Season 3
Number 8
Writer Bob Harris,
Ann Donahue
Director Kenneth Fink
Original Airdate November 21, 2002
Previous Episode: Fight Night
Next Episode: Blood Lust

Snuff is the eighth episode in season three of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation


Catherine called in by a pornographic-film developer to view graphic footage from a snuff movie in which a woman is brutally slain. But the clues are scant: The murderer isn't clearly seen, the cheap-looking hotel room could be almost anywhere and the film was sent to the developer anonymously. Outside of town, Grissom investigates another killing when a body, smothered with fire ants, is found stuffed inside a large toolbox. The initial findings indicate that the person died well over a year earlier.


Victim: Susan Hodap (deceased)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Sara Sidle, Warrick Brown, Dale Sulik

Catherine and Grissom have been called in by a snuff film processor, who claims that she processes hundreds of pornographic films, but this one is different. On screen, after a couple finishes their act, the man takes out a knife and slits the woman's throat. Just from looking at the film, Catherine and Grissom confirm that it's real blood. Grissom gets a call from Brass and has to leave the case.

Det. Dale Sulik informs Catherine that they found P.O. boxes that snuff companies use, but she says it's a dead end. Archie was able to blow up a picture of the victim, and Det. Sulik leaves to compare her to any missing persons. Sara is looking over the negatives, but can only find fingerprint smudges. Catherine informs her that contacting the manufacturer of the negatives won't help, as porno companies buy everything in cash so they can't be traced.

In the A/V lab, Archie and Warick are going over the snuff film again. They pause the film and find what looks to be a mole on the male's back. Warrick has Archie focus on the window, which is not fully covered by curtains. When the image is blown up, the Stratosphere tower is shown in the background. With this information, Archie is able to triangulate what street the film was filmed on.

Catherine, Sara, Warrick, and Det. Sulik visit the hotel where the filming took place. The CSIs each take a room, with Sara finding the exact room the murder took place in. All of the furniture has been removed from the room. Catherine notices the wall has recently been painted. Warrick runs a UV light over the wall and finds the presence of arterial spray.

Catherine, Warrick, and Det. Sulik interview the hotel security guard, Johnny Vane, who says he has been working there for four months. However, he doesn't know anything about a murder. He also says he doesn't know about someone painting the room, but Catherine notices primer on his jacket. They also find a mole on the back of his neck, proving that he was in the snuff film. Johnny admits that he was paid to have sex with the girl, but left when his part was over. He didn't call the police when he saw the blood later because he didn't want to lose his job. Catherine has him arrested.

Catherine, Sara, and Warrick go over the video again and determine that Johnny was telling the truth; there is another guy in the video almost two inches taller than Johnny. A shadow in the video shows that Johnny left the room. They determine that the person originally filming the scene is the murderer. The perpetrator shows no physical marks that would help identify him. Catherine and Sara explain that porno films use short ends of film, which means that the person filming doesn't know when the film is going to roll out—the camera slows down, the film stutters, and the camera gets hit with more light. An editor will cut that part out.

Catherine and Sara visit the snuff film producer, who guides them to the place where all of the film cuttings are. They empty a barrel looking for 16mm film. Sara is able to find the film and notices that there is a small table and lamp in the corner of the room. Catherine notices the lamp as being the same one that she passed in the hotel lobby earlier.

Catherine and Warrick go over the short ends of film and determine that the lamp in the film and the lamp from the lobby are identical, and that they both have a red bulb. Warrick guesses that whoever unscrewed the original hot light bulb might have licked their fingers and left saliva behind on the red bulb. Through CODIS, they are able to find a match to a Douglas Sampson.

Catherine and Det. Sulik visit Douglas who lives in a residential neighborhood. As they question him, they hear moaning in the background, as if he is currently filming another snuff film. Warrick is standing in the street with Johnny Vane, who positively identifies Douglas as the cameraman from the film. In Douglas's house, Catherine accuses him of killing the woman in the film, but Douglas says they have no proof. If they did, they would have arrested him already. Douglas seems to have the sniffles and wipes his nose, with Catherine asking him if he has a cold. Outside, Warrick is examining Douglas's car and finds soil in the wheel well. Catherine and Warrick remark that Douglas washed the wheel, but neglected the wheel well. The soil is a butterscotch color, and Catherine and Warrick remember a body dump a few years back in a mountain range that had the same color soil.

