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A recovering drug addict who lost her infant son in a fire in 2005 claims she saw him alive in a park. Though Lilly is initially dubious about the woman's claim, having learned to be skeptical of addicts, the discovery that the fire was deliberately set seems to support her story. With the help of Eddie Saccardo, the squad attempts to find out who started the fire and who took her baby.


February 12, 2005 - A fire breaks out in the middle of the night. As people observe the apartment building fire at 252 Baker Street, a woman runs to the complex, shouting to a firefighter that her baby is on the fourth floor. The firefighter relays this to other firefighters. Another firefighter comes down with the child, but shakes his head in disappointment, indicating the baby died in the fire. It was ruled an accidental death and the case was closed.

Present Day - Detectives Lilly Rush and Kat Miller arrive at a prison to interview an ex-junkie. She claimed to have information about a job in '05. On their way, they bump into Detective Eddie Saccardo. Both Lilly and Eddie agree that interviewing the ex-junkie is a waste of time, but Lilly has to interview her anyway.

The ex-junkie's name is Priscilla Chapin. She is desperate to escape the confines of her jail cell. They want to talk to her about the apartment fire. Priscilla claimed to have seen her son at the playground. Lilly wonders if she is using again, but Priscilla assures her she is clean. According to the case files, Priscilla left the gas stove on and left the building to buy cigarettes at a bodega. Lilly is visibly affected by her mother's past as a junkie, wanting to press charges against Priscilla for negligent homicide. Priscilla claimed to not have left the stove on the night of the apartment fire. She claimed that someone else turned it on that night, but she can't figure out who did it. The detectives leave, but not before hearing Priscilla pleading for help locating her son, whose name is Max, has sandy hair and a birthmark on his right arm. She last saw Max at a park and pleaded with Lilly to find him. Reluctantly, Lilly agrees to find Max.

Lilly reviews her case notes with Lt. John Stillman and Detective Nick Vera. They found only two kids, 8 and 10, too old to be Priscilla's son. Coroner reported that Max was blasted out of his crib, bones were fractured, and blaze got everything but his skeleton. At the end of that night, the complex burned down to the ground. A neighbor had a baby monitor for Max while Priscilla was away for ten minutes. Priscilla had possession charges in 2001, 2002, and 2004. She was a runaway, who did rehab to avoid juvenile detention.

Officer Louie Amante went over the gas leak with the detectives. The kitchen was the source of the gas leak. However, Louie saw alligator marks in the baby's room, meaning that the fire started there instead of the kitchen before the blast occurred.

Detectives Will Jeffries and Scotty Valens interview fire marshal James McElroy, who was surprised the fire actually started in Max's room. They ask if McElroy remembers seeing a candle or incense there. McElroy recalls his story from 2005.

February 12, 2005: McElroy walked through Max's room to find broken glass on the floor, Max's crib on its side. and the baby.

Present Day - The detectives figure out that the blast should have blown glass out to the streets or to the fire escape, not in to Max's room. This helps support Priscilla's story, meaning someone else broke into the room and possibly started the fire. This evidence turns the case from an accidental death to a homicide.

Lt. Stillman learns that the apartment owner got $925,000 in insurance money when it burned down. The landlord's name is Victor Martinez, who owns two condos in Mt. Airy and a high-rise apartment in downtown Philadelphia. Compared to the complex at 252 Baker Street, Kat deduces this as a possible motive. She obtained reports from Licenses and Inspections indicating that Priscilla filed complaints against Victor for the heat not working in the dead of winter. Unsanitary conditions were also reported in the building.

Lilly and Scotty interview Martinez about the apartment fire. They accuse him of wanting to get rid of Priscilla by starting the fire. Martinez denies this, stating he's a member of the Chamber of Commerce and a Catholic. As a Catholic, he would not ever harm the life of a child. Victor claimed to have an interested buyer, who would have bought the complex for more than the insurance payout. He blames Priscilla for having his property destroyed. Priscilla tried to go clean, but Victor thought not everyone would approve of that.

2005: Victor replaces a light bulb while Max is crying in the laundry room. Max observes Priscilla talking to a man named Franklin Palmer. Franklin was pressing Priscilla for money for her life.

