Season 5
Number 12
Writer Dustin Lee Abraham
Director Richard J. Lewis
Original Airdate January 13, 2005
Previous Episode: Who Shot Sherlock?
Next Episode: Nesting Dolls

Snakes is the twelfth episode in Season Five of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


Catherine and Nick investigate a case when a severed head containing a snake is found in a newspaper stand. Meanwhile, Greg, Sofia and Warrick investigate a shooting in a van.


Victim: Veronica Juarez (deceased)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Nick Stokes, Sam Vega

A newspaper delivery boy opens a newspaper dispenser and finds a bald, bloodied severed head. The dispenser is unscrewed from its post and brought to the lab. In autopsy, Catherine takes photos of the head and looks on in shock as Doc Robbins pulls a long, thin dead snake from the head's mouth. Doc Robbins identifies the head as belonging to a Hispanic female in her early 30s, and puts her time of death at roughly six hours before. Based on visuals, he tells Catherine that both the decapitation and hair removal occurred postmortem. Doc Robbins removes some of the victim's bridgework; on the inside is a set of numbers. He notes that dentists usually put some form of identification on removable bridgework.

Nick dusts the topmost newspaper in the dispenser and reveals some prints; however, he tells Catherine that they're palm prints and they are likely not a good bet to help them solve the case. She has Nick run the prints, as well as the partial prints from the dispenser itself. Herpetologist Jesse Menken tells Nick that the snake recovered is a common rattlesnake indigenous to southern coastal Mexico. She adds that this type of snake is found in hot and humid places, and Vegas is hot and dry. The quick conclusion is that someone shoved the dead snake down the victim's throat.

The serial number on the bridgework comes back to a Veronica Juarez. In her apartment, they find a degree on the wall from the University of Texas El Paso, atypical of someone they think is a gangbanger's girlfriend. Nick finds a digital camera that has pictures of Veronica partying with a group of guys. There's no evidence of sexual activity on Veronica's bed; however, Catherine finds a bag of what appears to be pure crystal meth in her nightstand drawer. In the kitchen, Det. Vega finds a poster of the band Extremo, who look like a mariachi band with artillery. Vega tells Catherine and Nick that, while working with the gang unit in Los Angeles, he frequently dealt with the Sinaloa cowboys, who happen to be big fans of this type of music.

Nick and Det. Vega visit the club where Extremo is playing. They talk to the bartender, Juanito Concha, who identifies the victim as "Carla," not Veronica. The singer on stage sings a song in Spanish about a woman who cheated on him. The lyrics seem to line up with Veronica's murder, as they mention taking someone's life and "eating a snake." After the band comes off stage, Nick and Vega try to talk to the lead singer, Rafael Salinas. However, the band's manager steps in the way and answers questions on behalf of the band. Nick asks about the song Rafael just sang and says that the lyrics are similar to Veronica's homicide; however, the manager informs them that the song was written ten years ago. The manager is shown a picture of Veronica and he, too, identifies her as Carla. He says Carla was a loyal fan that knew the lyrics to every one of Extremo's songs.

Nick listens to some of Extremo's songs and informs Catherine that they're considered "narcocorridos"—a "corrido" is a Mexican ballad, while a "narcocorrido" is a drug ballad. He finds that the songs reference actual events, including specific dates and names. On the computer, Nick shows Catherine an old article written about a similar death; underneath the article is a photo of a head with a rattlesnake coming out of it. He explains that the girl in the photo was shacked up with a local drug lord whom she ratted out after she got dumped. Her head was found, but the rest of the body wasn't. This seems to be life imitating art, and anyone who knows the lyrics could be the killer. Nick suddenly has a realization and shows Catherine a newspaper from the dispenser. There's a story on the front page of the paper written by Veronica.

Catherine and Nick visit the newspaper Veronica was working for, and her editor tells them that Veronica was a freelancer working undercover. Her piece on the narcocorridos was her first big story, and she figured that working undercover was the only way to get Extremo to open up to her. Veronica's article came down pretty hard on the music since it glamorizes a criminal lifestyle. When asked if Veronica received any threats, the editor tells Catherine that there was one incident after part one of the article was published. A man in a cowboy hat came into the office with a lit black candle chanting something in Spanish; he slammed the candle down on her desk and demanded her silence. Nick finds the candle in Veronica's drawer, and it has a fingerprint on it. The candle is taken back to the lab for processing. There, Nick is able to find that the fingerprint is a match to Elindio Zapato, who owns a store in town.

Nick and Det. Vega go to Elindio's store and find him in the back of the store kneeling over dozens of lit candles and chanting. In the store, there's something that looks like a shrine with another lit black candle. There's a bone in the tray at the base of the candle, and Elindio tells Nick that it belongs to Jesus Malverde. Further back in the store, Nick sees a clothing rack with various jackets. One of the jackets is a leather jacket with white fringe very similar to the one Veronica was wearing in the photos they found earlier. Nick tells Vega that he has seen the jacket before; however, this jacket has tire treads on the back of it. Elindio is arrested and Nick takes the jacket back to the lab for processing.

