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A Little Murder
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Season 3
Number 4
Writer Naren Shankar,
Ann Donahue
Director Tucker Gates
Original Airdate October 17, 2002
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A Little Murder is the fourth episode in season three of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

Synopsis

Grissom, Nick and Sara suspect murder when the body of a dwarf is found hanging from a rope above the stage at a Little People's convention. Meanwhile, Catherine and Warrick investigate a murder during a home invasion.

Plot

Victim: Lawrence Ames (deceased)

On the case: Gil Grissom, Nick Stokes, Sara Sidle, Jim Brass

At a Little People's convention, the body of little person Lawrence Ames is found hanging far above the stage by one of the event organizers, Melanie Grace. Sara immediately believes it's a suicide in a public place to make a statement, but Grissom believes it's murder.

The CSIs process the body, with Sara finding some fibers and Grissom spotting a hair tied up in the rope's knot. Meanwhile, Nick finds a rope identical to the murder weapon that was used as a handrail.

In autopsy, Grissom notes the marks on Lawrence's legs. Doc Robbins confirms Grissom's suspicion that Lawrence had bone lengthening surgery when he was younger in order to make himself taller. He says that the bones must be broken every four to six hours—excruciating pain to grow just a few inches. Doc Robbins confirms that the cause of death was asphyxiation due to strangulation, but also notes that there's a bruise on the back of Lawrence's neck. An x-ray shows that Lawrence was hit with something that caused separation of the first and second vertebra prior to death, paralyzing him. Doc Robbins says that this could happen to a dwarf that had Pseudoachondroplasia, which could cause cervical spine instability. Grissom guesses that whoever committed the crime knew something about dwarf anatomy.

Grissom and Sara interview Melanie, who's sitting at a slot machine and using a grabber to pull its lever. Melanie has a hostile demeanor towards both, but agrees to have evidence collected from her hair and clothes to rule her out as a suspect. She tells Grissom and Sara that the convention is the only week of the year where all dwarfs can do business, gamble, and have romantic encounters with other people like them. Melanie also tells them that Lawrence was a "Pseudo" and could have his pick of any of the women at the convention. Grissom explains to Sara that "Pseudo" is short for Pseudoachondroplasia—dwarfs with features and head size like normal people. Dwarfs that have Achondroplasia have shortened limbs and enlarged heads. Sara notes that different dwarfs seem to have different social statuses.

Grissom and Sara enter Lawrence's hotel room and find a 5'7" woman sitting on a bed. They're shocked to learn that she was Lawrence's fiancée, Jessica Marcus. They get Jessica to sit down in the middle of the room to keep the room's contamination to a minimum. Grissom looks around the room and sees magazines and a small laptop. He also spots a gash in the wall, and Sara notes that the gash is deeper at the bottom than at the top—the strike was made coming down. Grissom finds a grabber similar to the one Melanie was using and Sara finds a broken piece of it on the floor. There are also two champagne flutes with lipstick on one of them. Jessica says it's not hers, as she's seven weeks pregnant.

In the lab, Greg tells Nick that only one of the several hairs around the rope knot had a skin tag, while the fibers Sara found on the body were from polyester upholstery. Grissom walks by and takes the hairs, even after being told they have no DNA tags. Under the microscope, Nick looks at epithelials found on the rope near its anchor point; Greg tells him that he needs someone's DNA to compare them to.

Sara looks through Lawrence's computer and finds a flirtatious private chat he had with a female dwarf named Danielle who was going to the convention. She clicks on an attached photo to find a picture of Danielle. Under interrogation, Jessica admits to knowing that Lawrence was having an online affair. Nick tells her that her skin cells were found on the rope used to hang Lawrence, but she can't explain how that's possible.

Grissom is running tests on the hairs; he informs Nick and Sara that the hair is 60% thinner than normal hair and also has less tensile strength. A cross-section of the hair shows no pigment at its central core. Grissom tells them that it's a sign of cartilage hair hypoplasia, or CHH, which is characterized by fine, brittle body hair. It's an extremely rare syndrome and is also a form of dwarfism. Grissom offers to put together a list of CHH attributes so that Nick and Sara can go back to the convention armed with what to look for; however, they only have two days before the convention leaves town and all of the suspects go home.

