case, in her own pool despite her security detail in order to lure the LAPD into finding a forged medical record in Emma's computer which suggested Stroh had Stage 4 terminal lung cancer. The Major Crimes Division began investigating the drowning as a murder even though Assistant Chief Leo Mason wasn't convinced they were dealing with one, but Lt. Provenza was able to convince him otherwise.

During Stroh's escape journey in Europe, more specifically in Cyprus, he helped Dylan Baxter, a 24-year-old British student and hacker to escape statutory rape charges of a 15-year-old girl. In return, Stroh took Dylan with him to the U.S. and had him eventually hack into the cell phones of Major Crimes Division's detectives and their murder room SmartBoard in order to spy on the LAPD.

It was revealed that Stroh came back to the U.S. to find his mother, Gwendolyn Stroh, after her accounts in Cyprus were closed by her step-son, Hunt Sanford, and therefore Phillip had no more money to use. One of the reasons Stroh wanted to spy on the LAPD was to use them to find his mother who had changed her name and social security number and Dylan was unable to find her. To push the LAPD in the right direction in finding his mother, Phillip murdered Jim Bechtal, Phillip's former stepfather and ex-husband of Gwendolyn.

Eventually, Gwendolyn was located by Dylan, and later by the LAPD, and it became clear that Gwendolyn has dementia and that was the reason her accounts in Cyprus were closed by Hunt Sanford because she couldn't explain who was using the money.

Stroh was eventually able to locate Hunt Stanford's therapist, who he murdered in order to get close to Hunt. When Hunt came to his therapy session, he found his doctor murdered and Phillip waiting for him. Stroh and Dylan had him transfer $15 million from Gwendolyn's accounts into a BitCoin wallet, which was supposed to be Stroh's but was changed by Dylan at the last second to his own, robbing Phillip of his money, unbeknownst to him at the time. When the money was transferred, Phillip murdered Hunt in the therapist's office. Before he left, he took a red marker pen and wrote something on the office wall, similarly as in Judge Schafer's office. The message was that "Rusty is next."

Despite Stroh's threatening message, Rusty came to believe that Stroh was after something else. Having discovered Dylan's double-cross, Stroh kidnapped his girlfriend Ella and hung her in order to force Dylan into transferring every cent of the money into Stroh's own BitCoin wallet. Dylan succeeded and Stroh prepared to leave Ella hanging before Major Crimes arrived and killed Dylan. Stroh warned the squad that they had the choice to chase him or spend their resources saving Ella before taking off in the young woman's car.

After Dylan's dead man's timer ran out, his dossier on Stroh was sent to the LAPD and the FBI. Following information in Dylan's files, the majority of the LAPD converged on the airport where Stroh was supposedly flying out on a chartered flight. However, Rusty remained suspicious of Stroh's actions and the fact that Tammy Bechtal wasn't answering her phone. On Rusty's insistence, Provenza, Buzz Watson, Rusty and Gus checked out Tammy's home and found Tammy murdered. Spotting a picture of Jim Bechtal's yacht, the Ms. Bechtel, Provenza realized that Stroh was on the yacht and planning to use it to escape and headed out to confront Stroh alone.

As Stroh prepared a sandwich, he heard footsteps on the yacht and realized he'd been found. Stroh armed himself with his knife in favor of his gun and hid until Provenza passed by. Stroh attempted to catch Provenza in a trap by calling Provenza's cell phone, but Provenza anticipated the trick and was able to get the drop on Stroh. Dropping his knife, Stroh surrendered and challenged Provenza to shoot him, knowing that Provenza would never shoot an unarmed man. Reluctantly, Provenza conceded and tossed Stroh his handcuffs to handcuff himself. As Stroh bent down to take the handcuffs, Rusty suddenly entered and shot Stroh three times in the chest. As Stroh stared at Rusty in shock, Rusty shot Stroh twice more, killing him.

After confirming that Stroh was in fact dead, Provenza discovered that Stroh had a hidden gun in his boot and had likely been going for it. As a result, Stroh's death was not a murder. Rather than reveal Rusty's actions, Provenza decided to take credit for killing Phillip Stroh though both Fritz Howard and Julio Sanchez appeared to realize the truth. While investigated by FID for the shooting, it was quickly determined that Stroh's death was justified and Provenza was cleared. As well, Brenda Leigh Johnson was stated by Fritz to be having a hard time taking in the fact that Stroh was gone as was Rusty despite having killed him. After checking with the pilot of the plane that Stroh had chartered, it was discovered that Stroh had paid in advance and it was realized that all along his escape plan was the Ms. Bechtel while the airport was just another one of Stroh's distractions.

Modus Operandi[edit | edit source]

Stroh targeted blonde, attractive women in their 20s who lived alone and found them with Dunlap's help. While making deliveries to them in the course of his work, Dunlap would use the bathrooms and unlock their bathroom windows. A few days later, Stroh and Dunlap would break in together through the same window at night and Stroh, wearing a mask to hide his face and a condom to avoid leaving behind DNA, would then rape them. During his later attacks, he was more brutal, even tying a victim to a bedpost and beating her. His initial series of rapes ended with him more or less by accident fatally smothering his victim with a pillow to muffle her screams before he could rape her. Eventually he got so violent that after his seventh victim he started killing his victims in addition to raping them. After Dunlap was arrested, he started approaching his victims pretending to be a photographer. After he was done raping them he would strangle them with a chain and bury their bodies at a separate location.