Warrick gets a call from Det. Sulik who says that they found the victim in River's Edge in Navajo County. At the scene, Warrick finds the girl in the woods wrapped in a curtain and covered in twigs and leaves. In autopsy, Doc Robbins identifies the woman as Susan Hodap whose cause of death was exsanguination from transection of the carotid artery. He tells Catherine and Sara that Susan was HIV positive. Through an internet search, Catherine and Sara find that Susan tested positive for HIV twice and was quarantined. Sara surmises that Susan was in the snuff film because she got bounced from porn for testing positive twice.

Warrick is upset because he is getting no prints from the curtain Susan was wrapped in, nor does he have a second donor to the blood. There is nothing to link Douglas to the murder. Sara tells Warrick that the film shows that Susan was bleeding all over the murderer when her throat was slashed. She and Catherine believe that the blood was transferred to the perpetrator. Since Susan had HIV, her killer might, too.

They are able to get a blood sample from Douglas. Under interrogation, he says he never had sex with Susan; in fact, he never even met her. Catherine and Sara enter the room and Catherine asks Douglas if he still feels sick. Douglas replies that he does, and Catherine tells him it's a symptom of HIV. The lab confirmed that Douglas has HIV. Furthermore, the DNA of Susan's HIV strain is the same as the strain that Douglas has, meaning he got it directly from her. When Douglas slit Susan's throat, her blood got in his eyes and the HIV transferred and entered his bloodstream.

Victim: Randy Trachsel (deceased)

On the case: Gil Grissom, Nick Stokes, Jim Brass

Brass calls Grissom while Grissom is at the other crime scene. A body has been found inside of a toolbox, but fire ants have emerged from it biting everyone nearby. As Grissom is the bug expert, his knowledge is needed on the case.

Brass tells Grissom that a driver was passing by, spotted the toolbox, and thought he could put it to good use. He opened the toolbox, freaked out, and called the police. Grissom opens the toolbox to find hundreds of fire ants covering a skeleton; the ants are using the skeleton as a colony site. Grissom says he's going to have to take everything to evidence.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins and Grissom take the proper precautions to shield themselves from the ants. Doc Robbins estimates that the victim has been dead for at least a year; Grissom says it smells more like two. The victim sustained fractures to both clavicles, and there are two puncture wounds on the back side about 18 inches apart. Grissom finds a pupa case among the ants and claims that, with the case, he can establish an etymological timeline.

With a little help from Greg, Grissom is able to estimate that the victim died about nineteen months ago. Grissom gets a visit from Teri Miller, whom Grissom asks for help on identifying the body. He finds a previously undiscovered dung beetle in the skull's nasal cavity, indicating the victim was possibly killed around large animals, like in a farm or zoo.

Nick examines the empty toolbox and finds a void on the inside lip. At the bottom of the toolbox, he finds a triangular piece of metal. The metal comes back as carbon steel with a trace of rust on it. Grissom says that that type of material was used in old scalpels, but also notes that it looks like it's in some sort of repeating pattern. Nick traces the piece of metal on paper and believes that it could have come from a saw, but Grissom says the piece isn't sharp enough. Nick then comes to the conclusion that the metal came from a cheap spur, like cowboys wear.

Teri is able to reconstruct the victim's head from the skull and her and Grissom realize the victim has Down Syndrome. Brass contacts different places associated with people with Down Syndrome and is able to find a match. The victim is Randy Trachsel and his last known employment was at the Las Vegas Ranch. Grissom connects the ranch to horses and dung beetles.

Grissom, Nick, and Brass head to the ranch and speak to the ranch's manager, Pete Banson. Pete recognizes Randy's photo and says he hired him about two years ago then, all of a sudden, he disappeared. Pete says he never let Randy ride the horses; Randy was only hired to muck the stalls. They interview Enrique Vasquez, who is the new person mucking the stalls. He recalls that the other cowboys used to call Randy "Stubbs." Nick notices spurs on Enrique's boots and tells him they need to take the spurs back to the lab.

In the lab, Grissom finds that one of the spurs is missing a triangular piece—the same one found in the toolbox. Nick interviews Pete, and tells him that Enrique got the spurs from "Heroes Row." Pete says that is where the cowboys toss their unwanted gear. Nick tells him that the type of spur found was banned in the 1970's and that it's previous owner is someone who is "stuck in the 70's." Pete mentions Billy Rattison, a pro bronco rider.

