Monster in the Box
Season 7
Number 16
Writer Naren Shankar,
Douglas Petrie
Director Jeffrey Hunt
Original Airdate February 15, 2007
Previous Episode: Law of Gravity
Next Episode: Fallen Idols

Monster in the Box is the sixteenth episode in Season Seven of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


Grissom returns to work after his sabbatical only to find a gruesome present from the Miniature Killer: a miniature of a murder due to happen within just a few days.


Victim: Barbara Tallman (alive—targeted by killer)

On the case: Entire team

Grissom opens the package that had been sitting on his desk since he left for sabbatical and finds that it contains a fourth miniature crime scene. In the layout room, he and Catherine look over the model, which shows a white Caucasian female lying face up on a couch. Based on the number of books in the model, they think that the scene could be someone's living room, an office, or a modern hotel lobby. Catherine says that they caught the miniature killer, Ernie Dell, and Grissom remembers watching him kill himself. Grissom notes that the first three models were left at the crime scenes; however, this one was directly addressed to him. When he uses a magnifying glass on the tiny newspaper in the model, he sees that the date is the day after tomorrow—the murder hasn't happened yet.

While Grissom photographs the newest model, Nick, Sara and Warrick watch Ernie's video confession again. Sara, who has intricate knowledge of the murders, tells them that Ernie was either directly or indirectly related to each case. Nick asks if Ernie had an accomplice or apprentice, but Sara notes that each model takes weeks to recreate and that not many people have that type of focus. There's also no copycat killer, as information about the models was never released to the press. Sara guesses that Ernie took the rap for the murders and killed himself because he was protecting someone he cared a lot about.

Catherine relays that the DNA lab is going over the package and the wrapping paper, but Grissom knows better—nothing will be found. The package's return address comes back to an empty lot, giving the team another dead end. As Grissom goes through the model, he finds blue smudges on a miniature pillow that are similar to smudges on the victim's face. He and Catherine guess that the killer plans on suffocating the victim with a pillow while she sleeps on the couch. Neatly arranged books seem to indicate the victim is well-educated. Grissom spots a miniature photo of Izzy Delancey on the bookshelf and removes it. On the back of the photo, he finds a picture of the bloody doll along with something that looks like brushstrokes. Under a UV light, the word "YOU" is revealed. Grissom removes the other two photos from the model that contain the bloody doll. When they're all put under the UV light, the message reads "YOU WERE WRONG."

Greg and Sara go through Ernie's personal effects, finding a stack of home movies on VHS in one of the boxes. Sara asks about Ernie's next of kin, and Greg says that he was only able to find that he was a widower.

Grissom examines the model further and discovers a miniature cat hiding behind the bookshelf. This would seem to indicate that the model is someone's house, not an office or hotel lobby. Due to the white stains painted around the cat's mouth, Grissom gets the thought that both the victim and cat might be poisoned and notes the tea set on the coffee table. Since the previous murders had to do with victims' habits, it's possible the killer might slip something in the tea. Grissom spots two take-out flyers on the coffee table, as well. He's able to find out where the places deliver and discovers that the delivery routes for the two places intersect in a certain neighborhood.

Nick and Warrick canvass that neighborhood looking for a building exterior that looks exactly like the model. They eventually find the building and are directed to the apartment of Barbara Tallman. When they approach the door, they hear loud music from inside. Upon forcing their way inside, they find that Barbara is alive; however, she seems to be a bit loopy. After being startled, Barbara introduces herself as a doctor. She confirms that she takes a nap every day at 4:00 PM and has cookies and tea afterwards. Nick and Warrick have her get dressed and come down to the station, wondering whether she's already been poisoned because of the way she's acting.

Greg and Sara go over the VHS tapes with Archie. One tape shows Ernie and his presumed wife getting on a small train with a large group of children. Another one shows a boy sitting at the head of a table with a birthday cake in front of him. They note that there was no record that Ernie had a son. There are five candles on the cake; since the video was recorded in 1988, they're looking at someone who would be approximately 24 years old now. The boy shoves the cake off the table when he's unable to blow out the candles and Ernie goes to console him. The cake never made it on camera, so they're unable to get the boy's name. Archie tells them that he can't really process the old VHS tape cleanly, meaning that he can't get clean audio from it.

