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Detectives Robert Goren and Alexandra Eames investigate a diamond heist in a house that left its two occupants and one of the robbers dead. Karl Atwood, the criminal who planned the heist, attempts to trick the police into thinking that the robbery was mob-related, but the detectives uncover the deception when they track down a lead that shows that he served time in a Canadian prison, and has skipped parole and crossed the border. Goren and Eames interview Atwood's girlfriend, Gia, and tell her that he was infected with AIDS in prison, and that he has passed it on to her. They promise to be lenient on her and get her treatment if she will help them to apprehend Atwood. She arranges to meet with Atwood, and when the buyers for the diamonds arrive at a hotel, Goren and Eames arrest everybody. They inform Gia that she has not contracted AIDS.
Anne Ellis and Bernard Jackson, two art authenticators, are found dead; one has been hanged and the other shot in the chest. Initial evidence indicates a murder-suicide, and the investigation leads Goren and Eames to a forged Claude Monet painting. The detectives suspect German art gallery owner Rudy Langer, who implicates a female forger but will not name her. Goren discovers that the forger is Sylvia Moon, a former student of Jackson's, whose art-school roommate committed suicide by hanging herself. After confronting Moon and Langer at the murder scene, Moon reveals that Langer killed Jackson, and confesses to helping him kill Ellis.
The Major Case Squad team investigate the murder of Lois Romney, a pregnant woman who has given up her drug addiction and is struggling to stay clean. It initially appears that the murderer is the victim's unstable junkie boyfriend, Dale van Acker, and Captain Deakins tells Goren and Eames to close the case. Deciding that the death of a pregnant woman deserves more attention, their investigation leads them to the boyfriend's wealthy and domineering socialite mother, Priscilla van Acker, and his stepfather. Goren suspects that Priscilla is a sociopath, who disapproved of her son's girlfriend, plotted to kill her and framed her son.
Goren and Eames investigate the death of a Catholic church sexton, Morris Abernathy. They begin to suspect Kevin Donovan, a thieving drug addict who works at the church, until he is found murdered in his apartment. As Goren and Eames delve into the church's business, they uncover the embezzlement of money from the collection funds, and believe it was by Abernathy who tried to frame Donovan. When they realize someone performed last rites over Donovan's body, the detectives are led to a priest who has been trying to keep a twenty-year-old secret hidden.
Detectives Goren and Eames investigate the murder of a pretty, petite woman found drowned in her bathtub. Days later, a second petite woman is found naked and washed up on shore, and this is followed by the discovery of a strangled third female, and then a fourth victim. They discover that the second victim was also drowned in a bathtub, and they find a link between all four – Henry Talbott, an abusive, drug-addicted lawyer was their boyfriend who was taking money from them to help feed his gambling addictions. Unable to get assistance from his disbelieving wife, the detectives have to work against the clock to gather their evidence before he kills a fifth woman.
Detectives Goren and Eames investigate the murder of a man found beaten to death in a hotel suite. It appears the victim was Didier Foucault, a Swiss conman who cheated a group of wealthy investors and romanced their wives, but further evidence reveals that the dead man is not Foucault, but his assistant Felix Perez. The detectives discover that the investors hired a hitman to teach Foucault a severe lesson, but that he learned of the attack and sent Perez to his hotel room in his place. The hitman attacked Perez, but left him alive, and Goren begins to suspect that Foucault returned to the hotel and killed him. ADA Carver indicts the investors on false murder charges, in an attempt to lure Foucault out of hiding so they can arrest him for Perez's murder. Inspired by the life of Christophe Rocancourt.
Detectives Ed Green and Lennie Briscoe from the 27th Precinct report a suspicious cyanide poisoning to the Major Case Squad. When other cyanide deaths occur in a hospital, Goren and Eames initially suspect Colleen Braxton, a nurse who fits the typical criminal profile, but the poisonings continue while Braxton is in custody. The source of the cyanide is tracked down to a batch of laced over-the-counter Necedrol pills. The investigation turns to the victims' families which leads the detectives to a widow named Trudy Pomeranski. The detectives discover she killed her husband and sued the medicine company, then laced other boxes of the same medication around the city in an attempt to cover-up the murder and strengthen her lawsuit. As she used her lawsuit money to buy into a infant clothing franchise, she was caught mailing a cyanide laced letter to the Ledger. She is subsequently arrested while setting up her store, after her franchise agreement was nullified due to a morals clause, when her mother was considered a suspect.
An investigative news reporter and his girlfriend are gunned down in the street, and the detectives learn that the reporter had a history of uncovering police corruption. Their investigation into the deaths leads to the buying and selling of pardons, and a connection to organized crime. When their investigation leads them to the state governor's office, Captain Deakins orders the detectives off the case, but Carver's work ethics put him at odds with Goren and Eames.
