Turn Of The Screws
Season 4
Number 21
Writer Richard Catalani,
Carol Mendelsohn,
Josh Berman
Director Deran Sarafian
Original Airdate May 6, 2004
Previous Episode: Dead Ringer
Next Episode: No More Bets

Turn of the Screws is the twenty-first episode in Season Four of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation


Grissom, Nick and Sara investigate when a roller coaster derails at an amusement park, leaving six people dead. When it turns out there were only five people on the roller coaster, they suspect foul play. Meanwhile, Catherine and Warrick investigate the murder of a 13-year-old girl.


Victims: Cameron, Gary and May Clodfelter; Jim Nevins, Noah Nuland, Shelly Hoffman (all deceased)

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

At Sphinx Amusement Park, a family of four rides "Pharaoh's Fever," a tall, steel roller coaster. They disembark and walk to a nearby stand to order something to eat. Suddenly, screams are heard and the cars are shown flying off the track and into the parking lot, crushing a car. Later, when Grissom arrives on the scene, Brass informs him that six people are dead.

Nick and Sara soon arrive on the scene with Greg in tow. Grissom tells them that due to the criminal and civil liabilities issues, they have to keep it quiet and not talk to the press. After Grissom gives them orders and asks if there any questions, Greg asks him why one victim is so far away from the others. Grissom notes that this is curious, but simply walks away. Sara guesses that the victim didn't have his seat belt buckled, so he flew further than the other victims on the ride.

Sara photographs the evidence in the parking lot, while Nick bags it and Greg documents it. Meanwhile, Brass talks to ride operator Zack Lawrence, who tells him that the training he received to operate the ride was to release the hand brake and hit the "Start" button when the light was green. Brass asks Zack to remember who was on the ride, and he only remembers five people. There's a vendor booth nearby with a sign that reads "See Yourself Scream"; Zack tells Brass that an on-ride digital camera takes photos of the passengers and stores them in the computer's hard drive. Despite the train being airborne and not reaching the part of the ride where the camera is, Brass says that they're going to need the computer.

Elsewhere, Grissom questions Woody, the park's chief engineer. Woody insists that all of the rides are up to code and didn't think an accident like this was possible. During the conversation, Grissom spots a piece of metal on the ground and picks it up with his pen. Woody identifies it as a nut that secures the wheel to the screw; however, he claims that one loose screw couldn't cause a whole train to derail. For that to happen, the screws on all eight wheels would have to be loose, which seems almost impossible. Grissom then visits Nick, Sara and Greg in the large tent they set up in the parking lot for evidence gathering. He tells them he's looking for a screw, and Nick hands him a container full of them. Grissom observes that the end threads on the screws were stripped, which means the nuts were loose. Excessive play on the screws would've worn down the threads, causing the nuts to pop off. Grissom also finds tool marks that left vertical striations and Nick guesses that a pipe wrench could've been used.

Doc Robbins has the bodies lined up in the morgue and gives Grissom a rundown of their names and causes of death. One of the victims is Jim Nevins, a 20-year-old park employee who died from an impact to the head. Grissom notes that, according to Zack, there were only five people on the coaster and that none of them were employees of the park. He wonders if Jim was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got hit by a falling roller coaster, but Doc Robbins informs him that Jim's rigor mortis and body temperature put his time of death 16 hours before the other victims around 1:00 AM.

Grissom and Sara head back to the park and examine the underside of the coaster's loading platform. They see that the wheels would've been in reach and that anyone could've had access to tamper with them. Sara finds what looks like lubricant on the track and swabs it for evidence. The sound of metal on metal draws Grissom's attention; Woody tells him that it's a detached support beam, but it's just a cosmetic problem. He had fixed the beam several times during the year and recorded it in his maintenance log. As Woody talks to Grissom and Sara, they notice a pipe wrench in Woody's tool bag and bag it as evidence. Meanwhile, Nick gives Grissom a call and tells him that Jim's body was covered in trilobal red fibers; Grissom guesses that the fibers are from a car's interior.

