CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

Season 11 Episode 5

House of Hoarders

Aired Sunday 10:00 PM Oct 21, 2010 on CBS

Episode Recap

Two Las Vegas cops think they've been called to a house about a cat, but
when they approach the smell indicates something else entirely. They
call for back-up and CSI, and try to kick the door in. The door won't
kick in, but on the second kick it falls out. The cops are faced with a
doorway of floor to ceiling junk. Nick and Sara don't know how they're
going to get in, given the lack of access. Sara said that the owner of
the home, Marta Santiago, was ordered to do a forced clean out by the
county, which was supposed to happen by this Friday.

They find a back door. Nick asks how bad it can be, and they go in. Nick
hears a rodent, Sara hears a cat, and finds a dead cat. Nick trips and
knocks over a few things. He asks how anybody can live like this, and
Sara responds that it looks more like somebody died like that. Nick
sees a rat that "I think was wearing a saddle". He steps in something
that turns out to be a dead body. Sarah thinks it's Mrs. Santiago.

When Greg arrives, he cracks a joke at Nick about "really stepping in
it". He called the coroners office to tell them to hold off until they
can clear a path. Nick tells him good luck, and Sara is inside. She
tries to tell Greg how to get to her, but the clutter is too bad. She
winds up shining her flashlight at the ceiling and telling him to
"follow the North star." Greg figures the M.E. will have fun with the
body, as it looks like she melted right into the rug.

They hear a voice asking what they are doing in her house. She calls
Sara "Dr. Prescott" and tellsher her card says she has until next week.
Sara introduces herself and asks Mrs. Santiago to come over so they can
talk to her. She says she's coming, but something promptly gets knocked
over, so Sara tells her to sit tight, and she'll come to her. When
Sarah gets to her, she asks her not to take her picture (when she sees
Sara's camera). Sara asks if anybody else is living with her, and she
says her whole life is in this house. Sara says people, are any people
living with her? Mrs. Santiago responds "Ghosts." Sara asks her to take
a look at something, and Marta asks "If I do, will you leave?" Sara
says she can't promise her that. She takes Sara's hand and follows her
from the room.

When she arrives at the body, she starts freaking out, because that's
her daughter's dress, on the body. that's her daughter, Diana. She
freaks out even more when she sees Nick is touching something of hers,
and snarls at him to put it down, right now. Sara indicates to Nick to
do it, and he does. She's in tears and hyperventilating as she follows
Sara outside. The M.E. arrives and announces that they didn't clear a
path to the body. Nick tells him he's Super Dave.

Greg and Dave remove the body from the scene. It isn't easy, what with
all the junk between them and the door.

Al and Ray work on the body together. Al says the victim appears to have
been in her early 20's. Post-mortem interval is 5-7 days. Ray remarks
that the mother didn't notice for a week. Diana died of an epidural
hematoma, a single blow to the head. Ray says that the wound impression
looks like a giant bar code, and asks Al if he's ever seen anything like
that before. Al says no. Ray feels that whatever the weapon was, if it
was in the house, it is likely still in the house.

While Sara, Nick and Greg are cataloging the house, Greg finds a family
photo. Sara says that Mrs. Santiago had two more children, a son and a
daughter. Both grown. Captain Brass is trying to track them down. Nick
says good luck finding anything in here, let alone a murder weapon.
Sara finds blood drops, and starts tracking it. They use hydrogen
peroxide to follow the trail. Nick hypothe that Marta had a week to
clean up, and when Diana tried to help, she fought her and Diana ended
up dead.

They hear a male voice outside, telling the police they shouldn't be
there. Julian Santiago refuses to call himself Marta's son, only giving
his name and saying she's his mother. When Sara tells him they're
investigating a homicide, he shows no reaction when asking if his mother
is dead. When Sara tells him they believe the body in question is his
sister, Diana, he is visibly distraught. Sara asks when he spoke to
Diana last. It was when their mom got the letter of forced cleanup from
Dr. Prescott. Diana asked if he could help, and he told her he'd call
her back. Sara asks if he did so, and he says no.

Sara asks him about his other sister, Alisa, and if he has contact
information for her. He says she's not easy to talk to, and they haven't
spoken for quite some time. He tells Sara it wasn't easy growing up in
that house.

Ray speaks to Dr. Prescott, and she tells him that Mrs. Santiago is a
hoarder, not a killer. She's been on her case for two years now. Marta
is well-groomed and has a job as a librarian. she's quite
high-functioning. Family is very important to her, and she won't throw
away anything that somehow connects her to them. Ray asks if that's
true, then how could she just ignore her daughter's dead body for a
week? Dr. Prescott informs him that every hoarder has some degree of
"clutter blindness". Hoarding has five levels by definition, and Mrs.
Santiago is level five, the most extreme. If they hadn't discovered the
body for her, she likely would have lived with the dead body in the
house indefinitely.

