Lilly gets an anonymous phone call from a man, claiming he killed an elderly woman back in 1989 and buried her body in the basement of a house. When Lilly checks the dwelling, a body is recovered, but the alleged murderer refuses to identify himself.
The episode opens with a flashback of James in the kitchen on the telephone talking about his unpaid gas bill while his girlfriend is cooking. She suggests he ask his grandmother for the money but James refuses. They begin to kiss but the tea kettle whistles and James gets up to give his grandmother a cup of tea. Later that evening, we see the grandmother in the bedroom, a blanket and pillow on the floor, a knocked-over lamp with several types of medication. She is lying on her back with one arm on a pillow and the other out to the side. Her eyes are open and she is dead.
In the Philly homicide Vera, Jeffries and Rush are chitchatting. Vera gets interrupted by a telephone call. It’s a call about another cold case for Lilly. The caller wants to report a murder that happened in 1989. He doesn’t want to tell his name so Lilly asks him what he wants to tell her. He gives Lilly a name, Krystal Hogan. She was elderly and that at her age there was no defending herself. Lilly asks her age and the caller responds she was almost 81. Lilly wants to know how he knew she was murdered. He responds that he did it and then he hangs up.
In the cold case file room Rush looks at boxes while Stillman ponders why a guy confesses to murder, then won’t tell Lilly his name. Lilly speculates it could be a hoax. They can’t seem to locate the box on the lady. Stillman thinks back to a 1987 job about a Dugan woman. Lilly finds a box but it’s not the right one. The name ”Krystal Hogan” is put through the computer and Lilly waits for some information to come up. Jeffries comes in, saying that guy is back on the line for her. Lilly takes the phone and tells the caller that he has hung up on her last time. The caller replies that he was having second thoughts but now he didn’t. Lilly tells the caller she has no box on Krystal Hogan. The caller wants to know what that means. Lilly states basically: ”no box, no body, no crime” and says maybe he’s just a guy who likes to talk to police. The caller asks ”Don’t you believe me?”, as Stillman and Jeffries are listening to Lilly talk to the him. The caller tells Lilly that he will tell her where the body is and gives Lilly the address and states the body is in the basement. Lilly asks him if he wants to tell her his name. He hangs up.
Lilly heads out to the neighborhood in Germantown. In a flashback we see what the neighborhood looked like back in 1989. Lilly knocks on the door of the address given by the caller and asks if the current owner is Brad Meyer. He confirms. Lilly identifies herself and Brad wants to know if someone called the cops on him. Then his wife 33 Cold Case Episode Guide Dana comes out. Since they are new to this neighborhood - about eight months - they direct Lilly to the woman (Joan Meade) across the street. Lilly talks to Joan who claims she knew Krystal from 10-15 years ago and describes her as an old pistol. She explains that Krystal moved in with her son, and then the son and his wife died in a crash on the turnpike. The grandson was the only one left to take care of her. His name was James and he was just a teenager, always riding around in his car. In a flashback we see young James in his red car stopping at the house to pick up his grandmother. He is impatient because he has a date and his grandmother isn’t ready. He was too young to take care of his grandmother - it strained him and his lifestyle.
Back in the present, Joan tell Lilly that Krystal went missing in 1989-90. She said she wandered off and James put fliers all around the neighborhood. Lilly heads back across the street to Brad and Dana’s and explains there might be a body in their basement. Brad looks at his wife and says it’s weird. There were movers down the block a few days ago and a worker came over to Brad and said he used to live in the house and wanted to come inside and look around. Brad thought it weird because he thought the guy would want to see his old bedroom but he wanted to see the basement. He and Dana take Lilly down to the basement and show her around. She notices the old coal shoot and asks him if he had bricked it up. He says he didn’t. The homicide team finds a person’s remains in the basement. Rush tells Stillman that by the pelvis, the coroner could identify the skeletal remains as a female. They also have her teeth so that will be able to get an ID on her. Additionally, the sutures on the skull were closed, meaning she was elderly. Stillman acknowledges that the guy that called was for real. Lilly says she hopes he calls back. Back at homicide, Rush, Jeffries and Stillman talk. Lilly has the file for Krystal Hogan from October 1989. Jeffries says the grandson filed a report on a missing person and that an ABP was put out to search the morgue, hospital system and jail system. James didn’t give too much information and there were no other relatives. The file was marked dementia, pending more info.