In the parking lot tent, Greg tells Grissom and Sara that the roller coaster broke into 106 different parts; however, he found one thing that doesn't belong—semen. Grissom informs them that the release of epinephrine and adrenaline while riding a coaster could produce a stimulatory effect. He then notices a red T-Bird, which Greg tells him belongs to Jim Nevins. Sara finds a pipe wrench in the back seat of the car that has blood on it, while Grissom discovers that there's a blood pool in the trunk. He wonders if Jim was hit over the head with a pipe wrench and stuffed in the trunk of his own car, lying in a pool of blood. The roller coaster hitting the car would've ejected Jim from the trunk, which would be more in line with their findings so far. Sara finds this far-fetched, but Grissom says that he's just following the evidence.

Brass has Zack Lawrence called into the station for questioning. Zack tells him that he remembers Jim's T-Bird being in the parking lot when he closed up the amusement park at 10:00 PM the night before the accident. He says that Jim would sometimes stay in the park after closing and take his dates on the coaster, which was no big deal to his fellow employees. However, Zack doesn't know the name of Jim's date from the night before the accident. Brass wonders how Jim got access to the park at night if all of the power was shut down; Zack tells him that the same key that opens the men's room door also opens up all of the power boxes in the park. There's also no security, as the last night security guard got laid off during a round of budget cuts.

Nick takes mold samples of the two pipe wrenches and finds that the tool marks from the sabotaged nut are a match to the wrench found in the T-Bird. He tells Grissom his theory: Jim loosed the screws on the coaster, then was attacked when he left the park and killed with his own wrench. Nick also says that he got a partial print off of the wrench and that it matched one of the two sets of prints found on the T-Bird's trunk; the other print is unknown. Greg enters and tells Grissom and Nick that the semen found in the coaster belonged to Jim and he relays the information that Jim used to take dates on coaster rides. Nick believes his theory is no good, as nobody would sabotage their own "sex machine."

Sara goes through the on-ride photos from the computer the park sent over. She's looking at the day of the accident, but Nick has her go back in time, as he's aware of Jim's escapades. Sure enough, they find Jim riding the coaster with a girl; the timestamp is 12:45 AM, 15 minutes before his death. They know they need to find the girl in the photo. Grissom and Sara visit the amusement park again to look for the girl. They run into Woody, who identifies the girl as "Cleopatra" and he tells them she works in food services. They find "Cleopatra" on break; she tells them that her real name is Lisa Hunt. Lisa tells Grissom and Sara that she had no idea the on-ride camera worked at night. She admits that she had always had a crush on Jim, and that she agreed to go out with him when he asked her. Grissom asks her what they did after the coaster ride; Lisa says that they talked and kissed. Jim offered to drive her home, but she decided to walk since she doesn't live far away. Sara asks Lisa if she noticed anyone else around; Lisa says no, but admits that she wasn't really looking.

David Hodges pulls Sara into his lab and informs her that the substance she collected from the track is doxepin ointment, which is prescribed to treat dermatological inflammations caused by coming into contact with certain types of plants. Sara guesses that whoever messed with the coaster rubbed up against the track, transferring the ointment; Hodges tells her that their killer has a rash. With this knowledge, Sara checks the pharmaceutical database and finds that doxepin has only been prescribed to 12 people in Clark County, one of whom is Lisa Hunt.

In interrogation, Lisa admits to Grissom and Sara that she had a rash on her leg and used doxepin to get rid of it. When asked how she got the rash, Lisa says she was studying with someone in the grass and rubbed on something when they went for a walk. It turns out that the person Lisa was with was her math tutor, Zack Lawrence. Lisa confirms that Zack also contracted the rash and she gave him some of her ointment.

