Dead Woods
Season 15
Number 12
Writer Anthony E. Zuiker,
Melissa R. Byer,
Treena Hancock
Director Phil Conserva
Original Airdate December 28, 2014
Previous Episode: Angle of Attack
Next Episode: The Greater Good

Dead Woods is the twelfth episode in season fifteen of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


Sara reopens a 10-year-old family murder-suicide case when the lone surviving daughter claims to have a new memory about that fateful evening that proves the father didn't do it.


Victims: Unnamed homeless man, Barry Fisher, Kathy Fisher, Hannah Fisher (all deceased), Abby Fisher (alive)

On the case: entire team

As Abby Fisher and her boyfriend make their way through an alleyway in the Alphabets, a homeless man pulls a gun on them and tries to rob them. The boyfriend, Slade, fights back, shooting and killing the homeless man. Slade runs, but Abby stays behind having flashbacks of something that happened in her past. When Officer Akers tries to talk to her, she asks for Sara.

Upon arriving at the scene, Sara informs Officer Akers that Abby's family was killed while camping when she was five years old; her father shot the whole family, then turned the gun on himself. When Sara speaks to Abby, the girl says that she remembers something from ten years ago: her father didn't do it.

In the police station, Abby repeats that she thinks her father was innocent. She tells Sara that when Slade shot the homeless man, she smelled a chemical similar to kerosene, and she recalls smelling the same thing the night her family was killed. Abby is also able to remember that the man who put her in her sleeping bag that night had a beard, something her father didn't have. Sara has a hard time believing all of this, as Abby was only five at the time and had been shot in the head. All evidence pointed towards a murder-suicide, but Abby is insistent about her new revelation.

Sara meets up with Abby's foster mother, Joanna, who is glad the former reached out to Sara before explaining how she doesn't think Abby thinks of her as a mother, essentially breaking curfew and skipping school, but Sara reassure Joanna that Abby has been through so much, the latter thinking it's because the two have a special bond. Sara then notices a cuffed Slade being escorted by Akers before approaching them and threatens Slade to stay away from Abby.

Down in autopsy, Greg takes a whiff of the homeless man's body and smells smoke, amongst other things. This can be explained away by the fact that the man could've been hanging around a fire trying to keep warm. Noting that a certain smell may help with the case ten years ago, Greg busts out the "Cyranose 320," a device that can isolate the different odors on the body.

Sara flashes back to ten years ago, photographing the crime scene at the campsite and visiting Abby in the hospital. Abby told Sara that the last thing she remembered was her parents having a fight; however, she can't remember anything relative to the shootings.

The homeless man had over 20 distinct smells on him, one of which was gun cleaner, which has a similar odor to kerosene. Sara doesn't remember smelling gun cleaner at the scene ten years ago, neither on the gun nor on the father. Firearms confirmed that every shot came from the father's gun, and Sara wonders if someone who smelled like gun cleaner entered the tent, used the gun, and tried to wipe out the whole family.

Russell calls Sara to his office and asks why she's investigating a case from ten years ago when she has a dozen open cases now. When told that Abby remembered something from the case, Russell notes that eyewitness accounts are unreliable, especially ten years after the fact. Sara shows Russell the father's tox report, which showed that there were substantial amounts of alcohol in his system; however, there were other peaks that were never analyzed. Doc Robbins had ruled the death a suicide, and reopening the case and questioning his conclusion won't sit well with him, especially with the minimal new evidence Sara has found. Russell allows Sara to keep working the case, but he warns her that both Doc Robbins and Ecklie will be unhappy with the investigation, especially if nothing new is uncovered.

As expected, Doc Robbins is less than thrilled that his initial diagnosis has been called into question. The report indicates that the father had gunshot residue on his right hand, his gun was found beside him, and he had a blood alcohol level of .23. When asked about the unanalyzed spike in the tox report, Doc Robbins explains that it was a minor peak that had a short retention time. Russell wants the doc to pull the blood sample and retest it; however, it's found that the sample was destroyed three years ago. The only way to get more information is to exhume the father's body.

