Invisible Evidence
Season 4
Number 7
Writer Josh Berman
Director Danny Cannon
Original Airdate November 13, 2003
Previous Episode: Jackpot
Next Episode: After the Show

Invisible Evidence is the seventh episode in Season Four of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


During a preliminary trial for the rape and murder of a 19-year-old woman, the crucial evidence, a bloodied knife, is discarded because it was secured from the defendant's car without a warrant. With only 24 hours left before court has to let him walk, the team pools their resources together in an attempt to find other evidence that can place the defendant behind bars.


Victim: Rachel Lyford (deceased)

On the case: Entire team

In the courtroom of Judge Brenner, Warrick is on the stand testifying. He identifies a bloody knife he found in a car belonging to the defendant, Michael Fife. The knife has the blood of rape and murder victim Rachel Lyford on it; she lived in the same apartment complex as Michael. However, it's revealed that Warrick searched the car without securing a search warrant, making the knife and towel it is wrapped in inadmissible in court. The judge grants the CSIs 24 hours to come up with additional evidence in the case, or else Michael walks.

Sheriff Rory Atwater pays the lab a visit and speaks to Grissom in his office. He tells Grissom that perception is everything and that he will tell the media in a press conference that Grissom and his team are under the microscope. Meanwhile, in the conference room, the team goes over their cases—Michael Fife was pulled over for a broken taillight, whereupon it was discovered that he had an outstanding warrant for marijuana. Warrick searched the car and found the bloody knife and towel under one of the seats. The blood matched evidence from a case Catherine was working on—the rape and murder of 19-year-old Rachel Lyford. She adds that no prints or DNA were found at Rachel's crime scene. Grissom interrupts and says that Michael's car is being towed back to the CSI garage and has Nick and Sara search it for anything else that may be tied to the case. He mentions that the bloody knife and towel are "invisible evidence"—the jury will never hear about them.

Warrick speaks to Doc Robbins and looks over Rachel's autopsy photos. She was stabbed several times in the upper torso and neck, with the fatal stab being to the left side of the neck. Rachel was raped, but no semen was found. Doc Robbins notes that, based on abrasions, there was something around Rachel's neck that was removed. There was also a foreign substance found on her wrist, which David Phillips tells Warrick was flaky, like the glaze on a doughnut. He sent a sample of it to trace; however, David Hodges has no results back yet. Brass stops Warrick in the hall and tells him Rachel's sister Rita stopped by the department wanting to know the whereabouts of a silver chain that wasn't in Rachel's personal effects. The chain had her father's army dog tags on it and the family wants it back. Warrick shows Brass the autopsy photo of the abrasion around Rachel's neck and they guess that the killer took a souvenir.

Evidence from Rachel's apartment is laid out. Grissom lifts fingerprints from a beer bottle found in the garbage in her kitchen; he tells Warrick that it was the only bottle of its kind found in the apartment. Warrick offers to lend a hand and notes that the bloody knife came from a set that looks like the knives laid out on the table. Grissom guesses that the knife was a weapon of opportunity. Warrick finds an odd substance on Rachel's bloody bed sheets and tells Grissom that a similar substance was found on Rachel's wrist. Grissom believes that the substance doesn't belong in either place.

Catherine revisits Rachel's apartment with a uniformed officer. They know the killer used a condom, but Catherine states that she checked the wastebasket and didn't find one. However, she grabs the ALS and finds a semen stain on the toilet handle, indicating that the killer flushed the condom down the toilet.

Auto detail brought Michael's car to the garage, only it has been almost completely flattened. Nick and Sara are able to re-inflate the car to something resembling its original shape. Sara finds a parking placard belonging to the apartment complex both Michael and Rachel live in. Nick finds a white fiber with a blood stain on it and notes that while the towel is inadmissible in court, the thread is fair game. Meanwhile, Jacqui Franco informs Warrick that the print Grissom lifted from the beer bottle is a match to Michael Fife. This is big, as Warrick says that Michael denied being in Rachel's apartment during the pretrial interview.

Warrick and Brass speak to Michael and his attorney. They let them in on the fact that bloody fibers were found in Michael's car and that the blood came back to Rachel. Michael mentions that he only knew Rachel casually and would say hello when he saw her, but nothing more. Brass also mentions the beer bottle with Michael's prints on it; however, Michael explains that there was a party in the apartment courtyard the night before and that he discarded an empty beer bottle in a random trashcan. Michael, tired of the questions and accusations, angrily says that he doesn't know who killed Rachel or how the knife got in his car. He also claims that he didn't know he had a busted taillight until Officer Hal Watson pulled him over.

Rita Lyford stops by the police station looking for Warrick and asking about information on the lab's progress; however, a stressed-out Warrick blows her off. Nick is able to calm Rita down and provide assurance that he and his colleagues are doing everything they can to keep Michael behind bars. This leads to an argument between Nick and Warrick, with Nick upset about Warrick's apathetic approach and Warrick not liking Nick's empathy angle.

Hodges informs Grissom that the substance on Rachel's wrist and on the bed sheets are a match. They're a type of wax with a low melting point that he has been unable to identify so far. Meanwhile, Catherine, Warrick and Greg discover that the semen found on the toilet handle is inconsistent with Michael Fife's DNA. It's possible they have the wrong suspect.