Sara and Brass visit Zack at the amusement park while he's sweeping the merry-go-round. Zack confirms that he used some of Lisa's ointment; Sara says that it's actually illegal to use someone else's prescription. When Brass takes Zack away for more questioning, Zack leaves his broom behind, allowing Sara to dust it for prints. In interrogation, Zack shows Grissom and Sara his rash. Sara tells him that the prints lifted from his broom match the prints on Jim's T-Bird and the prints on the pipe wrench.

Sara points out that Zack is a straight "A" student with a scholarship to Stanford University. When pressed, Zack admits that he had feelings for Lisa, which is why he took a $12/hour job at the amusement park when he's already making $20/hour tutoring. Things escalated when she grabbed his hand during one of their study breaks the week before. His hope was that this would lead to something, but word got around that Jim was taking Lisa on one of his "coaster dates." Lisa said that this was just a rumor, but Zack didn't trust her. He loosened the screws on the coaster in the event that a "coaster date" took place; if it didn't, no harm would be done. The problem is, he didn't loosen them enough. When the coaster didn't derail, he took things into his own hands. Zack went to Plan B and attacked Jim in the parking lot with a pipe wrench, then stuffed the body in trunk of the T-Bird. Sara asks Zack why he didn't tighten the screws after his plan failed, and Zack replies that he just didn't think about it. That cost five other people their lives.

Victim: Tessa Press (deceased)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Warrick Brown

Catherine and Warrick are called to a scene where the body of 13-year-old Tessa Press has been found. They meet David Phillips at the scene; Catherine immediately notices that the body position is inconsistent with the lividity. Lividity shows that Tessa died face-down, but someone had dumped her face-up. David rolls the body to show Catherine the instar maggots that are crawling over Tessa's back. Based on the temperature and the previous night's rainfall, David estimates that Tessa has been out there for 24 hours. The rain may have washed away most of the evidence, so Catherine and Warrick hope that there's enough evidence still on the body. David wonders why someone would take the time to drive out and dump the body, but not take extra time to bury it so nobody would find it.

In the police station, Tessa's mother, Raina, positively identifies her daughter's body from the autopsy photo. Warrick tells her that Tessa died over 24 hours ago; Raina replies that she didn't report her daughter missing because she would sleep over at a friend's house a few nights per week. She explains that she works nights, but would be there to make Tessa breakfast and greet her when she came home from school. When Tessa didn't come home that day, Raina assumed that she was at the friend's house. After Raina is escorted to the morgue to see the body, Warrick questions why she would go more than 24 hours without checking in on her daughter.

In autopsy, David tells Warrick that Tessa had a lacerated spinal cord and that her cause of death was asphyxia due to diaphragmatic paralysis. Warrick notices that there's soil inside of the neck wound; he finds this odd, noting that soil should be around the wound and on it, but not inside of it. Catherine and Warrick visit a mini mart not far from where Tessa would get off the school bus. The manager has told Warrick that she recognized Tessa and remembered seeing her the day she was killed. They also confirmed that Tessa would spend at least two nights per week at her friend's house; however, there was no set schedule and the friend's parents figured Tessa was at home when she didn't show up. Catherine spots a security camera in the minimart's parking lot; Warrick tells her that he has already secured the footage.

Warrick is able to find Tessa in the security camera footage; there, he sees a boy grabbing her arm and trying to take her away. They're able to identify the boy as 15-year-old Henry Capana, who tells Catherine and Warrick that he would sit next to Tessa on the school bus. He says that he felt sorry for Tessa, as other kids would make fun of her hair and clothing. Henry explains that he had just gotten his learner's permit and that he was simply offering Tessa a ride. Tessa declined, telling Henry that someone was coming to pick her up. Henry says that he saw Tessa get into a truck, but he didn't see who was driving it.

Warrick meets up with Catherine and tells her that the trace inside Tessa's wound is ZooDoo, a compost made up of the feces of different animals that keeps deer away. ZooDoo is imported from Auckland, New Zealand, and is used by one company in Clark County called ADL Landscaping. He finds out that Raina hired ADL a few months back for a job. They head to Raina's house and see an ADL truck in the driveway with tools in the truck bed; Catherine finds this odd, as the company was hired months ago. When they knock on the door, Raina answers with her boyfriend, Justin Mack; Justin is wearing an ADL shirt.

