CSI
Advertisement


CSIblack.jpg
Anatomy of a Lye
Lye.jpg
Season 2
Number 21
Writer Josh Berman,
Andrew Lipsitz
Director Kenneth Fink
Original Airdate April 25, 2002
Navigation
Previous Episode: Cats in the Cradle
Next Episode: Cross Jurisdictions

Anatomy of a Lye is the twenty-first episode in season two of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

When a body is found buried in a park covered in lye, Grissom and Sara discover the man was the victim of a hit-and-run and bled to death. There was no blood at the grave site; however. the accident is traced to a young lawyer who has just started as an associate with a major law firm. Meanwhile, Nick looks into the death of Stacy Warner, who is found in the middle of the desert but is determined to have drowned. She was an extreme sports enthusiast out on a challenging trek, but she seemed ill-prepared for the route she took.

Plot

Victim: Bob Martin (deceased)

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

On a nice sunny day in the park, kids are playing tag when one of them falls on a dirt patch. He gets up screaming, as the dirt has given him first-degree burns on his hands. When HazMat arrives on the scene, they remove the dirt thinking it's a chemical spill. They're surprised to find a dead body, instead. The body was covered in lye, with Grissom and Sara surmising that the killer probably thought that lye would destroy all evidence.

At the crime scene, Sara finds the victim's wallet, identifying him as Bob Martin. Money in the wallet seems to rule out robbery as a motive. She also finds something on the body, which Grissom says could be a paint fleck. There are no witnesses and, because the park has minimal security at night, it would be good place to bury a body.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins shows Grissom and Sara the wounds around Bob's knees, indicating he was struck by a car. Grissom notes the bruising around the injuries, which means Bob survived the impact. Based on all of the findings, the doc concludes that the victim was hit three days ago and died two days later, slowly bleeding out over time. Grissom notes that there was no blood at the crime scene.

Sara and Brass interview Bob's roommate, who says he and Bob weren't really friends. They worked together at the Tangiers and had similar life circumstances that led to them being roommates. On Mondays, Bob would leave work and go across the street to the university, as he was an amateur photographer. He would then take the bus home. The roommate didn't find it suspicious that Bob never came back that Monday night and was more interested in whether the rent would be able to be paid.

At the university's photography building, Sara says that the building log showed Bob reserving a dark room that Monday night and that he did arrive there. Grissom notes that they have a bus to catch, but both almost get hit by a car as they cross the dark street. Sara finds pictures of the same woman in Bob's photo collection and guesses that it could be his ex-wife. Grissom spots a trail of silver paint flecks in the street, while Sara finds a piece of plastic, possibly from a headlight. Despite this looking like the primary crime scene, there's an absence of blood. The question is how someone with two broken legs ended up all the way across town. Somewhere between there and the park, Bob lost eight to ten pints of blood, but it's unknown where that blood is.

In the lab, Greg finds that the headlight has an insignia on it that traces it back to a Mercedes S-class. The silver paint is a factory paint job, also specific to a 1999 Mercedes. Armed with this information, Greg is able to find that only five of this type of car and color have been sold in Nevada. The only person that fits the description of a possible hit-and-run driver is a Ben Weston, who leased the vehicle the week before.

Ben, a criminal defense lawyer, claims his car was stolen that Monday night and that he filed a police report, which he gives to Sara. Sara asks Ben what clothes he was wearing Monday night, and he hands her his dry cleaning bag, as the clothes were cleaned an hour before. She notices holes in the shirt and tells Ben that lye eats through fabric. Growing more suspicious, Sara asks Ben to take his shirt off, noting that lye also burns through skin. Ben refuses to do since there's no search warrant.

Grissom, Sara and Brass interview a tow truck operator, Mitchell Sullivan. He got a call to pick up the vehicle, but didn't ask the person his name. The vehicle has been stripped and its parts separated out; Grissom says they need all of the parts to haul back to the lab. In the lab, Sara finds trace amounts of blood on the front passenger's seat. Upon spraying the seat with luminol, she finds that the seat and most of the dashboard are covered in blood. At first glance, the driver hit Bob Martin, then stopped and put him in the front seat. But where did the car go afterwards? If there's more blood in the car that doesn't belong to Ben, it's possible his stolen car story is legitimate.

Sara confirms that the blood found belongs to the victim. Grissom finds blood spatter under the passenger's seat, which he theorizes could've come from blood dripping down into a pool and splashing around. Catherine, on break from being on call in court with Warrick, notes that if the car had been stolen, the ignition lock would've been punched. Grissom and Sara are surprised they didn't catch this earlier, as both were more focused on finding blood.

