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Crate 'n Burial
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Season 1
Number 3
Writer Ann Donahue
Director Danny Cannon
Original Airdate October 20, 2000
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Previous Episode: Cool Change
Next Episode: Pledging Mr. Johnson

Crate 'n Burial is the third episode in season one of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

Grissom, Nick and Sara find out that all is not what it seems when the wife of a rich man is abducted and buried alive in the desert. Meanwhile, Catherine and Warrick investigate a hit and run that led to the death of a little girl in which a man and his grandson are the suspects, both of them seemingly covering for each other.

Plot

Victim: Laura Garris (presumed alive)

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

In the desert, a man digs a hole and buries something. A woman is soon seen using a lighter to explore her surroundings; she's horrified to find that she's been buried alive.

Using a digitally altered voice, the abductor calls the home of Jack Garris and demands that $2 million be delivered to an intersection. If this fails to happen, his wife, Laura, will die. Grissom listens to the recording, hearing nothing but a low-frequency humming. From this, he determines that Laura is somewhere in the desert near power lines. Jack wants someone to tell him the truth about the chances of finding his wife alive, and Brass informs him that it's quite possible Laura dies regardless of whether the police do anything.

Sara does a walkthrough of the house and sees numerous signs of struggle, including scratch marks on a door frame. She theorizes that the abductor bypassed the security system, surprised Laura in the hallway, and dragged her out of the house. Grissom enters the room and finds a clump of dirt on the carpet, which is out of place in the otherwise spotless house. In the backyard, they find a halothane-soaked handkerchief, which seems refute Sara's theory that this was a professional job. There's no trace of dirt around the house, so it seems the abductor tracked it in.

Brass also discourages Jack from paying a ransom, despite the fact that he can afford it. Jack becomes incensed at the suggestion, especially after being told that Laura could already be dead. Despite Brass telling Jack that the kidnapper would have no reason to communicate after receiving the money, Jack goes to pay it anyway.

An analysis of the dirt from the Garris' home reveals traces of gold and cyanide, a combination commonly found at gold mines. There are numerous gold mines in Nevada, but Grissom produces a map and tells Sara that there are only three gold mines that are near power lines and within range of the drop zone. Grissom and Sara search the desert with an infrared camera and spot the glowing image of a thrashing body underground. They frantically dig until they unearth Laura.

Unable to discourage Jack from paying the ransom, Brass tails him to the drop site, which is outside of a driving range. When a young man retrieves the bag containing the money, the police move in.

When Grissom interviews Laura Garris at the hospital, she says she remembers being grabbed from behind in the hallway of her home and having something clamped over her mouth, but she can't remember anything about her assailant. She also can't remember how she suffered a black eye. Grissom asks her for a DNA sample to compare to the duct tape used to silence her, and to the truck belonging to the man caught at the ransom drop site, Chip Rundle, Jack's personal trainer.

Sara processes the crate Laura was buried in, seeing that it's from the Garris Winery. She's able to recover a fingerprint from the banding around the crate.

In interrogation, Chip insists that he picked up the bag without knowing what was inside. Because Chip knows Jack, Brass guesses that Chip also knows the layout to the Garris' house. Brass tells Chip that his fingerprints were found on Laura's makeshift coffin; however Chip explains that he helped Jack move crates for the winery. Chip is released, but it's revealed that the interrogation was recorded to use as a vocal comparison to the ransom message.

The A/V lab matches Chip's voice with the voice on the ransom message. After finding strands of hair in the front passenger seat of Chip's truck, Sara asks Grissom to help her reconstruct Laura's abduction. The question is: why would Chip put a bound an unconscious woman in the front seat of his truck? Sara notes that the fibers from the sheepskin seat covers were found on the back of Laura's sleeves, which could only have happened if Laura were sitting in an upright position like a normal passenger. A blood test confirms that Laura never ingested the halothane from the rag, and the CSIs realize that Laura was an accomplice in her own "abduction."

