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Backfire
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Season 13
Number 19
Writer Jack Gutowitz
Director Frank Waldeck
Original Airdate April 10, 2013
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Previous Episode: Sheltered
Next Episode: Fearless

Backfire is the nineteenth episode in thirteen of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

When the CSIs investigate a triple homicide, Russell has to find a way to connect with a six-year-old girl who was the sole survivor and witness.

Plot

Victims: Steve Goodwin (deceased), Grace Goodwin (deceased), J.D. Kesey (deceased), Duke Givens (deceased)

On the case: D.B. Russell, Julie Finlay, Nick Stokes, Jim Brass

Six-year-old Molly Goodwin makes herself breakfast and walks through the living room - through a blood pool and past three dead bodies. After calling 911, she takes the plate and a book outside and waits for the police to arrive. Molly is soon seen talking to Doc Robbins, asking him about her Uncle Steve, who is one of the victims inside. The little girl also doesn't know where her mother is. Doc Robbins tells Russell that Molly lives there with her mother, Grace, and her Uncle Steve. The other two victims appear to Steve's friends.

Finn gets a head start on processing the scene, hoping that the blood evidence will tell a story. The three victims were bound and beaten severely; blood spatter is all over the walls. There are some electronics missing from the shelves, but Russell believes there's more to this case than a robbery gone bad. In the kitchen, Grace's purse is on the counter; however, her car keys are missing. Blood on the floor suggests a struggle, but there isn't enough blood to suggest Grace was killed there.

Outside, Agnes Goodwin tries to get through the police tape, explaining that this is her house. She tells Russell that Grace and Steve are her grandchildren, and Molly is her great-granddaughter. Russell fills her in on the situation.

Nick examines the front door and sees evidence that the lock was picked, while Finn concludes the three victims were on their knees when the beatings started. The crime has the same M.O. as a series of home invasions in the area investigated by the day shift. In one case, a woman was assaulted and released, so it's possible Grace is still alive. Witnesses at the other invasions mentioned seeing three guys with masks breaking in. Finn finds gravitational blood drops in the hallway that connect to the blood in the kitchen. Directional blood drops go partially down the hallway, which is a dead end. Since Molly's door is the first one on the right, the thought is that Grace was struck by the assailant, then gave a signal to Molly to stay in her room. The girl previously said she was asleep when everything occurred, but evidence shows that this might not have been the case.

Russell sits down with Molly, who's still clutching the book she had with her earlier. Molly silently admits to waking up in the middle of the night and seeing the people who hurt her mother. She then asks Russell to read to her; the book, Dream Away, is Grace's favorite book.

The other two men found in the house are identified as J.D. Kesey and Duke Givens. Agnes and her son, Bruce, don't recognize the men from their photos. When told by Brass that there was drug paraphernalia at the scene, Agnes confirms that Steve had a drug problem, but had been getting better lately.

Nick looks over evidence from the other home invasions, finding that the same fingerprints were at every scene, including the Goodwin house. Based on fingerprints recovered, Henry discovers that both J.D. and Duke were responsible for the other home invasions; however, Steve's prints weren't found. Finn asks about Alison Liss, the sexual assault victim from one of the invasions, and Nick offers to compare the three victims against the semen recovered from the female victim. Based on the fact that the home invaders were invaded with the same M.O. as the previous crimes, Nick believes someone is exacting payback.

Grace's body is found in a dumpster; she's been badly beaten just like the other victims. When Russell breaks the news to Agnes and Bruce, Molly overhears. Finn's belief is the same as Nick's - J.D. and Duke robbed the wrong house, crossed the wrong person, and were killed as payback. DNA shows that Steve wasn't the person who sexually assaulted Alison during the fourth home invasion. The thought is that he wasn't part of the crew; he and Grace were just collateral damage. This means that there's a third member of the crew still in the wind, and he could be the next victim if someone is taking revenge.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins labels Grace's cause of death as a subdural hematoma, and there are blunt force injuries to the upper torso, legs and arms. The contusions and bruisings are indicative of the same type of weapon used on the other victims. Based on the hexagonal pattern of the wounds, Nick figures the weapon was a lug wrench. To Nick's surprise, Grace wasn't sexually assaulted, which doesn't align with the other case. Based on the brutality of the murders, he believes that someone is sending a message.