In the interrogation room, Elindio admits to going to the newspaper office to threaten Veronica. He claims that the bone found in the shrine is a chicken bone, but Nick says that it looks like a bone from a human finger. Nick sees that the bone has been burned and lets Elindio know that he's going to run tests on it. Elindio claims to know nothing about Veronica's jacket, saying that someone gave it to him; he doesn't know the person's name, only their face. He also claims to be a descendant of Jesus Malverde, a Mexican Robin Hood and folklore hero in the state of Sinaloa. Nick puts his spin on the story, saying that Jesus was a thief and killer who was hung for his actions. Det. Vega calls Elindio a greedy fence and a disgrace to the community, but Elindio says that what he does, he doesn't do for money. Nick takes Elindio's prints.

Catherine runs the tire treads from the back of Veronica's jacket and find that they match a large truck. Nick informs her that the palm prints on the newspaper don't match Elindio, but Catherine says that this only proves he didn't put the head in the newspaper dispenser. When told about the tire tread, Nick points out that Elindio doesn't even own a vehicle. Nick looks closely at the pattern, notices that it's a retread, and says that there's only one place in Vegas that does work like that.

Catherine and Nick visit the tire warehouse and speak to the manager, who tells them that they sell about 100 of those tires per month. While Catherine and the manager research, Nick sees that one of the workers looks familiar; it's Rafael Salinas, the lead singer for Extremo. Catherine questions Rafael, and he admits that he found out who Veronica really was after her article came out. He says that he dumped Veronica afterwards because she made it look like everyone involved in narcocorridos was a drug dealer or criminal. Rafael tells Catherine that Veronica was a traitor and that people like that aren't taken lightly in Sinaloa.

Catherine and Nick strike out twice, determining that the tire treads on the jacket aren't a match to the tires on Rafael's truck; furthermore, his palm prints don't match the ones found on the topmost newspaper in the dispenser. Nick remembers that Veronica was somewhere where there a lot of trucks with big tires. He, Det. Vega and some uniformed officers search the parking lot of the club where Extremo was performing earlier. Nick finds the tires that match the treads from the jacket, and they discover that the truck belongs to Juanito Concha, the club's bartender. Juanito is found inside the club, and Nick notices that he's wearing a belt that has human hair attached to it. After being handcuffed, Juanito tries to get away, which causes everyone there to draw their weapons. Nick and Det. Vega explain in Spanish that Juanito killed an innocent woman and they're able to get him out of the club without further incident.

In the interrogation room, Nick tells Juanito that he killed an innocent woman to impress people that don't care about what happens to him. Juanito insists that he's going to become immortalized in history for what he's done and that narcocorridos are going to be written about him. He starts to sing a narcocorrido about himself, while a flashback shows Juanito in the desert scalping Veronica. Elindio appears, decapitates Veronica, and holds up one of her bones above a fire.

Victim: Vincent Decarlo (deceased)

On the case: Greg Sanders, Sofia Curtis, Warrick Brown, Jim Brass

A man in a nice Italian suit is found shot to death in the driver's seat of a handicap van on the roof of a casino. Brass finds $500 and a Nevada's driver's license on the victim; the license identifies the victim as 28-year-old Vincent Decarlo. There's a wheelchair in the back of the van, but there's no indication that Vincent is handicapped. Sofia examines a bullet hole in the windshield and determines that the shot came from inside the van. Warrick notices a blood spot in Vincent's lapel inconsistent with the blood from the head wound and has David Phillips cut it out to avoid cross contamination. Gunshot residue on the back of the driver's seat indicates that the shooter was in the wheelchair. They're looking for someone who fired a shot from a wheelchair and escaped on foot.

Doc Robbins finds fragments of a bullet in the the victim's brain and tells Sofia and Warrick that the right ear injury Vincent suffered is separate from the shot to the face. This finding, along with the bullet hole in the windshield, indicates that Vincent was shot twice. Unfortunately, the bullet fragments recovered are too small to identify the weapon used. Doc Robbins informs Warrick that all wheelchairs are registered with a medical supply company and that they have serial numbers.

The wheelchair belongs to Bonnie Bakerset, a resident of a nursing home. According to the home's manager, Bonnie's grandson bought her the chair a year ago after she suffered a stroke. Warrick and Brass are told that Bonnie had passed away the week before and that she hadn't left the premises in six months. They're shown Bonnie's room, which is full of boxes. Warrick notes that most of the boxes have the same return address, and Brass guesses that telemarketers were targeting Bonnie and selling her all of this stuff. Outside, a few curious onlookers gather. Brass gets their names and asks about Bonnie. One of the onlookers, Betsy Lewis, says that Bonnie was lost after her husband died, but a nice salesman would call and they would talk for hours. She adds that buying things made Bonnie happy. Neither she or fellow onlooker Stuart Manslow know what happened to Bonnie's wheelchair.

