Criminal Minds

Season 3 Episode 4

Children of the Dark

Aired Wednesday 10:00 PM Oct 17, 2007 on CBS

Episode Recap

Dina Halbert is chatting on the phone with her friend, Lynn, as she makes dinner. One son is watching cartoons while Dina's husband, Tom, helps their other son with his math homework. Suddenly, the phone goes dead and there is a knock at the front door. Tom looks through the peephole in the front door and flicks the outside light on and off before opening the door. A man stands on the front porch, cradling an unmoving cat which he says just "ran out in front of my car." Dina cautions her husband to not touch the cat as it may be diseased. The young man, Gary, asks to use the phone to call the number he's found the cat's collar tag, but Dina explains that the phone isn't working. Tom offers the use of his cell phone, but he finds that there is no signal. Tom invites Gary inside while he gets a garbage bag for the cat's body. When Tom and Dina return to the front door there is another young man inside the house with Gary – Ervin – and they are both wearing latex gloves. Ervin stands silently, not making eye contact, while Gary does all the talking. Gary compliments the family on their home, their status, and Tom's golf clubs. When Tom and Dina start getting nervous and ask the men to leave, Gary picks up one of Tom's golf clubs. Dina threatens to call the police, but Gary knows the phones are not working, and pushes Dina to the floor. When Tom tries to interfere, Gary hits him in the leg with the club. Tom calls for his two children to go to their rooms, but Gary menacingly tells them to stay.

Crime scene photographs of the Halbert family are being projected on the BAU conference room screen. This is the 3rd home invasion in the Denver suburbs in the last month. These killers target families in nice neighborhoods, kill everyone in the house including pets, and only take things they can carry in their pockets like money and jewelry. Reid mentions that there has been an "uptick" in home invasions over the past few years, 18% in Colorado alone. Hotchner mentions that things must be pretty bad for the Colorado police to be inviting the FBI into an investigation – ever since the JonBenet Ramsey case when a couple of agents made some damaging statements to the media, there has been bad feeling between local law enforcement and the Bureau. JJ assures him that Lt. Nellis of the Denver police very much wants their help. Prentiss points out that the time between attacks is growing shorter – from 20 days to 9 days between the last two attacks. The unsubs are acquiring a taste for killing and are getting better at it every time.

Local law enforcement is investigating the Halbert home in the Cherry Creek suburb of Denver, Colorado.

Aboard the BAU jet, Reid mentions that typical home invasions involve the elderly or women living alone. He believes that, since entire families are victimized they are looking for multiple unsubs. It probably isn't gang related as the people being killed are more like the "Cleaver family," notes Prentiss. Reid finds the name of the sitcom family highly ironic. The team also dismisses the idea of race or income-level violence, referring to the Manson family's aim to begin a race war by murdering people and leaving graffiti-filled crime scenes. All of the adults in the families were killed using regular household implements like a golf club, a kitchen knife and an iron, but the children were each killed with an injection of pentobarbital, a drug used to control seizures, or in state executions. Each time the phone lines were cut, and the parents were bound and gagged – the unsubs might have graduated to murder from robbery.

The BAU team arrives at the Halbert home where Lt. Nellis tells them there was no sign of forced entry. Hotchner stands at the front door and notices that the bulb in the porch light has been unscrewed, but since the front door has a peephole the family felt safe enough opening the door. Prentiss believes that the level of violence demonstrated against the parents may suggest that the killers knew the family, but the children's murders – in bed, using an injection – seems to suggest an introvert with some capacity for remorse. Clearly, there are two unsubs. Two dining room chairs have been moved to face the couch where the parents were killed – perhaps the unsubs see their murders as entertainment, but there may be another explanation.

Outside, Reid interviews the Halbert's neighbor, Carol, who had tried to return a baking dish at about 9 PM the night before. When no one answered the door she tried to call using her cell phone but couldn't get a signal. Since there is a cell tower nearby, she thought that was very strange. When she noticed that the dish had not been moved from the front porch in the morning she looked in the window and saw the bloodshed. She called the police on her cell phone and had no trouble making a connection.

At the police station the team begins talking about the case. The unsubs don't lack confidence and they are probably using a hand-held cell phone jammer. Garcia calls with some information about 4 unsolved robberies using the same MO – victims tied up, only small items taken, etc. If the team can figure out what caused this team to go from robberies to murders, they may be able to identify them. Morgan has been looking into victimology and there is nothing to connect the families – not political affiliations, careers or school systems. The victims appear random.