Nick informs Grissom that the tox panel on Barbara came back completely clean. Grissom says that although he's not positive Barbara is going to be poisoned, he's sure she is supposed to die. He adds that the killer was at the scene in each of the other murders. Thinking that the killer will show up again, they set a trap for him.

Officer Kamen of the LVPD acts as a stand-in for Barbara and lies on the couch in the apartment with a pillow over her face. They put a surveillance camera in the apartment, and Sofia watches it from the next room. Brass sits in the lobby screening those who enter the building. One man enters the building, goes up to Barbara's floor and walks to her door. When accosted by Sofia and some officers, he reveals himself to be Barbara's brother, Peyton. Hours later, with no killer in sight, Sofia goes to relieve Officer Kamen of her duties. However, upon removing the pillow from the Officer Kamen's face, she finds her dead. Grissom later arrives on the scene, looks behind the bookcase, and finds the cat dead, as well.

Brass speaks with Barbara and Peyton. When asked why anyone would want to kill Barbara, Peyton replies that his sister is a retired, highly-regarded psychotherapist who counseled a lot of at-risk adults and halfway house kids. Barbara denies that any of her patients are killers and refuses to say if she treated anyone with the last name Dell. After Barbara becomes a little hostile, Brass apologizes and starts over. He shows her photos of the miniature crime scenes and asks what kind of person they're looking for. When she looks over the photos, the middle two fingers on left hand awkwardly curl. She tells Brass that their killer is obsessive-compulsive and antisocial. While most killers act on impulse and have an inability to plan ahead, she says that this one is different. She elaborates by saying that the models indicate repressed rage that has been "let out of the box."

Grissom cuts open the victim in the model and removes a pair of miniature lungs filled with a gas. The gas is identified as carbon monoxide, but Grissom is unsure as to how it got into the room. As he watches the surveillance video of Officer Kamen on the couch, he notices the fire in the fireplace flare up. When he checks the miniature fireplace using a scope, he sees a timer attached to the flue. Nick and Warrick find the same device in the fireplace in Barbara's apartment. They conclude that the timer was rigged to go off, activating a motor that closed the flue. Powdered charcoal was then dumped onto the fire, producing carbon monoxide. The gas had nowhere to go but out into the apartment and, eventually, into Officer Kamen and the cat. Nick points out that the whole setup could've been rigged a month in advance. Grissom replies that the killer felt safe enough to send the model because he never intended to be at the scene and, therefore, was in no danger of being caught.

Greg finds out that Ernie listed a beneficiary on his Mannleigh Chicken health insurance policy—a son, Lionel. Lionel changed his name to Mitch Douglas when he turned 18 in order to distance himself from his family. He also did time in a halfway house after getting busted for fentanyl, which would connect him with Penny Garden. Sara visits Lionel at his place of work and shows him photos of the victims from the past cases; he only recognizes Izzy because of his music. He tells Sara that he had a horrible relationship with his father when he was alive and stops talking after being told that he isn't under arrest.

Grissom looks over the model of Barbara's apartment and tells Sofia that it's incomplete, as Barbara didn't end up being the victim—that is, until he gets a call telling him that she's been found dead on her couch. Catherine and Nick process the apartment. They find water splashed onto Barbara's pants, as well as some in her ear. Catherine guesses that the killer knocked over the vase on the coffee table during the murder and put it back before he left.

Peyton speaks to the press and comes forward with information about the so-called "Miniature Killer" and that the police have been withholding information from the public. Hodges, who has been watching the newscast with Grissom, tells him that the water found on Barbara's clothing is consistent with the water in the vase. The water contains bleach, which helps gives flowers a long life if added to the water correctly.

