CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

Season 9 Episode 19

The Descent of Man

Aired Sunday 10:00 PM Apr 09, 2009 on CBS

Episode Recap

The time is 7:29AM, the time recorded on skydiver, Pierre Delongue's helmet camera. Pierre films his session with two women while they jump off the plane. They fly in different formations for a while until it is time to deploy their parachutes. Pierre tries to deploy his, but fails and is not frantically fighting for his life in mid-air. At 7:34AM, Pierre crashes through the roof of a farmhouse and is severely injured with the camera still working, but the lens shattered. At 7:35AM, a passerby looks for help and his two female companions find him later. At 7:48AM, police arrive to take him away to the hospital. At 8:24AM, CSI Nick Stokes arrives and is unaware that a crime was committed. The officer on the scene tells him it is a crime because Pierre is a very careful skydiving instructor who always insists on being thorough with safety procedures. He previously served in the French Foreign Legion. He had logged in 1,500 successful jumps prior to today. His school has not reported an accident. CSI Riley Adams arrives and finds the helmet and camera left at the scene. Nick picks up the camera and asks if its going to help them out today.

Nick and Riley interview Pierre's girlfriends, Mink and Schuyler, who describe the skydiving session. Later, a Belgian man in a cast arrives in his beaten-up car. The man introduces himself as Max Girard, Pierre's business partner. Max describes that he and Pierre are like brothers who emigrated from Belgium to seek opportunity in America. When asked about his injuries, Max referred to his car with the busted front end, saying "it's nothing." He takes off with the girls, but tells the CSIs that he will be at Pierre's side at the hospital. After Max and the girls depart, Nick tells Riley that after enough times, even the most experienced skydivers will run out of luck.

Elsewhere, CSI Dr. Raymond Langston is investigating a death under suspicious circumstances out in the desert mountains. Vultures are circling over the body of what appears to be a man in robes. A landscape photographer, formerly a bird watcher, called it in. Ray photographs the decedent's wounds, including cuts to the arms and eyes eaten out. He documents via tape recorder the scene details: the decedent is a white male in his 30s, exposed flesh on face, neck, and arms. Legs appear to be scavenged. The robes suggest that the decedent is a religious man or of acetic nature. The decedent's legs were folded in the Lotus Position, indicating he was praying prior to the time of his death. There are two sets of footprints: one set belongs to the highway patrol officer, the other is a set of bare footprints which originated from the decedent's sandals. Ray theorizes that the killer may have covered his tracks before fleeing the scene. When the bird watcher comments that the desert is a lonely place to die, Ray quips "What place isn't my friend? What place isn't?"

On the Medical Examiner's table, lab technician David Hodges joins Ray in processing the body. Hodges comments that the crime lab sees a few dead bodies from the desert every year, most of them being biblical people. Ray notices that the decedent had plenty of water, ruling out dehydration as a contributing factor in his death. The decedent had pistachios to snack on as well. After cutting into the robes, the men find on the decedent's torso a tattoo of a wise old monk with the name "Holy Steven." Holy Steven's back has the tattoo monk facing the other direction with Ray reading its message: "Spread the word, I am come." Hodges replies, "And you is gone."

Nick processes Pierre's failed parachute rig for faults. He compares the rig against a standard rig. Riley joins him with X-rays of Pierre's skeletal frame, showing his pelvis pressed into his rib cage. Pierre's entire body is broken. Nick briefs Riley with Pierre's rig and a standard rig. He notes that the EMTs cut Pierre out of his rig. However, Nick noticed that the harness was only tied at one side, which would have tangled the chute. The cutaway mechanism is not meant to be deployed unless the main chute was tangled. While this could have been seen as a normal failure to properly prepare the rig, Nick sees that Pierre's rig was sabotaged because the reserve chute had a cable with its crimping cap missing--something that a standard rig would have had. Nick and Riley decide to swab the release mechanisms for prints other than Pierre's.

Medical Examiner Dr. Al Robbins briefs Ray with his findings of Holy Steven: the animal bite marks were postmortem, indicating he died before desert animals began to eat him. The brain and the top of Holy Steven's skull indicate his cause of death, which is blunt force trauma. Due to Steven's sitting lotus position, Ray rules out landing on the top of his head as a probable way of being killed. During the autopsy, Captain Jim Brass calls Ray and tells him that Holy Steven is actually "Mark von Grovestreet." Mark likes to preach at downtown shelters. His last known address is an empty store, which formerly read "Church of the Holy Steven," now renamed "Church of the Holy George."

