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The Last Ride
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Season 15
Number 16
Writer Gavin Harris
Director Tim Beavers
Original Airdate January 27, 2015
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Previous Episode: Hero to Zero
Next Episode: Under My Skin

The Last Ride is the sixteenth episode in season fifteen of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

A murder victim is covered from head to toe in silver chrome paint, and the clues lead the team to a classic convertible where a former Las Vegas legend was murdered.

Plot

Victim: Ava Montrose (deceased)

On the case: entire team

A female victim is found in the woods covered from head to toe in silver paint. There's no ID or purse with the victim, and David Phillips finds blunt force trauma on the back of her neck. The time of death is put at between midnight and 3:00 AM. Nick explains to Det. Crawford that in Vegas, one can actually rent a girl and paint them up for parties.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins finds paint in both of the girl's lungs, but tells Russell that her cause of death wasn't the blunt force trauma. Instead, she was asphyxiated by the silver paint. Nasal perforations and irritations in the lung passages indicate that she was a chronic drug user. The doc finds linear contusion patterns on the victim's back, along with some sort of strange bruising. Glass particles are also pulled from her elbow.

The victim is identified as Ava Montrose, a local resident with a long rap sheet that includes burglary and drug arrests. Sara talks with Ava's mother and her boyfriend, who both feared that something like this might happen due to the girl's lifestyle. The mother can't think of any persons of interest, as guys entered and left her daughter's life constantly.

Hodges identifies the silver paint as chrome; more specifically, a new environmentally-friendly chrome that's being used in the auto painting industry. The glass, meanwhile, is from a car headlamp made of bisphenal polycarbonate, which was discontinued in 1939. Hodges tells Finn that the evidence is pointing towards Ava having been struck by a pre-1939 car, and when Finn runs Ava's odd bruise through the database, she finds that it's from a Packard.

The car in question is a 1938 Packard Touring Sedan. Finn believes that this is the car that hit Ava; furthermore, she believes the puncture in the back of Ava's neck was caused by the "Goddess of Speed" hood ornament. There are only two 1938 Packards registered in Vegas, and one belongs to an investment banker named Carlo Derosa. Finn and Sara confront Carlo at his place of work. He confirms that he owns the car in question and reveals that Ava was his ex-girlfriend; however, the two broke up last year and he claims that he hasn't seen her since. Carlo says that he keeps the car in a garage downtown that he calls "the vault."

The CSIs take a trip with Carlo to the vault, which is full of classic cars. While there, Carlo is confronted by his brother, Aron, who's under the impression that Finn and Sara are buyers. Finn takes a look around and finds the 1938 Packard in the mechanic's bay. The car has a busted headlamp and a chrome bath is on the ground nearby. She and Sara follow a trail of chrome drops to an empty parking spot in the warehouse. The Derosa brothers are soon made aware that their priceless 1976 Cadillac is missing, and it's the most valuable car in the collection.

There are no signs of a break-in, and the only other person with access to the place is the mechanic; however, he's currently out of the country. Aron claims that he was at his studio painting last night, while Carlo says he was in his office until about midnight. Carlo tells Sara that he dated Ava for about year, but broke it off with her six months ago. He believes it's possible Ava knew the security code, as he took her to warehouse frequently and she could've seen him enter it.

The missing Cadillac is quite valuable because of the fact that Alfonz Derosa, the father, was murdered in the car in 1989. Aron explains that a certain crowd of collectors will pay serious money for "death cars." Alfonz was a savvy businessman and a ruthless killer. He ran the skim in the Tangiers' counting room and got his nickname, "The Vise," from his method of breaking people's knees. As the story goes, Alfonz was in a turf war with Pete Bamonte, a rival mobster from Chicago. One night, he took his mistress for a ride up to Mount Charleston and both were shot to death there. One of Pete's hitmen was eventually convicted for the murder based on the testimony of a jailhouse snitch.