In 1994 James petitioned the court to have his grandmother declared dead. She had a $50,000 life insurance policy. Stillman didn’t think that was much but it would give James a motive. He also asks about the moving company - was James working for one? Lilly didn’t have a connection for that but Stillman thinks he’s the caller. Vera interrupts: the caller is on the telephone and they are hoping to get a trace. The caller is upset that Lilly referred to him as ”liking to talk to police”. He didn’t want to be doing this but he had to. Lilly tells the caller she is just trying to do her job and calls him James. There is a silence and she asks if he is still on the phone. Lilly asks the caller if he is surprised that she knows his name. The caller hesitates and then says he guessed not. He wants to know if she found the body. Rush tells him the best thing he can do is to come to the police headquarters. The caller then says he figures by now that they had to have found the body. Vera hands Lilly the photo ID from the Dept. of Motor Vehicles on James. She begins to talk to James about dark moods, and how it seems safer to turn to someone you don’t know when you are having a dark mood. The caller said he doesn’t want to talk. Lilly says it didn’t have to be her. She could get him anyone he wants. Lilly asks why he killed his grandmother. Because she wasn’t a good grandmother? He responds that she was a good grandmother. Lilly asks if he wanted to tell her why he did it. The caller tells her she is making his head hurt. Lilly suggests they hang up. She could give him her cell phone number and he could rest, collect his thoughts and then they could figure this out. He doesn’t answer. Then Lilly calls him ”James” again and gives him her the cell phone number: 555-0198. The caller hangs up.
Stillman thinks what Lilly did was risky. Lilly thought she was losing him but she might be able to build trust this way. They review the info on James, that he had lost both his parents on the same night and then became responsible, at age 19, for an elderly grandmother with no other family. He was all alone in the world. Vera tracks his current address and hands it to Lilly. Rush and Vera head over to James’ apartment. The door is open and no one is home but it appears he had left in a hurry since he had uneaten food prepared. Lilly finds an old love letter from 1989 (fourteen years ago) on his dresser. It is from a girl named Sherry Fox. Lilly wants to know why he cracked after 14 years. They think it’s his lifestyle. Working for slave wages, living alone, getting older and his self esteem is low. At the moving company they ask if they were in Germantown three days ago and if James Hogan was on that crew. The boss says he is a heck of a worker. Has been working for them for full time almost three years. Lilly wants to know why he isn’t at work today. Boss has given him the week off. He’s a good worker and had never asked for time off, so when he did ask, he got it. They ask the guy at the moving company if James ever talked about a girl named Sherry. He didn’t know. He says he wasn’t a George Clooney, though. Their conversation gets interrupted when Lilly’s cell phone rings. It’s James.
He says he saw her at his apartment. Lilly says, ”So you were watching.” James says that there is a cop out front and he can’t get back in. Lilly tells him that it isn’t just his house that they are watching - that there is an APB out on him. James wants to know what would happen to the body they found in the basement. Lilly asks him what he wants to have happen. He says he would like to have a service and bury her at the county cemetery. Lilly says she doesn’t think that will happen and James wants to know why. Lilly says that if next of kin doesn’t claim the body, the coroner has procedures. James wants to know what procedures. Lilly says she would probably be cremated and put in a box in a warehouse somewhere. Then she asks him if he wants to come in to talk face to face. That way they could have a real funeral for his grandmother. James wants to know if Lilly ever really did get dark moods or if she was conning him. Lilly says she wished she was conning him. Then she reassures him that he can talk to her. She urges for him to come in and talk. He asks about what. She says how about Sherry... but he hangs up. Vera was listening in and asks Lilly if Sherry is a sore subject. Lilly says off limits. Vera says maybe it’s because she was no longer a Fox. Her last name is now Stephens.
Vera and Rush go to Sherry’s house in an influential section of the city. She has married an OB-GYN. They go in and talk. Sherry tells them there is no homicide, that James’ grandmother went missing. Vera says it wasn’t a mistake and Lilly wants to know if she has seen James recently. Sherry says she hasn’t seen him in three years and that this all doesn’t make sense. Vera says the two of them were involved. Sherry says he was her boyfriend, that they lived together for a while. Rush asks her if she broke up with him. Sherry explains how they met at a bowling alley and that life was hers then but ten years later it wasn’t. Lilly asks how long till she got married and Sherry tells her one year. Vera thinks that was quick. Sherry says it isn’t when you are over thirty. Lilly wants to know if she was around when Krystal supposedly went missing. Sherry says not the exact day but that she stayed over a lot. Vera wants to know what that was like staying over with grandma around. Sherry said that it was mostly okay but other times not.
In a flashback we see Sherry at the house, making out with James in the kitchen. They are interrupted by Krystal who comes into the kitchen to give him a check for groceries. After grandma leaves the room, James says that if grandma didn’t like it there, he could make other arrangements for her. In the present day, Sherry explains that what James meant was that he would put her in a home, not murder her. Vera wants to confirm that Krystal was paying all the bills. Sherry says Krystal helped out when James was in a pinch. She wants to know if he’s in trouble but Lilly answers that she can’t say. As they leave the house, Vera says Sherry outgrew James and Lilly says that James must have been pining for her all these years. She left James three years ago and Krystal died 14 years ago, but Lilly can’t understand why James was reaching out now.
