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Better Off Dead
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Season 10
Number 10
Writer Corinne Marinan,
Tom Mularz,
Richard Catalani
Director Jeffrey Hunt
Original Airdate December 17, 2009
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Better Off Dead is the tenth episode in season ten of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

The CSIs dig to find the truth about how a recent shootout at a gun store from which a man in a red shirt walked away unscathed might connect to a young woman found dead in the woods.

Plot

Victims: Hank Rinaldi (alive), Dolores Rinaldi (deceased), Edward Smith (deceased)

On the case: Greg Sanders, Nick Stokes, Raymond Langston, Jim Brass

AND

Victim: Carrie Warren (deceased)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Sara Sidle, Louis Vartann

In a gun shop, three people are engaged in a shooting match while a man in a red shirt stands in the middle of the room. When the shooting is over, two of three shooters are dead and the man in the red shirt walks out of the store unscathed.

The shooting victim who is still alive is identified as Hank Rinaldi; he and his mother, Dolores, own the store. Dolores has been shot dead, as has the other gunfighter, identified as Edward Smith. Edward has a wad of $100 bills in his wallet and Greg notes that none of the antique guns in the store were stolen. Furthermore, the cash register is full. All of this seems to rule out robbery. Nick sees that Edward is clutching a note that reads "100 SW," and Greg wonders if it's referring to a Smith & Wesson. They both spot a bloody footprint that clearly doesn't belong to the victims. Combined with a void amongst glass shards, they figure that their missing suspect stood in the middle of the room while the shootout was happening.

Elsewhere, Catherine and Sara are called out to a body found in the woods by some teenagers. The victim is a young woman wrapped in a quilt; her head is resting against a rock. A path of displaced gravel coming down from the road above indicates that she may have been dumped out of a moving vehicle; however, the quilt is clean. When Sara lifts the quilt, she sees that the victim has road rash, leading them to believe that the killer later came down and wrapped her in the quilt. Catherine notes that it could be an act of remorse from the killer.

In the hospital, Hank recounts to Brass that he heard his mother arguing with the man in the red shirt. When he emerged from the back room, he saw the man aiming a gun at his mother. Hank admits that he started firing his gun to protect his mother, which caused Edward to start firing his gun, as well. Brass asks whether the man in the red shirt took out all three people, but Hank replies that he doesn't know who shot who.

Greg and Nick process the gun shop and map out the trajectories of the bullets fired. All of the bullets seem to be accounted for, but none of them were fired by the man in the red shirt. Nick theorizes that the man fired three shots and never missed, but this is proven incorrect when Langston relays to them that the only ammo pulled from the victims belonged to either Hank, Dolores or Edward. They soon realize that one of Edward's bullets is unaccounted for. They are able eventually locate it in the back room embedded in a can of gun oil. Greg finds another can of gun oil nearby and sees that its top has been doctored. When he opens the can, he finds at least $10,000 in cash along with a few full-auto sears, which can turn a semi-automatic rifle into a fully-automatic machine gun.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins tells Catherine that their female victim is still a Jane Doe. Her cause of death is consistent with her head impacting the rock, but the doc also finds a superficial bullet wound in the head that he says occurred at least an hour before her death. Catherine wonders why the killer didn't shoot the woman again after missing the first time. Doc Robbins notes that, based on the crime scene photos, the woman's head hitting the rock happened by chance.

Greg and Nick go over the gun shop's surveillance video with Langston and are able to find two useful frames - one shows Edward and the man in the red shirt walking into the store together, while the other shows Hank firing his gun at Edward. This contradicts Hank's earlier statement that he was defending his mother from the man in the red shirt. It's revealed that Edward's fingerprints were all over the money with the full-auto sears. Combined with the money in Edward's wallet, the CSIs figure that he was there to buy more auto-sears. They question why Hank would shoot such a valuable customer.

