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Fahrenheit 932
Fahrenheit.jpg
Season 1
Number 12
Writer Jacqueline Zambrano
Director Danny Cannon
Original Airdate February 1, 2001
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Fahrenheit 932 is the twelfth episode in season one of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

Grissom, Sara and Warrick try to clear a man accused of killing his wife and son in an arson fire when he reaches out to Grissom from behind bars. They discover that Day Shift Supervisor Conrad Ecklie did some sloppy work on the case. Meanwhile, Catherine and Nick investigate the death of a teenage 'runner' who was shot at close range.

Plot

Victims: Jeannie Damon (deceased), Toby Damon (deceased)

On the case: Gil Grissom, Sara Sidle, Warrick Brown, Jim Brass

Grissom receives a videotape from Frank Damon, an inmate awaiting trial for arson and the murders of his wife and son. The district attorney is asking for the death penalty; however, Frank insists on his innocence and asks for Grissom’s help. Grissom enlists Sara and Warrick, informing them that the trial starts in just three days. To complicate matters, Ecklie is the CSI who first investigated the arson.

As Grissom prepares to go to the prison, Brass tells Grissom that eyewitnesses saw Frank running from the burning house. The couple had money problems, and the thought is that Frank set the house ablaze to collect on the insurance money. Accelerant was found in the master bedroom, and a receipt showed that Frank had recently bought a gallon of gasoline.

At the prison, Grissom meets with Frank and asks about the fire. Frank recalls that he went to the store that night; when he returned home 20 minutes later, he saw smoke coming out of the back of the house. His work as a volunteer firefighter had taught him not to open the bedroom door because of flashover—at 932 degrees Fahrenheit, smoke will ignite. When told about the gasoline found in his bedroom closet, Frank claims that he doesn't know how the it got there, explaining that he had bought it for his lawnmower and stored it in the garage. Therefore, someone else must've put the gasoline in the closet. Frank puts his hand up to the glass and Grissom sees that it is burnt. When he doesn't recall how he suffered a third-degree burn, Grissom is skeptical. Grissom agrees to take the case, but can't promise that he'll be able to exonerate Frank.

Grissom, Sara and Warrick head to the house to investigate. They observe furniture that's out of place, and Grissom notes that the firemen removed charred items to prevent flare-ups. However, by doing so, the firemen have altered the crime scene. Sara comes across young Toby's camping kit, which confirms Frank's story that they he was going camping with his son the next day. The kit contains fireproof matches, which Sara bags as evidence. Upon reaching the bedroom, the CSIs see that the outside of the door frame is charred, despite the fire having been contained in the room. There's also trace on the doorknob, which gets photographed as evidence.

Inside the decimated bedroom, Grissom observes a narrow "V"-pattern on the wall of the bedroom closet, indicating that the fire was intense and rapid-moving. Grissom also finds melted shards of glass melted into the concrete at the apex of the V, confirming the presence of an accelerant; this also backs up Ecklie's report. Sara and Warrick believe Frank is guilty, but Grissom points out that the accelerant wasn't spread around the room, as one would expect to find in an arson.

At the lab, Ecklie angrily defends his handling of the arson case and declares that Frank is guilty. His belief is that because of his work as a volunteer fireman, Frank knew how to start a fire and hide the evidence.

Grissom recreates the conditions from the bedroom on the night of the fire, confirming the presence of flashover. Part of the door frame is brought back to the lab and analyzed, where it's found that it burned very hot and very fast. The frame tests negative for accelerant, but there's still the question of how it got burned if it was outside of the bedroom. There's only one conclusion: the door was opened, which added oxygen to the smoke and caused the flashover. Frank was lying about not opening the door.

Grissom returns to the prison, confronts Frank with the evidence from the door frame, and matches the burn on his hand to the doorknob. Frank breaks down and admits that he opened the door, forgetting everything he had learned as a volunteer firefighter. He believes he should've known better, and he blames himself for letting loose a monster fire that killed his family. In order to prevent the whole house from burning down, he had to close the door and leave his family inside. Grissom tells him that carbon monoxide killed them, not the fire, but he wonders if Frank is lying about anything else.

Grissom and Warrick sift through the debris in the house and come across a high-voltage space heater. The thought is that it was originally in the bedroom and thrown out into the living room by the firemen. Warrick realizes that the heater may have overloaded the house; sure enough, the breaker box shows a circuit overload in the bedroom. He grabs a power saw and cuts out the overloaded wall socket as evidence.

Back at the lab, Grissom works on the socket while Ecklie continues to admonish him. Grissom explains that it was cold on the night of the fire; therefore, the heater was likely plugged into the outlet closest to the bed. When discoloration is found throughout the conductor, Grissom concludes that the fire started because of an electrical overload in the wall. However, this still doesn't explain why gasoline was found on the floor of the closet. Grissom goes back to the prison and tells Frank that until he can explain why gasoline was found, the charges against him will stand. "Then I guess I'm a dead man," Frank replies.

A weary Grissom rules out that the waterproof matches started the fire. Sara enters his office and reasons that the fire burned at over 1,000 degrees, which is why shards of glass were found melted into the concrete. She notes that hydrocarbons are found in all sorts of things, including kerosene; under the right condition, any hydrocarbon can be used as an accelerant.

