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CSI Files - Entrance Wound

Entrance Wound

By Patti Vickers
Posted at March 27, 2003 - 3:48 AM GMT

Synopsis:

CSIs Horatio Caine and Tim Speedle, along with Medical Examiner Dr. Alexx Woods, are called to a local hotel to investigate a fatal stabbing. The victim is found lying on bed, and has been stabbed multiple times in the chest, abdomen and thighs with what appears to be a slender, sharp weapon, which is speculated to be a knife or a pair of scissors. The first police officer on the scene requested permission from the D.A. to do a live scan of the victim’s fingerprints. She is identified as local prostitute Susan McCreary.

There do not appear to be any bloodstains on the sheets or under the bed. Speculating that this is the primary crime scene and the offender has cleaned it up, Horatio uses phenolphthalein, an organic compound, to look for evidence of such. Spraying down the room, he finds that while the wall by the bed doesn’t appear to have any blood on it, it at one time did have blood on it and has since been wiped down.

Meanwhile, Dr. Woods notes that the victim’s liver temperature puts time of death between 7 and 8 pm of the previous night. She also tells the investigators that she can smell the spice cardamom, which is a fairly common ingredient in hand and body soaps. Speedle, having talked to the housekeeper, tells Horatio hotel guest took the soap and towels. In addition, Speedle examines the bathroom, using an ALS wand. This tool clearly indicates a ring of blood around the bathtub. In the interim, the police are checking the area around the hotel and find women’s clothing, discarded in a dumpster behind the hotel.

Meanwhile, Calleigh and Eric meet Detective Sevilla at the scene of an apparent carjacking. Greta Roebling states that a man wearing some sort of mask approached her side of the car and shot her husband, Werner, while they were parked at a gas station. Mr. Roebling jumped out of the car, despite having been shot, and ran into the garage, his path marked by a trail of blood droplets. The shooter then apparently followed him. The investigators are puzzled by the shooter’s actions – why would he or she pursue the Mr. Roebling if, in fact, this was a carjacking.

While examining the car, Duquesne notices a bright red smear that does not appear to be blood. She also notes there is considerable blood spatter in the car, but no bullet.

Delko inspects the blood trail and the area surrounding the body. Meeting up, both Calleigh and Eric examine the victim’s body. Mr. Roebling appears to have only one bullet wound to the head, the entrance of which is behind the ear and the exit is at the jaw. The back of a white truck, which was parked in the garage, is covered with blood splatter. This is puzzling, because if there is only one bullet wound, there should not be high-velocity blood splatter in both the victim’s car and on the back of this white truck. Also confusing is an odd, bloody print found near the victim’s body.

During the autopsy, Dr. Woods finds that McCreary was stabbed 23 times, most of which are very deep. The cause of death is exsanguination, which, Dr. Woods notes, was caused by a fatal injury to the aorta. The victim bled into her own chest cavity, which accounts for the lack of blood at the crime scene. Dr. Woods also indicates that while there is no evidence of sexual assault, the victim had tape marks on her wrists, ankles and mouth.

Back at the lab, Speedle and Horatio find that bedspread has a very little of the victim’s blood on it. Further examination of the bedspread, however, reveals that the there is some type of mold on it. There is no matching type of mold found anywhere else in the hotel room. On a belt found in the hotel room, Caine lifts a fingerprint. He uses AFIS to identify it as coming from Cole Judson, a man who has a prior record for a knife assault on a female companion.

Delko and Duquesne review the security tapes taken from the gas station. The gunman appears in the tapes to be wearing both a hood and a mask. In addition, they see that he is wearing gloves with perforated fingers and palms. The CSIs theorize that, after following Mr. Roebling into the garage, the shooter slipped on the floor and set his bloody hand down to steady himself – causing the strange print found at the scene.

Dr. Woods finds that Mr. Roebling was shot in the mouth. Since there are more than 40 arteries and veins in the mouth, Mr. Roebling would have bled profusely. The high velocity blood splatter found on the white truck was actually caused by him spitting out the blood that had filled his mouth.

Caine and Speedle head over to the residence of Cole Judson. Before finding Mr. Judson, the investigators speak to Lee Bastille, Judson’s landlord. Mr. Bastille tells them that despite Mr. Judson being fairly wealthy, Cole enjoys helping Mr. Bastille with repairs around the apartment complex. They find Cole in the company of his wife, Wendy, and two stepchildren. He is arrested on the spot, based on the strength of the fingerprint evidence and his prior record.