Goren and Eames investigate the disappearance of an adulterous drug-addicted wife of a plastic surgeon. While the doctor says he has attempted to locate his wife, the detectives suspect he is lying, especially when they discover he also has a secret lover but they struggle to find any flaws in the his alibi. Weeks later, body parts of a decomposed woman wash ashore, so the detectives arrange for a false story to be printed in the newspapers, claiming they are from the missing woman. The detectives wait for the husband's reaction when he reads the article, hoping that they can turn his strong ego against him and discover the truth.
The Major Case Squad investigate the death of Harold Sternman, an elderly and paranoid banker who died in the penthouse suite of his own luxury apartment building during an arson fire. The investigation leads Goren and Eames to Harold's dysfunctional family, consisting of his young trophy wife Kit, his alcoholic son Edward, and Rick Zainer, Harold's private nurse. When DNA from Kit and Edward are found in Harold's bed, the detectives suspect Harold was using them as evidence to get divorced from Kit, but both Kit and Edward deny sleeping with each other; Edward is gay. Suspicion falls on Zainer, who admits to sleeping with Edward and turning the three family members against each other as revenge for Harold failing to deliver on a promise to write letters of recommendation for Zainer's sons to enter an elite private school. After increasing Harold's drug dose, which made him even more anxious and paranoid than usual, he led Harold to believe that Kit was cheating on him with his own son; Kit then conspired with Edward to kill him so she could get her inheritance and Edward would be left the apartment building, which he could promptly sell.
Goren and Eames investigate the murder of an abortion doctor who was shot in his own apartment. The detectives are convinced that a pro-life activist is to blame and begin tracking him through his contacts. When they find a second gun, they suspect the sniper has not acquired his final target. The evidence sends the detectives on a search for the killer before someone else becomes the next victim. Meanwhile, Goren tries to find out the real reason for the gunman's rage, and ADA Carver worries about turning a murder case into a test about abortion before a jury.
Larry Feldman, a heart surgeon is murdered at the Bar Mitzvah of his son Ricky. Goren and Eames realize that Feldman had recently gone through a bitter divorce, and that his bitter ex-wife, Julie, believed he was committing child sexual abuse against their daughter Sophie. As their investigation deepens, their attention turns to Charles Webb, a forensic psychiatrist who often testifies as an expert witness for ADA Carver in criminal trials. The detectives discover that after becoming obsessed with Sara Lindstrom, Julie's sister, Webb attempted to gain her affections by helping her sister gain custody of her children, and hired a corrupt detective to murder Feldman. When confronted, Webb's attorney lays down an insanity defense and attempts to have him sent to a psychiatric hospital, but Goren proves that the insanity plea is bogus.
The detectives investigate the murder of Wharton Carlyle, found stabbed to death in a yacht marina. They interview the victim's teenaged daughter, Lilly Carlyle, a frequent nightclub goer with drug and alcohol addiction. During the investigation, Goren and Eames' suspicions turn to a nightclub owner who has close connections with organized crime. When the detectives look deeper into the case, they think that the relation between the girl and the club proprietor aroused the victim's fears, and was the cause of the murder. All is not what it seems, however, because the main suspect, John Hampton, is an undercover FBI agent posing as a thug to infiltrate a drugs ring. He could be the main culprit, but the detectives and the FBI clash over the conflict of interests.
Unable to raise money to make a payment to Carl Pettijohn, a dangerous loan shark, stockbroker Lucas Colter returns home from a morning jog to find that his family is missing. Colter's mother-in-law goes to the Major Case Squad with her suspicions that the family was kidnapped for ransom. Detectives Goren and Eames attempt to gain Colter's cooperation, but he makes repeated excuses and tries to avoid them. Colter takes a phone call from the kidnappers who begin threatening the lives of his family, and rape his eldest daughter, Maggie. Colter asks his father, Melvin, for help in paying off the loan shark, and the family is returned. Initially suffering from Stockholm syndrome, the family deny that they were kidnapped, until Eames gains the trust of Maggie who recalls a tattoo on her rapist. The detectives track down Pettijohn, who gives up the names of his bagman. When they arrest Simon Matic, a former Serbian soldier, he inadvertently reveals his tattoo, which matches the sketch provided by Maggie.