Present Day: Danny chides Victor for not intervening, but Victor tells them the man was Franklin Palmer, who was a big-time crack and heroin dealer. Victor doesn't want the detectives telling anyone he saw Franklin that night, but Lilly states that Franklin was in jail for burning down a house of one of his enemies.

Will and Nick interview Franklin about Priscilla the night the complex burned down. He did not wish harm on the baby, saying that the purpose of using drugs is to escape reality. Franklin states that Priscilla would not trade her drug use for her baby and a fast food job.

2005: Franklin was hanging out at Priscilla's job. He saw Priscilla behind the counter, reeling from withdrawal of drug use. A woman named Chantelle Legro came to her, asking for Ellis. Priscilla said that Ellis is a bad person. Priscilla said that Ellis is Max's father, but refuses to own up to it. Priscilla and Chantelle argue with each other until Priscilla threatens to report her to the police. Chantelle reaches over the counter and attempts to choke Priscilla until the manager breaks up the fight. The manager fires her for misconduct.

Present Day: Franklin would have poached again, except he got locked up that day. They ask him about Ellis and the crackhead, but Franklin denies knowing who they are.

Lilly and Kat question Priscilla at her home about Max's father. They know that Priscilla threatened to press charges against Ellis for not supporting Max. Ellis was also a drug addict who was broke. Priscilla refuses to answer any questions about Ellis, but Lilly gets suspicious and thinks that she is trying to protect him. Priscilla recounts the day that Max was born. She assures the detectives that no harm to Max would ever come from anyone.

Back at headquarters, Lilly talks to Eddie, who knows of Ellis Smith. Ellis' sister pays for him to attend the Maloney-Smith Center to get rehabilitated. Problem is that Ellis continues to use after his visits. Eddie wanted Lilly to hold onto Ellis so Eddie can use him for a Mexican drug trafficking ring. Eddie asks her why she's pursuing the case, but Lilly says she's just doing her job.

A woman at the clinic remembers seeing Ellis at the clinic during Thanksgiving. Scotty and Nick ask if he was the type of guy who would hurt a child. She knows that addicts do anything to serve their addiction because it's more important than anything in life.

2005: Priscilla visits Ellis at the clinic with Max. She approached him for help supporting Max. Priscilla pleaded with Ellis to help, but he does not appear to care for the child. Priscilla is visibly saddened.

Present day: The woman felt really sorry for Priscilla's situation: trying to kick an addiction, having a child, and no job to support him with.

Lilly, Nick, and Stillman review the case notes up to this point. Nick had the coroner reexamine Max's photos. Some of the bones showed calcification, which meant that the baby's bones were healing. This indicated domestic abuse and possibly pointing to motive to cover up a baby's death by setting the room on fire.

Lilly and Scotty revisit Priscilla's new apartment while being disgusted by not holding Priscilla for child abuse. The apartment turned up a toy she bought recently, but Lilly is not sold on a mother's love. She believes that Priscilla fell off the wagon and is beginning to use again. They find an envelope with an address, along with checks written to Priscilla that she had not cashed.

Will and Kat visit the residence, which belongs to Priscilla's parents. The parents had been out of contact for four years. They tried to send Priscilla to detox as a high school senior but she relapsed. They tried again and she ran away. Will asks if Priscilla was capable of hurting Max. The father almost answers, but the mother shouts, "No!" in a defensive manner. The detectives excuse themselves from the home. Before leaving, Kat notes to the mother that they know she's been sending checks to help Priscilla out but her daughter never cashes them. Priscilla's mom regrets turning her away the night before the fire.

2005: Priscilla came to her parents' home to present Max with photos of them together. She wanted to borrow money for a safe environment for the two of them. The father wants her to give up Max, but Priscilla refuses. She storms out and denies their money.

Present Day: Priscilla's mom was grateful that she was willing to protect her child. She remembered driving to places where Priscilla used to buy drugs. The 17th Street underpass was one place Priscilla stopped frequently for drugs. Priscilla's mom asks Kat to tell her daughter to come home with no strings attached.

Lilly and Scotty go to the underpass to find Ellis. Eddie Saccardo is already there interrogating him. When they arrive, they begin questioning him about Priscilla. Ellis claimed to have been getting high with her the night of the fire and denied knowing she left Max alone that night.

