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A Dollar, A Dream
Cold Case S04E18 A Dollar A Dream.jpg

Season : 4
Episode: 18
Directed by: Chris Fisher
Written by: Erica Shelton
Production Number:
Airdate: 18 March 2007
Date of Crime: 17 November 1999
Previous: Shuffle, Ball Change
Next: Offender

External Links


A car is found at the bottom of a lake with the remains of a woman missing since 1999 inside. The detectives learn the woman had endured dire financial straits after her husband's death and was forced to live in the car with her two young daughters. Meanwhile, Jeffries confronts the hit and run driver who caused his wife's death.


An environmental group finds a car while testing the bottom of a lake. The Philadelphia police department takes over the case when a female skeleton and a bullet are found inside the car, together with some household stuff. From the car's registration plate, the detectives trace back the victim's identity. She was Marlene Bradford, mother of two girls, Abby and Natalie. After the girl's father died of cancer, they lost everything, including their home, to pay the medical expenses. Marlene and her daughters started living in their car. Then on Abby's tenth birthday, on November 17, 1999, Marlene disappeared: she dropped her girls at school and never came back. The girls were placed in foster care and a were separated.

The team starts the inquiries from Abby and Natalie. They had lost contact after being separated. Abby, the younger one, was lucky to land with a good family, but Natalie, since she was older, was bounced from one family to another, never landing a permanent placement. Besides, she always thought her mother was a failure and was angry at her for abandoning them. Natalie also tells them that at a homeless shelter, Marlene angered a woman named Vita who had tried to claim the bed Marlene and the girls were assigned. The young woman had threatened Marlene and stormed off.

The inquiries reveal that Marlene had a job at a local store. Her boss, Mr. Patel, had given her a gun – the same with which she was shot – to protect herself and her kids. At the store, she had met a homeless man called Vincent Hopper, who told her about a place in a nearby park where many homeless people lived. There was also a lake at the park; the same lake Marlene's car was found in seven years later.

Marlene moved to the park with her daughters and their car. One night, at the park while lamenting her situation, Hopper gave Marlene a lottery ticket he called the Hope Ticket. He told her that they would split the winnings evenly if they hit the $1 million jackpot. They were sharing their dreams when Natalie came screaming to her mother saying their car, with Abby sleeping inside, was gone. Marlene panicked, and then realized it had been towed. Marlene and Natalie managed to find Abby and the car. Abby was quite scared but safe and sound. Marlene tried, without much luck, to convince the tow driver to give her the car, at least for the night. The driver wouldn't give it away without money but as she couldn't afford it, he made her understand he accepted other forms of "payment." Marlene wanted to keep her daughters safe so she agreed.

Later in the car, Marlene and Natalie had a tiff over what she had done. Natalie told her mother some harsh words to which she replied by slapping her daughter. Natalie ran away and Marlene couldn't stop her. Still, she went looking for her and found her at their old house. They apologized to each other. Marlene decided to try her luck with the lottery ticket. It came out to be a $25 win. They were happy cause they could now afford a cake for Abby's birthday. Marlene told Natalie they would have a decent celebration for Abby's birthday when they came back from school but first she had to pay a "finder's fee." Because of that detail the police realized that Hopper was the last person to see Marlene the day she disappeared.

Later the cops told Hopper that he was lying all along and started questioning him and he confesses the crime. Marlene came back to the park saying the ticket was a winner and hands over his half of the money. He couldn't believe it was only a $25 win and all he got was $12. He wanted more; he wanted the remainder of the half million dollars he thought they won and his dreams of re-uniting with his family to come true. He started searching her car for the rest of the money, crushing the cake Marlene had just bought for Abby. She tried to stop him and make him reason. Instead, he lost control and shot her with the gun he had found in the car.

The cops arrest Hopper for murder. The other suspects continue their usual jobs: Vita welcomes some customers entering a supermarket, Mr. Patel walks down to the side of the fastfood chain he's currently working in and gives away some food to homeless mother and her two daughters who remind him of Marlene. He then walks back to work. Abby and Natalie meet each other after a long time and they see the ghost image of their mother smiling back at them.

Meanwhile, Jeffries confronts Keller, the truck driver who ran over his wife, in the pouring rain, while he is closing the diner. He puts his gun to Keller's chest and tells him about his wife, about the way she was left to die slowly and alone after the car crash. Later on, when Lt. Stillman visits Jeffries at home, he tells his boss what he did but that he couldn't kill Keller: his wife wouldn't come back even if he would've pulled the trigger. In the end, he sits in his room and listens to a Miles Davis record, his wife's favorite.