Gary and Ervin are finishing dinner at a local Chinese restaurant and Ervin is looking at the fortune he found in his fortune cookie: "A reunion is in your future." Gary assures him that the fortune doesn't mean anything, but is interrupted by a man in the next booth talking loudly on his cell phone. Gary takes a small jamming device from his pocket and turns it on, and the man in the next booth is surprised to find that his cell phone suddenly doesn't work. Gary asks Ervin if he "sees anything he likes." Looking around the crowded dining room, Ervin notices the Ortiz family at a nearby table. Carrie, the teen-aged daughter, is arguing with her parents about their restrictions and rules, while her little brother Danny looks on. Carrie insults her parents and storms off to the bathroom.

Gary suggests to Ervin that it might be time to go home and "visit the folks," but Ervin doesn't ever want to go back there. Announcing that he's bored, Gary insists that Ervin pick someone or he'll take Ervin's turn. Ervin notices Carrie Ortiz on her way back from the bathroom and watches her as she resumes her seat with her family. He fingers his fortune again and whispers, "Reunion."

On the front porch of the Ortiz home, Gary reaches up and loosens the bulb in the overhead light, switches on the cell phone jammer and then rings the doorbell. When Carrie opens the door he shows her the dead cat in his arms and asks her if the cat belongs to her. A little while later, Carrie and her little brother, Danny, are being forced to sit and watch Gary beat their parents to death with a fireplace poker.

Early the next morning, Carrie staggers down the middle of the street, bloodstains streaking her clothes. A man in a utility truck hurries to help her, telling a woman in a nearby car to call 9-1-1.

That same morning at the police station, the BAU team discusses the profile with local police officers. They are looking for two white men in their mid to late twenties who are career criminals, yet can appear neighborly in suburban settings. They are probably using some sort of a ruse to talk their way into the homes of their victims. This ruse could be anything from door-to-door sales to car trouble – they could be very creative. They share a tight bond, but they have distinctly different personalities. One is dominant and sadistic, brutally killing the parents, while the other is withdrawn and sensitive and prefers using drugs. Morgan passes out a list of places where the drug could be obtained. JJ interrupts with the news that there has been another home invasion, but, this time, one of the family members survived.

Prentiss and JJ head to the hospital to interview Carrie Ortiz. She managed to survive because the injection missed the vein and went into the soft tissue instead. She is still groggy and confused, and Prentiss notes that that might be a blessing based on what she's been through.

At the Ortiz home, Hotch is on the phone cautioning officers to keep the news of a survivor out of the press. When he enters the home he notices that Morgan is standing there staring at the beaten bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Ortiz. Seven-year-old Danny is dead in his room down the hall. Hotch is also affected by the scene, noticing that the only thing left alive in this house is a vase full of beautiful purple orchids.

Carrie Ortiz is sitting up her in hospital bed, IV tubes taped to her arm. She describes the second man to enter her house – Hispanic, quiet, and he never made eye contact. One man tied up her parents, and then started hitting them with the fireplace poker, making the children watch. When JJ suggests she take a break, Carrie insists on telling them everything she knows. After the "quiet one" took her brother away, Carrie ran off and tried to wake him. Ervin approached her, calling her "Lucy," and told her it was better that way. When Carrie tried to speak Spanish to him, Ervin did not understand her. He dragged her into her bedroom and injected her.

Hotchner stands staring at Danny Ortiz' empty bedroom decorated with race cars and aquarium scenes. Morgan points out that this time the unsubs took something other than cash and small valuables – they took a framed photograph of Carrie from the wall.

Ervin lies on his bed staring at the photograph of a young Carrie Ortiz.

Morgan suggests they look for someone with access to dead cats as Carrie has identified the ruse the unsubs are using. Reid confirms that some places that work with animals – research labs, veterinary hospitals – would also have access to pentobarbital. Carrie has also told them that the unsubs refer to each other as brothers, which would not be uncommon in serial killings. Since the two are of different races, and the Hispanic man doesn't speak Spanish, the unsubs may be adopted and the destruction of the family is a mirror of their own broken home. The team knows that one member of the killing duo showed some concern for Carrie, so announcing that she has survived might draw them out. Prentiss is uncomfortable with the idea of using Carrie as bait and insists that her security be doubled.

Ervin tries to calm a cat at a local animal shelter. He talks to the cat, stroking him, and telling him that no nice family would take him in – they would only have hurt him. "You're one of the lucky ones, okay?" he soothes as he injects the cat. Another worker tells Ervin that he has a visitor. Gary is waiting outside, very agitated. He has heard on the radio that Carrie survived their attack. Gary yells, sure that her survival has something to do with Ervin's "little crush." Ervin sees this as a sign that they should stop, while Gary insists that the kids are "better off" their way.

