Shooting Stars
Season 6
Number 4
Writer Danny Cannon
Director Danny Cannon
Original Airdate October 13, 2005
Previous Episode: Bite Me
Next Episode: Gum Drops

Shooting Stars is the fourth episode in Season Six of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


The CSIs are called in when a homeowner finds a disheveled group of teenagers dumping a body in his yard. It's soon discovered that the group is a cult, but when Grissom and Catherine find the cult's headquarters, they find the members all dead from what appears to be a mass suicide. As the team investigates further, they find out that the mass suicide didn't go as the cult leader planned.


Victims: Ty Bentley, Copeland family dog (both deceased)

On the case: Entire team

Mr. and Mrs. Copeland are awakened by the barking of their dog, who is chained up in the backyard. As Mr. Copeland sits up in bed, he hears a noise coming from downstairs. He grabs a gun from the nightstand, tells his wife to call the police, and slowly makes his way to the kitchen. There, he finds someone raiding the refrigerator. He chases the intruder out of the house; in the backyard, he finds at least ten more people standing there, all dirty and dressed in shabby clothes. As the group runs off, Mr. Copeland chases after them and trips over a dead body on the ground.

David Phillips finds no wallet or ID on the victim. The time of death is placed at 12 hours before, and the victim has a broken nose and cheekbone. There's also a piece missing from the victim's shirt. Based on the lack of blood, Catherine guesses that this was a body dump. She sees a second sheet near the house; Brass tells her that it's the family dog and that the group probably slipped it something. Brass walks over to Grissom, who is staring up at the night sky watching the Orionid meteor shower. Grissom points out all of the footprints and says that the group came and went from the same direction.

Brass identifies the intruder's point of entry by observing a slit in the screen door to the kitchen. Sara dusts the refrigerator for prints and finds some sticky prints on the handle. Outside, Warrick makes plaster casts of the footprints and finds 12 distinct prints. Meanwhile, in autopsy, Doc Robbins tells Nick that the victim had numerous broken bones, lacerations, and contusions that occurred before death.

Outside of the house, Grissom looks over the vast expanse of the desert. Catherine joins him and notes that the nearest town is Pahrump, which is 30 miles away. Knowing that the group of people had to have come from somewhere, Grissom starts walking into the desert. Catherine joins him, but not before radioing Brass and filling him on what they're doing. As they walk through the desert, they find several shoe impressions along with parallel drag marks. Combined with the scuff marks on the toes of the victim's shoes, the assumption is that the group dragged him to the Copeland residence. Catherine finds a candy wrapper stuck in a tree and bags it, noting the group's affinity for junk food. A little while later, they see a column of black smoke rising in the air; when they reach it, they find a burnt car. Evidence shows that someone stuck a Molotov cocktail in the gas tank.

Grissom hears something that sounds like a motor running. They soon come across a building that Grissom guesses could've been used as an observation post to monitor nuclear tests. As he starts making his way towards the entrance, Catherine tells him not to go without backup. Brass calls Catherine's phone; however, Catherine can only provide a general location before the call drops due to a poor signal. Grissom presents two choices: they can either go back or move forward. Catherine draws her gun and they go inside. They make their way past graffiti-covered walls to the bottom of the building. There, they find 11 people lying dead in cots; empty water bottles sit on the floor at the base of the cots. One of the cots is empty, and Grissom thinks that it could've been meant for the victim they found earlier. They're startled by a noise, but find out that it's the LVPD officers that Brass sent out for assistance.

Greg looks over the burnt car and takes a picture of a burnt ID card in the glove compartment. Nick arrives and is told by Doc Robbins that there are 11 bodies total. He overhears two officers say that the bodies are 80 feet underground with no air conditioning; this causes him to think back to being buried alive, which makes him hesitate before entering the compound. Nick eventually makes it down to where the bodies are. While Catherine snaps photos of the bodies and notes the smell of alcohol, he offers to process the water bottles. He finds a funnel with a fingerprint on it.

Meanwhile, Grissom walks further into the compound and comes across a large room. On one of the walls, he finds various newspaper and magazine clippings of aliens, Stonehenge, the Pyramids, astrology, and other unexplained phenomena. On the opposite wall near a single bed, he looks at a mural of people ascending into a spaceship through a white beam of light. Just behind the bed is a large metal sphere with a ring around it. Grissom walks up to the planet and turns it on. The light from inside the metal planet shines through the holes in the surface, casting different sized spots of light on the ceiling and walls as it turns. Grissom looks up at the ceiling mesmerized.

In the lab, Warrick tells Sara that he matched up the shoe impressions from the Copeland's yard to the 11 victims. However, there's one print that's unaccounted for—a size eight athletic shoe. The shoeprint doesn't match the victim found in the yard or the Copelands themselves. Someone who dragged the body through the desert didn't die in the bunker.

Grissom continues to observe the large room, while Catherine finds evidence of sexual activity on the bed. He guesses that group was timing their ascension with the Orionid meteor shower from the night before. Catherine notes that there are 12 bunks and one bed; however, there are only 11 bodies—two people are missing. Near the bed, she finds a metal bowl with burned up pieces of paper inside, which Grissom photographs.