In the break room, the team is once again going over all of the evidence they've come across in the case. Sara wonders if the semen from the toilet handle could've come from another one of Rachel's sexual encounters, while Nick says that wouldn't necessarily rule out that Michael raped Rachel. Catherine points out that the semen found was a drop, not a smear, indicating that it belongs to the person who last flushed the toilet. They question how the knife could've gotten into Michael's car, and Warrick relays that Michael lives alone and there were no signs of forced entry into his vehicle. Grissom sums things up by saying that they have no evidence that ties Michael to either rape or murder, even if the invisible evidence (the knife) is included. The wax is still unidentified, but if it's found on the knife and it ties to another suspect, the knife is back in play as evidence. Grissom gets interrupted by a visit from Sheriff Atwater, but he refuses to let him in on the progress of the investigation.

Nick looks over the knife again and finds a substance on it, which he scrapes off and collects. Meanwhile, Grissom walks in on Sara as she's looking over the bed sheet. They recreate the crime with Sara surmising that the killer laid on top of Rachel while he killed her, then used his hands as leverage to get up. This explains the transfer of wax from the killer to the sheets.

The wax recovered from the scene turns out to be Axion car wax, which Grissom notes is industrial grade and sold to car washes for commercial use only. Warrick points out that Michael Fife is an electrician, so he wouldn't come into contact with car wax in his line of work. Catherine, Grissom and Warrick know that if they ask Michael where he gets his car washed, his lawyer will know that the CSIs are looking in another direction. In turn, Michael's lawyer will petition the judge for his client's immediate release. As they contemplate what to do, Warrick believes that they should follow the evidence, even if it means letting Michael walk.

Warrick and Brass interrogate Michael again and have him go through every detail of his life from the party to the time he was arrested. Michael recounts that he drank at the party, passed out, went to work the next day, then came back home. He was called to another job; on the way, he stopped at a car wash a block from his apartment. Brass asks Michael if the car wash attendant mentioned the broken taillight; Michael says no and is surprised that it wasn't pointed out to him. His lawyer, who sees that the focus of the investigation has shifted, puts an end to the questioning.

Catherine, Warrick and a uniformed officer visit the car wash. Warrick tells Catherine that the manager didn't recognize Michael Fife from a picture lineup. Catherine begins to think that Michael's taillight was intact when it entered the car wash and someone working there smashed the light and stashed the knife inside the car. The killer would then be banking on Michael being pulled over for the broken taillight and the knife being found. She points out that the light fragments probably fell into the drain. The manager tells them that the drain has a filter that catches just about everything that falls into it. Fortunately for the CSIs, the filter hasn't been cleaned in about a month. In the filter, Catherine finds broken taillight pieces. After confirming that two cars can't hit each other inside the car wash, they know that the light was broken on purpose at that location.

All male car wash attendants are called to the police station to submit a DNA sample. One of the guys, Gary Quinn, tells Catherine that he has to use the bathroom. After his cheek is swabbed, Gary is escorted to the bathroom by Officer Akers. On his way out, Warrick notices that Gary is wearing a silver chain around his neck.

Gary is questioned in interrogation. He denies knowing Rachel, but Catherine informs him and his lawyer that the semen found on the toilet handle in Rachel's apartment was a match to Gary. He changes his story and says that he knew "a Rachel," but he didn't know her last name. Gary claims that he went to her apartment to wax her car one morning since doing so comes with a discount. After waxing Rachel's car, he says that she came onto him and let him in her apartment. Catherine doesn't believe this story. A flashback shows a nervous Rachel paying Gary for the wax job, but Gary forced his way into her apartment and attacked her.

Catherine guesses that Gary realized after raping Rachel that she had his name and where he worked; therefore, he had to kill her in order to keep her quiet. Gary then went to work at the car wash, hiding the knife on his person. When Michael's car came through, he noticed the parking permit from the apartment complex and knew that he lived in the same complex as Rachel. He broke the taillight and hid the knife in the car. When shown the dog tags that belonged to Rachel's father, Gary responds that Rachel gave them to him. However, Warrick noticed that Gary was wearing the dog tags when he went to the bathroom, but didn't have them on when he came back. Warrick searched the bathroom and found the tags in one of the toilet tanks. He shows Gary the autopsy photos and tells him the abrasions show that the dog tags were ripped from around Rachel's neck.

Back in court, Gary Quinn is now the defendant. Warrick recaps the case and, this time, he gets no questions thrown back at him. The judge declares that there is enough evidence to have Gary stand trial for the rape and murder of Rachel Lyford and attempted frame-up of Michael Fife. Sheriff Atwater appears after things have wrapped up and asks Warrick to join him for the press conference.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Xander Berkeley as Sheriff Rory Atwater
  • Wallace Langham as David Hodges
  • Romy Rosemont as Jacqui Franco
  • James Patrick Stuart as Adam Matthews
  • David Berman as David Phillips
  • Palmer Davis as Attorney Margaret Finn
  • Victoria Prescott as Judy Tremont.
  • Larry Sullivan as Officer Akers
  • Erik Jensen as A.D.A. Jeffrey Sinclair
  • Christian Camargo as Michael Fife
  • Lochlyn Munro as Officer Hal Watson
  • James Marshall as Gary Quinn
  • Kayren Butler as Rita Lyford
  • Michael Ensign as Judge Brenner
  • Autumn Reeser as Rachel Lyford
  • J.D. Crew as Michael (uncredited)

Major Events[]

  • Sheriff Rory Atwater is introduced for the first time.

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 4
Assume NothingAll For Our CountryHomebodiesFeeling the HeatFur and LoathingJackpotInvisible EvidenceAfter the ShowGrissom Versus the VolcanoComing of RageEleven Angry JurorsButterfliedSuckersPaper or PlasticEarly RolloutGetting OffXXBad To The BoneBad WordsDead RingerTurn of the ScrewsNo More BetsBloodlines