Crime Profile

Victim's File

Box Case File Number: M07-83 Date of Crime: November 17, 1999 Case Closed Date: March 2007
Identity Name of the Victim Age Occupation Last Seen Perpetrator (Motive) Cause of death Portrayer
Marlene Bradford.jpg
Marlene Bradford 35 formerly unemployed and a rich woman who later became grocery store clerk after her husband died. at Fairmount Park Vincent Hopper (Madness because he believed that he was decieved for hoarding the prized money) Gunshot wound in her chest using 38MM Gun Paula Malcomson

Probable Suspect/s

This is the profile of the following suspected people who had a close contact with Marlene Bradford before she was found dead.

Probable Suspects
Past Identity Present Identity Name of the Suspect/s Age Whereabout Status Occupation Relationship Last Seen by the victim Portrayers
Abby Bradford in 1999.jpg
Abby Bradford in 2007.jpg
Abby Bradford 9 (presumed 10 at her exact birthdate where her mother was killed)
16/17 (present age)
Alive Student Younger Daughter Last seen her mom while having a heated conversation between her and her sister, Natalie about their street life now. Darcy Rose Byrnes (1999)
Jennifer Lawrence (2007)
Natalie Bradford in 1999.jpg
Natalie Bradford in 2007.jpg
Natalie Bradford 14
23 (present age)
Alive Unknown Elder Daughter Last seen the victim when she found her at their old shelter after their confrontation last night and make up for their arguments and misunderstandings. She was the one which she heard her mother about the finders fee Channing Nichols (1999)
Melinda Dahl (2007)
Vita Chacon in 1999.jpg
Vita Chacon in 2007.jpg
Vita Chacon Unknown Alive currently as a saleslady for Blue Mart Acquaintance (one time seen) Last seen the victim with her daughters at a convenience store where Marlene works and also she seen a heated argument between her and her boss Anil Patel. Gloria Garayua
Anil Patel in 1999.jpg
Anil Patel in 2007.jpg
Anil Patel Unknown Alive formerly an owner of a grocery store in 1999, currently a restaurant staff from Zinger's Marlene's former boss Last seen the victim confronting her about her car and later the one who gave his gun to the victim as her first defense after he heard from Vincent Hopper on where she will be temporarily staying overnight (which is Fairmount Park where her remains and her car was found) Faran Tahir
Vincent Hopper in 1999.jpg
Vincent Hopper in 2007.jpg
Vincent Hopper Unknown Arrested Unemployed, living in Fairmount Park for 11 years Estranged Friend and Fellow street dweller. He was also the killer Last seen the victim, looking for her to give his finders fee he was talking about since Marlene's first night in Fairmount Park after he gave his Hope Ticket to her which he taught she will won the million dollars. But when he received his payment from her, it was just only $ 12 win which the victims ticket only got a $ 25 winning. He believed thay she was only decieving her and keep the money for herself which causes him enraged and finally out of control. He shot the victim to her death using the gun which Marlene's boss give it to her in the first place. Holmes Osborne
Tony in 1999.jpg
Tony in 2007.jpg
Tony Unknown Alive Towing Service employee No Relation Last seen the victim, pleading him to release their car as they don't have any place to sleep that evening, and also tried to offer him to buy her gun. However, with no gun in sight, he made a dirty proposal to her in order to release her car without any extra charges. Billy Gallo


Main Cast

Guest Cast



  • Paula Malcomson and Jennifer Lawrence would later play mother and daughter again in the film The Hunger Games (2012). Coincidentally, both stories are about a single mother-two daughter family who fall into poverty and struggle to survive after the death of the husband/father.
  • At 10 years old, Abby Bradford is the youngest suspect seen on the show.


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Opening Song

Sheryl Crow - Home

Alongside Scenes

Colleen Grace - Baby Jane
Dido - Here With Me
Those Final Feet by Cowboy Junkies
Emma Burgess - Something That You Do
Sarah McLachlan - Witness
Fisher - Breakable (Soundtrack Version)

Closing Song

Sarah McLachlan - Angel
Season 4 Episodes
Rampage | The War at Home | Sandhogs | Baby Blues | Saving Sammy | Static | The Key | Fireflies | Lonely Hearts | Forever Blue | The Red and the Blue | Knuckle Up | Blackout | 8:03 AM | Blood on the Tracks | The Good-Bye Room | Shuffle, Ball Change | A Dollar, A Dream | Offender | Stand Up and Holler | Torn | Cargo | The Good Death | Stalker

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