As Nick is about to head up the stairs to leave the compound, he spots blood smudges on the ground. He notices that the smudges stop, and he looks upward at the elevator shaft. His eye catches a piece of cloth caught on something. A flashback shows the victim falling from above and hitting the metal walkway, tearing part of his shirt in the process.

In the CSI garage, Greg processes the car and is able to recover the VIN plate. He tells Sara that the car was registered to a Vivian Bentley, who died two years ago. While this is a dead end, he adds that the burned ID tag he found traces back to Sunview Rental Agency. Vivian's grandson, Ty, works there. When he shows Sara Ty's DMV photo, she recognizes him as the victim from the Copeland's yard. This is the first ID they've made in the case.

Brass visits the rental agency and speaks with Ty's manager, who tells him that Ty hasn't shown up to work for a few days, which is unlike him. She's unaware if Ty is a member of any religious organizations, and adds that the very mild-mannered Ty had recently raised his voice at a customer. A flashback shows Ty yelling at an older gentleman, asking where "Emma" is. The gentleman told Ty that Emma is moving on. The manager pulls up information from Ty's computer that identifies his last customer as a Joseph Diamond, who booked a one-way trip to Sydney, Australia. Brass sees a photo on Ty's desk of Ty with a woman; the manager identifies the woman as Emma, his ex-girlfriend.

One of the prints recovered from the bunker matched the partial print Sara recovered from the refrigerator door. The victim is identified as Matthew Dickens, a student at WLVU. On the college's campus, Sofia talks to two of Matthew's roommates from his freshman year. They tell her that a group of people convinced Matthew to drop out of school; one of those people was Emma. One of the roommates says that Emma and an "old guy named Diamond" were running a religious scam and working Matthew; she also tried to recruit both guys unsuccessfully. They claim that the last time they saw Matthew, he was hanging out with another girl named Abbey, and that they said they were going to "some better place."

Nick calls Catherine and tells her that all of the prints recovered from the water bottles belonged to the victims, while the print recovered from the funnel is still an unknown. The blood in the elevator shaft was Ty's; though Nick says this doesn't mean that Ty was murdered, Catherine points out that someone went to a lot of trouble to torch Ty's car, drag his body three miles, and dump him in someone's yard. The tox results show that the water bottles contained vodka and were laced with ten grams percent of ketamine, which Catherine notes is enough to kill a horse. That much ketamine, she adds, is not easy to come by, and Nick tells her that veterinarians use liquid injectable ketamine as a sedative. Sofia will check with the local veterinarians. Catherine asks about the victims' times of death and finds that they line up with the passing Orionid meteor shower. As Catherine hangs up with Nick, she notices a group of buzzards flying overhead in the distance.

Catherine and Grissom walk over to where the buzzards are and find a silver BMW parked in a makeshift wooden garage. As they walk up to the car, they smell decomp coming form the trunk. Grissom opens it and finds a body that matches the description of the cult's leader, Joseph Diamond. Next to the body is a bloody tire iron. They note that since Ty wasn't a member of the cult, they're still missing one body, and that body is their new number one suspect.

In the lab, Warrick puts together the ripped up pieces of paper from the bowl that Catherine found earlier. He discovers that they're all notes written by family members of the cult members asking about their well-being and telling them that they were sending them money.

Brass tells Sara that the FBI faxed over information about Joseph Diamond, who also goes by other aliases. He led two other cults in the past with the same M.O.—he would recruit susceptible youths and keep them isolated for nine to 12 months. Both times, the cults attempted mass suicide, but actually woke up to find Joseph and their money gone. In addition, both of Joseph's scams coincided with the meteor shower. However, this most recent time, 11 people died. So, what went wrong?

Doc Robbins processes Joseph's body and tells Grissom that he believes Joseph died before the people in the bunker. David Phillips finds a belt around Joseph's waist that contains wads of money and a bag of pills. Warrick enters and tells them that Joseph was running a cash business; the cult members would write home asking for money, and the return address was a P.O. box.

Henry determines that the pills found were Zolpidem, a pretty safe sedative; there's no way the small amount of pills would be able to kill 11 people. Greg enters and informs Grissom that the print recovered from tire iron is a match to the print lifted from the funnel. It seems that the same person who killed Joseph also poisoned the cult members.

Nick and Sofia check out a local veterinarian's office, where there has recently been a break-in. Despite the expensive equipment and pharmaceuticals around, only one part of the office was broken into—a medicine cabinet, where the only thing taken was a full supply of ketamine. The culprit obviously knew what they were looking for. Sofia hands Nick a list of all of the current and former employees of the office.

In the morgue, Emma's parents identify her body. Outside, several other parents wait to identify their children, and Emma's mother tells Warrick that Abigail Spencer's mother isn't present. Abigail, she says, went to school with Emma, and both parents received letters from them last month. Emma's mother says that she would be able to identify Abigail's body; however, it turns out that it's not in the morgue.