Nick processes the tarp Grace was wrapped in and finds fingerprints that belong to Connor Durman, who has a work card from the Spearmint Rhino strip club. Mob boss Tony Lash owns the club, and Alison Liss just happens to be his niece. The house she was renting belongs to Tony, so the home invasion crew not only messed with his property, but his family, as well. This would give Tony a good reason to exact revenge, and it seems likely he sent Connor to carry it out.

Connor is found at the strip club, arrested, and brought to the station for questioning. When told that his fingerprints were found on the tarp Grace was wrapped in, Connor claims that it was stolen from his truck. His tune changes, though, when the DNA results reveal that he was the one who raped Alison. Connor was the third person in the home invasion crew, and he admits to lying to Tony about the rape when he was confronted about it. He tells Brass that nobody knew they were dealing with Tony's property and family. When held at gunpoint by a guy named "Dave from Detroit," Connor said that J.D. was responsible for the rape. Dave made Connor take him to the Goodwin house to find J.D. and Duke. Connor insists he didn't go inside the house, and tells Brass that Dave took Grace's car and drove her to an abandoned warehouse. There, he took a tire iron and the tarp and told Connor to get lost.

Brass pays Tony a visit in his club. When told that J.D. and Duke messed with Alison and ended up dead, Tony calls it "karma." Tony denies having the duo killed and says that the police have nothing on him. Brass replies by telling him that whoever he hired made a mistake - Connor is the real rapist, and now two innocent people are dead and a six-year-old girl is orphaned. Tony leaves upon hearing the news, and Brass relays to a colleague that he's rattled Tony's cage. The plan is to see who Tony calls next on his tapped phone.

Russell plays Molly's 911 call on repeat and looks over crime scene photos from the Goodwin house. He tells Finn that something isn't right - only one part of the house has been touched. The area where the electronics are has been ransacked and been made to look like a home invasion. Russell believes that whoever did this was looking for something, and that Grace coached her daughter on what to do should someone come looking for that particular item. So, what was Grace afraid of and what was the killer looking for?

In the hospital, Molly gives Russell the book Dream Away, telling him that she was instructed to give the book to a good person if anything happened to her mother. Russell flips through the book and finds a CD inside the back jacket. When played, the CD contains an audio conversation between Grace and her father, Bruce. It's revealed that Bruce molested both of his children, and Grace wasn't going to let him anywhere near Molly.

Nick believes that the CD is basically the confession, and it's what the killer was after. However, there's still the question of Tony Lash's involvement. Nick questions Bruce, who denies knowing Tony or "Detroit Dave." Curiously, he also seems to have no idea about the recorded confession, telling Nick that he's not the man he used to be. He swears that he would rather die than hurt his family again.

Nick believes that Bruce had no idea about the recording or the murders. J.D. and Duke clearly trace back to Tony, and Grace and Steve were killed to cover up Bruce's past crimes. Someone connected with Tony to carry out the murders, but who did? "Detroit Dave" is soon found dead, but Tony's phone records turn up something interesting - he has an age-appropriate girlfriend.

Agnes Goodwin and Tony were high school sweethearts who recently reconnected. While loading her car after cleaning out the house, she's confronted by Nick and Russell. Russell gives her a copy of Bruce's confession, but she becomes incensed at the notion she's involved in all of this. There's another recording - this one is of Agnes calling Tony after Bruce was arrested. On tape, she admits to having her grandchildren killed while Tony was getting revenge on J.D. and Duke.

Russell is incredulous at the fact that Agnes had her own grandchildren killed. She replies that Bruce is her son and that she would do anything to protect him. In fact, Bruce was trying to get his family back together, but Grace wouldn't let him and tricked him into a confession. When told that Grace and Steve were her flesh and blood, Agnes says that she didn't give them life.

Six-year-old Molly will go to Virginia to live with her cousin, and Russell has given her a phone number where she can call him anytime. Before she leaves the police station, she gives Russell a big hug.

Victims: Burt Markell (deceased)

On the case: Greg Sanders, Morgan Brody

Greg and Morgan are called to a scene where a vehicle has been torched. The car is registered to a Burt Markell; when they open the trunk, they find a charred body inside with a bullet hole in the head. There's also a can of gasoline nearby. Evidence seems to point to Burt getting shot and dumped in the trunk, with the killer setting the car on fire in an attempt to destroy the evidence.

