Cats in the Cradle
Season 2
Number 20
Writer Kris Dobkin
Director Richard J. Lewis
Original Airdate April 25, 2002
Previous Episode: Stalker
Next Episode: Anatomy of a Lye

Cats in the Cradle is the twentieth episode in Season Two of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


Catherine, Grissom and Warrick investigate the murder of an elderly woman who lived alone with a lot of cats. Meanwhile, Nick and Sara look into an attempted murder with a pipe bomb placed in a car.


Victim: Ruth Elliot (deceased)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Gil Grissom, Warrick Brown, Ray O'Riley

An elderly woman, Ruth Elliot, lies dead in her kitchen as at least twenty of her hungry cats are starting to eat her remains. Catherine and Grissom are on the scene; Det. O'Riley informs them that the mailman called the police when Ruth's mail started piling up and he looked in the window.

They enter the house where animal control is removing the cats. The smell of male cat urine has overtaken the smell of Ruth's body. David Phillips informs Catherine and Grissom that Ruth has been dead three to four days...and that he's also allergic to cats. Catherine questions whether Ruth died from natural causes or whether her pets simply turned on her. However, when Grissom finds a deep wound tract in Ruth's chest, he concludes that someone stabbed her to death—the cats are off the hook.

Catherine is able to lift a shoe print from the living room that doesn't look like it belongs to the victim or to the animal control people. Based on the heel-to-toe impression, she thinks that the print may belong to a female. Warrick arrives and searches the bedroom, finding an empty safe hidden behind clothing in a closet. The safe looks like it was broken into, and Warrick is able to lift fingerprints. Meanwhile, Catherine and Grissom test every knife in the house for blood, but every test comes back negative.

Doc Robbins concludes that Ruth was stabbed with something smooth, and the weapon went through her heart, killing her instantly. He also notes that she had a staph infection. Catherine, Grissom, and Det. O'Riley interview the neighbors across the street—Janet Trent and her daughters, Jackie and Jessica. The girls say that they saw Ruth's neighbor, Debbie Stein, enter the house, argue with Ruth, then angrily leave. Records show that Debbie had filed three complaints against Ruth, while Jackie and Jessica secretly tell Catherine that Debbie hated cats.

Catherine visits Debbie with a search warrant for her shoes. When printing the shoes in the lab, Warrick notices a distinct cat odor on one of them; Catherine is able to match the shoe print to the one found at the crime scene. Under interrogation, Debbie admits to having been in the house; she wanted to give Ruth the chance to give her cats away to loving homes before she called the Humane Society on her. Ruth refused to give up her cats as they were family. In turn, Debbie yelled at Ruth to clean up her house because she could smell it from next door. She claims that she was in Los Angeles visiting her sister when Ruth was killed, and her alibi checks out.

Warrick finds that the prints from the closet safe belonged to Ruth's son, Tyler. Tyler is brought in for questioning and claims he was leaving town with a duffel bag because he was going camping. When asked why he didn't claim his mother's body, he says that he's broke and that funerals are expensive. Det. O'Riley confirms that Tyler filed for bankruptcy the month before. Tyler says he visited his mother twice per month to check up on her, pay her bills, etc. He explains his prints on the safe by saying his mother called him a while back hysterical because one of her cats got locked in the safe and she couldn't remember the combination. Tyler insists his mother didn't have any money to steal and laments the fact that the house was left to a cat sanctuary.

Greg runs a test on the substance found in Ruth's wound tract and it comes back as mineral oil. Grissom points out that mineral oil can be used to preserve knives. Noting that mineral oil fluoresces under certain circumstances, Catherine and Grissom search Ruth's house for items that test positive for the substance, but they come up empty. Just then, a cat crosses their path and goes out the pet door in the back. This is a surprise, as animal control should have rounded up all of the cats. Grissom decides to follow the cat (or the "evidence") outside.

They follow the cat across the street to the Trents, where Jackie and Jessica are jumping rope. The cat, who they've named "Rascal," runs over to them. When one of the girls picks the cat up, Grissom notices a sore on its leg. He asks if he can hold the cat and swab it, but the untrusting girls decline. Janet comes out and also denies Grissom, though he says it's for the health of the animal. The girls finally relent, but only if Catherine swabs the cat, which she does. Grissom notes that the cat could have a staph infection like Ruth had, and that staph infection can be passed from human to animal.

The cat tests positive for a staph infection, meaning it was clearly in the house with Ruth at some point. Knowing that Ruth would've never given any of her cats away, Grissom surmises that someone in the Trent family "adopted" it. Catherine and Grissom search the Trent house, where Catherine finds a pen in Jessica's room that tests positive for blood.

With a child advocate present, Catherine interviews Jackie and Jessica. Jessica tells Catherine that their mother is the culprit and "didn't mean to do it." This shocks Janet, who is watching from the other side of the glass with Grissom. Jessica's story is that all three were in Ruth's house asking to adopt Rascal. When Ruth refused, Janet took the cat and told the girls to run. As they ran out of the house, they heard Ruth scream.

Catherine lets the girls know about fingerprints and that a child's fingerprints were found on the pen. When Jackie says the prints aren't hers, Jessica angrily snipes that "tattletales burn in Hell." Jessica then admits she was lying before. She tried to adopt Rascal and, when denied, she pushed Ruth down and stabbed her when Ruth threatened to tell Janet. Janet tells Grissom that she told the girls they could have a cat if Ruth said it was OK, knowing full well that Ruth would refuse. This is why she made the promise to her daughters. Jessica is left crying for her mother; whether it's real tears or not is undetermined.