At the hospital, JJ notifies Prentiss that they cannot locate any family for Carrie. Carrie tosses and turns in her hospital bed as two figures dressed as hospital workers enter her room. The two are Gary and Ervin, and Gary is holding Carrie's father's head and asking, "It just ran into the road, is it yours?" Carrie begins to scream and JJ and Prentiss race down the hallway to her room, only to find it was a nightmare. As JJ calms Carrie, Prentiss notices all of the flower arrangements that have been delivered to her room – including one of beautiful purple orchids, just like the arrangement from the Ortiz home. Prentiss mentions it to Hotchner who asks her to have Garcia trace the delivery from the floral shop. Garcia is unnerved that the unsubs are killing cats to get into their victims' homes.

Reid has discovered something: it was in the Layborn house that the unsubs graduated from robbery to murder. From the marks found on the daughter's body, Reid has determined that she had been beaten, but not by the unsubs. After many trips to the emergency room because of injuries, the Department of Social Services had been notified that there might have been abuse in the Layborn home. Since the killers are destroying families, it is likely one or both were abused themselves, so, seeing the signs of abuse in the Layborn home one killer became enraged and killed the parents. The Layborn case was the trigger, and now the unsubs see all parents as abusers. Some family annihilators believe they are saving the children from further abuse by killing them as well. Now the team can put Carrie's observation about Ervin into perspective: he avoided eye contact which is a sign of oppositional defiant disorder – a disorder that is prevalent among children raised in the foster care system.

Prentiss breaks in with the information that Carrie's flowers were purchased via a credit card registered to Robert Serrano. The team heads to the Serrano home where they find Mr. and Mrs. Serrano bound and dead.

Lt. Nellis has an officer check security cameras at a nearby gas station where purchases were also made with the Serrano's credit card. Hotchner notices that the security chain on the door was broken – the unsubs couldn't lie their way in this time. Garcia calls to tell Morgan that she's narrowed down the list of suspects that were in foster care, had criminal records and had access to small animals and pentobarbital to only nine names. The team brings Carrie Ortiz into the station to look at the nine mug shot photos. She immediately identifies Ervin Robles who is employed by the Denver City Pound. When Prentiss encourages Carrie, telling her that her parents would be proud, Carrie says, "It's too late to be a good daughter, now." Prentiss tries to comfort her, but Carrie can only remember being horrible to her parents before they were killed. Carrie wonders why the two could kill as they do. Prentiss explains that it could have something to do with their own lives – that they might have been abused when they were younger. JJ looks on as Carrie asks, "Are there any happy families?"

Hotchner and Prentiss approach Ervin's co-worker at the pound who tells them that while Ervin's title is "Animal Care Technician," his real job is to be the "on-site Kevorkian." Hotchner asks him to call Ervin and get him to come in to work. Prentiss and Hotchner head off to talk with Ervin's foster mother, Mrs. Manwaring.

Mrs. Manwaring is shocked to hear about Ervin's crimes – he had behavior problems, but so do most other foster children, she states. As she speaks with the two agents, another foster child, Tyler, enters the kitchen and goes to the refrigerator which is padlocked. Mrs. Manwaring wears the key around her neck. "You know the rules," Mrs. Manwaring admonishes him. When they ask if Ervin looked up to anyone, Mrs. Manwaring remembers Gary. She tells the agents that Gary "tested" them. She leads them to a display of photographs of the many foster children she and her husband raised over the years. Mrs. Manwaring also tells them that Ervin had been separated from a younger sister, Lucy, when he was placed in their home. She never knew what happened to her.

Ervin arrives at the animal shelter to find the police waiting for him. Morgan handcuffs him and leads him away. Several of the profilers try to get Ervin to talk, but he refuses to say anything. They know that they must find Gary soon, there's no way to tell what he's capable of now that he's lost Ervin. The team decides to use someone Ervin might trust – Carrie. JJ is hesitant, not sure that Carrie should be subjected to this, but Prentiss tells her that Carrie has to do something to prove to herself that she's "a good daughter."

