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Desperate

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"Desperate"
SVU, Episode 4.18
Production number: E3124
First aired: 14 March 2003
  th of 366 produced in SVU  
th of 366 released in SVU
  th of 1106 released in all  
Dan Hoffman
Written By
Amanda Green

Directed By
David Platt


Summary Edit

After a young boy witnesses the brutal sexual assault and murder of his stepmother, his father blocks the efforts of the detectives to question him.

Plot Edit

A resident at an apartment building calls the fire department after smelling smoke in another unit. Firefighters break down the door and find food burning on the stove, a frightened 6-year-old boy named Mikey, and his badly injured mother. The mother had also been raped and sodomized. Barely alive when the fire department arrived, she dies at the hospital during surgery. The mother’s purse and all other identifying information were taken by her attacker. A urine stain on the hallway carpet outside the bedroom suggests that Mikey witnessed the assault, and was so terrified by what he saw, he wet his pants. Police are unable to find the killer's DNA, fingerprints, & semen for this investigation.

The apartment landlord identifies the mother as Dana McGuire. She had moved in a month ago, paying cash up front for three months. Her driver’s license had listed an upscale Central Park address. Dana McGuire is alive and well at the address on the license. Her purse had been stolen in a mugging some time before. The mugger, who is serving six months in Rikers, met “Dana” in a diner and gave her the license after she told him she couldn’t find work because she had no ID. He knew her as Jill, and her son as Tommy.

Dr. Warner determines that Jill probably had not been able to have children, and that Tommy is not her biological son.

Tommy draws pictures of Jill’s murder and of himself holding hands with Benson. When Benson asks if he knows any other numbers, such as those one might call in an emergency, he dials the Domestic Violence Hotline.

A compassionate hotline worker identifies Jill as Jill Hoffman, and expresses her disgust that Jill’s husband “finally did it.” After three weeks at a safe house, Jill returned home long enough to pick Tommy up. But then the domestic violence workers couldn’t shelter her, for as Tommy’s stepmother, she had no legal right to take the boy from his father. They did find her a pro bono attorney to help her fight for legal custody.

The attorney tells Stabler and Benson that Dan started abusing Jill shortly after their wedding. Kim, Dan’s first wife and Tommy’s biological mother, had left a year prior, indicating that Dan likely abused her, as well. Dan had psychologically terrorized his son, but had yet to do any physical damage. Jill had known that Dan’s abuse was only a matter of time. She had never made a domestic violence complaint because her husband is "Mr. Pillar-of-the-Community" in their exclusive small town of Rye, no one would believe he is abusive.

Tommy tells Benson that he and Jill had run away from his father. Jill was going to find them a new home, someplace far away where his father would not find them. Just as Tommy is going to talk about Jill’s murder, his father storms in. Tommy is clearly terrified, but he has been medically cleared and released to the custody of his father.

Dan's alibi for the night of Jill’s murder is being at a business association dinner dance. The event was held at a place only five minutes from Jill’s apartment. Several attendees confirm that Dan was there. They also remember that he disappeared for about 45 minutes during the evening, then reappeared.

Alex Cabot tries, unsuccessfully, to get court permission for Dr. George Huang to interview Tommy. To prove he is not the monster the police think he is, Dan submits to a police interview. He plays the grieving widower only too well for the detectives' taste, having the right answer for each question they ask.

Munch later finds a new checking account in the name of Dana McGuire, but it is actually Jill’s. She had deposited some paychecks from a strip club known as Benny’s Topless into the account. Many of Benny’s customers are commuters who stop in before heading home to the suburbs. Jill quit in a panic the previous week, after seeing someone from her former hometown in the crowd one night.

The credit card receipts from that night lead to a Mr. Rizzo, from Rye. To keep his wife from finding out he is not working overtime, he reveals that he told Dan about the Benny’s stripper who looked exactly like Jill.

Stabler and Benson talk to Alex, pointing out that once Dan knew where Jill worked, all he had to do was follow her home. Their circumstantial information is enough for an arrest. Alex obtains a “silent indictment”, which leads to Dan's arrest and indictment for Jill’s murder.

The case against Dan takes a major bad turn when the judge will not allow the domestic violence workers to testify that Jill told them she was being abused. Tommy’s testimony would convict his father, but SVU is still barred from talking to the boy. Alex asks about Kim Hoffman, who as Tommy’s biological mother has every right to talk to him. Stabler replies that SVU hasn’t been able to find her. Captain Cragen tells the detectives to find someone who had known her.