Barry Fisher's body has been well-preserved thanks to the embalming process. The cause of death is still obviously a gunshot wound to the head, but Doc Robbins notes that if Barry was drugged, there would still be traces in his liver or kidneys, which have also been well-preserved.

A tox panel finds traces of chloral hydrate in Barry's liver sample; the unknown peak in the earlier report was from the knockout drug. In light of this finding, Doc Robbins changes the cause of death from suicide to "undetermined." Since chloral hydrate isn't a recreational drug, there's no way Barry would've taken it voluntarily. No injection marks were found on Barry's body, but Sara recalls finding paper cups in the fire pit; the drug could've been put into his drink. Sara theorizes that the killer drugged Barry in order to get access to the gun and frame him for the murders. With the case now reopened, Russell has Sara check to see if the Fishers had any enemies; however, he tells her to take a backseat in the case due to her relationship with Abby.

Because the original case was ruled a suicide, there was never any trial. All of the evidence from the case was collected, boxed up, and put in storage, so it's never been processed. In the CSI garage, Finn and Morgan unbox the evidence and set it up based on Sara's original crime scene photos. Blood evidence shows that Abby's sister, Hannah, had the mother's blood on her feet, which means that the mother was killed first. Hannah's blood trail is found in the tent, but her wound was immediately debilitating and fatal, so she wouldn't have been able to walk back to her sleeping bag. Someone carried her into the tent and tucked her into her sleeping bag, doing the same thing with Abby. Whoever the killer is showed remorse or wanted to make it look like Barry was the shooter. The hope now is that the killer left DNA or fingerprints behind.

Fingerprints from the tent flap are unidentified; however, a print from Hannah's sleeping bag comes back to Garth Fogel, a registered sex offender who was convicted of molesting a little girl in 1995. It just so happens that he was released from prison in 2004, one month before the Fishers were murdered. Garth's booking photo shows that he has a beard, just like Abby remembers. Furthermore, when Garth was arrested, over 15 guns were found in his house; this could explain the smell of gun cleaner.

Henry analyzes the blood collected from the tent, finding that everything belonged to the mother and the two girls, except for one sample from a still unidentified animal. He tells Sara that when he tested Garth's DNA against the other DNA samples, he discovered that Garth is actually Hannah's biological father. Sara recalls that Kathy Fisher, the mother, had told people that Hannah's father died in a car accident before the girl was even born. Kathy was pregnant with a sex offender's baby and lied about it. Perhaps that lie caught up with her and got her family killed.

Garth is located and brought in for interrogation. When shown photos of the Fisher family, he claims to not recognize them and denies any involvement in their deaths. Nick pushes Garth's buttons and theorizes that he showed up at the campsite, drugged Barry in order to get access to his gun, and entered the tent to grab Hannah. When Kathy tried to intervene, Garth shot her, then shot the two kids because they were witnesses. Finally, he shot Barry to make it look like a murder-suicide. Garth denies all of this, claiming that he would never do anything to his own daughter.

Nick brings up the fingerprint found on the sleeping bag, and Garth tells his side of the story. He admits that he found out about Kathy's pregnancy while he was in prison and went to visit the family after he was released. When he went to the house, Kathy was packing for their camping trip. She refused to let him meet his daughter and told him to get lost. In anger, Garth says he ripped the sleeping bag out of Kathy's hand, which would explain how his fingerprint got there. When Kathy threatened to call the cops, he split; he claims to have not seen the family after that.

Garth's alibi for the time of the murders is that he was with his mother; however, she died five years ago, making it impossible to corroborate his story. Sara mentions that Abby picked Garth out of a mug book, but was unable to say for sure whether he's the guy who killed her family.

Greg comes up with an idea, setting up the campsite at Mount Charleston exactly the way it was the night of the murders. The hope is that Abby will let her mind drift back and remember some new details. With Greg recording the walkthrough, Abby relives the night. Though she can't picture the shooter's face, she remembers that he was wearing a jacket with a patch on it; the patch contained antlers, possibly from a deer.

