Spark of Life
Season 5
Number 18
Writer Allen MacDonald
Director Kenneth Fink
Original Airdate March 31, 2005
Previous Episode: Compulsion
Next Episode: 4 x 4

Spark of Life is the eighteenth episode in Season Five of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


Grissom, Greg and Sara work a case where a bushfire kills a man and burns a woman, who survived. Catherine, Nick and Warrick investigate the death of a family in their home and discover that the two cases are linked.


Victims: Tara Matthews (alive), unnamed stargazer (deceased)

On the case: Gil Grissom, Greg Sanders, Sara Sidle, Louis Vartann

A man observing the night skies through a telescope in the woods is interrupted by a terrifying blaze which overtakes and consumes him. Grissom and Sara arrive at the scene and are told that the point of origin has not yet been determined. Fire Chief Rick Dysart believes that the fire was an arson, as someone with knowledge of the weather conditions (dry, low humidity) would know when to set the blaze and create maximum damage. As Grissom walks around the immediate area, he finds a severely burned female body lying under the trees. She slowly opens her eyes, and Grissom yells out for the paramedics.

Greg goes to the hospital to collect evidence and is shocked to see that the victim is still alive. The doctor tells him that the 80% of the victim's body is covered in third-degree burns and that she's going to lose her fingers, at the very least. He also explains that third-degree burns are painless, as the nerves have been burned away. A wedding ring is cut off of the victim's finger and given to Greg.

After the fire has been completely put out, Grissom and Sara make their way up the ridge and walk along the road looking for evidence. Sara finds part of a burnt lighter and, further up the road, they find a broken vodka bottle.

Greg processes Jane Doe's clothing and finds traces of alcohol all over them. He pulls a charred plastic card from one of the pockets, as well. Grissom enters and tells Greg that he was surprised to hear that the victim is still alive. Greg relays his findings and says that the victim was doused in alcohol. Grissom notes that accelerants were found at the top of the hill (the point of origin), but the body was found almost completely burned at the bottom. He concludes that the victim wasn't caught in the fire—she started it. A flashback shows the victim, completely engulfed in flames, rolling down the hill.

Sara processes the broken vodka bottle and is able to recover a print. The print belongs to Patrick Bromley, who is currently employed as a truck driver. Sara is able to get Patrick's route data for the last 24 hours from the trucking company, and she and Grissom find that he was in the area of the fire an hour before the alarm went out. A half hour before that, Patrick stopped at a local convenience store; video surveillance from the store is being sent to the lab.

Sara and Det. Vartann are able to track Patrick down at a truck stop. She shows him a photo taken from the convenience store's surveillance that shows a female in the front seat of the truck. Patrick says he doesn't know the woman's name and that he picked her up hitchhiking. He dropped her off on Blue Diamond Road, which Vartann notes is in the middle of nowhere. Sara notices scratch marks on Patrick's neck, which he says he received in a bar fight. She searches the back of Patrick's truck and finds a pink sweater, which very likely doesn't belong to him. Patrick is arrested and brought to the station for questioning. In interrogation, he says that he and the female had some drinks and a smoke; however, he's married and didn't let things go further. Sara believes otherwise, and a flashback shows the woman struggling against Patrick's advances. In retaliation, Patrick doused her in alcohol and flicked on a lighter. Patrick asks for a lawyer.

Mia Dickerson tells Grissom that the victim's DNA didn't get a hit in CODIS or Missing Persons; however, one of the victim's markers is out of the control range, an anomaly that occurs in one out of every 250 people. Meanwhile, Greg processes a piece of burned paper found on the victim and finds the name Tara Matthews on it.

Grissom and Greg talk to Tara's husband, Neal. He says that he last saw his wife the night before at 6:00 PM and that she had left after they had a fight. Neal adds that things have been rough lately and that Tara has been on antidepressants for awhile. He wants to know where Tara is, and Grissom tells him that she's been in an accident. At the hospital, Neal looks through the glass as his wife gets bandaged up. He denies that the woman in the bed is his wife until Greg shows him the wedding ring that was recovered earlier.

