House of Hoarders
House of Hoarders
Season 11
Number 5
Writer Christopher Barbour
Director Alec Smight
Original Airdate October 21, 2010
Previous Episode: Sqweegel
Next Episode: Cold Blooded

House of Hoarders is the fifth episode in Season Eleven of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


Nick accidentally stumbles upon a badly decomposing dead body in the home of a mother with a severe hoarding disorder, but that's only the first of a number of grisly surprises the team finds in the house.


Victim: Diana Santiago (deceased)

On the case: Greg Sanders, Nick Stokes, Raymond Langston, Sara Sidle, Jim Brass

Officers Akers and Mitchell are called to the house of Marta Santiago, which seems to be a seemingly common occurrence. When Officer Akers kicks down the front door, it barely moves, as it's blocked by a tower of garbage. They notice a smell coming from inside that's likely a dead body, leading them to call the CSI team to the house.

Nick and Sara arrive on the scene and enter through the back door. They make their way through more piles of garbage—Marta is a hoarder. As they get deeper into the house, they come across dead cats and live rats. Nick eventually steps in something—a dead body. He's now part of the evidence. Their assumption is that the body is Marta.

Greg arrives to help and makes his way through the house towards Sara. As he does so, someone yells for them to leave the house. It's actually Marta, who is still alive, much to the surprise of Greg and Sara. Sara identifies herself, walks through more garbage, and eventually finds Marta sitting in a room. Marta is upset at both her intruders and the fact that her house is eventually going to be taken away from her. Sara comforts her and reaches her hand out, telling her that she needs to see something. When Marta sees the body, she recognizes it as her daughter, Diana, from the dress she's wearing. As she grieves the loss of her daughter, she yells at Nick to put down a pillow, as everything needs to be left in the same spot. Sara tries to put Marta at ease and encourages Nick to drop the pillow, which he bags as evidence after Marta leaves the room.

The body is eventually removed from the house and brought to autopsy. Doc Robbins identifies the victim as being in her early 20s and tells Langston that she was dead in the house for at least five to seven days. The cause of death is labeled as epidural hematoma; she suffered a single blow to the head from something that appears to have had a barcode on it.

Back at the house, Greg finds a family photo that shows three kids in the family, something Sara says the case file also mentioned. Sara wonders if they're even looking at a homicide. When Nick comments at the mess in the house and theorizes that something in there is the murder weapon (even the house itself), Sara gives him a look. Sara soon spots a trail of blood drops that dissipate into one of the rooms. She and Nick spray the floor with luminol, but it reacts with the cat urine and other chemicals in the house. As they make their way through the house spraying hydrogen peroxide on everything (it foams up when reacting with blood), they find a room that looks like it was in the process of being cleaned. Nick theorizes that Diana came over to clean up, which infuriated her mother. Marta then struck her daughter, killing her. Sara once again glares at Nick and tells him that he's getting ahead of the evidence.

They're interrupted by someone outside yelling at the police. It's Marta's son, Julian, who is upset that there are people in his house. Sara steps outside and tells him that there's a dead body in the house that's likely Diana. Julian tells her that he last spoke to Diana a week ago after they got word that their mother was being forced to clean out the house. When asked about his other sister, Alisa, he says that he hasn't spoken to her in quite a while.

While Marta sits in custody, Langston speaks with her case worker, Dr. Priscilla Prescott. Dr. Prescott says that Marta is a hoarder, but not a murderer. In fact, outside the house, Marta functions normally, keeping herself well-groomed and having a job. Dr. Prescott believes that Marta's hoarding is about safeguarding memories; everything in the house has some kind of sentimental value to her. When asked how Marta could ignore her daughter's dead body in the house, Dr. Prescott says that she could be suffering from "clutter blindness," which would allow her to live in the house with the body indefinitely.

