Law & Order Los Angeles “Ballona Creek” was an episode truly worthy of the Law & Order name. It was an interesting case that was skillfully presented. Some shows glamorize serial killers but this episode seemed more grounded in reality ; serial killers often seem to “hide in plain sight” which is why sometimes they can get away with killing many people before anyone can put the pieces together. The episode also touched on the issue of the use of familial DNA to crack a case, in addition to related privacy issues. Should law enforcement be able to go through your trash to pick out your DNA? Trash left outside is usually considered fair game, but should there be limits on when law enforcement can go through your trash to get it? Just because trash out on the street and can be taken by anyone shouldn’t necessarily mean that police should collect, store, and compare your DNA without cause.
I think there was a great improvement in Terrence Howard’s delivery and thought the closing scene was very well done. Megan Boone is still a bit of a weak link; there is something so bland and expressionless with her face, at times it seems mask-like. Skeet Ulrich and Corey Stoll carry their segments very well and I loved the scene where Valdez is arrested and TJ comments that it is like a cop movie. I also liked the way all the scenes were staged and shot; they use some interesting camera angles.
All in all, this may be the best episode so far for LOLA!
Here is the recap:
When a worker from the Public Works Department, Luis Valdez, finds the body of co-worker Don Heller (Dan Kinsella) stabbed to death in the creek. Detectives Rex Winters (Skeet Ulrich) and TJ Jaruszalski (Corey Stoll) are called to the scene. They speak with Louis Valdez (Julio Oscar Mechoso) who last saw him at 4:00 and some gang kids were throwing things at Heller.
At the Robbery Homicide Division, Lt. Arleen Gonzales (Rachel Ticotin) and the detectives speak with Heller’s wife but she offers no insight. After she leaves, they find Heller’s truck was found two miles from Ballona Creek at Marco Place – the Venice 13 turf.
The detectives check out the truck and they find water samples with dates and locations. They head to where the last sample taken which was at Ballona Creek at Berryman Street. At that location, they find Heller’s hard hat and blood – the crime scene. But this is not gang turf.
They speak with his manager and check out Heller’s car which was parked at work. They get the locations where he was at from his GPS. They check out the location in South Central and come up with nothing and don’t know why Heller was there.
They check with his wife and she has not clue either. But TJ sees information that Heller was collecting on murders of woman that happened in the area over many years. One of the locations matches Heller’s GPS.
At RHD, they map out all the murders and the locations of the murders that Heller was following. Four of the cases had been investigated by Bob Reedy from Southwest Division who retired 10 years ago. The killer stopped after 1991. They found one case where the victim survived, Diana McDermott, and they have a sketch of her attacker.
The detectives speak with Diana and she can’t pick out a picture from an array. She recounts her attack. A man offered her a ride home and she got in. He later put a knife at her throat and pinned her down. He fondled her and sucked on her bra. He pulled her out of the car and started stabbing her. She still doesn’t see the person in the photo array.
Later, the detectives get a call to another crime scene where a woman was stabbed and murdered. There is no ID on her. The possible weapon used matches the ones from the other murders.
Back at RHD, their working theory is that Heller may have been on to the killer and knew who he was. The killer left no DNA and Gonzales suggests they use new technology to check out the old evidence. They do so, and find the evidence is a mess and not tagged very well. Rex recalls that Diana’s attacker sucked on her bra and wonder if they can pull DNA off of it. But which bra belongs to who?
At the home of Sheila and Charles Watson, the detectives tell them they may have a lead and ask them to ID some of the clothing. Her mother recalls the pink bra. They tell her that other girls were killed by the same man – 9 girls in all. They are shocked and upset to hear this may be a serial killer and there were four others before her daughter.
Outside the house, the detectives are also angry that no one told the residents that there was a killer on the loose. TJ gets a message – retired Detective Bob Ready just came in to RHD.
Back at RHD, Reedy (Bob McCracken) tells them they called them the Betty Basehead murders and he worked all of them. They did not want people to panic and it wasn’t his call not to tell anyone about it. After the Rodney King riots they got pulled off the case, no one wanted to have anything to do with cops.
Later, as DDA Lauren Stanton (Megan Boone) reads a new story in the Los Angeles Post about the “Slauson Slasher” and the detectives tell her that the lab found trace DNA but is not in the database. They want to run it against familial DNA. Stanton said she’ll work to get the OK from the Attorney General.
At the State DNA lab, the detectives get a familial match to a Brandon Duffy born in 1992. He has a record for joyriding and got probation.
As they wait outside Duffy’s home, his father and Brandon drive up. They see Mark Duffy throw a coffee cup into the trash. They tell him about the partial match and ask him for a DNA swab and he refuses, saying he is calling a lawyer and to stay away from his son. TJ picks up a cigarette butt from Duffy which is laying on the ground and thanks him for it.
Back at RHD, they were able to get Mark Duffy’s DNA off the cigarette butt but it will take a week to run the match. There are 4 males in Brandon Duffy’s family who match the profile but none have priors. Gonzales gets served with a restraining order from Duffy for the evidence and the ACLU is backing him up.
In Superior Court, Duffy’s attorney and Miss Caffey (Sophina Brown) from the ACLU argue that the police went through the families' trash to get DNA and it targets innocent people. DDA Joe Dekker (Terrence Howard) argues that the police had permission from the AG. Judge Farbricant does not agree with Dekker and issues a restraining order to stop further testing of the Duffy DNA and to stop investigating and surveillance of the family without probable cause.
Outside the courtroom, Dekker is unhappy that the appeal could take months and the killer could disappear. Rex comes in and alerts them that another body has been found. Dekker stops Caffey as she exits the courtroom and shows her the latest killing in the same area as the others. He tells her the next one is on her.