There's blood on the hood ornament, confirming Finn's suspicion that it was the object that pierced the back of Ava's neck. She also finds a broken heel under the car that has some residue on it. Greg spots a partial shoe impression on the ground he believes came from a man's loafer. The CSIs theorize that Ava broke her heel as she tried to run away, and the killer grabbed her and threw in the chrome vat. Needing a getaway car, the killer put her body in the trunk of the Cadillac and drove away. Ava's DNA is found on the security keypad, which confirms that she knew the password.

Greg also finds a promotional magnet for a pizzeria on the ground next to the Cadillac's parking space. There are specks of chrome on it, indicating that it was already on the ground on the night of the murder. In the lab, Hodges explains to Russell that car appraisers will use the magnets to check for the authenticity of the car, showing him that the magnets won't stick to cars that have been repaired with an automotive filler. Credit card receipts from the pizzeria show that there's one customer in particular who visits the establishment quite often.

That customer is Ken Bixler, a well-known Vegas car appraiser. Under interrogation, he tells Sara that he appraised the Derosa cars two months ago and hasn't been there since. He also confirms that he uses the magnets to check for authenticity. However, the magnet is advertising a new special, which places Ken in the vault much more recently than two months ago. Ken relents and says that he was last there three days ago to do an updated appraisal on the Cadillac, per Carlo's request. The appraisal was done in private, as Aron would've nixed any potential sale of the car.

Russell and Sara are starting to believe that the car theft was an inside job. The theory is that Carlo wanted to sell the Cadillac, but Arun caught wind of it and stopped him. Carlo then decided to hire Ava to steal the car, and she may have brought an accomplice with her. When the accomplice saw the car, he got greedy. He killed Ava, stole the car, and disposed of her body.

The trace from Ava's heel contains elements of concrete and titanium oxide, both of which are used in a unique road-paving material. It's found on a half-mile strip of road that's located in the same area where Ava just rented a 20 x 20 storage unit, which is the perfect size to hide a car. When Nick and Det. Crawford go to the unit, they find a broken lock on the ground. The missing Cadillac is inside - along with Aron, who has the keys in his hand.

Under interrogation, Aron denies being a thief and murderer. He tells Det. Crawford that Ava loved him and left Carlo to be with him. Crawford has a hard time believing this, as Aron is a step down financially from his brother. Aron claims that Carlo is the one who put Ava up to stealing the car, likely bribing her with drugs. He explains that he was in her storage unit to get his car back, as he had found out she was renting the place. Aron adds that the car is important to him because he used to go on late-night drives with his father, including on the night Alfonz and his mistress were murdered. He believes that Carlo takes after his father and that stealing runs in his blood.

Finn scours the internet and finds that Carlo posted the Cadillac on a car auction website a week ago. The asking price for the car was $1 million and, according to Carlo's bank records, an anonymous buyer put down $100,000 on the car. Aron stopped the sale, but there's no indication that the deposit was returned, so it's possible Carlo decided to go through with everything. One brother is willing to steal the car to sell it, while the other is willing to steal it to protect it. However, Finn believes neither brother is involved, as the shoe impression in the mechanic's bay wasn't a match to any shoes the brothers own. It's possible the scorned buyer used Mob tactics to get possession of the Mob car. The money trail is no help, as it leads to offshore accounts.

When Greg and Morgan process the Cadillac, they find a fiber wedged in the front passenger's seat. There's also a chrome flake found under the seat, making it likely that Ava was transported in the car. The CSIs open the trunk and find a bloody tarp with chrome paint on it, which confirms the theory. A copy of Ken Bixler's appraisal of the car is also in the trunk, and touch DNA from the report comes back as a female familial match to Ava. Since Ava didn't have any sisters or daughters, there's only one possible match: her mother, Ruth. Ruth is the mystery buyer and, possibly, the killer.

A flashback shows Ruth having an argument with her daughter, telling her that she borrowed a lot of money from some shady people. Under interrogation, she confesses to Sara that she used Ava to help steal the car, as she knew the code to get into the vault. She tells Sara that she was only acting as an intermediary for a buyer from Dubai; the man was willing to pay double the appraisal and purchase price. Ruth borrowed the money from a loan shark to make the deposit, but things went awry when Aron canceled the sale. She denies killing her own daughter and believes that Ava brought an "unsavory friend" to help her that night.

