Altered Stakes
Season 12
Number 20
Writer Melissa R. Byers,
Treena Hancock,
Elizabeth Devine
Director David Semel
Original Airdate April 11, 2012
Previous Episode: Split Decisions
Next Episode: Dune and Gloom

Altered Stakes is the twentieth episode in Season Twelve of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


A killer is about to go free because of a dirty cop, so the team tries to connect him to an earlier crime to keep him in jail.


Victim: Robert James (deceased)

On the case: D.B Russell, Greg Sanders, Julie Finlay, Morgan Brody, Nick Stokes, Jim Brass, Carlos Moreno

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, Nick is called away from the departmental softball game. In Brass' office, he meets with Brass and D.A. Claude Melvoy and is told that a past case of Det. Sam Vega is being looked into. Seven years ago, Carl Bowden was convicted of murder and even led the police to the body; however, he's now saying that Vega beat the confession out of him. The confession has been thrown out of court, and anything Carl gave the police during or after the confession can't be used in a retrial. If Carl walks, it opens the doors for any other prisoners put away by Det. Vega.

Nick sits down privately with Russell and fills him in on the Carl Bowden case. The morning after finishing the crime scene seven years ago, Vega found a witness who saw Carl leaving the alley where the murder took place; Carl was the witness' mechanic. He was interrogated for several hours, but no headway was made on the investigation. Nick recalls leaving the interrogation room to retrieve more audio tapes; when he returned 20 minutes later, Carl had blood running down his face and he was handcuffed to his chair. Vega claimed that Carl lunged at him across the table and he defended himself. Carl confessed shortly afterwards. Nick tells Russell that he never told anyone and says that the more detectives trust you, the more they'll ask you to help work the big cases. In the end, Carl was put in prison and a mother got to bury her son. Russell responds that the evidence would've eventually gotten them the same result without Vega tuning up the suspect.

The team is gathered to go through the case. Nick identifies the victim as Robert James, who cut through the alley on his way home from a nearby bar. He never made it home, and a blood pool was found in the alley the next day; DNA from the pool matched DNA from Robert's toothbrush. The next day, Vega got a lead on Carl Bowden, who confessed to the crime and led police to the body. A deal was made with the district attorney, so the case never went to trial and the evidence was placed in storage. Thanks to Vega's crookedness, the confession, Robert's body, everything found at the dump site, and Doc Robbins' autopsy are excluded. All the team has left is the crime scene, a missing persons report, and an eyewitness.

Nick heads back to the alley with Finn and Russell. The alley is still the way Nick remembers it; however, he points out that there was a dumpster on the opposite side of where it is now. Near the dumpster, there was a blood pool, a urine pool matching Robert's DNA, and a bloody cinder block. There was blood spatter close to the ground, indicating that Carl hit Robert with the cinder block and continued to beat him while he was down on the ground. Brain matter was found in the blood pool, so Robert definitely didn't make it out of the alley alive. The eyewitness saw Carl leave the alley; however, he didn't have Robert's body with him and Carl's car was never found. Nick recalls smelling some kind of solvent, but chalked it up as something coming from the dumpster.

Det. Carlos Moreno, Vega's stepson, pays Brass a visit. He asks to work the case and make things right; however, Brass is against the idea. Brass eventually relents and tells Det. Moreno to work the case unofficially.

It turns out that Carl's car was actually found two blocks from the alley on the night of the murder, parked in a 7-Eleven parking lot. The car has been in impound ever since. Nick and Brass visit the impound yard and locate the car. If the car was used to transport Robert's body, there may still be evidence inside. Nick gets a faint whiff of the solvent he smelled in the alley and notes that the leather steering wheel cover may have absorbed some evidence. There's significant front-end damage to the car; Det. Moreno arrives and informs them that someone actually hit Carl's car that night and drove off. The car was hit at 10:00 PM, right around the time of the murder. However, the car wasn't drivable, which means it didn't go anywhere after 10:00 PM. Robert's body was never in the car.

Greg and Morgan go through the old evidence and find that the odor Nick smelled that day was octyl cyanoacrylate—a liquid bandage called Invi-Skin. It was found on the part of the cinder block that wasn't covered in blood, which means it could've been transferred from the killer's hand. Invi-Skin is primarily used by tradesmen who work with their hands, and Carl was a mechanic.

Ben Gerard, Carl's old boss at the auto shop, tells Greg and Morgan that Carl was a hothead who would get set off by the littlest thing. Despite that, Carl was an excellent mechanic who could fix anything. Carl's wife left him the day of Robert's murder, which could've led to his actions that night. Like all the mechanics, Carl had access to the cars stored in the garage at that time, and Ben provides records from the night in question. While Greg goes to retrieve the records, Morgan speaks with another mechanic and notices the smell of Invi-Skin on his hands.

It's confirmed that Carl's car was undrivable on the night of Robert's murder. Already in the midst of a bad day, walking out of the 7-Eleven and finding his car damaged may have pushed Carl over the edge. On the night in question, there were three cars in Ben's garage, two of which were undrivable. The only car that could've been used was a Buick Park Avenue, which has a trunk large enough to store a body. The car is tracked down and processed, and Nick finds evidence of blood in the trunk.

The Invi-Skin on the mechanic's hands is the same chemical that was found on the cinder block and the leather steering wheel cover in Carl's car. However, Invi-Skin is the top-selling liquid bandage in the country, so it doesn't necessarily narrow down the list of suspects. Meanwhile, the blood in the trunk of the Buick was too degraded to get a clear hit; there's a one in 43,000 chance that it belongs to Robert. Additionally, there's nothing found in the car that ties it back to Carl.