During a search of the Judson family residence, police confiscate knives, an ice pick, and scissors, all of which could be the murder weapon. The shower curtain is also confiscated, because it has a dark mold on it, which looks like the mold found on the hotel bedspread. Mrs. Judson’s ex-husband, Michael Gotti, arrives at the Judson’s apartment and takes their children to stay with him. In the interim, Wendy is told of her husband’s criminal record and is shocked at the news. When asked about his whereabouts the previous night, she states that Cole was at his weekly sales meeting at the time of the murder.

Having been given the bullet from Mr. Roebling’s mouth, Duquesne runs it through IBIS. It matches that fired from a gun, which had been previously used in a convenience-store robbery. A teenager, Malcolm Davidson, was convicted of the crime and, because of his age, was released into the custody of his grandmother. Based on this, Calleigh, Eric and Detective Sevilla search the Davidson home. While searching Malcolm’s closet, the CSIs find the perforated glove seen on the video.

While being questioned, Cole tells Horatio that he wasn’t at a weekly sales meeting, as his wife believes, but was simply alone on the beach. He admits that he takes that time away from his family. When asked about his previous assault with a knife, he states that it was a simple misunderstanding – the girl he was with cut herself during a fight. She was afraid her family would find out so she concocted the story that Cole injured her.

Finding Mr. Judson credible, Caine completes additional tests on the fingerprint recovered at the scene. He finds that the print was original left in oil and that the blood was applied later. As a result, he believes that Mr. Judson was set up for the murder. Knowing, however, how compelling fingerprint evidence is in court, Horatio believes he needs to find more evidence of the set up. The only other evidence found at the crime scene was the mold. Test on it reveal it to be cladosporium, a rather common indoor mold. Noting that everything organic has DNA, Horatio sends a sample of the mold to be tested – if the DNA can be isolated, the mold can be tracked from a single host colony, which could exonerate Cole.

Despite being washed, the glove found in Malcolm’s closet has several pieces of evidence on it: epithelial skin cells on it match Malcolm Davidson and blood found on it matches Mr. Roebling’s. In addition, there is also lipstick on it, which, in chemical analysis, seems to match the smear found on the rear view mirror in the victim’s car. This seems to mean that Davidson was actually inside the car, despite the fact that the gas station video does not show him inside the vehicle.

Still in custody, Horatio questions Judson about who has access to his apartment. Despite being reluctant to tell Horatio, Cole states that he and his wife found Michael Gotti in their apartment, even though he would have no reason to be there. When the CSIs ask Mr. Gotti about his unexplained presence in the Judson home, Michael finally admits that he was trying to find incriminating materials against Judson. Wendy and Judson had married only a few days after her divorce from Gotti, who was slightly bitter about it. However, he has an alibi for the time of the murder, having been the toastmaster at a party. Horatio decides to re-examine the evidence to determine if the time of death is when Dr. Woods originally set it.

Time of death was originally estimated based on liver temperature, which depends upon room temperature, which was 75 degrees Fahrenheit when Woods took the initial reading. But the presence of a wilted orchid in a vase beside the bed suggests that the room temperature had been substantially colder than that. Caine suspects that the air conditioning was turned fully on for an extended period, and then turned off again, in order to make time of death seem earlier than it was.

Examining an orchid found in the hotel room, Horatio and Speedle see that some of the cells on the orchid have been damaged by cold – which is curious since the hotel room temperature was 75 degrees when the CSIs originally arrived on the scene. Horatio speculates that the killer turned up the air conditioning in the hotel room to cool the victim’s body. This would lead Dr. Woods to believe that the time of death was hours before the victim died. Speedle contacts the electrical company, and confirms a spike in energy use in the hotel bungalow between 9pm and midnight.

Greta Roebling is called in for further questioning. She is shown a photo line up, which includes the picture of Malcolm Davidson. Without even looking at it, she dismisses the line up, saying that she is too upset. After all, her husband has just been killed. Calleigh offers Mrs. Roebling a glass of water, which she accepts. After she drinks from it, Detective Sevilla and Calleigh let Mrs. Roebling go, saying they have all they need from her. Calleigh then takes the glass and proceeds to analyze the lipstick mark left on the side. The lipstick on the glove is not an exact match for Mrs. Roebling’s lipstick. However, only the pigment is different – the samples are identical in composition except for the colour.