While Catherine talks to Raina inside the house, Warrick questions Justin outside in the driveway. Justin says that Tessa would take the bus home from school, but that he would sometimes pick her up from school, buy her an ice cream cone, and drop her off at her house. With Justin's permission, Warrick tests the tools in the truck for blood and finds evidence of blood on a shovel. Meanwhile, Raina tells Catherine that Justin is a good man and that he would never hurt anyone, especially Tessa.

The evidence is processed—the blood on the shovel is Tessa's, while the fingerprints lifted from the handle of the shovel belong to Raina. Her prints were the only one on the shovel, but Raina tries explaining that Justin wears work gloves, which is why his prints are nowhere to be found. However, the presence of prints was enough for a warrant to search Raina's car. A flashback shows Warrick spraying luminol in the backseat of the car and finding evidence of blood.

In interrogation, Warrick tells Raina that the weapon used and the method of body disposal don't suggest premeditated murder. As Raina gets angrier during the interrogation, Catherine asks what set her off. Raina complains to Catherine that she bought Tessa a bus pass, but she would still get a ride home from school with Justin. A clearly unhinged Raina accused Tessa of trying to steal Justin away from her. As Tessa denied this and walked away from their argument, Raina grabbed a shovel and hit Tessa in the back of the head. An incensed Catherine berates Raina for killing her 13-year-old child and leaves the interrogation room.

Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Wallace Langham as David Hodges
  • David Berman as David Phillips
  • James Patrick Stuart as Attorney Adam Matthews
  • Terry Bozeman as Attorney Brad Lewis
  • Palmer Davis as Attorney Margaret Finn
  • Ron Dean as Woody
  • J. Barton as Zack Lawrence
  • Kate Vernon as Raina Press
  • Alexandra Breckenridge as Lisa 'Cleopatra' Hunt
  • Daveigh Chase as Tessa Press
  • Brad Hawkins as Justin Mack
  • Adam Hendershott as Henry Capana
  • Stacy Barnhisel as Family Mom
  • Marc Musso as Joey, Family Son
  • Melina Bielefelt as Henry's Mother
  • J.B. Ghuman Jr. as Marc Anthony
  • Haley Ramm as Emily, Family Daughter
  • Daniel Spanton as Family Dad

Episode Title[]

  • "Turn of the Screws" is a play on the name of a horror novella mentioned in the episode, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.


Grissom: There are three things in human life that are important. The first is to be kind. The second one is to be kind. And the third one is to be kind.
Sarah: Henry James.
Grissom: Very good. Author of the one of the greatest horror stories every written, "Turn of the Screw", and I'm looking for one.


  • Alexandra Breckenridge played Lisa Hunt in this episode. She would later play Sophie on the NBC show This is Us.
  • Ron Dean played Woody, the amusement park's chief engineer. He also played Andy's father in the film The Breakfast Club.
  • At the end of the episode, Grissom tells Woody that he's the marathon record holder for the roller coaster "The Steel Phantom" in Kennywood Amusement Park in Mifflin, Pennsylvania. This coaster, along with the other coasters they mention during their conversation, is a real coaster. When "The Steel Phantom" opened in 1991, it featured the fastest speed and longest drop of any roller coaster in the world. It's name was changed to "Phantom's Revenge" after it reopened following refurbishment in 2001, and it routinely finishes near the top of polls for best steel roller coasters.

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 4
Assume NothingAll For Our CountryHomebodiesFeeling the HeatFur and LoathingJackpotInvisible EvidenceAfter the ShowGrissom Versus the VolcanoComing of RageEleven Angry JurorsButterfliedSuckersPaper or PlasticEarly RolloutGetting OffXXBad To The BoneBad WordsDead RingerTurn of the ScrewsNo More BetsBloodlines