Dr. Prescott and Ray interview Marta. Her memory is pretty bad, and she
can't remember when she last saw Diana. The doctor saw them together at
the house last week. Her pen is out of ink, and Marta tries to stop her
from throwing it away, since her daughter used it when she filled out a
form. Ray points out that her memory isn't as bad as she thinks.

Ray shows her a picture of a clock and asks her what she knows about it.
She said it's a family heirloom. Her husband's grandfather brought it
back from Spain before WW II. He asks whose blood is on it and she
answers that it's Diana's.

Sarah finds the beginning of the blood trail, which must be where Diana
was hit. Ray asks Marta how the blood got on the rug, and she says it
was an accident. Greg says he found the bar code. It's a stack of
magazines tied together, with blood on one side. Ray shows her the
picture and she says Diana was throwing things away, and she wanted her
to stop. Diana had said that she found something, and then everything
was falling, and Diana was bleeding; but she said she was okay. She
left, and didn't come back. Ray asked what it was that Diana found, and
Mrs. Santiago doesn't answer. She asks to go home.

Greg stoops down to take a picture and bumps a gun that goes off.
Nervous tension causes Nick and Sara to start laughing, but not Greg.
He saw something, and when they look closer, it's a skeleton. Nick says
it looks like Greg was the one to step in it this time.

The body is male, and his hands are restrained in front of him, bound
with red ribbon. They wonder if this is Mr. Santiago. Sara says the
case file did say something about him passing away ten years ago. Nick
says he's bugged about the state of the house more than the bodies.
Sara counters that she was obviously through some major trauma, but
Nick's not buying it. His take is that you can be traumatized, and still
take out the damn trash. He thinks this whole hoarding thing is a pretty
good cover for murder, but Sara disagrees. She also springs herself
from the house by volunteering to go process Mrs. Santiago. She leaves
Greg and Nick to continue with the house. Nick feels this is not the
last body they're going to find in this house.

Al and Ray start with the second body. Al says this body is a young
male, Caucasian, between the ages of 15-17. They have nothing to go on,
so remove some bone marrow to see what stories it can tell.

Sara tells Mrs. Santiago she's being booked, because they found another
body in her house. She asks where. Sara narrows her eyes and doesn't
answer, simply repeating that she needs to take her clothes and personal
effects. Sara puts the bag down, and asks Marta to do her a favor. Take
her hand. When she does so, Sara very gently starts fingerprinting her.

The bone marrow cells exhibited some curious anomalies. Henry came up
with a cause of death: acute arsenic poisoning. Levels were off the
charts, no way was this poisoning over time.

Greg asks Sara what's up with her and Nick. Nick doesn't get it, she
responds. Whatever happened in this house, something triggered it. Maybe
losing her husband, she hung onto everyone and everything that was left,
and it spiraled out of control.

Ray introduces Nick to Dr. Prescott. She reiterates that Marta is
incapable of violence, but he doesn't buy it. She fills them in a bit on
how Marta organizes her world vs how most of us do. We do categorically.
Marta stacks, visually and spatially. Nick asks if we're "trash
whispering" and Ray says yes, and if we listen carefully, we might be
able to find what we're looking for. Dr. Prescott notes that some
storage bins are now on this side of the house that used to be on the
other. Ray asks why she'd do that. She thinks they're time capsules, an
impulsive act by a hoarder to throw away groups of items into a single
container at a single moment in time, but their intention is to deal
with these items later. These items belong to Alisa.

They go in Alisa's room, and it is spotless. Ray asks why, and Prescott
does not know. Sara knocks at the window to let them know there's
something they need to see. There are three bodies in a shallow grave,
hands in front and bound with red ribbon. Prescott asks if Alisa is one
of them but Ray thinks it's another three boys. Nick comments that
whoever goes into that house doesn't seem to make it back out.

Sara is running down the victim's list. The first is 16 y/o Matthew
Price. His DNA got a hit off the US Directory of Missing Persons, as did
two of the three backyard John Does. Ryan Hoff, 17 and Derek Kennedy,
16. All four boys died of acute arsenic poisoning. The three who have
been identified were runaways that were referred to the Avenues of Care
Halfway House by the county as part of their plea agreements. The
director of the Halfway House is Julian Santiago.

Brass and Sarah confront Julian. Matthew Price had been involved with
Alisa Santiago, according to his dad. Julian says he told them that
Alisa has problems. Brass tells him that everybody that Alisa got
involved with wound up dead. They tell Julian that Alisa's phone was
disconnected four months ago, and she's six months behind on her rent.
He asks for a lawyer.

Ray and Nick can find nothing indicative that a crime was committed in
that room. They start theorizing on how she could have gotten to her
current state. If she made the time capsules because she was triggered
by an event. But which one? If Julian killed Alisa, she'd want to
protect him. The best way to do that is to hide the evidence. They start
going through the time capsules, which are in an regression. Starting at
the door, with her graduation gown, down the hall to a prom dress, and
continuing. Ray says it's like she's putting her back into the womb. The
hall leads to another door, and the next room is stacked with storage
bins. They remove two bins, and find a young lady, gagged and
handcuffed. It's Alisa.

