The Rockford Files

Season 7 Episode 8

If It Bleeds, It Leads

Aired Unknown Apr 20, 1999 on NBC

Episode Recap

The Westside Rapist has returned to Los Angeles and is attacking young girls. A photo picture of the suspect is published. That night Jim attends the Sandcastle's twenty-fifth anniversary celebrations and meets Critch, as well as Angel, Dennis, Commander Deihl, and his old friend Rita Capkovic who is married to mutual friend Ernie Landale--a school teacher who unfortunately bears an uncanny resemblance to the photo picture of the Westside Rapist. Dennis is ordered by Deihl to get a statement from Ernie.

While on their way to the Precinct, Ernie gets out of Dennis' car, walks off and returns to Jim begging him for help. Rita suggests a polygraph test and contrary to Jim's advice Ernie takes one, but the results are inconclusive. To make matters, worse the media were tipped off and believe that Ernie Landale is the prime suspect. Beth is called to help but can do very little. The Channel 6 news chief is determined to get all the dirt on Ernie and orders around-the-clock media coverage on him.

Due to the media attention, Ernie is suspended from teaching at the school. The head teacher, Selma Drown, refuses to give a complete statement to the press, but with Rita and Beth's insistence makes a statement--which is completely reversed by the media. Meanwhile Jim and Ernie sneak out of the school, but as they leave, Ernie assaults a cameraman. Jim takes him home, to find the media camped out outside and so goes to a motel to hideout while Jim begins an investigation.

Jim returns with Rita but finds that Ernie has disappeared--he has gone to buy ulcer medicine and therefore cannot provide an alibi of his whereabouts when another girl is attacked at the same time and so is arrested, jailed, and because he is a suspected child abuser is viciously attacked by the other inmates.

Jim begs Dennis to use V.I.C.A.P--the Federal database on sex offenders and finds another likely candidate--Ray Chulack. Jim and Rita follow Chulack and catch him before he attacks another child. This means that Ernie can be released but cannot return to work, and to make matters worse the media do not openly apologize for slandering Ernie. Ernie grows more and more depressed.

Two weeks later Jim is about to leave on vacation but spots Angel sub-letting his trailer to Mr. Gillespie and prevents the whole transaction. At the same time Rita calls to announce Ernie is missing and reports this to the police. Ernie is found stood on top of building and amidst all the media coverage, tragically commits by suicide jumping off the building. Jim shows his rage at Channel 6 reporter Cindy Carteret for their trial by media. While showing her sympathy, she becomes distracted by news of a celebrity footballers suicide.

Walking on the beach Jim helps Rita come to terms with the death of the her husband, explaining that because Ernie only believed in goodness in the world, he could not understand what was happening to him. Rita thanks Jim for his help and guidance, adding her love, and Jim returns his love for her.