The body of Emily Trudeau, a court clerk, is found in the home of her married lover, Judge Peter Blakemore, a candidate for an open seat on the appellate court. Goren and Eames find that, despite being held in high regard by the legal community as an expert in the area of intellectual property law, the law review articles attributed to Blakemore were actually written by Trudeau. The murder investigation leads the Major Case Squad to Arnie Cox, a low-profile ex-convict with links to one of Blakemore's appellate seat rivals, Judge Raoul Sabatelli, who has authored a number of internationally successful crime novels. Despite Cox refusing to cooperate, and Carver's positive feelings towards Sabatelli, the detectives press on with their case, and find Sabatelli was incensed that the legal community wanted to see Blakemore gain the appellate seat rather than himself. While Blakemore's success came only from being born into a wealthy and well connected family, Sabatelli feels that he deserved the seat because he had worked hard all his life to get where he is today, with no money to fall back on. Goren and Eames discover that after Sabatelli found some of Trudeau's unpublished legal articles, he killed her so he could take them for himself.
Detectives Goren and Eames investigate the murder of a paroled bank robber, killed only two days after he was released from Sing Sing prison. During the investigation, Goren and Eames visit the victim's sister, Charlotte Fielding, and her boyfriend, Gerry Rankin, a mysterious man living a double life. Rankin leads everyone to believe that he is an economist for the United Nations, but the UN tells the NYPD that they have no knowledge of him. As the detectives close in on the suspect, they find that everyone involved in the case has been living a delusion, but that Charlotte's brother knew the truth. Although Rankin desperately wants the approval of his children, Goren suspects that he may also be planning to kill them, and must talk him out of it, by convincing him that they see him as a hero.
Detectives Goren and Eames investigate the murder of a bisexual woman who is found slain in a hotel room. At first, Goren and Eames note the murder has the distinctive characteristics of one committed by an imprisoned serial killer, raising fears that he has found an accomplice to carry on his work while he is in prison. The investigation leads them to a human behavior research institute, where they discover that a series of experiments has been developed on the man to discover the main cause of his insanity. Then the detectives interview the institute's director, an arrogant doctor who struggles for public and scientific credibility, and his research assistant, a shy woman who might have fallen under the killer's spell and committed the copycat murder. Nevertheless, while D.A. Carver stalls to prevent the release of the imprisoned man, Goren and Eames discover evidence that might point toward a most unlikely ending.
Detectives Goren and Eames investigate the discovery of a woman's body on the banks of the Bronx River. The woman appears tied and carefully wrapped in a plastic tarp, and they learn that she was reported missing 20 years previously. Her well-preserved body shows signs that she was subject to substantial physical torture before being killed. Chemical residue on the body leads Goren and Eames to the basement of the house in which she had originally been buried, and later to a drug addicted man whose parents owned the home. When the junkie ends up murdered as well, the detectives focus their investigation on his college classmate, a former chess master who is now a successful and control-oriented mechanical engineer, known to suddenly disappear for a while from his family. The man, who has a history of drugging and sexually assaulting women, could be linked to two earlier rape cases with similarities to the murder. The case takes a major turn when Goren confronts him during an interrogation.
Detectives Goren and Eames are investigating the case of a beheaded woman whose body has disappeared. They discover that the victim is the American-raised daughter of a Russian mafioso. At first, they suspect that she was murdered after announcing plans to write a revealing book about growing up in a criminal family, and thugs planned a gangland hit to kill her, but evidently someone beat them to it.
The Major Case Squad investigate the murder-suicide of a city auditor who appears to have killed his family and then himself; however, an analysis of the crime scene suggests a different scenario. When Goren and Eames learn that the dead man uncovered a pensions scandal involving retired police officers, the trail leads them to corruption within the force. When the dead accountant's report of the city school district's School Security Division is discovered, the detectives learn that he was investigating the illegal practice of retired cops drawing a city pension while also drawing a second NYC salary as School Division officers. Evidence of the murders points towards a handful of former cops, particularly a tough female School officer with an urgent need for money to keep her daughters in an expensive private school.
Goren and Eames investigate the death of a wealthy publisher killed by a car bomb. During the investigation they discover that the victim was murdered after he demanded to meet a disabled girl he had been supporting. She is known as an orphaned and elusive teenage author whose personal tragedies have spawned best-selling books and profitable charities. After interviewing one of her editors they begin to suspect that the girl in question does not even exist; no-one can say they have ever met her. They suspect her foster parents are running an elaborate fraud.
Goren and Eames investigate the assault/car accident of a corporate finance officer and the murder of her boyfriend, and they stumble upon a corporate accounting fraud/stock manipulation scheme. The corporate finance officer, Elizabeth Dawson, had been investigating her corporation's accounting irregularities and had refused to sign the accounting statements. Unbeknownst to Dawson, it was her corporate boss Chief Financial Officer Jack Crawley who had assaulted her, murdered her boyfriend and subsequently framed her for that murder. Crawley offered to provide her with an alibi if she signed the accounting statements.