Nick introduces himself to her in the hospital. She asks where her mom
is, and he tells her she's in custody. Alisa asks why, and Nick says
they'll get to her in a minute. He asks who did this to her, and she
refuses to answer. Nick assures her he can protect her, but he needs to
know who did this. He thinks it was Julian but no. It was her mother.

Greg is dusting the handcuffs while he discusses the case with Ray. He
could handle the garbage and the bodies, but this is too much. Does
hoarding extend to people? Collecting them? Sara enters and tells them
that something doesn't add up.

Greg finds scratches on the handcuffs and starts running tests in the
lab. Somebody tried to remove the serial number, but he was able to
recover it. They are from a batch order delivered to a local gun shop.
The owner faxed him the credit card receipt. Julian bought the
handcuffs. Nick scoffs because of course he has handcuffs, he works with
juvenile offenders. All the hard evidence points to Marta Santiago. The
only fingerprints in the area that didn't belong to Alisa, belonged to
her mother. Sara thinks maybe Julian was dominating his mother.

Nick asks her what is it about this case that has her so blind. Sara
asks what is it about this case that is making Nick be such an ass right
now. Sara says there is a very real possibility that Julian killed
those boys and hid them at his mother's house. Ray says she's right;
that possibility does exist. But for now, they need to stick to the
evidence. Nick and Sara agree to do so. Ray says it appears that Diana
Santiago's death was an accident. They can't prove either suspect killed
the boys, but they do know that Mrs. Santiago falsely imprisoned Alisa.
Since Julian lawyered up, Sara is going to talk to Marta. They already
spent some time together and connected. Nick interrupts to tell her
that's not going to happen. He's going to be the one to talk to her.

When Nick arrives to talk to Mrs.Santiago, Brass informs him that Julian
got his mother an attorney.

Nick and Ray discuss the case. Julian will blame Marta and vice-versa.
She'll plead insanity, they'll show photos of the house, and she'll walk.

The ribbon which was used to tie up the victims was torn with someone's
teeth. The ribbon all came off a roll. If they can match up the ribbons
one to another, they will have a time line of the murders. Ryan Hoff
went missing from the halfway house 17 months ago. Derek Kennedy was ten
months ago, and Matthew Price was six months ago. The elements destroyed
any evidence on the ribbon from the boys, but the source roll is still
somewhere in the house.

Greg asks Sara if it's wrong that the house is starting to feel like
home. Ray and Dr. Prescott join them on video cam. She says that the
last time she was in the house, she remembers seeing Christmas
decorations, unopened and stacked next to the dresser. Marta would
likely keep the ribbon in it's original packaging. Greg says it could
take until Christmas to find what they're looking for, but Dr. Prescott
says not if they take 'churning' into account. That's when things get
shuffled around, and moved up or down. Either the ribbon would be under
six months of accumulation (based on when it was used last) or it may
have been churned closer to the surface. While they're looking for the
ribbon, Sara finds a box of rat poison with the ribbon inside. She says
the rat poison is in it's original packaging; ribbon, not so much.

Ray tells Alisa they have her fingerprints and DNA. Her mom was trying
to stop her, before she killed again. She responds that when she said
her mother did this to her, she meant it literally. Marta drove her
husband to his death. She drove Julian away, she drove everyone away.
She hates her. But Ray tells her she loves her. "By chaining me up like
an animal?" Ray tells her it was to protect her from herself, and people
like himself. He tells her she's not going home, and Alisa doubts it
very much, what with her being sick and all. Ray said so himself.

Julian blames Marta for what happened to Alisa, but Sara says they're
both professionals. They know that what Alisa did goes far beyond any
damage that Marta inflicted on her. Julian doesn't believe her, so Sara
shares a bit of her own history. Her mother is schizophrenic. One night
she walked into the kitchen, got a butcher knife out of the drawer, went
into the bedroom and stabbed Sara's father in the heart, repeatedly. To
say that her childhood was screwed up is an understatement. But she
survived it, just like Julian did. Both he and Alisa grew up in that
house, and they took two completely different paths. She says that
sometimes it's important to us that we can believe there's some order to
the universe, some explanation that makes sense. But sometimes, there
just isn't.

She spoke to the DA and the city attorney. If Marta agrees to get help,
they won't prosecute. What happens after that is up to Julian and Marta.

Ray finds Nick looking at pictures of the house. He tells Ray he still
doesn't get it. Ray asks if it's about the clutter or the pathology;
Nick says both. They have a philosophical discussion.

Sara returns Marta's belongings to her. Marta is grateful and asks if
Sara will be taking her home now, and Sara nods at Julian. Marta says
she tried to be a good mother, and Sara says she knows. Mrs. Santiago
walks away, and hugs her son. He hugs her back.

Nick cleans out his desk. It's a bit of a mess.