Langston and Dr. Prescott question Marta, who claims to not remember what happened the week before. However, when Dr. Prescott goes to throw away a pen, Marta remembers every significant detail about it. Langston shows her photos that the CSIs have taken in the house. She says that blood on a grandfather clock is Diana's and that she was hit accidentally by a stack of books. Diana had come over to help clean the house, something Marta was clearly against. While cleaning up, Diana "found something." Marta wanted her daughter to stop and the next thing she knew, Diana was bleeding. However, Marta claims that Diana said she was OK and eventually left the house. When asked what Diana found, Marta refuses to answer and asks to go home.

As Greg, Nick and Sara continue to process the house, they bump into a loaded shotgun, which goes off. As they laugh it off, Greg finds a skeleton under another pile of garbage. Based on the makeup of the skeleton, Nick concludes that the victim is a male. The wrists were bound with ribbon, but the victim appears to have been tied up in the front of his body. They wonder if the skeleton is Marta's husband, who died ten years ago. Nick once again comments on the crime scene, upset that a person could do this. Sara reminds him that he's talking about a woman who has clearly been through something traumatic. Nick questions whether the hoarding could be a cover for a killer, something Sara denies. She and Nick clearly have different viewpoints, and she offers to head back to the police station to process Marta.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins tells Langston that the skeleton belongs to a Caucasian male between 15 and 17 years old. There are no apparent injuries to the bones, nor are there any tool marks or fractures. Thinking that the victim could've died via overdose, they extract bone marrow from the leg. From the bone marrow, Henry identifies the victim's cause of death as arsenic poisoning, and he ingested a large amount of it at once.

Meanwhile, Sara tells Marta that she's being booked; however, Marta won't hear of it and wants to go home. Sara changes her tone, reaches out her hand and calmly gets Marta to walk over to have her fingernails scraped for evidence. Later, at the house, Sara tells Greg that Nick doesn't get what's going on—Marta is sick and something happened that caused her to become the way she is.

Langston visits the house with Dr. Prescott, who still believes that Marta is incapable of violence. Dr. Prescott says that hoarders like Marta have a system, and she organizes her world visually and spatially by stacking boxes and items. Langston tells Nick that they might be able to find what they're looking for if they learn how to read the rooms and see how Marta was categorizing her belongings. Dr. Prescott finds storage boxes and notes that they weren't there when she last visited the house a few months back. The items appear to have been pushed in from the hallway, and it seems that Marta was shifting her possessions from one side of the house to the other, putting them in "time capsules." Interestingly, all of the items belong to Alisa. Langston makes his way down a hallway to Alisa's room; when he opens the door, he finds that it's completely clean, save for a mattress. Dr. Prescott is at a loss for why the room would be clean; however, Nick believes they're going to find Alisa's body somewhere in the house.

Sara taps on the bedroom window and tells everyone to come outside—three more skeletons have been uncovered in the backyard, and all of them have had their wrists bound with ribbon and tied in front of them. From the looks of the skeletons, Langston guesses that they're all males, which means Alisa is still unaccounted for.

Three of the four skeletons found thus far (one inside the house, two outside) belong to teenage boys who were in the U.S. Directory of Missing Persons database. The cause of death on all four victims is identified as acute arsenic poisoning, and Sara learns that the three identified victims were referred to the Avenues of Care Halfway House—and that the director is Julian Santiago.

Sara and Brass interrogate Julian and show him the photos of the skeletons. They've found out that Alisa also volunteered at the halfway house and was popular with the boys, which likely upset Julian. Brass theorizes that Julian killed the boys and used his sick mother to help him bury his crimes. Sara adds that Alisa's phone number, which Julian provided earlier, has been disconnected for four months and that she's six months behind on her rent. Julian clams up and asks for a lawyer.