Ray and Brass enter the church to see a lone monk chanting and lighting prayer candles. The monk, identifying himself as Holy George, welcomes the officers, addressing them as "siblings." When asked about why the church was renamed, Holy George told them that Holy Steven has become the mouthpiece and the second coming of God. When told about Holy Steven's death, Holy George told them he had a vision about it. Holy George goes into a prayerful and meditative state before being interrupted by Ray once more.

Holy George recounts his last moments with Holy Steven: He wandered out into the desert for three days and two nights, following Holy Steven. After some time, Holy Steven stopped and Holy George fell to his knees, waiting for further instruction from his mentor. Steven instructed George to return to the cities and spread the word as his own, bestowing him with his staff as a parting gift before continuing into the desert. George wept knowing that Steven's destiny would lead him back into "The Animal Soup of Time," inferring that Steven would die and be with God soon. When Ray asked what George meant when he knew Steven was going to die, George told them there is no death except in transmogrification. Brass sarcastically replies "Well, that's a relief." When Brass asks George when it happened, George asks what day it was. Brass told him today is Friday. George told them that they left for their pilgrimage on Saturday, he came back on Tuesday, and renamed the church. Ray spots Steven's staff behind George. Brass theorizes that George used the staff to club Steven's head, killing him, and taking over his operation. George quickly admits to the murder. Brass promptly arrests him.

Nick and Riley watch Pierre's final film before his last jump. Pierre cracks a joke and gets laughs from Mink and Schuyler before gearing up for the jump. In the film, Schuyler flaunts her chest while Mink looks dumbfounded, which possibly points to a hot-blooded tension between the girls. A frame from the video shows that either girl could have tampered with Pierre's cutaway chute, resulting in his injuries. Nick decides to interrogate the ladies.

The girls sobbingly tell Nick on separate interrogation sessions that Pierre meant everything to them and they meant everything to each other. During the interrogation sessions, the girls volunteer their DNA samples. However, they also have different accounts: Schuyler claims that Pierre really loved her, while Mink claims that she is engaged to Pierre. In their own sessions, the two girls spite each other, trying to get a rise out of each other to Nick. When Nick accuses them of jealousy, the girls brush him off. In another interrogation session with Max Girard, Max suspects that the girls are no more than golddiggers.

Lab technician Wendy Simms steps into Ray's office for the first time, noting that it is cozy for a morgue. Wendy found epithelials from both Holy Steven and George, but nothing on the top end of the staff. Ray shows Wendy a video with a sermon from Steven concerning the plight of the barista from Starbucks. When Steven noted to the barista that he did not want to have whipped cream on his latte, the barista told him he was slammed and asked if Steven could spoon it out himself. Steven agreed to do so, ending the conflict that was the whipped cream in his latte. Strange as it seems from the video, Ray deduces that Steven's religion promoted acquiescence. Wendy notes there's worse things to base a religion off of. With this evidence, Ray no longer believes that George could have killed Steven.

Brass goes over George's confession involving Steven's murder. He tests George further, realizing that he did not kill Steven. When asked about why he confessed, George told him that according to the 17 Proclamation of the Steven, "It is better to be agreeable than to be right." Brass thinks that it holds true for marriage. After the session, Brass ends up ruling George out as a suspect.

Ray meets with CSI Supervisor Catherine Willows and discusses the details of the case: He believes that George is clinically insane to know what the truth is, making him unreliable as a suspect. Catherine reminds him that he has no conclusive murder weapon and no evidence of a third person was found at the scene. Ray decides to meet with the psychologist to get "agreeable George's" psychiatric profile. CSI Greg Sanders invites Catherine to a double 420 (double homicide) in Seven Hills.

Brass briefs the CSIs at the residence: two dead bodies were found at the pool by one of the decedents' wife, Gretchen Javid. She is hysterical and having an anxiety attack. Officer Akers was first to respond to the scene. The decedents are Ismail Javid and his business partner, Allen McKenna. Together, they both owned and operated Ismahan Marble and Tile, a company who renovated the lobby at the Marrakech.

