American Dreamers
American Dreamers
Season 1
Number 3
Writer Eli Talbert
Director Rob Bailey
Original Airdate October 6, 2004
Previous Episode: Creatures of the Night
Next Episode: Grand Master

American Dreamers is the third episode of Season One of CSI: NY.


A decade old skeleton is found on a tour bus along with a backpack. The backpack's contents lead to Aaron Moreland, only for the team to discover that the skeleton cannot belong to him. Aaron's parents, who haven't heard from him in years, come to New York in fear of having to bury their son. When it is discovered that the skeleton is not Aaron, they are shocked at what the crime lab uncovers.


A double-decker bus tours Times Square. A young tourist wants her boyfriend to ask the man at the back of the bus to take a picture of them. As he refuses she goes herself, only to discover that the passenger is in fact a dressed-up skeleton.

Mac takes pictures of the scene as Stella joins him. He seems convinced that this is a gang related incident, but Stella dismisses the idea someone would have dug up the corpse of a rival. For her, it’s a practical joke to frighten tourists. But closer scrutiny shows that the skeleton is not a prop-shop one. The bones are real.

Back at the NYPD, Hawkes is surprised by the small amount of bones. He tells them that the person who assembled the skeleton had little knowledge of anatomy and used wire and adhesive putty. He also left a partial on the putty. Hawkes indicates that the skeleton is male, Caucasian, and that the victim probably was younger than 18 when he died. Homicide can’t be dismissed as there is a fracture on the skull that hasn’t healed. Stella says that the decomposition tells them that he died at least 3 years ago. Hawkes says that wherever the remains were, the bones are in good shape, probably well shielded from Mother Nature. The most striking is the unusual color of the bones. They should be brown, but they are black. Mac borrows two finger bones and leaves.

At the lab, he studies the bones. Aiden wants to know when she’ll get the skull to do the facial reconstruction, but Mac tells her he wants to find the rest of the skeleton first. The analysis of the dark substance on the bone shows that it is layered on itself and comes from diesel engine exhaust fumes. The body was close to heavy truck or bus traffic. Danny analyzes the deepest layer and it is almost identical except for the high benzene concentration. This proves that the teenager has been dead for at least a decade as the diesel emissions standards changed in 1994. Meanwhile Stella works on the partial. She finds 6 possible matches. She prints the reports and Mac chooses one man, Lester Jayne, as he is working at Times Square Port authority bus terminal.

Stella, Mac and Flack search for him in the crowd at the bus terminal. They finally spot him near the newsstand, reading about the incident in the papers. Lester tells them that it was a joke. When Mac tells him that the skeleton had been the victim of a homicide, he sobers up and tells them he didn’t have anything to do with it. Mac’s attention is caught by the passing buses and their exhausts. He goes down the street to investigate. He checks the walls with a flashlight and sees a vent at ground level. He finds a door and goes down a set of stairs. After searching for some time he finds the rest of the skeleton in a corner. Stella joins him. They have found where the young man has been killed, but also where he seemed to have lived. She takes pictures of the body. The teenager was probably a runaway. They find a backpack with the initials A.M., a pipe which could have been used to kill him, a book and a pocket knife.

Back at the lab, Hawkes reconstructs the skeleton with the missing bones. Mac checks the pants and finds a folded paper in a pocket. Danny dusts the pipe and finds a print on it. Aiden gets the green light from Mac to work on the skull. Hawkes tells Stella that the boy was 5’10" tall and had probably worn braces at one point in his life. His tibia shows that he broke his leg and let it heal. He was probably limping. The only potential fatal injury was the skull fracture and a pipe could have done the deed. He could not identify the body through dental records. He will try an ID through DNA but has little hope for results. Plan B is a facial reconstruction and Aiden comes to retrieve the skull and prepare it for the task.

Mac checks the backpack and finds a sketchbook with several views of New York. Aiden works on the skull, using stickers to show the average thickness of the ligaments and skin. She draws the face with the help of a picture of the skull. She then uses putty to model the face and shape his features. Mac joins her to get a look once she’s finished. The fingerprints retrieved led them nowhere; the person is not in AFIS, and there was no DNA match found in the Missing Persons database. Hawkes comes by and tells Mac and Stella that some people want to see them.

A couple, the Morelands, came after seeing an article in the newspapers about the backpack and the pocket knife. They are certain they belong to their son, Aaron. Stella warns them they couldn’t identify the body. Mac shows them pictures of what they found around the body. They positively recognize the backpack and the knife, but quickly dismiss the sketches and the book. Aaron was a musician and left Minnesota in 1987. The Morelands give them a picture of their son. Mac and Stella are not convinced, they show them the facial reconstruction and the Morelands admit that it doesn’t resemble their son.