Nick visits Hank in the hospital and tells him that they figured out that he lied in his earlier statement and that they know about the auto-sears. Hank admits that he shot at Edward because he was robbing the store and lied because he figured it would lead the police to finding his illegal stash. A flashback shows him coming from the back room and finding Edward holding his mother at gunpoint, leading him to fire in retaliation. Hank becomes panicked when told that the man in the red shirt hasn't been caught yet, comparing him to The Terminator. He refuses to leave his hospital bed until the man is caught. Meanwhile, the man is seen washing the blood off of his hands in an alleyway. Two men pull out a knife and walk towards him, but relent when they get a glimpse of him. The man in the red shirt walks by them and into the night.

A yellow Volkswagen is found illegally parked and towed to the CSI garage when the responding officer found blood in it. The registered owner is Carrie Warren, and her ID badge is found in the car. She was apparently dumped from her own car, which she obviously wasn't driving. Sara finds fibers embedded in the door latchand notes that they have the same pattern as the quilt. The keys are still in the ignition; when turned, Catherine sees that the car is out of gas, explaining why it was abandoned. She also sees that there are house keys on the key ring.

Catherine, Sara and Det. Vartann head to Carrie's house. There's no sign of forced entry and all indications are that she lived alone. Sara spots a blood trail and Det. Vartann alerts them to a scene in the bedroom. There, Catherine and Sara see blood spatter on the walls and note that the bedsheets match the quilt that Carrie was wrapped in. Carrie's German Shepherd, Roscoe, is found dead on the floor next to the bed, and Catherine sees that he was shot. Det. Vartann informs them that the blood trail Sara spotted earlier ends in the garage. Sara spots an open milk container next to Roscoe and some milky vomit on the bed skirt. Catherine finds tokens of affection in one of the dresser drawers, which is curious since there are no photos of Carrie with a man in the house.

In autopsy, David Phillips tells Sara that Roscoe was shot postmortem, but he has yet to determine the cause of death.

In the ballistics lab, Greg and Bobby Dawson go over the guns collected from Rinaldi's. Sara enters with the bullet pulled from Roscoe, and Bobby notes that only a few rare old makes of gun use that ammo, one of which is a Tokarev. Greg remembers a Tokarev being brought in from Rinaldi's; when he clears the chamber of the gun, a bullet falls out. He explains that he pulled the gun from the display case at the shop, which is why he didn't clear it at the scene. Bobby finds a piece of flesh in the gun's slide and says that there's no way Rinaldi's would sell a loaded gun with a hunk of skin caught in it. Greg connects the dots - whoever killed Carrie brought the gun to Rinaldi's, which accounts for why there were four shooters in the shop but only three guns. They wonder if the Tokarev belongs to the man in the red shirt. The gun is registered to a John Rakow, who just happens to live right behind Carrie. Meanwhile, the man in the red shirt is seen pulling a photo of Carrie from his wallet and caressing it with his bloody thumb.

John is located and brought in for questioning. A veteran of the Vietnam War, he admits to Sara and Brass that he gave Carrie his gun so that she could protect herself from her crazy boyfriend. When told that Carrie is dead, John shows his hands and tells them that he's done talking. He's also unable to identify the boyfriend by name. In the hallway, Sara talks with Langston, who was watching the interrogation. Langston notes that John is wearing large cowboy boots, which are inconsistent with the bloody sneaker print in the gun shop. Sara adds that there is no slide bite on John's hands, leading them to conclude that John is not the man in the red shirt.

Henry informs the team that Roscoe drank milk that was poisoned with high concentrations of lorazepam and diazepam, both anti-anxiety drugs. Carrie's tox panel, however, came back clean. Since there were no drugs found at the house, the team figures that the man in the red shirt brought them there himself and fed them to Roscoe. Based on the fact that the man could get close to Roscoe and knew where Carrie kept her gun, they figure that the two knew each other well.

Catherine and Greg go through Carrie's drawer filled with the tokens of affection. Amongst the many stuffed animals, Catherine finds a diary with a note written to Carrie by someone named Sam. Under the label, they find that the book originally came from a public library. The last borrower of the book is revealed to be a Sam Trent.

