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Lost Reindeer
CSI; Crime Scene Invastigation - S14 E11 The Lost Reindeer (1).jpg
Season 14
Number 11
Writer Gavin Harris
Director Frank Waldeck
Original Airdate December 11, 2013
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Previous Episode: Girls Gone Wild
Next Episode: Keep Calm and Carry On

Lost Reindeer is the eleventh episode in season fourteen of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

When a man is found murdered at an elaborate holiday party complete with real snow and live reindeer, the CSI team is brought in to investigate.

Plot

Victim: Brad Fante (deceased)

On the case: D.B. Russell, Greg Sanders, Julie Finlay, Morgan Brody, Nick Stokes, Jim Brass

A reindeer with bloody hooves and fur makes its way down the Vegas strip, much to the amazement of onlookers. The animal's point of origin is from a Christmas display set up in front of a house, complete with snow - and a dead Santa Claus.

A business card on the victim identifies him as Brad Fante, an I.T. guy who works for Bonham Realty. David Phillips puts the time of death at between midnight and 1:00 AM, and he notes that both femoral arteries were severed. Brad bled out in the spot where he was found. Russell spots blood on the sleigh's runner, indicating that the vehicle ran over Brad's legs. David notices a large blood pool under the body; when it's flipped over, he and Russell see that Brad was stabbed five times. Combined with the sleigh running over his legs, this was no accident.

With the sun melting the snow, Greg tells Morgan that blood in snow doesn't read the same way it normally does; drops blend in, leave no trails, and prints don't lift easily. He adds that the best way to preserve footprints in snow is to use liquid cold wax and dry ice.

Inside the house, Ryan Bonham tells Russell that he was hosting the company Christmas party at his house. Brad had been working for the company for the last few months and had been psyched to organize the party. Everyone loved Brad, which made him the perfect person to play Santa. Ryan recalls that he put his son, Blake, to bed at 9:00 PM, and the next thing he knew, he was awakened to the sound of sirens. Outside, Greg takes a sample of blood from the reindeer, appropriately named "Dasher," and briefly converses with Jayson Walt, whose company organized the Winter Wonderland scene outside.

Hodges, on the scene to assist, spots a partial boot impression that doesn't match what Brad was wearing. He pours ice wax onto the print and makes a mold of it to preserve it. Blood evidence suggests that Brad was attacked in the spot where his body was found. Morgan theorizes that he was stabbed, whereupon he bumped into the sled and dislodged it. This caused the sled to slide down its stand and sever Brad's femoral arteries.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins finds a cut and bruising on Brad's cheek, indicating that he got into a fight before he was killed. A fiber is pulled from the wound that Nick believes is synthetic. The doc notes the viciousness of the stabbing, as the killer twisted the blade; this might mean the attack was personal. Nick wonders if heavy drinking led to the altercation, but Doc Robbins says that there was no alcohol in Brad's stomach contents.

Back at the Bonham house, young Blake watches a video of his late mother reading him a Christmas book. The reading is interrupted by a phone call, and Blake laments that his mother never got to finish the story. When questioned by Morgan, Blake recalls that he saw a reindeer in the house; it was pawing at the floor on the staircase. Hodges tries (poorly) to explain to the child that he was dreaming and merely imagined seeing such a thing.

In the lab, Greg processes the snow collected and finds that the DNA in the blood drops all came from the victim. Furthermore, the boot print recovered doesn't match any footwear worn by the partygoers, Brad, or Jayson Walt. Greg lets the snow melt into beakers, whereupon he finds a piece of biological trace that was buried under the snow. Finn questions whether the trace could be part of the victim's intestine.

The fiber found in Brad's cheek wound was made from specific polymers and dye used in fake fur and reindeer costumes. Hodges theorizes to Russell that "Santa" was knocked out by one of his reindeer, who was wearing "hoof gloves." This would also explain why Blake saw a reindeer inside the house looking for something.