According to Officer Andy Akers, there were no signs of forced entry or struggle. Wallets were still present, indicating that it was not a robbery. He begins to feel sick and Catherine excuses him from the crime scene out of fear of contamination. Assistant Medical Examiner David Phillips sees no injuries on either of the two victims. According to Phillips, the two men died no earlier than last night. Both necks were flushed, indicating heart attacks as cause of death. Greg sees that the victims had cigars and alcoholic beverages, which could have possibly poisoned them. He collects the items to take to Tox.

Wendy ran the girls' DNA against the cutaway handles and did not get matches. While Ray and Catherine discuss his murder investigation, Officer Andy faints and has labored breathing. Dispatch requests medical attention to the crime lab.

Ray explained to Catherine that Andy had no history of heart disease, yet he was pretty close to dying of a heart attack. Andy recounts his actions at the Seven Hill residence: Gretchen met him at the door to respond to the deaths. When asked if Andy wore gloves on the scene, Andy did not see a reason to.

From Andy's account, Catherine and Ray deduce that an airborne toxin was introduced to the residence, which ended Ismail and McKenna's lives. Catherine alerts Brass on the phone to treat the residence as a biohazard.

Lab technician Henry processes the toxins from the Javids' home. He identifies the poison as Digitoxin, a Cardiac Glycocide-class organic compound. In small doses, Digitoxin provides healthy heart function. In large doses, it induces arrhythmia. In extreme doses (found on the victims), it causes death. The good news is that the poison is rendered inert quickly, explaining how Akers and Gretchen survived. Greg decides to revisit the crime scene. Henry advises them to use a diluted solution of perchloric acid and shine a UV light to detect resins.

Later that night, the onsite biohazard team (including Catherine and Greg) spray the entire backyard. Traces of the Digitoxin resin is found on the chairs outside where the men were sitting the night of their deaths. Catherine senses that the toxins may have been introduced from the air.

Hodges meets with Catherine in the layout room to discuss the dispersal patterns of the Digitoxin. The Digitoxin was contained to the Javids' backyard. The disperal patterns reveal that the house was the target and the source was airborne. When asked about the aircraft used to disperse the toxins, Greg reveals the aircraft used are what are known as "Ultra Lights." They're light and maneuverable enough to fly low and slow without stalling.

Archie traces the flight paths recorded by McCarran Airport. The path of the Ultra Light ended at Denim Field Air Strip, which is also the base of operations for the Belgian skydivers, Pierre and Max. Catherine calls Nick and alerts him that their cases are connected.

Nick and a team of patrol units and hazmat specialists search the Belgians' hangar and find the Ultra Light. They spot the Digitoxin traces on the aircraft.

Max tries to communicate with Pierre at the same time Brass arrives. Brass interrogates Pierre, who communicates back with a computer. He confronts the men with the knowledge that the men were murdered with Pierre's Ultra Light. Pierre tells Brass that he was asked by Max to fly that night. Max broke and finally confessed to Brass that he was blackmailed by a man and his family was threatened. He went to Pierre to help the bad man fly. The criminal dumped a canister full of Digitoxin over Ismail and McKenna, killing them. Out of guilt and out of fear of being caught, Pierre sabotaged his own rig in an attempt to take his own life. Brass told Max he would be taken into custody as an accomplice to a murder. Max eventually gives up the name of the man responsible for killing Ismail Javid and Allen McKenna.

A news station reports the apprehension of the men responsible for the businessmen's deaths. The killer was a crop duster and a fan of the movie "North by Northwest." He was hired by Iranian rivals against the Ismahan Marble and Tile company to kill the men over contracts in the dwindling housing market. Despite a trade embargo against Iranian imports, Ray briefs them that there are ways around such practices that it would render the embargo ineffective while world commerce turns a blind eye. He recounts Greek playwright Escalus, who commented on the territorial ambitions against Greece by the Persians. In recounting Escalus, Ray discovers the missing clue in Steven's death.

Ray revisits the scene of Steven's death. He eventually discovers the shell of a tortoise, who was snatched from the ground by a passing eagle. Having mistaken Steven's head for a boulder, the eagle, a bird of prey, dropped the tortoise's shell on his head to break open the shell. Instead, the shell kills Steven instantly while he was praying in the Lotus position. He compared the DNA found on the shell against Steven's and found a match. After presenting his findings to Catherine, Catherine accepts the findings and Ray closes his case as merely an accidental death rather than a homicide.