2005: Ellis approached Priscilla in a red car. Priscilla laments about wanting to hold on to Max, but starts to believe her parents were right all along. Ellis shows her some cocaine and almost gets Priscilla to take it, but Priscilla storms out of the car, successfully beating her habit. Ellis is saddened that he lost a friend like her.

Present day: Ellis recounts that he was charged for carjacking his own sister's car that night. He commends Priscilla for being strong enough to not use anymore. Scotty receives a phone call while Lilly learns that Priscilla would normally hang out at a flower shop. After the questioning, Eddie hauls Ellis away for further questioning while Scotty learns of a new development.

Nick found out that the infant's body had no teeth, indicating that it was a four-month-old child who died that night. An eight-month-old boy like Max would have had teeth. They now believe that Max is still alive and realize Priscilla was telling the truth.

The detectives deduce that Max was swapped with a baby from St. Paul's ER who had died of domestic abuse. They figure out that whoever started the fire was trying to save Max. Stillman sends Will and Kat to investigate St. Paul's while sending Lilly and Eddie to track down Priscilla at the flower shop. Eddie also noted a crack den a few blocks from 252 Baker Street.

Lilly and Eddie find Priscilla at the flower mart. She is visibly saddened about her decision to leave Max behind. Lilly is determined to find out why Priscilla left Max alone that night. Eddie relates to Priscilla to get her to talk. He knew that Priscilla had beaten down her addiction that night for Max. Priscilla came to the flower mart because she found hope there.

2005: Priscilla went looking around for a place to stay to be warm with Max when the heat in her apartment went out. After a long time, Priscilla found the flower mart, which she called home.

Present day: Lilly tells Priscilla that she now believes Max is still alive. Priscilla remembers telling Ellis and the rehab counselor, Lois Rabinski, that she would go to the flower mart to stay clean. Lilly is now determined to find Max.

Lilly and Scotty arrive at Lois' home with backup and a child services representative. They demand to know where Max is at. Dr. Rabinski protests that their son is Isaac, insists the child is theirs and threatens to call a lawyer. The police figured out that Dr. Rabinski swapped a dead baby from the hospital he worked at for Max. Lois thought she could take Max and rename him Isaac, believing that Priscilla would OD from her addiction, but she came out clean. Lois had miscarried again and again, wanting to have a child of her own. She claimed to have much love to give, but would not get a baby. They defended that the beaten baby would have eventually been Max had they not intervened. However, Lilly gets the Rabinskis to admit Max isn't theirs and they were wrong to kidnap him.

February 12, 2005: Dr. Rabinski sabotaged Priscilla's gas stove and observed baby food above the stove. He also saw that Max's room was painted, had a crib, and even had a mobile, but ignored it. After bringing Max home with them, the couple saw him wearing a homemade onesie from Priscilla saying "My mommy loves me", which affects his kidnappers.

Present Day: Lois and her husband are arrested for burning down the apartment and kidnapping Max. Priscilla's parents happily look at their old photos. Max's case box is tossed away, leaving behind only an unidentified baby marked as "John Doe". Priscilla is reunited with Max outside the flower shop as Lilly, Scotty, and Eddie watch on. Priscilla offers her son a flower, and Max smiles at her in recognition.



Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]




  • Season finale of a short season caused by the writers strike.
  • This episode was loosely based on the Delimar Vera case, who was abducted in December 1997 by a relative of the father during an apartment party fire and found by her mother in January 2003 at another relative's party.
  • The episode was remade as the thirtieth episode of Cold Case - Door of Truth.


  • Goo Goo Dolls "Better Days"
  • The Good Life "I Am an Island"
  • Wolf Parade "Modern World"
  • Keane "Bedshaped"
  • Dave Matthews Band "Stay or Leave"
  • Michael A. Levine "Baby Blues"
  • Closing Song: Nickelback "Far Away"

Trailer Song

  • Sara Bareilles "Bottle it up"

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Cold Case - 5x18 Ghost of My Child - Season Finale - Promo

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Thrill Kill | That Woman | Running Around | Devil Music | Thick as Thieves | Wunderkind | World's End | It Takes a Village | Boy Crazy | Justice | Family 8108 | Sabotage | Spiders | Andy in C Minor | The Road | Bad Reputation | Slipping | Ghost of My Child

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