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Hero to Zero
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Season 15
Number 15
Writer Andrew Dettmann
Director Frank Waldeck
Original Airdate January 25, 2015
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Next Episode: The Last Ride

Hero to Zero is the fifteenth episode in season fifteen of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

The CSI team investigates the murder of a young victim dressed as a superhero.

Plot

Victim: Brad Jeffries (deceased)

On the case: entire team

A homeless man's search for cans is interrupted by a masked gang, who soon begins to push the man around. Before the violence can escalate, a masked figure shines a spotlight on the scene and encourages the gang to pick on someone who can fight back.

The following morning, Nick and Sara are called to the alley, where a store owner has found a body. Bruises on the victim's knuckles indicate that he got a few punches in, and the number of shoe impressions nearby point towards there being multiple assailants. As Nick looks over the body, he discovers that the victim is wearing a superhero costume, complete with a cape. A backpack is discovered up the street from the crime scene; among its contents is a sketch book that contains comic drawings of a superhero taking down an enemy gang. Unfortunately, the real-life superhero came up short.

Nick finds a stun gun with no charge and an empty can of pepper spray; it seems these were the superhero's weapons. David Phillips puts the time of death at between midnight and 3:00 AM, but is unable to tell which of the multiple bruises and lacerations on the unidentified victim ultimately killed him. Sara is alerted to the homeless man asking for his cart; she sees that he has no shoes, which aligns with a barefoot impression she lifted at the scene.

In the police station, the homeless man, Roger, is provided with food and footwear. In exchange, Sara asks him for information on what happened in the alley. Roger recalls getting saved from the gang by a guy who looked like Batman. Though he couldn't see the gang members' faces or what happened after "Batman" arrived, Roger remembers seeing a red pickup truck parked in the alley.

Morgan identifies two of the shoe impressions at the scene as common work boots; however, every impression contains a ground-up substance that was lifted with the gel. Since the ground around the scene was sticky, it's possible the tackiness pulled trace off of the different shoes.

Greg shows Russell surveillance video from a pawn shop just a few blocks from the murder. At a little after 11:00 PM, the gang is shown vandalizing a car before breaking the shop's window and stealing items in the display case. Police reports show that the gang also hit a beauty supply store on the same street a few nights ago. At the scene, Greg explains to Finn that the powder on the ground outside is from the fluorescent lights in the shop; the inside of the tubes are covered with phosphorous powder, which got everywhere when the tubes were broken. While Greg lifts a shoeprint from the sidewalk, Finn finds blood on the shop's broken window.

Hodges discovers that the granules in the suspects' shoes is ground walnut shell, which is relatively common. However, these samples are unique in that they're unusually charred and contain a trace of calcium hypochlorite. Meanwhile, Henry informs Russell that the blood from the pawn shop is from a male who is a familial match to a Martin Preach, an inmate at Ely State Prison. Martin has at least one son, 19-year-old Trey, who has a couple of petty offenses of his own. Trey's mug shot shows him wearing a purple mohawk, and Sara notes that one of the victim's comic book drawings contains a villain with purple hair.

In interrogation, Nick tells Trey that he and his gang are in big trouble for both the robbery and the murder. A surprised Trey replies that he knows nothing about a murder. When shown a picture of the victim, Trey recognizes him as a "sad freak" who wears a mask and makes his way around town at night. However, he claims that he's not the one who ended the superhero's life.

Morgan analyzes the shoe prints from the alley and finds that they don't match those lifted from the sidewalk outside the pawn shop. She theorizes to Russell that they're looking at two different gangs who are working the same neighborhood. Russell encourages her to keep digging, as they're can't be too many people in the area with purple mohawks. There was one person who saw the gang in the alley: Roger. Russell tells Morgan to find Roger and show him a picture of Trey in the hopes that he'll recognize the hair style.

When Greg and Morgan search the alley, they're unable to locate Roger. After Greg leaves to continue searching, Morgan is alerted to multiple footsteps. She's soon surrounded by two other people dressed as superheroes, but Greg arrives and deescalates the situation by pointing his gun at one of the caped crusaders. When questioned, the superheroes say that they patrol the streets at night and do whatever they can to make things tougher on the criminals they find. Morgan informs them that their friend, whom they identify as "Dominion," was beaten and killed last night.