Sam is seen entering his father's house, taking some keys and leaving in a car - with John Rakow tailing the car as it departs. As the two cars leave, Langston, Sara and Brass pull up and enter the house when nobody answers the door. An older man walks into the messy living room and identifies himself as Sam's father; he explains away the messy room as an accident. Langston and Sara make their way to Sam's room, which is also a mess. They find a photo of Sam and Carrie, which Sara guesses was taken at the Ivory Tower Skydeck. This suspicion is confirmed when Langston finds several ticket stubs from the Skydeck in a mug on the desk. Sara finds several letters written by Carrie to Sam that flip-flop between romance and breaking up; Langston describes it as a "light-switch romance" (on and off). In the trash, Langston finds empty bottles of lorazepam and diazepam - along with a note written by Sam that reads like a suicide pact. Since Carrie is dead, Langston questions if Sam changed his mind.

Wendy informs Catherine that Sam's DNA was on the bottle of milk and that the vomit on the bed skirt was also his. Furthermore, the tissue found in the gun's slide is Carrie's. With evidence now supporting the suicide pact theory, Catherine gathers Greg and Nick in the layout room. They note that both Sam and Carrie failed in their suicide attempts. Nick looks at a map of all locations in the case and theorizes that Sam was driving to Rinaldi's Gun & Ammo to purchase more ammo for the gun. When asked why Sam would just dump Carrie's body, Catherine brings up the piece of quilt caught in the door latch. She figures that the door wasn't closed all the way and when Sam made the sharp hairpin turn, the door opened and Carrie's body rolled down the hill. This would explain why Sam wrapped her in the quilt. With the car eventually out of gas, Sam abandoned it and walked to Rinaldi's, either desperate to get a bullet for the gun or hopeful that someone would shoot him. Unfortunately, he was the only person in the shop not hit.

As they continue to process Sam's room, Langston finds evidence that the closet door was kicked in - by someone wearing a cowboy boot. Under interrogation, Sam's father tells Brass that a man (John) entered his house looking for Sam and held him at gunpoint. When told that Sam wasn't there, the man trashed the place and left. Sam arrived shortly after and calmly told his father not to involve the police. He takes the car keys and $8 from his father's wallet before leaving. Brass relays this to Langston. When Langston mentions it to Sara, she realizes that $8 is the same price as an Ivory Tower Skydeck ticket.

Catherine tells Nick that Carrie had a history of bipolar disorder and was being treated at St. Anthony's Hospital, who's address is 101 Southwest Harmony Avenue. They remember the "101 SW" note from the gun shop and discover that the hospital is close to there. The conclusion is now that Sam was driving Carrie to the hospital in an effort to save her life.

Sam arrives at the Skydeck and gets up onto the ledge, much to the horror of others. Langston, Sara and Brass arrive with officers in tow; Brass allows the CSIs to head up to the Skydeck. As Sam prepares to jump, John arrives, pulls him off the ledge and holds him at gunpoint. Langston, Sara and Det. Vartann arrive and tell John that Carrie shot herself and that Sam was trying to save her. Wanting to die, Sam tries to convince John that he shot Carrie. John is arrested, which gives Sam the opportunity to hop back up onto the ledge.

A flashback shows Sam entering Rinaldi's and asking for one bullet. When Dolores laughed at him, he pulled out a gun, which ended up causing the shootout. Sam asks Langston and Sara one question - was Carrie upset about him or Roscoe? He explains that he drank the milk and intended to have Carrie find him dead; Roscoe then licked the milk off his lips. Sam was later awakened by a gunshot, finding the bodies of both Carrie and Roscoe. He wonders if Carrie shot herself because she thought he was dead or because her beloved Roscoe was. Sara tries to convince Sam that Carrie was distraught over him, but Sam falls backwards off the ledge - and onto the giant inflated mattress below. Brass radios it in that they have the suspect in custody.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

Music

  • The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash
  • Where the Sun Don't Shine by J.J. Cale

Music

  • Greg tells Nick that he and Warrick once worked a case involving a shootout in an elevator. This happened "off-camera," as no such episode exists in the show.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 10
Family AffairGhost TownWorking StiffsCoup de GraceBloodsportDeath & The MaidenThe Lost GirlsLover's LanesAppendicitementBetter Off DeadSin City BlueLong BallInternal CombustionUnshockableNeverlandThe Panty SnifferIrradiatorField MiceWorld's EndTake My Life, Please!Lost & FoundDoctor WhoMeat Jekyll
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