Grissom comes to a realization and he heads back to the house with Sara and Warrick. However, upon arriving, they see that Ecklie has sent a cleanup crew to the house. Back at the lab, an enraged Grissom confronts him. After a heated argument, he knocks the coffee pot out of Ecklie's hands—something that puts a new light on the molten glass.

Grissom visits Frank again in the prison and questions him one last time, and Frank finally comes clean and tells the whole story. He admits that on the night of the fire, he wasn't going to the store; instead, he was leaving his wife. The two got into a heated argument, she threw things at him, and he left the house to cool off. Grissom asks specifically what she threw at him, and Frank remembers that she threw a kerosene lamp. This leads Grissom to conclude that the space heater overloaded the circuit, causing a spark that ignited the kerosene and started the fire.

With Frank released, Grissom goes over to the prison to pick him up for a ride. However, the woman, who was identified by Frank as his sister, is already waiting for him. Grissom figures out that she is in fact his lover, and that the argument that caused his wife to throw the kerosene lamp towards him was about his adultery. Frank asks Grissom if he would've helped his case if he said that he was fighting with his wife and was cheating on her, to which Grissom replies that he doesn't judge people. Frank, telling him that he doesn't feel free, but responsible, leaves with his girlfriend.

Victim: Joey Hillman (deceased)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Nick Stokes, Ray O'Riley

In the parking garage of the Monaco, Catherine and Nick examine the body of a young male with a gunshot wound to the head sitting in the driver's seat of his car. A wallet on the floor in the back is devoid of cash, and Catherine speculates that the killer waited for him in the back seat. Upon entering the car, the victim was killed and robbed. Nick spots something in the victim's ear, and thinks it's a hearing aid. He also finds condensation on the rear window that seems out of place. Catherine comes across a fast food bag with approximately $15,000 in it along with a betting ticket. The ticket was written by Teller 12, and Catherine and Nick seek him out inside the casino. The teller says that the victim was a 'runner'—someone who goes from casino to casino placing bets with other people's money.

Sandra Hillman is brought down to autopsy, where she identifies the victim as her son, Joey. When told about the supposed hearing aid, she realizes that Joey was working as a runner, something she was strongly against. Her older son, Danny, is also a runner, and he pulled his brother into the racket. She tells Catherine that the runners wear earpieces, which is how they communicate with the person they're working for. Sandra says that she hasn't heard from Danny in a week, and she becomes fearful that something has happened to him, as well.

Catherine and Nick ask Warrick about runners, and they're told runners are mostly kids who make upwards of $2,000 per week. They all have their own routes, but they all report to the same guy. Warrick explains that the runners go from bet to bet and call their orders into "The Voice," an unseen boss who runs the entire operation underground. Finding this unknown entity may be difficult, and Warrick advises Catherine and Nick to talk to the other runners, adding that they might kill each other for a good route.

Back at the Monaco Sportsbook, Teller 12 points Catherine and Nick towards a runner who used to hang out with Joey. Catherine notices that the runner is using two-way communication, which is illegal in a casino, but only if one gets caught using it. When confronted, he claims to not know who took over Joey's route and is rather unhelpful in assisting Catherine and Nick with the case.

Sandra Hillman shows up with her other son, Danny. In interrogation, he admits to gambling his runner money away, which is why he ran. Danny believes that whoever killed Joey was sending him a message, and he figures that it was another runner. However, his mother prevents him from giving any names, as she doesn't want anyone coming after him, as well. Nick convinces Danny to give up the earpiece frequency the runners operate on.

Catherine is informed that the condensation from the car window is actually nasal mucus, likely from the shooter sitting in the back seat. The runners are located and brought into the station. Nostril swabs are taken from each one of them; however, none of the DNA matches the nasal mucus found in the car.

Nick returns to the casino to find the runner he placed a friendly wager with. He speaks with Teller 12 and notices the fancy watch that the teller is wearing. The teller tells him that today is his last day, as he has a new job. When the teller sneezes, Nick realizes that he's staring at Joey's killer. A flashback shows the teller capping Joey and sneezing when leaving the car. Teller 12 killed Joey, and the new job he was going to have is Joey’s runner route. However, the teller's next stop will now be prison.

 Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast 

  • Marc Vann as Conrad Ecklie
  • Skip O'Brien as Sergeant Ray O'Riley
  • David Berman as David Phillips
  • Sterling Macer Jr. as Frank Damon
  • Jarrad Paul as Tony/Teller 12
  • Fred Koehler as Danny Hillman
  • Tamara Clatterbuck as Sandra Hillman
  • Chaka Forman as Runner 702
  • Tom Beyer as L. Collins
  • Meta Golding as Rachel
  • Lucy Goncalves as Jeannie Damon

Episode Title

  • Fahrenheit 932 refers to the temperature at which flashover, a phenomenon in which all the objects in an enclosed area ignite simultaneously, occurs. In the episode, Grissom discovers that, despite his firefighter training, Frank Damon opened the bedroom door and caused a flashover.
  • The title can also be a take on the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Trivia

  • Fahrenheit 932 was the first episode written by someone not on the show staff, Jacqueline Zambrano.[1]
  • Meta Golding, who guest stars as Rachel, would later play Warrick's wife Tina beginning in season six.

References

  1. Flaherty, M. & Marrinan, C. (2004). CSI: Crime scene investigation companion. New York, NY: Pocket Books.

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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