At the casino bar, Grissom shows Melanie a picture of Danielle, but Melanie doesn't recognize her. She would remember, she says, as the guys would still be drooling over her. Grissom notes that there's nobody registered at the hotel or the convention with the name Danielle. In the lab, Archie informs Sara that Danielle's photo is a composite, which is why nobody at the convention saw her. He breaks down the photo, and they find that parts of Lawrence's face were used in the making of Danielle as a sort of way of attracting him to her.

Phone records show that Lawrence received over 200 calls over the last year from Melanie and had her calls blocked two months before his death, which just happens to be the same time Lawrence started chatting with Danielle. He also became engaged the week he started blocking Melanie's calls. When interrogated, Melanie denies forging the photo of Danielle, saying that she would never present herself to someone as anything other than who she is. She adds that she's not the type of person that would kill someone over the height of their lover and that Grissom should know that.

Back at the convention, Nick's path is blocked by a man in a wheelchair—the same man he ran into during a previous visit. The man raises his chair to Nick's height and asks him if his team is taking the case seriously, to which Nick replies that they are. Nick looks across the room and finds a dwarf selling rope used for makeshift banisters. In the lab, Greg informs Grissom that the dwarf hairs in the rope have seven alleles in common with Jessica's skin cells—the two donors are related. Nick calls Brass and Grissom to the convention; he's gotten confirmation that the dwarf, Kevin Marcus, has CHH. Kevin tells Grissom that he gets the rope from wholesalers and repackages it in his home, which explains how Jessica's DNA got on the rope. The 5'7" Jessica is actually Kevin's daughter. Kevin's hair was also on the rope, only his was caught in the noose.

Under interrogation, Jessica is shocked to learn that her father is being suspected of murder. She admits to Nick that she and Lawrence had a fight over him conversing online with Danielle and she ran to her father in tears. During the argument, she threw the grabber, which made the gash in the wall. The two would later make up, and the last time she saw Lawrence, he was heading out to meet a friend. However, he never came back.

In another interrogation room, Kevin denies creating Danielle in an attempt to break up his daughter's engagement. He tells Grissom and Brass that Jessica was a miracle—he and his wife had a one-in-four chance of having an average child. Kevin confirms that his wife is also a dwarf, and the couple was happy that Jessica was an "average," but he believed that Lawrence was "bringing her back down." He claims that he didn't like Lawrence; however, he didn't kill him.

Outside of the room, Brass asks Grissom if they can prove murder. Grissom, however, says that the rope was anchored to a lighting truss five feet over Kevin's head and that there's no way he could have reached that high. It seems that Kevin tied the rope, but how did he hang Lawrence? Nick and Sara revisit the crime scene wondering how the rope could've been tied five feet over Kevin's head. Suddenly, Nick remembers the man in the wheelchair raising his chair to Nick's eye level and comes to a realization.

Back in the interrogation room, Brass tells Kevin that they found synthetic sheepskin on Lawrence's body consistent with the fabric from the seat cover of Kevin's wheelchair. Grissom shows a message from Danielle to Lawrence telling him to meet him in the theater. Kevin admits meeting Lawrence and luring him into his chair by claiming he could be the chair's model on a brochure. While pretending to make adjustments, he punched Lawrence in the back of the neck to paralyze him, raised the chair, and hung him.

Kevin says he couldn't let Jessica marry Lawrence due to the fact that their child had a 50% chance of being a dwarf. Brass informs him, though, that Jessica is already pregnant. Grissom sadly states that this wasn't just a murder, it was a hate crime—Kevin Marcus hated himself.

Victim: Teddy Henders (deceased)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Warrick Brown, Drew Wolf

Catherine visits what appears to be a home invasion gone bad; the body of Teddy Henders lies dead in the living room. With Det. Drew Wolf canvassing the neighborhood, Catherine begins to process the scene while a rookie officer gives watch. However, it's his first time on body watch and he has to vacate the premises before he throws up all over the crime scene. As Catherine dusts for prints, a man emerges from behind a partition and starts attacking her. She puts up a fight before the man runs off, with Warrick and two officers in hot pursuit. The assailant escapes and Catherine is left bloodied. She tells Warrick not to touch her, as she's now evidence.