Victim: Marcie Tobin (alive)

On the case: Nick Stokes, Sara Sidle, Jim Brass

Nick and Sara arrive to the scene of a burned out BMW that was blown up with a bomb. The driver of the car, Marcie Tobin, tells Sara she was going to visit her father when the car started acting up. She took the car to a mechanic, Marcus Remmick. When he popped the hood to check, he saw a bomb. Both Marcie and Marcus ran as the car blew up behind them. Marcie says the only people with access to her car are her and her husband, Johnny. Nick finds evidence in the car that the bomb exploded towards the driver's seat, meaning Marcie (or the driver) was the intended victim.

While looking over the pieces of the bomb in the lab, Nick and Sara believe that the explosion may have been the work of a pipe bomb. Brass enters and informs them that Marcie's husband is the junior foreman for a demolition company. Johnny admits that anyone in the company could build a bomb, and that doing so isn't that difficult. His boss and father-in-law Barclay Tobin intervenes; he tells Nick and Sara that he gave Johnny his first and only job. Despite Marcie thinking Johnny was cheating on her, Barclay believes Johnny doesn't have the stones. Clearly, Johnny does not rank high on his list. He confirms that all of his employees have access to dynamite and that everyone's fingerprints are on file.

In the lab, Greg determines that the chemical used in the explosion was nitroglycerin, which is used in dynamite; the other component found was sawdust. Sara runs a fingerprint on the bomb's end cap that comes back to Johnny. Under interrogation, Johnny explains that his fingerprints would be everywhere, as he logs inventory for the company. Brass tells him that records show he logged out a case of 24 sticks of dynamite and later returned the case one stick short; Johnny claims it was stolen out of his car. When pressed with further questions, Johnny says he has an ulcer and that there is no way he would cheat on Marcie. He also says Marcie works for the payroll department in the company and is known for short-changing employees on overtime. She did so, he claims, because her father told her to. Johnny believes any one of the employees could have put the bomb in the car as revenge.

Nick lifts tool mark impressions from the end cap and, based on the even spacing of the striations, concludes that the tool used was a vice grip. Sara goes to visit a now distressed Marcie, who claims her life is now an open book. When pressed, she says that she briefly thought Johnny was cheating on her, but Johnny claims it was because he was working. When her father is brought up in the conversation, both Johnny and Marcie say that the conversation is over. Sara gets a vice grip from their house, but Nick concludes that neither that vice grip nor the ones at the construction company match the tool impressions from the end cap.

Recounting the events of the bombing, Nick and Sara believe the bomb was on a 60 second delay. But, what started the countdown? It couldn't have been anything in the car, as Marcie was driving for some time before she pulled into the mechanic. Sara believes it was the hood release that started the timer, and Nick sees that the latch has been blown apart. This means that the hood was down when the bomb was detonated. They conclude that nobody would open their hood, see a bomb, and close the hood. Since the BMW has built-in hood shocks, they believe someone involved is lying about the events that took place.

Nick and Sara go back to the Marcus the mechanic. When told that his fingerprints weren't on the hood of Marcie's car, he says he usually wears gloves. They notice a vice grip on the workbench and use a piece of cheese from the trash to get an imprint of the tool. When Marcus is asked if the vice grip belongs to him, he says he doesn't use those and that one of the mechanics does. The marks from the vice grip match the ones on the end cap, but the fingerprints on the tool don't match Marcus, nor anyone in the system. When run against employees in the Tobin demolition business, they match Marcie.

In the interrogation room, Marcie denies putting a bomb in her own car. Brass reveals that the Tobin Construction business registration shows that Marcie owns 25% of the company. If she were to divorce Johnny, he would become part owner of the company, which would make her father unhappy. However, if Johnny were to be arrested for attempted murder, Marcie would get to keep her share in the business without sharing it since a criminal can't benefit from his own malfeasance. When Marcie gets up to leave, Nick lets her know about her prints being on the vice grip and the tool's match to the pipe bomb. Nick says that Marcie and Marcus were in on the plot the whole time. She stole the stick of dynamite from Johnny's car and took an end cap from inventory; the two of them put the pipe bomb together and blew up the car (without opening the hood). Credit card receipts show that Marcie and her father paid Marcus $50,000 and conspired with him to frame Johnny for attempted murder to get him out of their lives, which means a prison sentence of 20 years plus. Sarah also tells Marcie that Johnny will be getting a promotion.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

Episode Title[]

  • Cats in the Cradle is a reference to a Harry Chapin song of the same name from the album "Verities & Balderdash". "Cat's cradle" is also a string figures game for two players that has been found in indigenous cultures on multiple continents and was first documented in 1768 . In this episode, cats feature heavily in the death and investigation of an elderly woman found dead in her home. 


  • The Fight Song by Marilyn Manson
  • Busenfreund by Tosca


  • The murder of Ruth Elliot appears to be uncanny to the murder of Ruth Pelke, down to both women sharing first names. There are also some similarities to the murder of Edna Phillips. The killer herself, Jessica Trent, is similar to Mary Bell, a violent child sociopath and one of Britain's youngest murderers, assisted by accomplice Mary Norma Bell (no relation).
  • Jessica killing an elderly neighbor for a cat is evocative of the novel The Bad Seed, which was adapted into film multiple times. A granddaughter of a serial killer turned to murder and violence over petty grievances due to inheriting homicidal urges.
  • The arrest of Jessica Trent makes her the youngest killer (age 8 1/2) arrested on the show.
  • Steve Hytner, who played Jonathan Claddon, is most recognizable for playing Kenny Bania (the "Double Talker") on the show Seinfeld.
  • Frank Military, who played Tyler Elliot, is an actor, writer and producer best known for working on the CBS series, NCIS and its spin-off series, NCIS: Los Angeles.

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