Morgan searches the staircase and finds a contact lens. Records show that it belongs to Rachel Walker, a stripper at a local club. Rachel had won the prestigious "Miss Reindeer 2013" award, beating out seven other applicants. When contacted, the strip club told Morgan that Brad was the one who hired Rachel, having her come over to the house after all the kids were asleep. Morgan theorizes that things got out of hand after the party, which led to Rachel fighting back.

Under interrogation, Rachel recalls that she was giving Brad a private lap dance while his friend, Fred Larkin, videotaped it. When Brad started getting a little too handsy, Rachel punched him. She denies killing Brad, however, claiming that after the incident, she changed her clothes and went out to eat with Fred. This is confirmed by a surveillance video from the diner they went to.

The mystery tissue Greg found actually belongs to a Pacific bonito, a type of fish. Tox analysis on the fish guts found traces of cocaine, so Brad not only went off-script when hiring the stripper, but he brought drugs to the party, as well. Morgan wonders if, apart from being cheap with Rachel, Brad also stiffed his drug dealer.

Nick goes through the footage Fred shot of the Christmas party and surprisingly finds two different Santas. He shows Russell that Santa #1 was chugging a glass of wine; however, Brad's stomach contents contained no alcohol. Twenty minutes later, Santa got a phone call and left the party, lending his suit to Brad. Nick highlights the same stain on the suit in two different shots; however, the Santas were wearing different watches and drinking different beverages. He wonders if someone mistook Brad for Santa #1, which would make the other Santa the target.

Morgan and Russell watch an advertisement for Winter Wonderland, the company Jayson Walt works for. However, Jayson himself appears to be the owner and even mentions that a Santa Claus is provided with the Winter Wonderland package, something he neglected to mention earlier. Greg interrupts and reveals that the bonito wasn't served at the party and was already in the ice. The truck manifest shows that when it's not working holiday parties, it makes a lot of trips from Mexico to Vegas, transporting bonito on ice. However, the bonito was stuffed with cocaine, and the ice used in transport was used to make the Winter Wonderland. This would explain how the bonito ended up in the ice, and it would also give someone with knowledge of Jason's practices motive to kill him. Jayson may have crossed a major drug cartel and he must now be found before it's too late.

Jayson is soon located and brought in for interrogation. He claims to have withheld the information about him playing Santa because the right questions weren't asked. Brass tells him that he was the intended victim of the stabbing and reveals what the police know about the drug trafficking operation. Despite the evidence against him, Jayson refuses to rat out his associates and cooperate with the DEA; in fact, he would rather take his chances in jail. Brass obliges and places him under arrest.

Greg goes through Jayson's phone records and finds that, over the past week, he was communicating with his brother, Gary Lee. Gary Lee is in prison for drug trafficking, and the theory is that Jayson was trying to hold the family business together while his brother was serving time. However, Greg reads the transcript from Gary Lee's trial and discovers that Jayson turned state's evidence and testified against his own brother. Now, Gary Lee has a hearing scheduled for appeal, and he and Jayson have been in recent communication. The most recent text messages between the two include discussions about some kind of payment, which Jayson rejected. Two days later, Brad Fante was stabbed to death just after Jayson lent him his Santa suit.

Gary Lee has been admitted to Desert Palm Hospital with kidney failure. He's unsurprised when told that someone was trying to kill his younger brother, telling Nick that Jayson has a way of making enemies. Nick brings up the trial from a year ago and shows Gary Lee the photo of the dead Santa, telling him that his hitman missed their intended target. Gary Lee replies that he would never kill his brother, as Jayson is his kidney donor. When told that he and his brother were haggling over money, Gary Lee reveals that they reached an agreement. Jayson will be bailed out of jail, brought to the hospital to donate his kidney, then brought to court to recant his earlier statement - all in a week's time.

Gary Lee is off the hook, as he would have the least desire to see harm done to his brother. Nick then remembers the autopsy, noting that the killer stabbed Brad and twisted the knife. It seems quite possible that the killer's intent was to completely destroy the kidneys; by doing so, the killer would essentially be killing Gary Lee, as well. So now the question is: who wants Gary Lee Walt dead?