Langston and Nick search Alisa's room, finding no evidence of blood or fluids. It appears that if Alisa was killed, it wasn't in this room. Langston notes that Marta cleaned the room out for a reason, putting everything out in the hallway into the time capsules. As they make their way down the hallway, they find that the items in the boxes correspond with Alisa's life in reverse (graduation -> prom -> quinceañera). They reach another door that, when opened, reveals another room filled with boxes. When Langston pulls some boxes down, he finds Alisa handcuffed and gagged. Alisa is amazingly still alive and startles the CSIs as she comes to.

In the hospital, Alisa is initially reluctant to tell Nick who chained her up, but eventually reveals that it was her mother. Back at the house, Greg and Langston process the room Alisa was being held in, with Langston believing that Alisa was held there for quite a while. Sara enters in shock at the latest revelation in the case, but believes that something isn't adding up.

Greg recovers a serial number from the handcuffs and finds that they were purchased from a gun shop by Julian. Nick dismisses this evidence, as Julian has a carry permit due to his work with juvenile offenders. He tells Sara that all of the evidence points to Marta—the only prints on the handcuffs belonged to Alisa and Marta, and the scrapings collected from Marta's nails match the talcum power and lotion next to Alisa's bed. Sara still believes that Julian is the guilty party and has been dominating his mother. This leads to an argument between Nick and Sara regarding their perspectives and opinions about the case. Langston convinces them to look at the evidence they have, which includes the accidental death of Diana. Sara offers to speak with Marta again, as they seem to have a connection. However, Nick jumps in and tells her that's not happening. He's unable to question Marta, though, as Julian gets her a lawyer.

Langston and Nick go through the crime scene photos. They note that they never found the source of the arsenic, nor did they find the red ribbon used to tie the boys' wrists. Based on the tears in the ribbon, Langston believes that the killer tore it with their teeth, meaning that the ribbon came from the same roll. Greg and Sara search the house and eventually find the roll of ribbon—along with several bottles of rat poison.

Fingerprints from the bottles of rat poison and DNA from the ribbon come back to a surprise killer—Alisa. She had seduced the boys at the halfway house, poisoned them, and buried them in the backyard. When her mother caught her dragging a body out of the house, she chained her up in the room to prevent her from causing any more damage. Langston tells Alisa that her mother chained her up to protect her from herself, something Alisa doesn't believe. She also thinks she can be found innocent because she's "sick."

Sara and Julian have been watching the interrogation from behind the glass. Julian believes that his mother's insanity turned Alisa into a monster, but Sara responds that Alisa is a predator, something Marta couldn't have prevented. Julian isn't so sure, but Sara tells him that her mother was schizophrenic and killed her father one night in his sleep. She turned out OK, just like Julian has. Both Julian and Alisa grew up in the same house, but took different paths in life. Sara tells him that the district attorney won't prosecute Marta if she agrees to get some help.

Sara gives Marta her possessions back and tells her that Julian will be taking her home. As Marta leaves, she says that she tried to be a good mother, something Sara knows is true.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

Episode Title[]

  • The title is a take on the phrase "house of horrors."


  • Marg Helgenberger (Catherine) and Wallace Langham (Hodges) are credited but do not appear in the episode.
  • Sara reveals that her mother was schizophrenic and killed her husband (Sara's father) one night in his sleep.


  • Alisa is inspired by two killers: Mary Bell, a British serial killer of two boys with the assistant of an accomplice, becoming a sociopath due to the abuse of her mother; and Polly Bartlett, the only purported serial killer in Wyoming history. She took high-risk men into her family's inn, got them drunk, seduced them, and fed them meals poisoned with arsenic before burying them on her property. She was reportedly responsible for over 20 murders, with her father as an accomplice.

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 11
Shock WavesPool SharkBlood MoonSqweegelHouse of HoardersCold BloodedBump and GrindFrackedWild Life418/427Man UpA Kiss Before FryingThe Two Mrs. GrissomsAll That CremainsTargets of ObsessionTurn On, Tune In, Drop DeadThe ListHitting for the CycleUnleashedFather of the BrideCello and GoodbyeIn a Dark, Dark House