Victims: Dani Stewart, Corinne Stewart, Morgan Stewart (all deceased)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Nick Stokes, Warrick Brown, Jim Brass

Catherine and Warrick meet Brass at the Stewart residence, where five-year-old Dani Stewart was found dead floating in her pool. The neighbors called the police, but couldn't get into the backyard because of child-proof locks on the gate. Catherine asks where the parents were, and Brass tells her they were home.

Inside, they walk through a darkened house. The television is still on and there are kids toys all over the floor. A dripping sound is heard; when Warrick shines his flashlight in the area, he sees bloodstains on the wall that lead to another body—the mother, Corinne. The position of the body indicates that she fell forwards down the stairs, and a broken picture on the wall indicates that there was a struggle. Upstairs, in the master bedroom, the father, Morgan, lies dead on the bed with a gun in his hand and a bullet wound to his neck. There's a pile of glass and some paper on the floor by the bed. Catherine thinks this could be a murder-suicide, but Warrick sees that the gun has been wiped clean. He wonders if it was a professional hit and that little Dani was a loose end.

Catherine and Nick process the bedroom. She finds some brunette hairs on one of the pillows and notes that both Corinne and Dani were blondes. David Phillips enters and asks Catherine when he can process the bodies, but he's told that it's going to be a while. Nick uses a scanner that the lab is trying out to create a virtual crime scene sketch, which he notes is way better than doing it by hand.

At the station, Brass interviews Annabelle Frost, Morgan Stewart's personal assistant. She's incredibly distraught that the entire Stewart family is dead, including Dani. Annabelle says that she was at the Stewart house sometimes babysitting Dani. Brass tells her that they found some brunette hairs on the pillow, which match her color. Annabelle is adamant that she never slept with Morgan and that he was incredibly devoted to his family. She has also never been in the bedroom. Brass asks for a sample of Annabelle's hair, but she tells him that he'll need a court order first.

Warrick tells Catherine and Nick that the bullets recovered from the scene were a match to the gun found in Morgan's hand. Furthermore, the gun is registered to Morgan. Nick brings up the murder-suicide theory again, and Warrick mentions that Morgan was in severe debt and was in danger of losing the house.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins tells Catherine that Morgan was shot on the underside of the chin, leaving a marginal abrasion. Corinne was shot from back to front at a downward angle, while Dani's cause of death was drowning. An x-ray shows that Dani had a broken rib, and Catherine notes that the paramedics performed CPR. However, Doc Robbins says that the EMT's report states that Dani already had the injury when they arrived on the scene. Catherine wonders if the whole thing started with the death of a child. A flashback shows Corinne finding Dani floating in the pool and trying to perform CPR to revive her. When Corinne told an already fragile Morgan that Dani had died, he pulled out a gun, shot her, then killed himself. It seems to be a good theory, but Catherine wonders why someone would perform CPR on Dani and then throw her back in the pool.

Mia processes the bedsheets under a UV light and circles the stains found. Meanwhile, Hodges informs Catherine that the broken glass and paper found on the floor by the bed was from a Basal Body Temperature thermometer, which is used by women during ovulation. It seems that Corinne was trying to have another baby while her husband was with another woman in their bed.

Mia stops Grissom in the hallway and tells him she has information that he doesn't have. In front of a computer, she shows Catherine and Grissom that the DNA from the vaginal contribution recovered from the bedsheet is a match to the DNA from the arson victim, Tara Matthews. The two cases are now connected.

On the case: Entire team

Catherine, Grissom, Sara and Warrick meet to go over the information from their cases. Grissom says that high density polyethylene was found embedded in the fingers of Tara's right hand. The material is consistent with the plastic tank on most disposable lighters, and butane will explode under pressure from heat. They reach the conclusion that Tara doused herself in alcohol and lit herself on fire to try to commit suicide. Sara adds that Tara had been assaulted by a truck driver, was clinically depressed, and was having trouble in her marriage. It seems possible that Tara would be a suspect in the Stewart murders if she tried to kill herself a few hours later. It's also revealed that Neal Matthews and Morgan Stewart had been friends since they were kids. They wonder if Morgan got jealous of Neal's penchant for making money and slept with Tara as an act of spite. Grissom says that if Morgan shot himself, he's the prime suspect in the murders of his family. However, if he didn't, there was someone else in the house.