Still stumped, Calleigh and Eric go back to the videotape of the crime. Having done some work on insurance investigations, Eric notes that Mrs. Roebling’s reaction time to the approach of the gunman is unusually fast. Calleigh does some digging on Mrs. Roebling’s life in Germany. It turns out that Michael Davidson, Malcolm’s older brother, had worked as a dancer in Germany. When he lost that job, he took on private clients, one of which was Greta Roebling. Mrs. Roebling paid Michael to kill her husband, and not wanting to do it himself, he hired his younger brother Malcolm to commit the crime.

Horatio remains convinced that Michael Gotti might have something to do with framing Cole Judson. On a hunch, he asks Speedle to check with some of the companies that do criminal background checks to see if Mr. Gotti was aware of Cole’s criminal history. What Speedle discovers is surprising. Someone has indeed requested a background check on Judson Cole: Landlord Lee Bastille.

While it is a common practice of landlords to do background checks on new tenants, the CSIs visit the Bastille apartment. Ellen, Bastille’s wife, tells Horatio that they only do a credit check on new tenants, not a criminal background check. Noticing several forensic textbooks, Horatio asks Ellen about them. She confirms they belong to her husband. Asking to use the bathroom, Horatio finds a bar of cardamom soap by the tub. Ellen states that her husband brought it home on Wednesday night, the night of the murder. Shaken, she tells Caine that her husband asks her to lie still in a bathtub, pretending she’s dead while he bathes her. When asked about her husband’s whereabouts the night of murder, she tells Horatio that they had dinner together at 7 pm, but that he left shortly before 9, claiming a tenant had a plumbing emergency. She recalls that, despite his claim, she did not hear anyone call him to alert him of the problem.

Removing Ellen from the home for her own safety, the investigators search the Bastille house. In the bathroom, Caine finds black mold. He also sees a can of plumber’s putty under the sink, with fingerprints in it. Traces of epoxy are found in the putty, possibly indicating that Mr. Bastille had made impressions of the prints in the putty.

Horatio brings Mr. Bastille in for questioning. Confronted with the evidence of the planted fingerprint, Lee confesses. He tells Horatio that he was curious about death and never truly felt alive until he felt Susan McCreary dying at his hands.

Analysis:

Once again, we have a busy episode of CSI: Miami -- two very full cases, with a great deal of factual information. However, this episode, without the distraction of a third storyline, is much more cohesive than previous episodes.

The science in ‘Entrance Wound’ is compelling – the information that comes out of Horatio’s investigation of the mold is fascinating. While it seems obvious, most people don’t think of DNA in connection with anything but people. It makes perfect sense to use the same kind of testing with any kind of organic entity. In addition, while coming to the conclusion that Cole’s fingerprint was planted, Caine introduces new skills in forensic investigation to both his team and his audience. Fingerprints have often been viewed as conclusive evidence of guilt – and in this case, we learned they could be planted convincingly. It’s an extraordinary, though troubling, piece of information.

I must admit a fair amount of surprise, however, at two things: First, that Horatio would view a series of forensics textbooks in someone’s house as evidence against them. As a self-proclaimed true crime buff with several books on forensic science and forensic anthropology, I shutter to think what Caine would think should he happen upon my bookshelves. It seems as odd as assuming someone is part of a cult because they wear black and listen to heavy metal music – though, disturbingly, that has happened. Second, despite Dr. Woods explanation that victim Susan McCreary bled into her chest, I was surprised at the lack of blood at the scene. I heard her explanation – I just didn’t buy it. In one breath, Dr. Woods says that many of the 23 stabs wounds are deep and in the next she is saying that most of the victim’s blood was contained in her chest. While I’m not a medical doctor, it just doesn’t ring true to me. After all, shouldn’t one or two of the 23 stab wounds punctured the chest wall, allowing blood that had pooled there to escape?

I enjoyed Calleigh and Eric in this episode, both proving they are clever and are a wealth of untapped knowledge. Eric’s facts about human reaction time, if accurate, are a great piece of information. And I don’t think Calleigh’s handling of Mrs. Roebling in the interrogation room is something I will soon forget. We often see Calleigh out in the field, but rarely leading a case as she was here. She rarely deals in this manner with the suspects. Her skills are admirable.

This is a great episode, full of the markers that make CSI the great series that it is. I look forward to more episodes like this one.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Patti Vickers reviews CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and CSI: Miami episodes for CSI Files.