Nick runs the prints from the break-in at the vet's office and finds that they match the prints from the tire iron and funnel. Warrick comes in, looks at the list of employees from the vet's office, and finds Abigail's name on the list. He tells Nick that Abigail was a cult member and that she's now missing.

Brass goes to Abigail's house with a warrant and speaks to her mother, who claims that she hasn't seen her daughter in almost a year. He goes through the house and into Abigail's room; when he touches her mattress, he finds that it's still warm. Abigail is then shown running down an alleyway. She eventually reaches a shed and hides inside. In the corner, she ingests some ketamine and then chugs some vodka. As she quietly whispers "take me with you," the walls of the shed start shaking and a large light appears above. Unfortunately for Abigail, the rapture turns out to be a police helicopter. Brass enters just as Abigail falls to the ground.

Abigail is next seen laying in a hospital bed with Grissom sitting at her side. She disappointingly finds out that her stomach has been pumped and that she's still in her earthly body, while her friends are now in a higher plane of existence. Grissom asks her why she killed Joseph Diamond, and she says that she went for a walk and found him packing a car. Joseph told her that he had to go and then admitted to her that everything was a scam. He handed her the pills, telling her to give two or three to each member to knock them out. Before Joseph could leave, a betrayed Abigail hit him over the head with the tire iron and stuffed him in the trunk. She didn't tell the rest of the members about Joseph because they were on a schedule.

Abigail goes on to say that, on her way back to the compound, Ty Bentley pulled up looking for Emma; she figures that Ty followed Joseph there. A flashback shows Ty confronting Emma, calling the cult members freaks, and threatening to take her back with him. Emma refused and Ty left; on his way out, he told them he would come back with the cops. However, as he walked up the stairs, Abigail appeared and threw him down the elevator shaft. The members agreed to dump the body where it could be found so that it could be given a proper burial. They all returned to the compound in time for the meteor shower. There, Abigail distributed the ketamine and vodka; she tells Grissom that she had to be the last one to drink. However, after watching everyone die, she decided against it. She then went back home to her mother.

Abigail is still disappointed that her friends are now happy and healthy. Grissom looks at her skeptically. She asks Grissom if he believes that we are alone in the universe. "Abigail," he replies, "I'm sure if there is something out there looking down on us from somewhere else in the universe, they're wise enough to stay away from us."


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]


Grissom: The methodology here appears to be similar to the Heavens Gate Cult in California several years ago. They committed mass suicide to shed their Earthly bodies and hitch a ride on the spaceship hidden in the tail of a Hale-Bopp comet.
Catherine (after finding semen on the bed sheets): Well, these earthly bodies got a good workout first. Big room, big bed, light show. This cult was about gettin' laid.
Grissom: Well, Jim Jones and Charles Manson used sex to manipulate their followers. I'm guessing that they were timing their suicide to the Orionid meteor shower last night.
Catherine: So while you were watching shooting stars, they were dying?
Grissom: There's 12 bunks in there, one bed in here, there should be 13 bodies.
Catherine: Two people are missing.
Grissom: Maybe they caught the space ship.
Catherine (pulls out the bowl of burnt letters): Would you settle for a flying saucer?


  • When Grissom goes to enter the underground compound, he only has his flashlight on his belt (on his back). What happened to the canteen he was wearing when he started? In later scenes inside the compound, he has it back on.
  • In the scene showing the meteor shower, we can estimate five meteors per second (300 per minute). The actual maximum rate of the Orionids is 15 per minute, or one every four seconds. A less than impressive shower from Comet Halley's particles.
  • Grissom looks up at a meteor shower he identifies as the Orionid shower. The camera shows a sky scene with the constellation Orion in the background, and a number of meteor trails moving from left to right across the star formation. This is dead wrong. Meteor showers are named for the region of the sky they appear to be coming from, e.g., Leonid (Leo), Perseid (Perseus). The meteor trails should appear to be coming straight at the viewer from Orion, not crossing it.
  • When Catherine finds the bowl full of burnt letters, Grissom tries to photograph the bowl in the state the cult members left it in. However, she rifles through and disturbs the scene before he takes the pictures.


  • Warrick's wife Tina is featured in this episode. She works at a hospital with her ex.
  • Nick hesitates to go into the bunker at first. This is a reminder of when he was buried alive in the two-part Season Five finale Grave Danger, Part 1 and Grave Danger, Part 2.

Based on the true story of the Heaven's Gate religious cult suicide in 1997.


  • The episode is inspired by the Heaven’s Gate cult and the eventual mass suicide of the members.
  • The Orionids meteor showers are considered a major meteor shower. They appear annually for one week in mid to late October.

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 6
Bodies in MotionRoom ServiceBite MeShooting StarsGum DropsSecrets and FliesA Bullet Runs Through It, Part 1A Bullet Runs Through It, Part 2Dog Eat DogStill LifeWerewolvesDaddy's Little GirlKiss-Kiss, Bye-ByeKillerPirates of the Third ReichUp in SmokeI Like to WatchThe Unusual SuspectSpellboundPoppin' TagsRashomamaTime of your DeathBang-BangWay to Go