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Dead of the Class
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Season 13
Number 17
Writer Tom Mularz
Director Alec Smight
Original Airdate March 20, 2013
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Previous Episode: Last Woman Standing
Next Episode: Sheltered

Dead of the Class is the seventeenth episode in season thirteen of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

The CSIs join David Phillips at his high school reunion when he discovers that the prom queen has been murdered.

Plot

Victim: Becca Sabin (deceased)

On the case: D.B. Russell, Greg Sanders, Julie Finlay, Morgan Brody, Nick Stokes, Jim Brass

At his pregnant wife's urging, David Phillips reluctantly attends his high school reunion. As a former classmate drones on about his insurance job, David notices that the bubbles falling from the ceiling are mixed with blood. When he goes into the storage room where the bubble tray is located, he finds the body of Becca Sabin lying dead on top of a table.

When Finn and Russell arrive at the scene, David tells them that Becca was the queen of the graduating class and actuallly planned the whole reunion. Becca has an irregular laceration to the neck and appears to have bled out into the bubble tray. Nick finds a box full of confiscated hand-me-down weapons nearby; however, none of them have blood on them. Greg spots what looks like a bloody handprint in the bubble tray, so it's possible the killer wiped their hands in the soap. Trace from the killer could've been carried out by the bubbles, meaning it could've landed on anyone at the party. In addition to the blood evidence, Doc Robbins finds what appears to be a shard of glass embedded in one of Becca's palms.

Morgan speaks with Kelly Nivens, Becca's best friend from high school. During the conversation, she notices a blood bubble on Kelly's dress and tells her she's taking it for evidence. Finn has the pleasure of talking with Janet Morse, a high-strung attorney who nervously make jokes. In the gymnasium, Brass questions Becca's husband, Grady Foster. Grady admits to parking himself at a table with a scotch while Becca focused on the hosting and mingling.

In the room where the body was found, Nick finds more shards of glass on the copier. Upon opening the lid, he sees a large crack in the bottom right corner of the glass along with more shards. Nick hits a button that allows the copier to print the last five copies made; two of the copies show Becca getting her head slammed into the copier by an assailant wearing some kind of bracelet on their wrist.

As David performs Becca's autopsy, he imagines the deceased class queen berating him. Doc Robbins enters, preventing David from going even crazier. David shows the doc Becca's stomach, which has a crater-shaped sore on the lining that could be a peptic ulcer. Becca's epiglottis is inflamed, likely from the trauma of the laceration to her neck. David also notes an incidental injury to Becca's lip, which he says could be herpes, much to the deceased Becca's horror. The cause of death is labeled as exsanguination caused by the transection of the carotid artery.

Nick goes through pictures of the reunion attendees, eventually coming across one of Kelly wearing a bracelet on her wrist. Russell interrogates Kelly, who claims that she didn't kill Becca. Her goal was to stop the "gossip queen" from distributing makeshift bingo cards that listed the quirks of the attendees, including drug use and kleptomania. She grabbed the cards from Becca, but Becca went to the storage room to copy more. There the two had a fight, with Kelly slamming Becca's head into the copier before taking the cards and running off. Kelly adds that Grady is her therapist and that she had no idea she was pouring her secrets out to the husband of the gossip queen. She denies killing Becca, but guesses that some of her classmates are also patients of Grady.

Grady refuses to give up the names of patients due to doctor-patient confidentiality. He also insists that he kept information from the sessions private from his wife. It's possible Becca guessed everyone's secrets on the bingo card; however, if so, the people with the secrets wouldn't know that and would have motive for murder. Kelly's alibi checks out, as photos place her across the room for the 15 minutes before the bloody bubbles appeared.

Nick gets around the doctor-patient confidentiality by accessing surveillance videos from a gas station across the street from Grady's therapy office. The videos cover the whole parking lot, and Nick captures the license plates of all cars entering the lot, cross-referencing them with alumni's cars. Two nights before the reunion, Becca is seen pulling into the lot, entering the office and rifling through patient files. Grady arrived soon afterwards and confronted her, leading to an argument in the parking lot.