Greg finds that Barbara did pro bono work at Lionel's halfway house. Under interrogation, Lionel admits to having met Barbara before. Sara accuses him of the murders and guesses that his father found out about them and killed himself to protect his son. Lionel tells Sara and Sofia that his father cared about his wife, his trains and his "kids." He reveals that his parents took in dozens of foster children over the years until his mother died and says that his father wouldn't have taken a bullet for him.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins informs Catherine that Barbara's cause of death was asphyxiation. Abnormalities in her brain show that she had advanced Parkinson's disease and was on heavy medication. The doc adds that those medications could cause abnormal thinking and behavior.

Catherine tells Grissom that the fluid in Barbara's ear was actually biological and unrelated to the bleach water on her clothing. Since there were no tear tracks on the pillow that killed Barbara, Catherine's guess is that the killer was crying. This brings them back to Peyton, who admits to Catherine that Parkinson's disease robbed his sister of her life. Barbara had told him that this was the perfect opportunity to end her life and blame the "Miniature Killer." Catherine tells Peyton that, while she sympathizes with him, there's no assisted suicide protection in Nevada. Peyton is arrested for his sister's murder.

Grissom and Sara watch the VHS of Ernie, his wife, and the foster children riding the train. She counts 13 children in this one tape, and that is only from this one event. She also notes that getting the adoption records will be difficult and that a lot of foster kids change their names upon reaching adulthood. Grissom states that Ernie Dell killed himself to protect someone he loved and that someone has murdered four people.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

Episode Title[]

  • The episode title is two-fold. Grissom receives a package/box containing a miniature crime scene. Additionally, Barbara Tallman tells Brass that the killer they're looking for has a repressed rage—when the rage finally escapes, she says, "the monster will have been let out of the box."


Sofia (about the deceased police officer): I was watching her die and I didn't even realize it.
Grissom: Look, Sofia, there weren't any carbon monoxide sensors in the apartment so no one could have known. And in fact if I hadn't gone away we would have had another month to work with; you would have never been in that position.
Sofia: But it doesn't make you feel any better either, does it? (Grissom shakes his head slightly. There's a long pause) You know the scene has been released, Ms. Tallman was pretty insistent. They offered to leave a uniform with her but she wasn't having it. (pause) So what are you looking for? The miniature's complete.
Grissom: It's not perfect though. Officer Kamen was not the intended victim.
Sofia: Well she was dressed like her, she died in the right position, so did the cat.
Grissom: I'm still not sure it's perfect enough. (the phone rings, Grissom answers) Grissom. Yeah. (pause) Okay. (puts the phone down) Now it's perfect.


  • At the end of the episode, Grissom states that the Miniature Killer has murdered five people, but they have actually only killed four people so far: Izzy Delancey, Penny Garden, Raymundo Suarez and Officer Kamen. In this episode. Barbara Tallman was suffocated by her brother.


  • Wade in the Water by Eva Cassidy


  • The miniature paper is dated February 17, 2007. Catherine states that it is dated "the day after tomorrow" which made the current day February 15, 2007, the date of the original airing.
  • Grissom mentions watching Ernie Dell kill himself on video. This occurred in the episode Loco Motives.
  • Nick questions whether the miniature killer had an accomplice or apprentice, similar to the Blue Paint Killer.
  • When Grissom remarks that killers evolve, Catherine recalls Michael Keppler saying something similar. In the episode Sweet Jane, Keppler stated that "methods evolve. Practice makes perfect."


  • The attempt on Barbara's life is inspired by the case of Ava Gawronski. One of her patients, William John Clark, tried to kill her in a house fire, but instead disfigured her and killed her husband David.

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 7
Built to Kill, Part 1Built to Kill, Part 2Toe TagsFannysmackin'Double CrossBurn OutPost MortemHappenstanceLiving LegendLoco MotivesLeaving Las VegasSweet JaneRedrumMeet MarketLaw of GravityMonster in the BoxFallen IdolsEmpty EyesBig ShotsLab RatsEnding HappyLeapin' LizardsThe Good, The Bad, And The DominatrixLiving Doll