D.A. Melvoy is unimpressed with the circumstantial evidence, telling Nick and Russell that it's not enough to move forward with. In addition, their eyewitness died two years ago from breast cancer. Because they're dealing with a dirty cop, the case has to be a win if it's going to be retried in court. The CSIs believe that if Carl is put back on the street, he'll likely kill someone else in the same brutal manner. Nick convinces D.A. Melvoy to let him take new reference samples, as the samples the lab has are seven years old.

Nick visits Carl in prison, collecting his DNA and taking photos of various injuries on Carl's body. Back in the station locker room, Nick tells Finn and Russell that Carl has a reputation for starting fights in prison. Carl didn't develop his anger issues overnight, leading Nick to wonder if he killed anyone else before Robert. Russell agrees and has the team look through old cases that fit Carl's M.O.—random ambush beatings using weapons of opportunity. The CSIs will try to put Carl behind bars for a different murder.

Finn discovers a possible case where Carl might've been the culprit. In 2004, April Reynolds was jogging through the park when she was attacked from behind, dragged into the woods, and beaten with a log. There were no signs of sexual assault and nothing was taken from her. Responding officers noticed a faint chemical smell at the scene. April survived, and when she woke up in the hospital, she identified her attacker as David Jorgensen, her best friend's husband. David has always maintained his innocence despite the fact that shoe impressions matching his shoes were at the scene and wood splinters were found in his hand. Neighbors later saw David burning things in his backyard. Despite some differences from the Robert James case, Russell follows up on their hunch and assigns responsibilities to each CSI.

Nick and Det. Moreno discover that Carl's credit card was declined at a liquor store on the same day April was attacked. The store is right across from the park, and the card was declined right around the same time of the attack. They soon discover that Carl was fired from his job on the same day and theorize that he got fired, went to the liquor store, and had his card declined. This set him off, and he went across the street to the park and attacked the first person he saw.

Finn visits David Jorgensen in prison; he continues to maintain his innocence. He explains that he and his wife were having marital problems, and his wife confided in April. On the day of the attack, he had lunch with April and attempted to get information out of her. This led to an argument, but David says that he was angry at the situation, not at April. He adds that he loved his wife. When asked about the splinters in his hand, he tells Finn that he had been stacking firewood that day. He also says that he burned some old rags and drop cloths in his fire pit that night, which neighbors mistook for clothes. Back at the station, Brass speaks with April, who now has a partially disfigured face and walks with a cane. She maintains that David is the one who attacked her, and she says that she saw his face clearly while he was doing so.

Hodges finds trace amounts of Invi-Skin on the log used to beat April; however, there was no Invi-Skin on the splinter pulled from David's hand. So, either the splinters were taken from a different section of the log that contained no Invi-Skin transfer, or David never handled the log at all. D.A. Melvoy is still unimpressed with the new findings, telling Russell and Brass that they don't have enough proof to contradict April's testimony. He plans to file a motion in the morning that will allow Carl to walk.

Morgan notes that April suffered six fractures to the skull and wonders if those sort of injuries could cause delusions or altered perceptions of reality. Doc Robbins explains to her and Russell that April's brain sustained trauma, swelling, and a subdural hematoma. At some point during the attack, she may have seen an outline of her attacker's face, and signals in her brain may have caused her to misinterpret who she was actually seeing. Because she had had an argument with David a few hours before, she may have been thinking about him during the attack, which would explain why she assigned his features to a faceless stranger. Her brain filled in some details, making her believe David was her assailant.

Greg speaks with the woman who found April's body in the park that day. That night, her dog got sick after eating something and had to be taken to the vet. The woman has kept everything the dog has swallowed, which includes a broach, a roll of quarters—and a set of keys. There's blood on the keys that matches April, but there's no other DNA on them. This is still not enough to put the keys in Carl's hands. Nick comes up with an idea. He and Greg head back to the impound yard, and Nick is able to start Carl's car with the keys. Greg theorizes that Carl would've killed April, but was interrupted by the dog before he could do so.

Carl is released from prison, but only enjoys his freedom for about 30 seconds. The police arrive and arrest him for the attempted murder of April Reynolds.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Jon Wellner as Henry Andrews
  • Geoffrey Rivas as Detective Sam Vega
  • Larry Poindexter as D.A. Claude Melvoy
  • Cecil Burroughs as First Baseman
  • Enrique Murciano as Carlos Moreno
  • David Atkinson as Carl Bowden
  • Brett Rice as Ben Gerard
  • Justin Klinger as Mechanic
  • Susan May Pratt as April Reynolds
  • Myk Watford as David Jorgensen
  • Kali Rocha as Ms. Fowler
  • Joe Bays as Umpire


  • A Little Less Conversation by ELVIS VS JXL


  • Jorja Fox (Sara) is credited but does not appear in the episode.
  • This episode marks the final appearance of Geoffrey Rivas as Detective Sam Vega.
  • A flashback is shown of a past case Nick and Det. Vega worked. This case was not part of a previous episode.
  • Hodges has returned from his trip to Italy with his mother, which was referenced in Malice in Wonderland.

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 12
73 SecondsTell-Tale HeartsBittersweetMaid ManCSI DownFreaks & GeeksBrain DoeCrime After CrimeZipperedGenetic DisorderMs. Willows RegretsWillows in the WindTressed to KillSeeing RedStealing HomeCSI UnpluggedTrends with BenefitsMalice in WonderlandSplit DecisionsAltered StakesDune and GloomHomecoming