Grissom and Nick go back to the ranch to speak to Billy and notice a new toolbox in his truck bed. Billy is a surly guy who throws the word "retard" around, to which Grissom corrects him. He tells Billy that Randy had Down Syndrome, but all Billy cares about is that Randy was "sticking his nose in where it didn't belong." A flashback shows Billy treating Randy poorly when Randy was trying to help him. Grissom asks Billy if his toolbox is new, but Billy says it's a few months old and that someone stole his old one. Grissom shows Billy a photo of him at a rodeo, which Billy dates to March 2000; Nick notes that that was nineteen months ago. Grissom and Nick say that Billy was out of town at the time of Billy's death and that they need a more definitive timeline.

Grissom has Archie run a test on the rust found on the spur. Due to the weather and level of rust, they are able to pinpoint the start of the oxidation to May 2000. Grissom notes that Billy was in town during that time. In his office, Grissom is trying to figure out what caused the puncture wounds on Randy's back when he has a revelation.

Grissom and Nick go back to the ranch again and tell Pete that they believe the puncture wounds Randy sustained was caused by one of the bulls and their horns. However, while Randy's wounds were 18 inches apart, the bulls horns are 24 inches apart. Pete notes that they cut the horns of the bulls to prevent injuries like that and this is the only bull he has. Grissom, Nick, and Brass are waiting for Billy by his car and Grissom notices that there used to be something on the hood. Billy says it was belt buckles and that they, too, were stolen. With permission, Grissom goes through Billy's toolbox and finds a hood ornament of bull's horns. Nick measures the horns and they are 18 inches apart. The horns test positive for blood.

A flashback shows Billy falling off of his bronco and Randy smiling at him. Irate, Billy ties Randy up and puts him on the bronco. Randy falls off of the horse and sustains one of his shoulder injuries. Afterwards, Randy follows him out and Billy accidentally shoves him into the hood ornament. He stuffs Randy's body in the toolbox and loses his spur in the process. As he leaves, Grissom tells Billy that the definition for the word "retard" is "to hinder or hold someone back." Grissom informs Billy that his life is about to become "retarded."


Main Cast

Guest Cast

  • Pamela Gidley as Teri Miller
  • Archie Kao as Archie Johnson
  • David Berman as David Phillips
  • Tyler Christopher as Billy Rattison
  • Sam Hennings as Pete Banson
  • Niecy Nash as Snuff Film Processor
  • Sal Lopez as Enrique Vasquez
  • Stephen Spacek as Johnny Vane, Security Guard
  • William Mapother as Douglas Sampson
  • Larry Clarke as Detective Dale Sulik
  • Meredith Giangrande as Susan Hodap
  • Blair Williamson as Randy Traschel

Major Events

  • This episode marks the final appearance of Teri Miller. She's married a teacher since her brief fling with Grissom, removing any possibility of a romance between them.

Episode Title

  • "Snuff" references two things in the episode. An actress, Susan Hodap, is killed in a snuff film, which is a pornographic movie of an actual murder. Snuff tobacco is also seen in the flashbacks which depict murder victim Randy Traschel's interactions with Billy Rattison at the Las Vegas Ranch.


  • Scenes at the Mandolin Towel Hotel were shot at L.A.'s now-closed Ambassador Hotel.[1]
  • On the list of HIV positive porn stars, a David Hodges is listed. Of course, this is just a coincidence that this person shares the same name as a future CSI lab tech.


  • Nick sprays some liquid on his swab, then swabs the bull horn, turning it red immediately, indicating blood. Normally, he should have sprayed distilled water on the swab, and would only spray the reagent after he swabbed the object.


  1. Flaherty, M. & Marrinan, C. (2004). CSI: Crime scene investigation companion. New York, NY: Pocket Books.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 3
Revenge is Best Served ColdThe Accused is EntitledLet the Seller BewareA Little MurderAbra-CadaverThe Execution of Catherine WillowsFight NightSnuffBlood LustHigh and LowRecipe for MurderGot Murder?Random Acts of ViolenceOne Hit WonderLady Heather's BoxLucky StrikeCrash & BurnPrecious MetalA Night at the MoviesLast LaughForeverPlay with FireInside the Box