As soon as Prentiss and Carrie enter the interrogation room, Ervin's expression brightens. Ervin warns Carrie that "they will send her away, now. That's what they do with all the strays." He explains that that is why he "makes them go to sleep, so that they don't have to suffer." Carrie begins to get angry, telling Ervin that he's insane, and demanding to know what happened to him that was so bad. The team watches through the one-way glass as Ervin talks about Mrs. Manwaring. "She used to make it go dark," he explains. She would put him in the bathtub and hold him under the water until he blacked out. Carrie reaches out to touch his hand and the team is shocked by her compassion. "They can't hurt you any more, Ervin," she whispers. Ervin tells them that Gary had it even worse as a child and he wouldn't let Ervin stop killing. He began to kill other families because Ervin refused to go back and kill the Manwarings. Officers remove Ervin from the room as Carrie breaks down in tears, and Prentiss takes her into her arms.

The team returns to the Manwaring home. Hotchner and Reid are blunt with Mrs. Manwaring, telling her that Gary is trying to get revenge because of what she did to him in that house. They clearly have no sympathy to waste on her even as they tell her to go inside the house for her own protection. Gary is waiting outside the school when two of the Manwaring's foster children – Tyler and Sara – are dismissed. He convinces them to get into his car.

Reid and Lt. Nellis track down Gary and the children at a donut shop 2 miles from the school. Reid calls Hotchner to let him know and is startled by a knock at the car window – it is Sara, and she is delivering a note from Gary. When Hotchner arrives the SWAT teams are already in position. Hotchner advises everyone to keep their safeties on – Hotchner wants to speak with Gary. Reid hands him the note which reads: "If you come in I'll kill him." JJ gets the donut shop clerk on the phone and hands the phone to Hotchner. Gary gets Tyler to grab his backpack and has Tyler stand in front of him as he takes the phone. Hotchner tells Gary that Tyler still has a chance – he doesn't have to grow up to "be you." "Maybe, maybe not," responds Gary, "so what's say we leave it up to him?" Gary allows Tyler to leave the donut shop, and he surrenders. Hotchner is puzzled by Gary's surrender – it shouldn't have been that easy.

Tyler and Sara sit in the back seat of Morgan's car as Morgan calls the Department of Social Services. He is angry that the foster care system is making him take Tyler and Sara back to the Manwaring's home until an investigation of the alleged abuse can be made.

Hotchner confronts Gary one more time at the police station. "I teach crisis negotiation. I co-wrote the text book and in twelve years I've never talked anybody off a ledge so fast." Gary won't tell Hotchner why he gave in so quickly.

At the Manwaring's home, Morgan takes Tyler aside and gives him his card. He tells him that he can call Morgan any time about any problems he's having – if he needs him, or if he just needs to talk. Tyler quietly takes the card, hesitating a moment, before he walks back into the house with Sara. Neither Morgan nor Prentiss are content with the situation, but they have no choice.

Reid and JJ are finishing up at the donut shop. JJ is scheduling a press conference, and Reid brings a snack to their table as the police finish questioning the store clerk. Reid overhears the clerk mention seeing a "piece" when he handed Gary the phone. No gun was taken from Gary when he was arrested. Reid hurriedly calls Hotchner to let him know that a gun is missing, and that he'll search for it at the shop as "a gun doesn't just walk away." Hotchner hangs up and dials Morgan.

Still sitting in front of the Manwaring house, Morgan answers his phone. He wonders why Hotchner is asking if he searched the backpacks of the two children when shots are heard from the house. Morgan and Prentiss race to the house, guns drawn, to find Tyler standing in the kitchen with the gun. Mrs. Manwaring is huddled on the floor, but she isn't hurt – Tyler has shot up the wall of framed photographs. "They're lies," Tyler mutters. Morgan approaches him, speaking soothingly. "You're not Gary," he tells the boy, "you're nothing like him." Morgan puts his gun away and promises Tyler that, if he gives up the gun, Morgan will walk him out of the house and he will never have to come back. Tyler falls into Morgan's arms, crying.

As Hotchner and Prentiss clean up the files and photos in the Denver conference room, Prentiss suggests that she take Carrie back to Washington to live with her. Hotchner is concerned, telling her that she has to be objective. Prentiss understands, but insists that she also has to be human. Hotchner tells her that they were finally able to locate Carrie's family in Los Angeles and they will be coming to take care of her. Prentiss seems disappointed.

Morgan heads towards the bar as the team boards the jet. Hotchner is sitting quietly, talking on his cell phone, asking that his wife please wake Jack up so that he can hear his voice. JJ sits across from Prentiss to talk about Carrie, about children. JJ thinks it's a good idea that Prentiss is thinking about kids. "I can see it," JJ tells her. [recap written by Finnegan77]