The Strip Strangler
Season 1
Number 23
Writer Ann Donahue
Director Danny Cannon
Original Airdate May 17, 2001
Previous Episode: Evaluation Day
Next Episode: Burked

Strip Strangler is the twenty-third episode and Season One finale of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


The team is investigating the ongoing murders by a signature killer who apparently has a pretty extensive knowledge of forensics and is able to not leave any evidence at the crime scenes. Grissom becomes angry when the sheriff invites the FBI to help out with the case. Sara offers to bait the killer, which upsets Grissom even more.


Victim: Eileen Snow (deceased)

On the case: entire team

On a stormy night, a woman awakens to creaking sounds in her apartment before she's attacked by a hooded figure. The following morning, Grissom and Brass arrive at the murder scene of Eileen Snow. Based on the killer's signature, Grissom connects the murder to two others, those of Audrey Hayes and Tracy Berg. Sara arrives at the scene and is clearly upset to find another victim.

When Sara processes the room, she realizes that the lack of hair means the killer likely vacuumed before he left; however, the bag in the vacuum has been taken. Catherine also comes up empty, as she's been unable to find any viable fingerprints. Grissom notes that the killer likely stalked Eileen, and he has Catherine check for sex offenders and peeping toms in the immediate area. While processing the scene, Warrick finds a hair on the bed and collects it as evidence; the CSIs may finally have a lead.

Sheriff Brian Mobley arrives and informs Grissom that the FBI will be getting involved. He introduces Grissom to FBI Special Agent Rick Culpepper, who is now overseeing the case. Grissom asserts that he wants to work in conjunction with the FBI as opposed to handing over the case. Agent Culpepper dubs the serial murderer the "Strip Strangler," much to Grissom's disgust. They're soon approached by a local security guard, Syd Goggle, who reports seeing a vehicle speeding away the previous evening.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins tells Grissom and Nick that Eileen suffered a blow to the head with a blunt object, ingested a dose of sodium amytal, and was strangled while she was alive—all signatures of the "Strip Strangler." Bruises around her neck indicate that she was alive for all of it and the killer exhibited percussive control. She was choked unconscious and brought to multiple times. Finally, she was raped with a polymer object, a small trace of which was found in her uterine wall. White cotton fibers are found in Eileen's mouth and throat, indicating she was likely silenced with a towel. Nick offers to head back to Eileen's apartment to look for the polymer object, and Grissom warns him that the killer may come back to the scene.

In the lab, Greg determines that the seminal DNA from Eileen's murder matches the previous murders. The ejaculate sample contains an unknown red substance that isn't blood, and he later identifies the mystery substance as ketchup, Meanwhile, Sara compares the hair found on the bed to a hair from a previous murder and finds neither have skin tags, indicating they were planted.

The team (sans Grissom) is paged to the conference room, where the FBI team has assembled. After Grissom refuses to share any pertinent information with the FBI, Agent Culpepper informs him of the operation they have in place: they plan to use Sara as a decoy to bait the killer, as she matches the victims' prototypes. Grissom is completely against the idea, and he warns Sara that the killer is turned on by strong women who fight back. Instead, Grissom wants to learn more about the killer and get out ahead of him. He also warns that the killer is likely escalating and learning how to control his victims even better.

Nick goes back to Eileen's apartment and finds a piece of latex under the bed. His thought is that the killer wears latex gloves during the crimes. He's soon alerted to a sound coming from the closet and is startled by a reporter who was trying to get an inside scoop. Later, in Grissom's office, Catherine tells him that Sheriff Mobley wants her to take over the case and potentially the night shift. She recommends that he improve his politics, or else he may be out of a leadership position.

Grissom then visits Brass, and the two brainstorm possible suspects. Brass wonders if Paul Millander is their guy due to the latex, but Grissom points out that the M.O.s are completely different, as Paul stages suicides in bathtubs with paternal figures. As the conversation continues, Brass reveals that the FBI is going ahead with the decoy operation, an idea which Grissom says he strictly rejected.

The operation has Sara shop at a grocery store frequented by two of the victims, with the thought that the killer may return to the store to target his next victim. Grissom attempts to convince her that they should keep studying the killer, but she is impatient and wants to take action before another woman is murdered. After three hours in the store, a man approaches Sara for a cigarette and tries to steal her wallet. It's immediately realized he can't be the killer because a new victim has just been found stripped and strangled at the Monaco hotel.

Upon arriving at the hotel room, Catherine and Grissom immediately notice several differences between this crime scene and the others—in this case, there's too much evidence. All signs point to the scene being staged, and Grissom notes that the killer used a hotel and didn't come in through the window, unlike the other scenes. The victim even had a husband, and Brad Walden is brought to the station for questioning.

Doc Robbins tells Grissom that the M.O.s appear to be the same; however, this time, the victim was raped with something covered in leather. Grissom comes to a realization and confronts Brad in the interrogation room, asking to see his golf clubs. Brad reveals that he keeps his clubs locked in a caddy and keeps the key on his keychain. Grissom asks how the killer got the clubs out of the caddy without a key and placed them back in when he was finished. When one of the club's handles is seen to have a frayed leather end, Brad is placed under arrest for the murder of his wife. However, to Grissom's surprise, Agent Culpepper also holds Brad accountable for the other murders.