Grady is brought to the police station for more questioning. He admits to catching his wife snooping around and says he didn't realize she knew any of his patients until he saw them at the reunion. Grady insists that he loved his wife, even with all of her faults, and claims that he never laid a hand on her the night of her murder.

Back at the school, Morgan continues to swab the countless bloody bubbles on the wall, finding some kind of trace in one of them. She and Greg are alerted to a dead body on the school's football field, but when they reach the body, they see that he's clearly breathing. The man, Sean McHenry, is still drunk from the night before; he awakens and starts trying to relive his days as the team's quarterback. As the CSIs contain Sean, they find that he has a bloody handprint on the back of his shirt.

Sean is the newest suspect in the case, and he, too, is brought in for questioning. David tells Nick that Sean and Becca dated for all four years in high school. Much to David's surprise and disgust, he finds out Janet Morse is representing Sean. Before going into the interrogation room, she makes fun of David for holding a past grudge.

In interrogation, Nick tries to rattle Sean's cage by telling him that his best days are behind him. Sean admits this, but not before saying that he and Becca made out in the storage room at the reunion. The bloody handprint on the back of Sean's shirt belongs to Becca, and Sean says that he noticed a cut on her palm. Sean laments the fact that his makeout session with Becca only lasted a few minutes. Afterwards, he left the reunion, went to the nearby liquor store, and came back to the football field to relive his glory days.

Trace from the bloody bubble Morgan swabbed comes back as asbestos and acrylic tan paint. Morgan goes through photos taken at the school, seeing that the ceiling in the cafeteria is white, while the ceiling in the storage room is tan. She also notices a ceiling access panel in the storage room and notes that it's painted gray - and located right above the bubble tray; someone opened the panel at some point. When Morgan searches the crawl space above the panel, she finds a pipe bomb.

The bomb squad separates the non-explosive parts from the bomb, blowing them up in a controlled environment. Greg points out that the pipe end caps were loosely sealed, meaning a detonation wouldn't have caused much destruction. Finn theorizes that Becca walked into the storage room when the bomber was planting the bomb, costing her her life. The killer then left without detonating the bomb. A search of the bomb components turns up an ignition device, an electronics device, duct tape and some plaster pieces that fit together.

Nick goes through Sean's internet activity. While there's no history of bomb-making research, he finds that Sean was fired from his job as a gym teacher a week ago. The school board had voted to eliminate gym class from the curriculum, much against Sean's wishes, and it just so happens that the board's next meeting was going to be in the high school cafeteria. It seems the reunion wasn't the target, just the opportunity to plant the bomb.

Sean's story about going to the liquor store is true, as he's seen on the surveillance camera from that night. Morgan decided to search a dumpster near the store and got lucky, finding a bloody knife amongst the garbage. The thought is that Sean threw the knife away after committing murder, and Russell has Morgan print the knife and send it to Henry.

Police burst into Sean's apartment and find that he's sleeping with Janet. Finn presents the attorney with two warrants - one to arrest Sean for Becca's murder, and the other to search the apartment for explosives. Sean denies planting a bomb at the school over something so petty as cutting gym class, but is arrested and hauled out of his apartment.

Henry processes the blood from the knife and confirms that it belongs to Becca. However, he tells Morgan that the blood was so dried out that he had to soak the sample for 20 minutes before it would dissolve. He notes that long-term aging of the blood or exposure to extreme temperatures would cause this to happen to the blood, and neither one of those instances have occurred. Morgan guesses there's something the team is overlooking.

Greg pieces together the plaster pieces from the pipe bomb and finds that they form a mask of someone's face. He pulls a piece of trace from the mask, then digitally puts a mask and wig on it to resemble a person. David recognizes the young woman as Caroline Hartwell, a former student who killed herself 15 years ago. He explains that Caroline was a misfit who would be made fun of by other students, including Becca and Sean. When she was a sophomore, she hung herself. David also explains that art students would make masks of their faces and put them on the wall until the end of the year. This means that anyone could've taken Caroline's mask, kept it up until now, and used it in the bomb.