Under interrogation, Ben claims he went to the Chinese restaurant near his house, parked in a handicap zone, and left the engine running. When he came out, the car was gone—that's why there were no marks on the ignition lock. Sara asks Ben to remove his shirt; again, Ben says they'll need a warrant. Brass provides the warrant and Ben rolls up his sleeves to show no chemical burns. Sara tells him the warrant is for the removal of the entire shirt. When he removes his shirt, there's a seat belt mark going diagonally across his chest—an obvious sign of an accident. Ben changes his story again; he was now on his phone when he hit something. When he got out to look, there was nothing there. Figuring it was an animal, he drove off and later had his car stolen at the restaurant. This doesn't work, as Brass places Ben under arrest. Grissom says they need a warrant for Ben's house.

Grissom and Sara arrive at Ben's house with a search warrant, and they want to start the search in the garage. Ben, who is out on bail, tells Grissom that he will file a complaint with Grissom's supervisor for harassment. Grissom retorts that investigating a crime isn't harassment, but falsely filing a claim for harassment is slander. He also tells Ben that, unlike him, he's actually been in a courtroom. There's a rental car in the garage, which Grissom believes was originally parked outside. When the car is backed out of the garage, there's a large stain on the floor that reeks of bleach. Sara tests for blood, while Grissom wonders why the rental car would be parked outside with the sprinklers on. Sara surmises that there was another car already in the garage.

Sara confirms with an auto detailer that, if enough liquid is pooling on the floor of a car, it will leak through the bottom. Grissom reaffirms with Doc Robbins that with glass being found near the top of Bob's body, they're looking at injuries to the head, neck, torso, and forearms. Sara guesses that the victim was clipped at the knees by the car and that his head went through the windshield. His head dripped blood onto the floor mat. Doc Robbins says that Bob bled out over two days, and Grissom believes Bob was wedged in the windshield in Ben's garage while Ben continued to go to work. "Sometimes, I'm glad I only have to deal with dead people," remarks the doc. Sara points out that Mitchell, the tow truck driver, said Ben's car was totaled. However, if it was a head-on collision, only the front of the car would be damaged. It seems that Mitchell was lying.

Mitchell claims that he doesn't fully remember whether the car was totaled when it came in; he only wanted the parts. Brass brings up that Mitchell was arrested in high school, but Mitchell says it was just for a prank. However, Brass notes that both Mitchell and Ben went to the same high school. When told that Ben is under suspicion for murder, making Mitchell an accomplice after the fact (punishable for 20+ years in prison), Mitchell says he only took Ben's call. Ben was the one that had turned Mitchell in in high school and he wanted to make it up to him.

Back at the lab, Greg tells Sara that the blood sample from Ben's garage was too diluted by the bleach to get a positive match. Determining that the park is two miles from Ben's house, Sara figures he transported the body in the rental car. Blood, hair, or fibers in the car would confirm this, but the search comes up empty. However, Sara does find a trace of white powder in the trunk's screw-like handle.

In the interrogation room, Ben is confident that the case against him will go nowhere, claiming that the evidence is circumstantial. Grissom tells Ben that his cell phone was found on the floor of the BMW. A call was made from the phone while the car was parked in the garage—it was Bob calling 9-1-1 for help a few hours after the accident. Ben had been celebrating his first day at the new firm with a few drinks when he later hit Bob. He waited to call the police after he sobered up, but Bob woke up. Instead of calling for help, Ben let Bob die wedged in the BMW's windshield.

During the interrogation, Sara is informed she has a visitor relevant to the case. Bob's roommate hands her a note that he found when he was packing up Bob's stuff. It turns out that Bob had written a suicide note to his ex-wife, and that walking in front of Ben's car was no accident. Ben would've been off the hook for the accident until he let Bob die.

Victim: Stacy Warner (deceased)

On the case: Nick Stokes, Cyrus Lockwood

Nick meets Det. Lockwood in the desert (Diablo Canyon), where the body of Stacy Warner has been discovered by a helicopter pilot. He observes that there are no tire tracks around the body and that Stacy has a fractured orbital bone, possibly from a fall. There's a down feather in the corner of her mouth; however, she isn't wearing a jacket. Nick also finds a maggot in Stacy's ear, which he preserves for Grissom. Before leaving the scene, he has Det. Lockwood take a sample of the dirt underneath the body.

Oddly enough, David Phillips tells Nick that Stacy drowned in the desert—or more specifically, she dry-drowned, which occurs when the larynx closes involuntarily, preventing air and water from entering the lungs. Nick remembers that Stacy was wearing an engagement band and that the boyfriend, Matt Hudson, had never filed a missing persons report.