"Dominion's" real name is Brad Jeffries, and Russell speaks with Brad's mother, Carla, and stepfather, Seth. They mention that Brad and his friends had been participating in the "real-life superhero movement" for the last ten months, but they had been warned that real-life villains have guns and knives. However, Brad had been insistent that fighting crime was his calling.

In Brad's basement, Nick questions the other two superheroes, Scott Hunt and Tina Ellis. The CSI tells them that what they're doing is borderline unlawful; furthermore, they don't have police training or the power to arrest anybody. He then asks them about the drawings in the sketch book. Scott and Tina identify the enemy gang as "The Disciples," a group that's been running wild in the area for the last month. One of the drawings includes a red pickup truck, and the superhero duo tells Nick that they found a guy arguing with a hooker. The superheroes intervened, and when the attacker tried to flee, Brad smashed the fender of the guy's truck. They're unable to identify the driver and claim that they haven't seen him since.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins notes the bruising and swelling on Brad's face; however, the injuries are consistent with a non-lethal beating. The cause of death is actually a single blow to the base of Brad's skull that essentially disconnected the brain stem from the brain. Greg figures that one of the attackers got carried away with the beating, but the doc says that the bruising and swelling took at least 60 minutes to develop. However, the brain stem injury was immediately fatal. Therefore, Brad was beaten up and left unconscious in the alley for at least an hour; someone came back later and killed him. The murder weapon is something similar to a bat or a club, and Greg shows Russell autopsy photos of bands on the back of Brad's neck. Russell recognizes the distinct markings and finds a comic book drawing of "Dominion" wielding a club with metal bands around it. It's possible Brad was killed with his own weapon, and since nothing was found at the crime scene, the killer may have taken it.

Hodges is able to figure out that the charred, ground-up walnut shells can be traced back to Sundip Pool Supply, a pool supply store. He explains to Morgan and Sara that ground walnut is used by sandblasters to clean pool tile, as the shells don't scratch the tile. The store had a fire about three weeks ago, which would explain why the shells were charred. Sara soon checks out the place, finding ground walnut all over the floor. A security guard told her that the only people allowed on the premises are a demolition company called Agrerro Demo and Hauling. The foreman, Tony Agrerro, just happens to drive a red pickup truck.

Finn, Nick, and some uniformed officers search the yard and find Tony's truck, which has a dented fender. They're soon alerted to a beeping noise, which they follow to a tractor trailer. The keys are still in the ignition and the engine is still warm, so something just occurred recently. Finn spots a large blood pool underneath the cab and they soon find Tony's body wedged between the cab and the semi-trailer.

Tool marks on one of the pulleys indicates that someone intentionally jammed the wench cable, and when Tony crawled into the gap to fix it, the killer pulled the lever and crushed him. Bruises on Tony's face appear to be relatively recent; based on David Phillips' estimate for when the injuries occurred, Tony was in the alley at the time of the brawl. Based on the bruises, the red pickup truck, and the walnut shells, Tony was definitely part of the gang that beat up Brad. It's assumed the rest of the gang was comprised of Tony's coworkers. David notices some odd scratch patterns on the back of the cab, and Finn notes that both Scott and Tina were wearing spiky armbands as part of their costumes. The time of death is put at around midnight, not long after Nick questioned the two superheroes about the red pickup truck.

Sara goes back to Brad's house and speaks with Tina. She accuses Tina of lying to Nick earlier about not knowing the driver of the truck, as Tony's name was plastered on the side it. Tina admits that she withheld the information, but denies any involvement in Tony's death. She claims to have been talking with Brad's mother through the night; however, Scott's whereabouts for the time of the murder are unknown. Sara looks over Scott's costume, finding red paint embedded in one of the spiked armbands and blood on one of his boots.

The shoe impressions from the alley all belong to members of Tony's crew. All four men are brought to the police station, and they all confess to beating up Brad in the alley on orders from Tony. Tony had a score to settle with the superheroes over the hooker and the damage to his truck. He somehow knew Brad would be walking home from work and staged the fight with Roger to lure Brad into the alley. However, all four members of the crew swear that Brad was alive when they left. As to why Tony would come back and finish the job, it's revealed that his mask was pulled off during the brawl. Since Brad saw his face and would be able to identify him later, Tony had to silence him. It's a solid theory, but Morgan discovers that all five men left the alley and went to a dive bar, which they never left until it closed. Someone else killed Brad.