Hodges is able to recover a fingerprint off the duct tape used in the pipe bomb; it comes back to a man named Max Dinello. Max's print was also found on the inside of the ceiling panel. Upon seeing a yearbook photo of Max, David remembers that he and Caroline were friends. There's no Max Dinello on the list of people processed at the reunion; however, David recalls briefly greeting him when he first arrived. Max must've snuck out before the police arrived.

The bomb and Becca's death seem to be related. Assuming that Max is responsible, Nick questions how the knife used to stab Becca ended up outside the liquor store Sean went to. Russell guesses that the knife could have been planted by someone as an act of revenge against one of Caroline's tormentors. But, still, the question remains: how did Max know what liquor store Sean was going to go to?

Greg does some digging into Max's background and discovers that he's a teacher at an alternative school for troubled teens. A search of the school's website reveals that Janet also works at the school as a lunch lady. As it turns out, the big-shot attorney actually works at the school and lives at home with her parents in Henderson, not in Manhattan like she told Finn earlier. It seems that Max and Janet are working together.

Hodges examines the pipe bomb components and finds some interesting things: the logo on the end of the duct tape stopped being used by 2000, the ignition components are from a walkie-talkie, and the batteries have an expiration date of 2002. All of this leads to the conclusion that the bomb was planted way back in 1998, not recently. Because the ceiling panel was recently moved, the thought is that Max was adjusting something on the bomb. However, Hodges notes the presence of moisture on the duct tape. The moisture is from liquid nitrogen, which can be used in diffusing bombs by freezing their components. This would explain the dried blood being exposed to an extreme temperature. The conclusion is that Max was actually trying to defuse the bomb.

With this information, David rushes to the morgue and examines the tissue sample from Becca's lip again. He finds that the sample has qualities caused by the flash-freezing of tissue, as one would expect from contact with liquid nitrogen. Ingesting liquid nitrogen would have caused the swollen epiglottis and the injury to the stomach previously dtermined to be an ulcer. David concludes that every internal injury Becca sustained was caused by one event - ingesting liquid nitrogen.

Under interrogation, Max confesses to killing Becca. Russell notes that Max planted the bomb in the ceiling above the spot where Becca and the cool kids ate lunch 15 years ago; however, the bomb was never set off. Max says that a teacher, who didn't know about the bomb, convinced him that whatever he was going through wasn't worth it. For 15 years, though, the bomb sat up in the ceiling, and Max knew there was always a chance it could go off. He admits to going into the storage room and diffusing the bomb with liquid nitrogen. However, while doing so, he was startled by Becca, causing him to spill some liquid nitrogen from the ceiling down into her throat. When Becca started to choke, he grabbed a knife from the confiscated weapons box and tried to perform an emergency tracheotomy.

In a separate interrogation room, Janet tells Finn that Becca wouldn't hold still because she was terrified of Max. Instead of the tracheotomy, Max accidentally ended up slicing her neck. Janet admits to putting the bloody knife in the liquid nitrogen tank and using it to frame Sean. When asked why she did so, Janet replies that the real world was just like high school - "pretty got promoted" and "gossip counted more than achievement." One day, she snapped, realizing that nothing had changed in her life after graduating. Framing Sean was her way of sticking it to the cool kids.

Finn tells David that both Janet and Max are looking at obstruction, accessory, and manslaughter charges; however, their real crimes were getting caught lost in their pasts. Janet tried to live up to old ambitions, while Max tried to undo an old mistake. The conversation is cut short when David gets a call that his wife has gone into labor. She soon delivers a baby boy named Joshua Adam Phillips, and Doc and Hodges visit the new family shortly after.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

  • Larry Mitchell as Officer Mitchell
  • Emme Rylan as Amy Phillips
  • Bree Williamson as Becca Sabin
  • T.J. Ramini as Grady Foster
  • Jeanette Brox as Janet Morse
  • Michaela McManus as Kelly Nivens
  • Adam Busch as Max Dinello
  • Lucas Bryant as Sean McHenry
  • Kevin Cahoon as Gary Drosdick

Music

  • Wannabe by Spice Girls
  • Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) by The Offspring

Notes

  • Jorja Fox (Sara) is credited but does not appear in the episode.
  • David's wife, Amy, gives birth to a boy, Joshua Adam Phillips.

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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