Danny tells Stella that the prints on the pipe were not in the system. He wants to check further; he found 117 cases which took place near to where the body was found; in each case, the suspects were acquitted or the charges dropped. Stella tells him to concentrate first on the victim’s clothes; as those files are not on computer, the task at hand is huge. Mac studies the paper found in the pants under the microscope. Only 3 letters can be seen. Stella joins him and tells him that no unresolved case in the Missing Persons database matches their victim. They look at his sketches. One strikes them as it is the Port Authority and the viewpoint was from the inside of a building in which homeless kids have free access to every floor. They go to this place and interrogate Paul Danner, who is running the Youth Crisis Center. The place is crowded. A man, Joel, serves food to the hungry teenagers. Stella shows Paul the picture of their victim, but he doesn’t recognize him.

At the lab, Danny processes the T-shirt. He finds stitching resembling an L, that is the logo of a company called Lagronne. He cuts a piece of the fabric and runs an analysis. When Stella and Mac get back, the Morelands are waiting for them. They want to know if the two could identify the teenager who had their son’s things. It’s their only connection to Aaron. They leave when they understand that no one is looking for their son.

Aiden sends the picture of the reconstruction to newspapers nationally, hoping to identify the young man. Mac checks the paper with the three letters on under several different lights and new letters appear. Danny tells Stella that the shirt was an expensive Lagronne, but that the victim couldn’t have purchased it in a shop, as it was a prototype from 1988. He was probably a rack runner on 7th Avenue. They go there with Flack. He tells them that management admitted to hiring street kids, because they were cheap. No one recognizes the victim, as none of them worked there at that time.

Stella informs Mac that the T-shirt led them to a dead end, all they know is that he was killed after 1988. Mac shows her the paper under a special light. All the letters are now readable, it’s a ticket from Bruno’s Pawn Shop. They know that he was alive on February 21st, 1990, as he pawned a watch that day. When they go there, Bruno informs them that they are too late. The owner of the watch came just hours before to retrieve his property. Mac thinks it was no coincidence that it was picked after 14 years. Someone didn’t want them to get it. As he looks up, he sees the surveillance camera.

Danny, Stella and Mac go to the A/V Lab to watch the video. The man was clever, he hid his face from the camera. He knew what he wanted because he went straight to the main counter. They see that just before leaving he went out of frame. Thanks to the computer, Danny can get the footage. The man went to a guitar and pinched the strings from which they can retrieve his DNA. Dr. Giles is able to get partial DNA and he gets a hit in CODIS: Aaron Moreland. Aiden works to age the picture the Morelands gave Mac. They recognize the man they saw at the center, it’s Joel.

He explains he wanted to become a musician, but after a week he was broke. He knew the victim who always had money and he sold him all his things for cash. He was living at the Port Authority. Aaron didn’t want to go home. He sold him the pawn ticket, but when he didn’t get as much as he wanted, he killed him with the pipe. Aaron never knew his name. Since then he has cleaned up, but the watch still connected him to this murder. Mac reminds him that his parents are still looking for him. When policemen take him out, the Morelands are there. He barely looks at them and they finally understand that Aaron will never come back.

Mac reads a copy of the book they found in their victim’s belongings. Stella reminds him, that he knows how it ends. He is regretful that they have to close the case and that they will never know his name. Nobody was looking for him. She invites him to join them at Sullivan’s. He first declines, saying he has too many case files. She insists and he finally agrees and leaves with her.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Grant Albrecht as Dr. Leonard Giles
  • J. Kyle Manzay as Boyfriend
  • Latarsha Rose as Girlfriend
  • Frank Medrano as Bruno
  • Thomas Kopache as Paul Danner
  • Charles Parks as Mr. Moreland
  • Susan Ruttan as Mrs. Moreland
  • John Ross Bowie as Lester Jayne
  • Johnny Sneed as Joel/Aaron Moreland
  • Julian Cain as John Doe
  • Thomas Kopache as Tenant Owner
  • Vanessa Esperanza as Monica


  • The Great Spot by Kinky.
  • Sad and Lonely by Secret Machines.


  • Latarsha Rose, who plays a small role in this episode (simply listed as 'Girlfriend'), also appears in the CSI: Miami episode Hostile Takeover.
  • The book found in the young man's possessions is "Bright Lights, Big City."

See Also[]

CSI:NY Season 1
BlinkCreatures of the NightAmerican DreamersGrand MasterA Man a MileOutside ManRainThree Generations are EnoughOfficer BlueNight, MotherTri-BoroughRecyclingTanglewoodBlood, Sweat & Tears'Til Death Do We PartHushThe FallThe Dove CommissionCrime & MisdemeanorSupply and DemandOn the JobThe CloserWhat You See Is What You See