In the hallway, Grissom tells Agent Culpepper that he can't charge Brad for the other murders, saying that he probably read the newspapers and learned of the killer's signatures. Agent Culpepper pulls rank and ignores Grissom's hunches. He soon gives a press conference, revealing that Brad lived within two miles of the victims and worked in the same office building as Eileen. With Brad in custody, Agent Culpepper informs the citizens of Las Vegas that the case has been solved. However, when asked by a reporter (the same one Nick encountered earlier), Grissom says that the "Strip Strangler" is still at large. Sheriff Mobley gets wind of this, takes Grissom off the case, and gives him a two-week holiday. Before he leaves, Grissom puts Catherine in charge of the case.

At his home, Grissom attempts to study the case, but he succumbs to a migraine. Catherine enters and startles Grissom. She tells him that she turned down the supervisor position offered to her, saying that she wants to earn it on merit. The rest of the team is ready to rally around Grissom, and they divide up the work, going back to the crime scenes to reexamine the original three cases.

CODIS returns an identification for the seminal DNA as Hunter Baumgartner, arrested for indecent exposure and recently released from jail. Catherine and Grissom find him at the bar where he works. When shown photos of the women, he recognizes them as victims of the "Strip Strangler" due to the television news coverages. His DNA may be on the women's bedsheets, but he reveals that he's a gay prostitute and that any number of people could have collected his DNA. Grissom suspects the "Strip Strangler" has been planting the semen after storing it in old ketchup packets, which is right in line with planting hairs.

Upon reexamining the Audrey Hayes crime scene, Warrick finds a small persistence of white cotton fibers. Recalling Grissom's advice that signature killers have low self-esteem and frequent gyms, he's able to discover that all three victims went to Strong's Gym in the past month to try out introductory offers. The white cotton fibers could be from a gym towel, and Sara advises Warrick to get a list of the gym's male members.

While inspecting the crime scene photos from Eileen's apartment, Nick finds no tire marks to corroborate the story from the security guard, Syd Google, about a car burning rubber the night of the murder. Grissom visits Syd's apartment alone, where he observes forensic journals and grooming implements. A flashback is shown of Syd shaving all the hair off his body. Grissom then follows a trail of liquid from the apartment to a bag of trash, which contains used ketchup packets. He follows the sound of a washing machine to the complex's laundry room, where he confronts Syd, who's washing white gym towels. Grissom discusses the evidence with Syd until Syd suddenly attacks him, striking him to the ground. Catherine arrives in time to shoot Syd dead before he hits Grissom with a shovel. Fortunately, Nick had filled her in about Syd being a suspect, and she went to the apartment to follow up.

Sheriff Mobley holds a news press conference to announce the identification of Syd Booth Goggle as the "Strip Strangler," and both he and Agent Culpepper fail to credit Grissom in the case. The team celebrates the conclusion of the case by having breakfast together.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Eric Szmanda as Greg Sanders
  • Robert David Hall as Dr. Al Robbins
  • Glenn Morshower as Sheriff Brian Mobley
  • Skip O'Brien as Detective Ray O'Riley
  • Paula Francis as News Anchor
  • Michael Cerveris as Syd Booth Goggle
  • Rainn Wilson as Guy in Supermarket
  • Randall Slavin as Hunter F. Baumgartner
  • Gregg Henry as Special Agent Rick Culpepper
  • Todd McKee as Bradley Walden
  • Maureen Muldoon as Reporter Lynda Darby
  • Jim Jenkins as Male TV Reporter (uncredited)
  • Lisa Lefevre as Exotic Dancer (uncredited)
  • Troy Martin as Corpse (uncredited)
  • Nicole Randall as Eileen Jane Snow (uncredited)
  • William Wantland as Extra (uncredited)

Episode Title[]

  • Strip Strangler refers to the serial murderer of the episode who stripped and strangled his victims. 


  • While in the morgue investigating a dead woman, in the close up, you can see the woman breathing.


  • Early on, Grissom tells Syd Goggle that the last security guard that wanted to help him ended up dead. Grissom is referring to Dominic Kretzker, who died while trying to diffuse a bomb in the episode Boom.
  • Sara shows signs of Autism: "We have ascertained that the perpetrator utilizes items from the victim's domicile." Grissom is also known to show signs of Autism.
  • Sheriff Brian Mobley offers Catherine the supervisor position when Grissom is put on forced leave, but she refuses.
  • Brass mentions Paul Millander as a possible suspect in the case. Millander had emerged as a nemesis to Grissom after successfully toying with in the episode Anonymous.


  • The episode appears to be heavily inspired by the unidentified Boston Strangler, numerous details additionally inspired by Ted Bundy, one of America's most infamous serial killers.
  • This episodes includes several instances of foreshadowing. In autopsy, Grissom says, "Now we just have to find the guy and hope that he hasn't done his laundry." At the end of the episode, Grissom will confront the killer in a laundry room. Later at the lab, Sara asks Grissom, "Are you hearing us?", a possible reference to Grissom's future hearing loss.
  • Rainn Wilson briefly appears as the creepy guy in the supermarket who approaches Sara. He's most recognizable for his role as Dwight Schrute on the U.S. version of The Office

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 1
PilotCool ChangeCrate 'n BurialPledging Mr. JohnsonFriends & LoversWho Are You?Blood DropsAnonymousUnfriendly SkiesSex, Lies and LarvaeI-15 MurdersFahrenheit 932BoomTo Halve and to HoldTable StakesToo Tough to DieFace Lift$35K O.B.O.Gentle, GentleSounds of SilenceJustice is ServedEvaluation DayStrip Strangler