The animal blood found in the tent is identified as elk blood, which lines up with the animal Abby saw on the jacket. Combined with the fact that the shooter smelled like gun cleaner, the CSIs believe they're looking for a hunter. A search of hunting clubs near Mount Charleston turns up one that has an elk in the logo: Legend Creek Hunting Club.

Morgan and Sara go to the club and speak with Randy Pruitt, the club's president; his lodge is filled with taxidermized animals. When served with a warrant, Randy provides the CSIs with the membership records from 2004. Back at the station, Abby looks through the pictures of the members and identifies Donald Wraith as the man who killed her family. When Donald is tracked down, he's found dead in his truck with a gunshot to the head—the hunter has become the hunted.

A 9mm shell casing is found on the seat next to Donald's body, and he's clutching the gun in his right hand. Powder burns indicate that he was shot at close range, but Nick notes that if Donald shot himself, the gun would've fallen out of his hands and onto the floor. The killer tried to make this look like a suicide. Based on the timeline of events, Nick believes that it's no coincidence Donald was murdered shortly after Abby identified him as the killer. It seems someone else was involved in the massacre ten years ago.

Sara theorizes that Garth was the other person involved. Knowing that the Fishers weren't going to give Hannah back without a fight, he brought Donald as backup. However, trace on Donald's gun comes back as a type of synthetic resin used in one industry—taxidermy.

Randy Pruitt is brought to the station for questioning. Sara reveals that two weeks ago, he purchased the same resin that was found on Donald's gun. She believes that the two men were involved in the deaths of the Fishers, and when Donald was about to be arrested, Randy silenced him in order to avoid being implicated. Randy's fingerprints were also found inside the tent the family was slaughtered in.

The taxidermist comes clean, telling Sara that he and Donald never planned on hurting anyone. He recalls that Barry and Kathy Fisher stopped by the lodge that day to ask for directions. Kathy caught Donald's eye, and he decided that he wanted to "have fun with the wife." They followed the couple to the campsite and pretended they were camping nearby, bringing booze to get the party going. After slipping chloral hydrate into Barry's drink and knocking him out, Donald took the gun and entered the tent to be with Kathy. She fought back, however, and Donald shot her. Upon realizing that the Fishers had two young children who saw his face, he had no choice but to kill them, as well. Randy claims that he entered the tent, saw the aftermath, and put the girls back in their sleeping bags while Donald took care of Barry outside.

Sara tells Randy that there's one problem with his story: Hannah survived, and she identified Donald as the man who tucked her back into her sleeping bag. This would mean that Randy was the one who killed the family and Donald was the one who showed remorse. Either way, Sara says, his hunting days are over.

Sara sits down with Abby and informs her that two very bad people killed her family and that they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Barry was innocent, and Abby can now forgive her father, who was a good man who loved his family.

In the break room, Sara sits with Greg and opens up about her parents' relationship. She doesn't fully believe that her mother killed her father in self-defense, as her mother was an alcoholic who suffered from a mental illness. Sara admits that she's somewhat jealous of Abby, as the girl can now rewrite her whole family history. Greg encourages her to look towards the future and start over with her with mother; however, Sara doesn't believe this is something she can do.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Larry Sullivan as Officer Andy Akers
  • Ashlee Füss as Abby Fisher
    • Mckenna Grace as Young Abby Fisher
  • Dean McDermott as Garth Fogel
  • Ben Browder as Randy Pruitt
  • Clare Carey as Joanna Higgins
  • Tyler Forrest as Slade
  • Michael Janik as Sketchy Man
  • Joy Lang as Kathy Fisher
  • Mark Norby as Donald Wraith/Bearded Man
  • Jessica Treska as Hannah Fisher
  • Ken Weiler as Barry Fisher


  • Aliaa by Kaleida


  • Flashbacks are shown of the original case; however, this was never a previous case on the show despite occurring in the CSI timeline.

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 15
The CSI EffectBuzz KillBad BloodThe Book of ShadowsGirls Gone WilderThe Twin ParadoxRoad to RecoveryRubbery HomicideLet's Make A DealDead RailsAngle of AttackDead WoodsThe Greater GoodMerchants of MenaceHero to ZeroThe Last RideUnder My SkinThe End GameImmortality