Brass visits Neal in the hospital to ask him some questions. Neal claims that he didn't know the Stewarts had been murdered until recently, and Brass tells him that Tara was having an affair with Morgan. A distraught Neal says that if Tara was having an affair, it was because he couldn't give her what she needed. He adds that Tara doesn't handle rejection well and Brass questions whether getting rejected by Morgan would cause her to snap and kill the family.

Nick looks over the 3D digital image of the crime scene at the Stewart house. He shows Warrick that the exit wound from the bullet that killed Morgan doesn't line up with the hole in the wall. He manipulates Morgan's body by moving it to the floor and tilting the head up. When the bullet trajectories are lined up, it's shown that Morgan was shot on the floor and his body was moved to the bed afterwards. This was originally missed because the blood pool from Morgan's wound covered the initial blood spatter on the floor. Someone else was definitely in the bedroom.

Grissom and Sara go to the Matthews house to look for blood evidence on their clothing. One room in the house is a nursery with a crib in it, despite the fact that they didn't have kids. Sara finds a piece of broken glass in the soles of one of Neal's shoes, while Grissom finds a basal thermometer in the vanity. In the lab, Grissom tells Catherine that a basal thermometer was found in both houses. Based on a surgical procedure that Corinne Stewart underwent, she wasn't trying to have a kid; however, it seems that Tara Matthews was.

Tara's urine is tested, and it's confirmed that she's a few weeks pregnant. Somehow, through the fire and third-degree burns, she didn't miscarriage and lose the baby. Unfortunately, due to the trauma and morphine, it's unlikely the pregnancy is brought to term. Catherine and Grissom go over the case and know that Morgan and Tara were sleeping together. A flashback shows Neal walking on them in the middle of the act and grabbing Morgan's gun since he knew where it was hidden. Despite glass being found in the sole of Neal's shoe, there's still no evidence that he killed anyone. Grissom says that there was no blood on either Neal or Tara's clothes, but Catherine says that clothes are easy to get rid of. Furthermore, the clothes Tara was wearing went up in flames. Catherine looks at the evidence list and remembers the pink sweater that was recovered from Patrick Bromley's truck, which Hodges processes.

Neal is brought into the station for questioning, and Brass tells him that chlorine from the Stewart's pool was found on Tara's sweater. Brass says that Tara will be charged for murder, and Neal replies that if Tara is guilty, it was an accident. Neal is surprised when told that Tara was pregnant with Morgan's kid, as he thought he was the father since they were actively trying to have a baby. He says that Tara wanted a baby badly, but that he was having a lot of trouble trying to make that happen physically.

After a shouting match between Brass, Neal and his attorney, Neal tells his story. While at Morgan's house, he went to the bathroom to get some tweezers and discovered the basal thermometer in the medicine cabinet. He connected the dots and angrily confronted Morgan, who told him that it was Corinne's idea as a way to just help Neal and Tara have a baby. Neal wouldn't hear it and was irate that Morgan slept with his wife. He reached for the gun and, during a struggle, shot Morgan. Corinne entered, saw what happened, and ran to call the cops. To prevent this, Neal shot her, as well. Neal then called Tara to tell her what happened and she came to the house. As they argued outside, a neglected Dani ended up drowning in the pool. Tara jumped in to try to save her, but it was too late. Neal tells Brass that he was afraid Tara was going to try to kill herself and that all they wanted was a baby.

The Stewarts are shown being zipped up in body bags in the morgue, while Tara is shown still lying in bed in the hospital burn ward. A closeup of her face shows her eyes begin to slowly flutter open...


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

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