Back at RHD, the detectives and the DDAs but their heads together. They had found that Mark Duffy and his family were granted an order of protection from Maria Cordero, a 47 year old Latina living in Santa Anna. Dekker thinks Mark Duffy has something to hide.
At the home of Maria Cordero, she tells them her lawyers say she cannot talk about it. She then says she just wanted to see Brandon. He daughter was raped 20 years ago and she got pregnant from the rape and Brandon is her son who was adopted by the Duffys. Maria just wanted to see her grandson. Duffy did not want Brandon to know how he was born.
Back at RHD, the detectives have to look for relatives of Brandon’s biological parents – Angela Cordero and her rapist. The check out the others who lived at the address where the Corderos lived at the time of the rape, and hone in on a Louis Cordero, 54, whose last address and job say he was a janitor at the Rampart Division.
At LAPD Rampart Division, one officer recalls a man there who used to listen to the scanners that they called “Echo” because he would repeat the last thing you said.
Later, the detectives come back to Louis Valdez and they ask him about his other job at Rampart. They mention Louis Cordero and Louis runs off, with Rex tackling him in the water from the creek.
The detectives search Louis’ home and find he is taking medication for an enlarged prostate. They also find a hunting knife that seems to have been bleached. They find bras stuffed between the mattresses, TJ calling it Louis’ trophy case.
At arraignment court, the prosecutions presents the information against Valdez and his attorney Mr. Solomon (Patrick Fischler) says the bras could have been found in the creek. Dekker says Valdez is a master at hiding in plain sight. Dekker also mentions that Valdez took his mother’s maiden name. He wants him remanded without bail, and the judge agrees.
Outside the courtroom, Mark Duffy races up to Dekker and Dekker says they won’t be bothering him or his family any more. But Duffy wants their help as their son doesn’t know how he was conceived and is concerned it will come out in the trial. When Duffy asks Dekker to plea bargain with Valdez, Dekker says he does not hog trade with a serial killer and he has to speak for the murder victims and their families.
In the Chambers of Judge Ridgeway, the DDA listen to Caffey make her argument about protecting the fact that Duffy is a child of rape and says that his DNA was inappropriately taken when he was 15 which is how it got into the database. Even Solomon argues that all the police evidence against Valdez connects to that tainted DNA match. Judge Ridgeway agrees with the defense and dismisses the charges and released Valdez. This distresses Dekker and he reminds the judge there is one victim who survived that may be able to ID Valdez and ask to have him put in a line up. The judge allows the lineup.
Later. Diana McDermott is viewing the line up and she is not sure.
Afterwards, Dekker, Stanton, Rex and TJ watch as Valdez is being led out by Solomon, and Dekker tells the detectives he wants 2 cars on Valdez 24-7.
Back at the office, Dekker knows that now they have to start from scratch. They have to get Valdez’s DNA back into the system but he has to get arrested again. Dekker says they have to make that happen, and Dekker wonders if something already has.
Dekker speaks with Maria Cordero who said Louis is her brother in law and Angela’s uncle. Dekker asks why they moved out of the house they once all shared, and she tells them that she did not feel comfortable living with Louis. Dekker asks Angela about her rape and says she can help them, maybe with many cases. She says that when they just moved into the house, she was sleeping in her bedroom and she woke up and this man was on her back raping her. She couldn’t see him, he pushed her face into the pillow. She did recognize his voice. Dekker shows her the photos of the other dead woman and says she can stop him. Her mother urges Angela to tell him. Angela said he whispered in her ear, like she was underwater, but she knew it was Louis. He said if she told her mother or told the police he would kill her. Her mother did take her to the doctor and she was bleeding. Dekker says the rape happened outside their jurisdiction so he needs to report it to the police in Santa Anna. Dekker promises her she will never have to face him or to testify and says she needs to be strong and to stand up for herself.
At the Orange County DA’s Office, Dekker and Stanton speak with Karen and explain why it took so long to report it and the records that they do have on the matter. Dekker says they just need her to prosecute him for the rape.
Later, Rex and TJ watch as Louis is working, and the Santa Anna police arrive in force. TJ says it like watching a cop movie. Valdez is arrested.
Back at RHD, Rex says their Jane Doe has been identified - Kelli Torneau, 17, from New Orleans. They see that Valdez DNA is now in the database and it matches the DNA found on victim Sylvia Watson. They have him.
Back in Superior Court, Dekker explains that they now have Valdez properly in the database and the arrest was proper. There is also no time limit on a sex crime against a minor. The judge denies Solomon’s motion to dismiss.
Later, Solomon tells Dekker even if Dekker wins at trial, Solomon will have him tied up with appeals for the next 10 years. Dekker says he will be riding shotgun with the AG on any appeal. Dekker says the case will end when Valdez receives a lethal injection from the state of California. Solomon thinks Dekker won’t go for the death penalty but Dekker says he will enforce it. Valdez says he was good when he took those pills, but if Don Heller wasn’t so nosey…Heller found out he changed his name and he asked him questions all the time and would not leave him alone. He said he will take the pills again and be good again, and he begs Dekker not to let them kill him. Dekker says if he can convince a jury that he deserves mercy, so be it, but Dekker will show hi the same mercy he showed those women.
At trial, Dekker makes his opening statements describing the murders and how the murders were not given the proper due by police and the evidence was packed away and the cases faded away and the victims were forgotten except by their families. He says he will prove Valdez is a vicious serial killer and everyone will know the names of his victims. On a monitor, he shows pictures of the victims and their names. He says finally they will all have their day in court. As we see their faces on the monitor, we fade to black.
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