Laura persistently denies any relationship with Chip, but Sara theorizes that they staged the kidnapping as part of a plan to run away together with a lump of Jack's fortune. A flashback shows Chip surprising Laura in the house. As the two became romantically entwined, Laura went through the house knocking things over and faking signs of a struggle. Finally, they doused the rag in halothane and left it in the backyard.

The two drove out of town, but on the way, Chip stopped and made up an excuse. Turns out he wanted the ransom money all to himself. After telling Laura that they had to switch cars, he led her to the open crate already buried in the ground. Chip then punched her in the face and knocked her unconscious; this would explain the black eye. It's then that Chip wrapped her hands in duct tape and buried her.

Laura once again denies the theories, but Nick enters and plays a cleaned-up version of Chip's ransom recording. On it, Laura is heard telling Chip to hurry up, as she thought a passing car might've been the police. Laura is arrested and informed that both her and Chip will be serving a minimum of 25 years in prison. Jack asks Grissom why she didn't just turn Chip in after she was rescued. "Self-preservation," Grissom explains. "If she rats on him, she rats on herself."

Victim: Renda Harris (deceased)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Warrick Brown

Catherine and Warrick are assigned to the case of the disturbing hit-and-run of a young girl, Renda Harris. The only evidence they find, however, is a common car-paint scrape on the girl's scooter, so they return to the lab. In autopsy, Doctor Williams shows them a partial license plate number made visible on a bruise imprinted on the body of the girl.

A hit on the partial license plate number brings Catherine and Warrick to the home of Charles Moore, a courteous 73-year-old. He claims his car was stolen, but a search of the house reveals the car to be in the garage. Charles confesses that he was behind the wheel, that he spotted Renda in the middle of the road but accidentally stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake. Back in the lab, Catherine wonders if Charles confessed to the crime a little too quickly.

Catherine and Warrick examine Moore's car and they notice the driver's seat is pushed too close to the steering wheel for his height. The car stereo has also been set to a hip-hop station and is on full blast. Someone much younger than Charles was the last one to drive the car. They ask him if anyone else drives his car, to which he replies that he was driving yesterday. Of course, this doesn't answer the question. His grandson, James, enters; the boy is an approved driver on Charles' insurance. However, before James can say what happened, Charles quickly explains that he doesn't drive well at night. After hitting Renda, he had banged his head, so James drove him home. Neither Catherine nor Warrick believe his story, but they both begin to waver and question if Charles taking the fall isn't such a bad thing. Warrick convinces Catherine to stay true to the evidence.

Catherine takes a closer look at Charles' car and finds a small piece of tooth lodged in the steering wheel; the tooth belongs to James. James confesses that he was talking on the phone with his grandfather. When he looked down for a second after hanging up, he saw Renda; however, it was too late. Charles says that he made James cover up the incident to save his grandson's future, and he wants to serve James' jail sentence. Catherine and Warrick deny this request and reluctantly take James into custody. An understanding and sympathetic Warrick accompanies James and offers advice before he's taken into custody. Warrick also writes his cell number on James' hand and tells him to contact him just in case trouble arises.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

  • Judith Scott as Dr. Jenna Williams
  • Madison McReynolds as Lindsey Willows
  • John Beasley as Charles Moore
  • Erich Anderson as Jack Garris
  • Jolene Blalock as Laura Garris
  • Hamilton von Watts as Chip Rundle
  • Sam Jones III as James Moore
  • John Livingston as THD Audio Tech
  • Deborah Landis as Anne Vickers
  • Jane Oshita as Renda Harris

Episode Title

  • Crate 'n Burial is a pun on the name of the housewares chain "Crate and Barrel" and makes reference to the kidnapping of Laura Garris, which led her buried alive inside a crate. 

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 1
PilotCool ChangeCrate 'n BurialPledging Mr. JohnsonFriends & LoversWho Are You?Blood DropsAnonymousUnfriendly SkiesSex, Lies and LarvaeI-15 MurdersFahrenheit 932BoomTo Halve and to HoldTable StakesToo Tough to DieFace Lift$35K O.B.O.Gentle, GentleSounds of SilenceJustice is ServedEvaluation DayStrip Strangler
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