Finn lays out the numerous photos of drug-related kills that Gary Lee is suspected of ordering. One of the victims is Eva Bonham, Ryan's wife and Blake's mother. She was working at a Savings & Loan, and Gary Lee was laundering his drug money at the bank. An executive was about to blow the whistle on the operation, but Gary Lee got to him first. Eva, who was working late that night, became collateral damage. Finn finds out that Ryan has been in touch with the district attorney all along; he knew about the appeal and the fact that it had to be rescheduled due to Gary Lee's surgery. Ryan also likely found out that Jayson was going to donate a kidney to his brother. So, Ryan put a plan into motion to hire Jayson for the party and eventually get him alone. However, he accidentally killed the wrong person, unaware that Jayson lent his Santa suit to Brad.

Brass and some uniformed officers storm Ryan's house and find signs of a struggle on the first floor. Young Blake is soon found hiding in a crawl space under the stairs; he tells Brass that some men came and took his father.

Since making bail, Jayson has disappeared, so he has become the main suspect again. He may have even caught wind that Ryan tried to kill him, so he may be out to exact revenge. Blake is brought to the police station, where he says he'll only talk to one person: Hodges, aka "the funny science man." Hodges awkwardly makes small talk with Blake and gets the boy to open up. Blake mentions that he heard the men who took his father use the word "condenser," and Hodges asks if the truck the men came in was the same one that was at the party. The boy answers in the affirmative.

A traffic camera caught Jayson's ice truck turning onto a highway an hour ago. The assumption is that Ryan is in the back, on ice, and he's being taken out of town. Finn guesses that Ryan wasn't killed in his house because he may have something the men want. Greg wonders if the men are taking Ryan to the same place where they make their ice, noting that the melted snow he tested didn't contain any chlorine. He's able to determine that the water source is a small lake in Henderson, and the Walt brothers just happen to own a warehouse nearby.

In Henderson, one of Jayson's associates roughs Ryan up, while Jayson asks where a box of bank records is. When Ryan stalls, Jayson has the ice chipper powered up and threatens to torture him. Brass and some uniformed officers arrive just in time with their guns drawn. The associate is shot and killed, while Jayson holds his gun against Ryan's head. Ryan encourages Brass to pull the trigger, but Jayson eventually gives himself up. As Jayson is hauled away, Ryan tells Brass that he should've fired as a way to avenge Eva's death. Brass then places Ryan under arrest for Brad's murder.

At the station, Brass reveals that Ryan made a full confession, admitting to killing Brad by mistake. He had convinced Jayson and his men that there were bank records that would incriminate the brothers, but this was fabricated in an effort to give the police more time to find Blake. Brass then tells Russell that there was a "mix-up" with Jayson's custody - he's being "accidentally" transferred to Buffalo and won't be able to make it back to Vegas in time to donate his kidney.

Hodges sits down with Blake and tells him that his grandparents are coming to pick him up. As the boy reads the end of his book, The Lost Reindeer, the lab is shown celebrating at their own Christmas party.

Cast

Main Cast:

Guest Cast

  • David Alpay as Ryan Bonham
  • David Ury as Jayson Walt
  • Patrick Kilpatrick as Gary Lee Walt
  • Scot Zeller as Brad Fante
  • Jadon Wells as Blake Bonham
  • Alexis Krause as Rachel Walker
  • Joshua Kwak as Fred Larkin
  • Rachelle Pettinato as Eva Bonham

Episode Title

  • The Lost Reindeer is an actual children's picture book written by Gavin Harris. He's also a writer on the staff, having written this episode and the season 12 episode 73 Seconds.

Music

  • Don't Believe in Christmas by The Tabaltix

Notes

  • Jorja Fox (Sara) and Jon Wellner (Henry) are credited but do not appear in the episode.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 14
The Devil and D.B. RussellTake the Money and RunTorch SongLast SupperFrame by FramePassed PawnsUnder a CloudHelplessCheck In and Check OutGirls Gone WildLost ReindeerKeep Calm and Carry OnBoston BrakesDe Los MuertosLove for SaleKiller MovesLong Road HomeUninvitedThe FallenConsumedKittyDead In His Tracks


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