In autopsy, David Phillips surprises Greg by saying that the hole in Burt's head wasn't caused by a gunshot; instead, it was caused by blunt force trauma. Charring on the surface of the wound all the way down to the skull indicates that Burt was struck on the head first before being put in the trunk and set on fire. Seared tissues in the trachea along with burn marks in the esophagus and stomach wall lead David to conclude that Burt swallowed fire. The victim was alive in the trunk when the killer torched the car.

Greg passes along the information that Burt was a greenskeeper at a golf course. When processing the car, Morgan finds crystals embedded in the rim of the trunk right above where the gas can was found. She also swears that she smells garlic. Greg finds a burnt I.D. badge from the Palermo; when an RFID reader is used, it's discovered that the badge belongs to Sandy Larken, a concierge at the casino.

Upon seeing Sandy's photo pop up, Hodges asks to be brought in on the case. He tells Morgan that he purchased a used motorcycle a few years ago that previously belonged to Sandy's ex-boyfriend, Peter. Peter died on the bike when he got sandwiched between two buses on the highway. When told about Burt, Sandy is upset that he's dead. She explains that she and Burt worked together, as she would shuttle high rollers to the golf course where he worked. Her guess is that she dropped her I.D. in the car when Burt gave her a ride home once. The two were dating, but had broken up two days ago. As Hodges continues to grill Sandy, she suddenly remembers him from the previous case. Sandy soon provides an alibi for her whereabouts at the time of Burt's demise, but Hodges is still skeptical. However, her alibi eventually checks out.

Hodges identifies the crystals from the trunk as tetraphosphorous decaoxide, a byproduct of phosphine gas and oxygen. Burt's tox report shows that he had extremely high levels of zinc in his system, and Greg comes up with a theory. He notes that Burt, a greenskeeper, used mole poison in his job; the active ingredient in mole poison is zinc phosphide. When it comes into contact with potassium bicarbonate, it creates phosphine gas. Adding oxygen to the mix creates a fiery chemical reaction that leaves behind white crystals and a garlic smell.

Greg tells Morgan that the mole poison was actually in Burt's system; the greenskeeper posted a virtual suicide note after his break-up with Sandy. His stomach enzymes reacted with the poison, creating the phosphine gas - and causing Burt to belch fire. The theory is that Burt ran out of gas while driving and opened his trunk to get the gas can. A flashback shows him belching due to the build-up of gas in his system, causing the phosphine gas to ignite. Burt hit his head on the trunk, fell in, and belched again. The gas can caused a fireball that trapped Burt in the trunk and ignited the car. This would explain Burt's head injury, as well as his internal injuries. The question remains: why would Burt get in his car and drive across town if he was planning on killing himself?

Sandy is brought to the station again, where she's told that Burt ingested mole poison. Phone records show that Sandy texted Burt an hour before his death, inviting him to dinner. Sandy denies sending the text message, and eventually realizes that she accidentally sent it to the wrong person. Since Burt's car was found two blocks from the hospital, Hodges theorizes that he was on his way there to get his stomach pumped in preparation for the date. Sandy brushes this off, gets a call from her new boyfriend, and leaves. Hodges and Morgan label Sandy a "black widow," and Hodges vows to prove it one day.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

  • Larry Mitchell as Officer Mitchell
  • Amy Acker as Sandy Larken
  • Kylie Rogers as Molly Goodwin
  • Dey Young as Agnes Goodwin
  • James McCauley as Bruce Goodwin
  • Malea Mitchell as Crystal
  • Vincent Ventresca as Connor Durman
  • Wings Hauser as Tony Lash
  • Tarah Paige as Grace Goodwin
  • Justin Gant as Steve Goodwin (uncredited)
  • Mindy Robinson as Dehila (uncredited)
  • Shaun W. Leser as Burt Markell (uncredited)

Music

  • Tokyo Sunrise by LP

Notes

  • Jorja Fox (Sara) is credited but does not appear in the episode.
  • Upon finding out that Sandy Larken is a person of interest, Hodges recalls her involvement in a past case. He had bought a used motorcycle previously owned by Sandy's ex-boyfriend, who died when he got sandwiched between two buses on the highway. This occurred in the season 11 episode Man Up.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 13
Karma to BurnCode Blue Plate SpecialWild FlowersIt Was a Very Good YearPlay DeadPick and RollFallen AngelsCSI on FireStrip MaulRisky Business ClassDead AirDouble FaultIn Vino VeritasExileForget Me NotLast Woman StandingDead of the ClassShelteredBackfireFearlessGhosts of the PastSkin in the Game
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