Scott is located and brought into interrogation. Nick theorizes that Scott knew Tony killed Brad, so he went out to avenge his friend's death. Scott denies any involvement in Tony's death, but confesses to being in the yard after being presented with the evidence that he was there. He claims to have been looking for Tony and heard an engine running. When he checked it out, he found Tony dead and checked for his pulse, which would explain the scratch marks on the cab. However, Nick points out that the engine wasn't running when the CSIs found the body and that the keys were inside. Defeated, Scott decides to ask for a lawyer.

Scott's banded club is found and brought to the station as evidence. A guy was threatening a tourist with it, and Sara sees that the person in question is Roger, who is wearing a trash bag as a cape. Under interrogation, Roger tells Sara that the club makes him feel invincible. He says that he found the club in a dumpster. Sara wonders if Roger actually found the club near Brad's body and picked it up; however, when Brad awoke, a startled Roger struck him with the club. Roger denies this and continues to maintain that he found the club in a dumpster, remembering that he saw a "golden star" nearby.

Doc Robbins' autopsy report surprisingly says that Tony's death occurred as much as 18 hours earlier than David Phillips originally reported. This alibis Scott out, meaning the team is back to having two unsolved murders. Nick believes that David's estimate was so far off because the truck's engine was actually running, which kept the body warm. Tony's time of death now appears to have occurred shortly after Brad was killed in the alley, likely the first thing in the morning.

Hodges analyzes the club and finds traces of exotic spices on it that are used in Ethiopian cuisine. A quick check reveals that there's an Ethiopian restaurant just five blocks from the alley where Brad was found. When Finn and Nick search the alley next to the restaurant, they see that the logo is a golden star, just like Roger said. While the dumpster is empty, Nick spots a surveillance camera hidden in a corner.

Brad's stepfather, Seth, is seen on the surveillance camera ditching the club just minutes after Brad was killed. Phone records also indicate that he and Tony had a working relationship, speaking before and after Brad was beaten in the alley. Under interrogation, Seth tells Finn and Russell that his stepson was a 23-year-old who was dressing up in a costume. The plan was to scare him straight and make him stop.

He admits to going to a bar and complaining to the bartender about Brad's superhero fantasies. Tony just happened to be there and he overheard what Seth said. Because Brad was the one who dented his truck, Tony demanded that Seth pay the $700 for the repairs. When Seth jokingly said he would pay $1,000 if Tony and his men could teach Brad a lesson, Tony took him up on the offer. After the beating, Tony called Seth and told him that the deed was done; however, Seth began to worry when Brad never came home. After an hour, he went to the alley looking for his stepson.

In the alley, Seth found Brad beaten badly and told him that something like this might happen. However, as the two prepared to go home, Seth accidentally mentioned that a gang was involved. Knowing that Seth knew exactly where he was and that a gang was responsible, Brad put two and two together. He knew his stepfather set him up and he threatened to tell his mother exactly what happened. To prevent this from happening, Seth took the club and wrapped Brad in the back of the head.

Seth insists that he's not a killer, but the body of Tony Agrerro says otherwise. He admits to meeting Tony the following morning to pay him the money; however, upon hearing of Brad's death, Tony tried to blackmail Seth. Seth decided to sabotage the winch cable on the truck when Tony wasn't looking and crushed him - "just a matter of throwing a lever," he says. Russell asks him to repeat how he's not a killer.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

  • Larry Mitchell as Officer Mitchell
  • Quincy Brown as Trey Preach
  • Levi Fiehler as Brad Jeffries
  • Greg Finley as Scott Hunt / Male Superhero
  • Leif Gantvoort as Seth
  • Joseph Patrick Kelly as Officer Metcalfe
  • Christopher May as Homeless Man / Roger
  • Dale Pavinski as Tony Agrerro / Alley Lead Thug
  • Ely Pouget as Carla Jeffries
  • Tania Raymonde as Tina Ellis / Female Superhero

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


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