The Hoffmans’ neighbor knew Kim was being physically abused because he had seen the injuries. He believes Dan murdered Kim, because late one night he saw a van pull into the Hoffmans’ driveway. Someone filled the van with garbage bags and drove off. The next day, Kim was gone. Wheaten contacted the Rye police with the van’s license plate number and his suspicion that Kim was murdered. The van belonged to a Dawn Trent, a woman from Port Chester.

Trent tells Stabler that she had helped Kim escape that night from her abusive situation. Kim did not take Tommy with her then because Dan was on the verge of killing her.

Stabler follows the chain of Kim Hoffman’s rescuers, locates her and explains everything. She tearfully tells him she had gone back for Tommy, only to see him happily playing on the front lawn with Jill. Kim then thought he was better off there, because what did she have to offer him. Stabler persuades her to come back for her son's sake. If she refuses, Dan will be acquitted of the murder.

At the courthouse where Dan’s trial is in progress, Kim talks to her son in the hallway. The bond between mother and son is reestablished. When Tommy is called to testify, he and his mother walk into the courtroom together. On the witness stand, Tommy is seemingly reluctant to testify, and Judge Ridenour allows him to step down.

As Alex leads Tommy past the defense table to leave, Dan flashes a smile to his son. Tommy looks at his mother sitting nearby, then quietly tells his father, “You killed Jill.” His attorney immediately asks for a mistrial, as the judge calls for order in the court amongst the murmuring observers. Dan frantically urges his son not to testify against him, but Tommy ignores him and turns to Alex and agrees to testify. Dan can only watch in silence, seething rage as his own son returns to the witness stand.

Cast Edit

Main cast Edit

Recurring cast Edit

Guest cast Edit

References Edit

References

Quotes Edit

  • Dan: (after Tommy fails to testify) I love you, son.
  • Tommy: (looks at his mother sitting nearby, then quietly says to his father) You killed Jill. (court gasps)
  • Priscilla: Your honor, I move for a mistrial!
  • Judge Ridenour: Order, order!
  • Dan: (frantically) Tommy, listen to me. Don’t do this.
  • Tommy: (to Alex) I'm ready. I can do this now.

  • Priscilla: We request a speedy trial date. My client is eager to prove his innocence. An opportunity the ADA denied him in the Grand Jury.
  • Alex: The District Attorney is under no obligation to inform...
  • Judge Ridenour: I know the law, Miss Cabot. I also know your reputation for bending it.

  • Alex: Well, he wouldn't be a single parent if he hadn't killed his wife.

  • Benson: You've got an answer for everything, don't you. I'm not buying your 'loving father' act. Tommy's terrified of you.
  • Dan: My son is everything to me. I would die for my son.
  • Benson: Tommy almost died for you. You killed Jill and then you left him alone in that apartment. And had firefighters not responded so fast, you'd be burying him along with your dead wife.
  • Dan: You wouldn't dare talk to me like that if you didn't have that badge and gun.

  • Dawn Trent: It's the same old story, Detective. Your husband's the nicest guy in town, pals with everyone. Even the cops, But every night when he comes home, he beats you, he degrades you, he tortures you and who's going to believe that the "Man of the Year" is a batterer? And you can't just leave. There's nowhere to hide in a small town. The only solution is to get away, far away and start over. But that takes money. And help.
  • Stabler: And that's what you provide?
  • Dawn Trent: Not just me. A group of us.
  • Stabler: What is this, some kind of DV Underground Railroad?
  • Dawn Trent: You could call it that.

Background information and notes Edit

Background information and notes

Episode scene cards Edit

1 2 3 4 5

McGuire Residence
301 Central Park West
Monday, February 24

Office of the
Medical Examiner
Monday, February 24

Domestic Violence
Hotline Office
Tuesday, February 25

Police Department
Rye, New York
Tuesday, February 25

Hoffman Residence
Rye, New York
Wednesday, February 26

6 7 8 9 10

Chambers of
Judge Ridenour
Thursday, February 27

Office of
Assistant District Attorney
Alexandra Cabot
Thursday, February 27

Residence of Allen Wheaten
Rye, New York
Friday, February 28

Trent Residence
Port Chester, New York
Friday, February 28

Trial Part 74
Monday, March 3


Previous episode:
"Privilege"
"Desperate"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Season 4
Next episode:
"Appearances"
Seasons 123456789101112131415161718

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