After being arrested, Stroh began using his former clients to try to get away with his crimes. In the case of Wade Weller, Stroh used a man named Florentino Reyes who had been charged with rape and was defending himself on the charges. Passing motions through library books, Stroh eventually had Reyes start passing messages through prisoners who are about to be released to Weller while making sure to never be seen with Reyes. To prove he'd gotten the messages, Stroh had the prisoners killed so there would be no witnesses and dumped in locations where Stroh would see it on the news so he'd know. When Weller started to fail, Stroh tried to use the opportunity to get himself a deal by passing on information. Later, he offered to open his old cases to stop future crimes and when the serial killer known as Burning Man began striking again, Stroh used the opportunity to back the police into a corner and make a deal with him, then take the chance to escape while the police focused on catching Burning Man.

Known Victims[edit | edit source]

  • The series of attacks committed when Stroh was an adolescent and in law school
    • Gordon Ducrest (his sixth-grade science teacher, splashed with sulfuric acid, his first known victim of any kind)
    • Mary Wellington (killed by Stroh when he was 16, his first rape and murder victim)
    • Emily West (disappeared in August of 1992 when Stroh was in law school, claimed by Gwendolyn Stroh to have been murdered by him, body never recovered)
    • Donna Anderson (disappeared in November of 1992 when Stroh was in law school, claimed by Gwendolyn Stroh to have been murdered by him, body never recovered)
  • The first series of attacks (committed with Dunlap as his accomplice; all raped except Jessica)
    • Alexa Smart
    • Monica Hill
    • Vanessa Davis
    • Kim Stansbury
    • Rebecca Howl
    • Lauren Clark (tied to a bedpost and beaten as well as raped)
    • Jessica Goodall (fatally suffocated with a pillow)
  • The second series of attacks (committed alone; all raped and fatally strangled with a chain)
    • Tracey Cook
    • Anna Sills
    • Becky Stanley
    • Mary Claire Smith
    • Karen Oncidi
  • Rusty Beck (attempted; held at knifepoint and slashed his leg; had threatened and attempted to be killed by Wade Weller)
  • Brenda Leigh Johnson (attempted)
  • Judge Stephen Schaeffer (suffocated with a compressed air duster)
  • Gary Roberts (an Uber driver; body dumped in the Salton Sea)
  • A bank employee in Cyprus who managed his mother’s bank account
  • The series of attacks committed by Stroh upon his return
    • Gordon Ducrest (Stroh's sixth-grade science teacher; electrocuted)
    • Lynn Porter (Stroh's high-school girlfriend; drowned)
    • Clyde Fowler (Stroh's ex-professor; shot)
    • Elizabeth Dunn (sister of Mary Wellington, killed in a car accident)
    • Carolyn Sayles (Stroh's step-mother; fell to her death)
    • Emma Rios (drowned in her pool)
    • Jim Bechtal (stabbed five times in the abdomen)
    • Doctor Daniel Perez (stabbed multiple times in the abdomen)
    • Hunt Sanford (stabbed in the abdomen)
    • Ella Stewart (kidnapped and hung, rescued by Major Crimes)
    • Tammy Bechtal (stabbed to death)

Victims by Proxy[edit | edit source]

The following were stabbed twice in the chest and once in the neck by Wade Weller on Stroh's orders

  • Keith Mapleton
  • Russell Jackson
  • Jesus Mario Chavez
  • Gregory Boone

Stroh's Clients[edit | edit source]

  • Markos Christakis (defended for disfigurement and mayhem)
  • Wade Weller (defended for child abduction)
  • Chris Dunlap (defended for indecent exposure and child molestation)
  • George Harris (defended for rape and murder)
  • Florentino Reyes (defended in secret for rape)
  • Dylan Baxter (helped escape charges in Cyprus, possibly through bribery)

Stroh's Accomplices[edit | edit source]

  • Gwendolyn Stroh (his mother; helped hide Mary Wellington's body, paid off his victims and provided him with money for an escape)
  • Chris Dunlap (his accomplice in the first series of attacks)
  • Florentino Reyes (his unwitting accomplice in passing Wade Weller information)
  • Wade Weller (his proxy in his attempts to silence Rusty Beck's testimony)
  • Markos Christakis (his accomplice in his escape from prison)
  • Dylan Baxter (his hacker accomplice after returning to LA)

Appearances[edit | edit source]

The Closer[edit | edit source]

Season Four[edit | edit source]

  1. Power of Attorney

Season Five[edit | edit source]

  1. Elysian Fields” (Flashback only)

Season Seven[edit | edit source]

  1. Hostile Witness
  2. The Last Word

Major Crimes[edit | edit source]

Season Three[edit | edit source]

  1. Special Master Part One
  2. Special Master Part Two

Season Six[edit | edit source]

  1. Conspiracy Theory, Part 4
  2. By Any Means, Part 1
  3. By Any Means, Part 2
  4. By Any Means, Part 3
  5. By Any Means, Part 4
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