Matt tells Nick and Det. Lockwood that a report was never filed because he wasn't expecting Stacy back for a few days; she was training for an extreme sports competition. Nick takes a sample of water from the pool outside and finds a blood stain on the edge. He tells Matt that the mark matches the head trauma Stacy received. Nick also points out that there was a domestic disturbance call to the house a few weeks back with the neighbor reporting a lot of yelling; Matt responds that they often yelled to motivate the other during training.

Nick is able to confirm that the blood on the side of the pool belonged to Stacy, but people get minor injuries around the house all the time. The water samples he collected from various places don't match the water in Stacy's lungs. Warrick, who's also on break from being on call in court, tells Nick that a rock collected from under the body is basalt rock, which is only found at high altitudes—much higher than where Stacy's body was found.

Nick and Det. Lockwood retrace Stacy's route in the desert and find her jacket hanging from a rock. The jacket is a men's extra large, which is too big to fit Stacy. It also contains goose down, similar to what was found on the body. In the jacket pocket, Nick finds a trail map with Matt's name on it. Nick theorizes that Matt left a day later than he originally said he did and killed Stacy with no witnesses around and drowned her using canteen water.

Under interrogation, Matt says he lent his jacket to Stacy, as extreme hikers don't carry bedrolls and it gets cold in the desert at night. Nick lays out all the evidence—domestic disturbance calls, Stacy's blood in the pool, Matt's jacket near her body, the map—but Matt denies killing Stacy. Matt asks for the map back, but Nick refuses, as the map is now evidence. Upon being informed that he isn't under arrest, Matt ends the interrogation and walks out of the room. Nick says he's going to get the map over to questionable documents because there has to be a reason Matt wanted the map back.

Nick takes the map to Ronnie Litre in the questionable documents lab and tells him to run every test on the map to see if it was tampered with. He then asks Grissom about the maggot he found in Stacy's ear. Grissom tells him that, due to the extreme cold temperatures in the desert, the maggot never grew and they won't be able to get much information from it.

While Nick is checking barometric pressures from around the time Stacy was killed, Greg informs him that the mountains in Las Vegas get over 40 inches of rain per year, which is more than Seattle and San Francisco. Nick notes that two days before Stacy's body was found, there was a major storm in Diablo Canyon, or what is called the "mountain shadow effect." In the mountain shadow effect, the barometric pressure and temperature go down, while the humidity goes up. This results in moisture building up and the mountains getting a flash flood. Nick confirms with the National Weather Service that the night Stacy died, the mountains got three inches of rain in 20 minutes. He believes that Stacy was hiking when the rains came, she hit her head, then fell to the base of the canyon and drowned from the rain water. The water evaporated in the desert sun, so no traces of it were found around the body.

Nick gets a call from Ronnie, who tells him that the map was definitely tampered with. They can tell that Matt altered the map with magic marker, making a meadow look like an impenetrable ridge. This misled Stacy, who may have been able to make it out of the rainstorm alive. Matt admits to altering the map because he didn't want Stacy to beat his previous time for running the trail. However, he isn't under arrest since he didn't make it rain. He'll just have her death on his conscience.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

Episode Title

  • Anatomy of a Lye could be a reference to the 1998 book The Anatomy of a Lie by Diane Komp and a play on the homonyms lie/lye. In the episode, Ben Weston used lye to to dispose of the corpse of Bob Martin. 

Notes

  • This is Nick's first solo case with a dead body. 
  • Nick mentions finding a scuba diver in a tree, a callback to the episode Scuba Doobie-Doo

Trivia

  • This episode is based on an actual event[1] in Fort Worth, Texas in 2001 where Chante Jawan Mallard, a former nurse's aide, ran over a homeless man, Gregory Glen Biggs, while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. She left him in her garage, still lodged in her windshield, over a period of about three days until he died, and had two accomplices help her cover up the crime. She was sentenced to 50 years in prison.[2]
  • The dead woman found in a desert has the same name as Dr. Gregory House's ex-girlfriend: Stacy Warner. In House M.D., she is played by Sela Ward who also played one of the main characters in CSI: New York (Jo Danville).

References

  1. Flaherty, M. & Marrinan, C. (2004). CSI: Crime scene investigation companion. New York, NY: Pocket Books.
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Gregory_Glen_Biggs

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 2
BurkedChaos TheoryOverloadBully for YouScuba Doobie-DooAlter BoysCagedSlaves of Las VegasAnd Then There Were NoneEllieOrgan GrinderYou've Got MaleIdentity CrisisThe FingerBurden of ProofPrimum Non NocereFelonious MonkChasing The BusStalkerCats in the CradleAnatomy of a LyeCross JurisdictionsThe Hunger Artist
Advertisement