Sofia heads back to the scene to find more evidence, and Greg arrives shortly thereafter to assist. She tells Greg that if they can't find the bullet, they can find the shell casings. Her hypothesis is that the shooter forced Vincent up to the roof at gunpoint since the area was deserted. She closes the back door, thinking that the shooter would've done the same thing to minimize sound and give more privacy. After borrowing a pen from Greg, Sofia recreates the shooting and drops the pen cap. Since the killer had to open the back door to leave, she does the same thing. Greg watches the pen cap fall down into the van's sliding door. After he recovers the cap, he finds a shell casing from a 9mm gun next to it. Sofia has him photograph the casing.

Sofia tells Warrick that the blood on Vincent's lapel came back to Dax Blanchard, who was in the system for assault and battery against a police officer. Among Vincent's personal effects, Warrick finds some money and a script that a telemarketer must adhere to when cold calling. Warrick calls Brass with this information and tells him that the company Vincent was working for was NZA; the company's address was on the side of Bonnie's boxes. Upon arriving at a very busy office, Warrick and Brass spot a leaderboard of top sellers with Vincent's name at the top of the list; Dax is in second place. They speak to Dax and see that he's holstering a gun. Warrick removes the clip and checks the bullets, which just happen to be 9mm. Dax is brought to the station for questioning.

In interrogation, Dax is surprised when Brass tells him that Vincent is dead. Dax says that the last time he saw Vincent was the morning before in the office; there, Dax confronted Vincent over the fact that he had sold something to Dax's grandmother and took all of her money. The two got in a fight, with Vincent punching Dax; Dax retaliated by spitting blood onto Vincent's lapel. Dax says that Vincent was always stealing his leads; ripping off his grandmother was the last straw. He adds that his grandmother is confined to a wheelchair and living in a nursing home. Brass accuses of him of murdering Vincent because of the scam and their rivalry. However, when he mentions Bonnie's name, Dax says his grandmother's name is Fran and that she lives in Daytona Beach.

Sofia discovers that the 9mm shell casing is stamped with the letters DMW, standing for "Deutsche waffen und munitions fabrik." It's an old World War II-era German bullet. She tells Warrick that old bullets like this are trophies, enemy guns a soldier brings back from battle. Their shooter is an old soldier.

Warrick goes to the nursing home and speaks to Bonnie's neighbor, Stuart Manslow. He tells Warrick that Bonnie had Alzheimer's and Vincent knew it. Vincent would call twice a day selling her something and, since Bonnie had forgotten the earlier calls, she would order something else. Soon, everyone in the nursing home was getting a call from Vincent. Stuart decided to play along, telling Vincent that he didn't have a checking account. He borrowed Bonnie's wheelchair to make himself appear weak, and Vincent helped him open the account at the bank. Afterwards, Stuart had Vincent drive up to the roof of the casino. There, Stuart shot Vincent twice, hitting only Vincent's ear the first time because his hands were shaking. Stuart detests how much the world has changed, telling Warrick that in war, you knew who the enemy was. Now, it's some young punk calling you on the phone and asking for your credit card number. Stuart reluctantly hands his gun over to Warrick.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Louise Lombard as Sofia Curtis
  • Geoffrey Rivas as Detective Sam Vega
  • David Berman as David Phillips
  • Tony Plana as Elindio Zapata
  • Yancey Arias as Rafael Salinas
  • Reid Scott as Dax Blanchard
  • Michael Pena as Juanito Concha
  • Anna Berger as Betsy Lewis
  • Miguel Pérez as Eduardo Maytorena
  • Doan Ly as Jessie Menken
  • Joe Nieves as Javier Lileez
  • George Murdock as Stuart Manslow
  • Chad Donella as Vincent Decarlo (uncredited)
  • Crystal Santos as Veronica Juarez (uncredited)

Episode Title[]

  • The episode title, "Snakes," works two-fold. A snake is found in the the mouth of Veronica Suarez, while Vincent Decarlo acted like a snake by purposely and continuously preying on the elderly.


  • When the team is looking in Veronica Juarez's house for clues about her murder, they find a diploma with her name, but it's misspelled as "Veroncia Juarez."


  • Corazon by Luis


  • Sara tells Grissom that he's more than a boss to her, that she moved to Las Vegas because of him, and that it's her fault their relationship is complicated. She tells him that she seeks validation in inappropriate places.


  • This is the second episode where there's no punchline mentioned by a major character before the transition to the opening intro, followed by Bloodlines.

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 5
Viva Las VegasDown the DrainHarvestCrow's FeetSwap MeetWhat's Eating Gilbert Grissom?FormalitiesCh-Ch-ChangesMea CulpaNo Humans InvolvedWho Shot Sherlock?SnakesNesting DollsUnbearableKing BabyBig MiddleCompulsionSpark of Life4 x 4Hollywood BrassCommittedWeeping WillowsIcedGrave Danger, Part 1Grave Danger, Part 2