Sara believes Ruth's story, as Ava was of more value to her alive than dead. Meanwhile, Greg does some further research on Pete Bamonte, Alfonz's rival. He discovers that Pete had a son who took his stepfather's name after the mother divorced Pete and remarried. The stepfather's surname was Reidel, the same surname as Ruth's boyfriend, Duncan. Ruth's boyfriend is Pete Bamonte's son, and her story about a buyer from Dubai could be a cover for the real buyer.

The trace found earlier in the Cadillac comes back as hemp, which was not used in carpets or seat linings in 1976. Furthermore, the chrome trace found is different than what Ava was covered in. Both traces came from the front passenger's seat, and Finn and Greg take a closer look. Greg discovers that the chrome on the headrest post is flaking, so someone messed with it recently. When he sprays the seat with luminol, they find blood evidence everywhere on the seat, but none on the headrest. Ava's killer replaced the headrest, but it's unknown why.

Since Alfonz's killer was convicted based on a snitch's testimony, the thought is that he might've been set up. Duncan Rediel was 18 at the time of the murders, and the team wonders if there was something in the car, such as a bullet, that could prove he was actually the trigger man. However, touch DNA from the headrest gives the team a surprise suspect.

Russell and Det. Crawford sit across the interrogation table from Ken Bixler. They reveal that the original headrest was found in a dumpster behind his appraisal office and his fingerprints were on it. An expended bullet was also found that was a direct match to a Beretta manufactured in 1980 and registered to him. It just so happens that Ken fired the gun last year when he thought someone was breaking into his house. Because the gun was evidence, it was put into the system. It also matches the gun used to kill Alfonz Derosa.

Ken confesses that, in 1989, he went to Mount Charleston to kill Vera Scanell, his fiancée and Alfonz's mistress. Claiming that she caused him nothing but pain and humiliation, Ken shot them both, saying that they got what was coming to them. In the process, he fired a shot that missed Vera and went into the headrest instead. Thirty years later, with the gun was put into the system, there would be evidence tying him to the murders.

Ken tells Russell and Det. Crawford that he was friends with Ava's dealer and helped him launder money. She came to him a week before, telling him about her mother's plan to steal the car. Knowing that the car was being sold, Ken knew he had to get in there and switch out the headrests. He says that he sent Ava away, but she soon came back and saw that he was up to something. Knowing it was big, Ava wanted in on the action, but he slapped her to shut her up. This led to a bigger altercation that Ava tried to run from. However, Ken caught up to her in the mechanic's bay, slammed her up against the Packard, and drowned her in the silver vat.

It's later revealed that the Decarlo brothers have buried the hatchet and agreed to donate the Cadillac to the Mob Museum, and Finn and Greg decide to take one last ride in the car before that happens.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

  • Alimi Ballard as Detective Kevin Crawford
  • Wil Traval as Carlo Derosa
  • Travis Schuldt as Aron Derosa
  • Matthew Glave as Ken Bixler
  • Blair Bomar as Ava Montrose
  • Karen Sillas as Ruth Montrose
  • Tracy Fraim as Duncan Reidel
  • James Aldridge as Coroner Asst. Jimmy
  • Vito D'Ambrosio as Alfonz Derosa
  • Benjamin Plessala as Young Aron Derosa

Music

  • They'll Never Know by Georgia Ku
  • Night and Day by Steve Lawrence, Don Costa Orchestra
  • With Plenty of Money & You by Tony Bennett

Notes

  • This is Alimi Ballard's final appearance as Detective Kevin Crawford. He appeared in 13 episodes.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 15
The CSI EffectBuzz KillBad BloodThe Book of ShadowsGirls Gone WilderThe Twin ParadoxRoad to RecoveryRubbery HomicideLet's Make A DealDead RailsAngle of AttackDead WoodsThe Greater GoodMerchants of MenaceHero to ZeroThe Last RideUnder My SkinThe End GameImmortality
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