Catherine changes out of her clothes in order to preserve all evidence, and she and Warrick re-enter the crime scene as the body is removed. As she makes her way through the living room, Catherine relives the attack and notes that the assailant had been drinking, likely beer. Warrick goes outside and finds a shoe print on the fence from when Catherine's attacker fled. Inside, Catherine bags a denim fiber wedged in a cabinet, but is unable to uncover any worthwhile prints. Warrick spots a picture of the homeowners on the refrigerator, with neither one of them looking like the victim. Their home invasion may not be a home invasion after all.

In autopsy, Catherine notices welts on Teddy's arms, but David Phillips can't identify them yet. David tells Catherine and Warrick that Teddy died from blunt force trauma to the head. After shaving the head, they find a Z-shaped pattern embedded in it. Catherine remembers that there was a Z-mover video game console near the body, which she began to dust before she was attacked. Warrick notes that the neighbors heard an argument; perhaps the two men entered to rob the house and got into an argument, with one killing the other.

Warrick gets the denim fiber under a microscope and tells Catherine that Teddy's skin and the fiber are both coated in the same substance—cooking grease. He believes that the marks on Teddy's arms were grease burns, meaning that it's possible he worked in a fast food restaurant. Det. Wolf enters and says that the owner of the invaded house owns a fast food franchise called Fast and Fresh Burgers. The homeowner, Alvin Jackson, is in Hawaii on vacation, something his employees would know.

Catherine, Warrick, and Det. Wolf visit one of the burger restaurants. Warrick and Det. Wolf tell Catherine that she can sit out since one of the guys assaulted her, but she wants to face the incident head on or else she won't get past it. They line up all of the workers in a row and Catherine asks them all to blow their nose, noting that transfer works both ways. When one guy refuses, she looks up the guy's nose herself and finds fingerprint powder attached to his nose hairs. This proves that he's the one that attacked Catherine, as he inhaled the fingerprint powder she was using. The man admits to entering the house to rob it because he knew the boss was out of town. He fought with Teddy over the Z-mover video game console and hit him with it, accidentally killing him.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

  • Archie Kao as Archie Johnson
  • David Berman as David Phillips
  • Phil Fondacaro as Kevin Marcus
  • Meredith Eaton as Melanie Grace
  • Linden Ashby as Detective Drew Wolf
  • Kaarina Aufranc as Jessica Marcus
  • Michael Gilden as Lawrence Ames
  • Jack Galle as Dwayne Gallo
  • Andy Mackenzie as Teddy Henders
  • Matthew Lang as 1st Officer Clark
  • Arlene Malinowski as Sign Language Student
  • Greg Dohanic as Young Man
  • Danny Woodburn as Little Man in Wheelchair
  • Leann Bankowski as Melanie's Friend at the Bar (uncredited)

Major Events

  • Catherine is attacked by a murder suspect who was still hiding at the scene. She suffers a minor head injury, but continues to work the case. 

Quotes

Grissom: You know what's really sad? This wasn't just a murder. It was a hate crime. Kevin Marcus hated himself.

Music

  • Jericho by Weekend Players

Notes

  • At the end of the episode, it's revealed that Grissom is taking lip-reading classes. He doesn't say it, but tells another student in sign language.
  • Michael Gilden was married to Meredith Eaton, both of whom appeared in the episode. Sadly, Michael Gilden hanged himself in 2006.

Goofs

  • In the beginning of the episode, as Catherine is talking to the officer at the scene, the dead body blinks.
  • When Catherine arrives at the crime scene, the responding officer introduces himself as "Akers." However, the character is listed in the credits as "1st Officer Clark."
  • After Catherine is attacked in the house, she herself says, "I'm evidence." As a result, she shouldn't have been allowed to participate further in the investigation.
  • After talking with Grissom at the slot machines, when Melanie goes to leave, an officer reaches to help her down. But in the next shot from the opposite direction, the officer isn't there at all.
  • When Michael Gilden (Lawrence Ames) is on the coroner's table, his chest rises.

Trivia

  • Fans of 90's television will recognize Danny Woodburn ("Little Man in Wheelchair") from his role as Mickey Abbott in the show Seinfeld.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 3
Revenge is Best Served ColdThe Accused is EntitledLet the Seller BewareA Little MurderAbra-CadaverThe Execution of Catherine WillowsFight NightSnuffBlood LustHigh and LowRecipe for MurderGot Murder?Random Acts of ViolenceOne Hit WonderLady Heather's BoxLucky StrikeCrash & BurnPrecious MetalA Night at the MoviesLast LaughForeverPlay with FireInside the Box
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