Back at homicide headquarters, Lilly asks Jeffries if he will stop by Social Security for her. It took five years for James to have Krystal declared dead and six years for James to collect the life insurance. So the question is, was he picking up her benefit checks in the meantime? Also a subpoena is put out to check on Krystal’s bank accounts. Vera comes in saying that when they checked James’ criminal records, he was clean, but they ran it again and found an assault charge under the name James Gable, against half- brother Lonnie Gable. James beat on Lonnie with a brick. Rush and Vera go to Lonnie Gable (Hogan) and ask why James is using his last name. He says it’s because he bought him his first car. But he told him not to use his last name. James is his little brother. Vera asks how he ended up alone with Krystal alone. Lonnie says he was in Baltimore working for a mortgage company when his mom died in the wreck. He went back but he didn’t want to move in so he told James to get live-in help for her. He didn’t want to force him since it was James’ grandmother, not his. He thought the two got along pretty good. He lived near by and thought he could check on them but then they had a falling out over his girlfriend Sherry. He had invited them over for a barbecue and he saw how Sherry acted after James left to get her something at the store. She flirted intentionally. She asked him if he would take her away to New York. Then she propositioned him, so he got her out of his yard. James came back and he told him what happened. That’s when the assault happened. He decided not to press charges, but just walk away and not look back. He said how fond James was of Krystal.
Back at homicide, Jeffries tells Rush that Krystal’s benefit checks were $812 a month. The checks show Krystal’s signature on the ones before her death. The rest of the checks were dated after her death. They show the two signatures. The question is: did Sherry sign the checks and possibly orchestrate the fraud or murder or both? If Lonnie says that James was so fond of Krystal and the checks show Sherry was forging them... Lilly’s cell phone rings and it’s James. Before she answers, she sees a telephone number appearing on the cell and asks Vera to run an ID on it. James wants to know what Sherry said to Rush. Rush tells James that if he is going to follow her, he should just come in to see her. He wants to know. Lilly tells him cops get information, they don’t give it. James says he wasn’t following her. She insinuates that James might be hanging around Sherry’s house a lot. James doesn’t want Lilly to accuse him of that. Lilly wants James to help her understand. James says he isn’t a stalker. Lilly says that he went by when Lilly was there and asks how can it be that in three years that’s the only time he’s been there. James says he was doing what he’s supposed to do - working - so he’s not in trouble and that she can check. Lilly says she did check and it’s true. Lilly wants to know why James was flipping out today. He says he wanted to tell her that everything Sherry used to give him - he didn’t have anymore. Lilly says that is a three-year-old problem. James wants to know what Sherry said. Lilly says Sherry was trying to protect him and didn’t think he had killed his grandmother. Lilly says she is wondering if Sherry was really part of it. James says no. Lilly says that she was finding out a lot of things like how Sherry signed Krystal’s checks. James says no, that it was him. Lilly says it looked like Sherry’s handwriting. And she tells him that according to his brother, Sherry doesn’t have the reputation she claims. James calls his half-brother Lonnie a liar. Lilly wants to know if Sherry ever said how great it would be to collect grandmother’s money. Did she just get cash from James and never ask where it came from? James says Sherry did say things but she would say things she never meant.
In a flashback of Sherry and James we see them talking outside the house about how James takes care of things like his grandmother’s mail. Sherry says all grandma is really interested in is peace. Sherry asks James ”What good is money to a worn out bag of bones?”
In the present Lilly and James are still talking on the phone. Lilly tells James that Sherry manipulated him and that he needs to see that. James hangs up. Vera gets the telephone number where James called from the bus station. They run to the bus station looking around then Lilly’s cell phone rings. James is on the line and says that Lilly’s been conning him. Lilly says no. James says he can tell because he can see it on her face. Then Lilly sees a telephone hanging off the receiver at the station. Vera tries to detain a man at a phone booth but Lilly intervenes. It’s not him.
At the homicide headquarters with Stillman and Jeffries, Lilly recaps what she thinks. James kills grandma so that he can afford to take Sherry to nicer places than bowling. But Sherry put him up to it or did the deed herself. The autopsy shows no cause of death. Stillman wants to know if Lilly has heard from James. Lilly says she hasn’t because he is pissed at her because she bad-mouthed Sherry. Lilly hopes she didn’t overstep herself because it’s been hours since they talked. Vera gets more information about Sherry: she had four sets of parents all before she was eleven years old. She had been a runaway living on the streets and had a record of shoplifting. Lilly says Sherry’s a survivor - she finds James, a nineteen-year-old with a house, then moves up to a doctor on the mainline. Lilly has to leave for a pharmacy run for her mother because her sister hasn’t been around for a week.
As she goes to leave, Lonnie Gable (Hogan) catches her. His face has an abrasion. James jumped him at his car talking about Sherry. Lilly tells Lonnie he could press charges. Lonnie doesn’t want to do that. They had it out and they talked about James coming in to homicide to talk to Lilly. He wants James brought in safely. Lilly assures him she is working hard to do that. Lonnie says he set it up. James has agreed to meet ”alone” with Lilly. Lilly is at Berks train station tracks. James walks out from behind a large pillar, a fence separates them. He asks if Lonnie is okay and Lilly says he’s fair. James says Lonnie’s is such a jerk and that he shouldn’t have hurt him. Lilly says he needs to control himself. James doesn’t understand why Lonnie keeps telling that lie about Sherry. Lilly wants to know James’ current plan. James says he wants to turn himself in with one condition: Lilly must guarantee him that she will leave Sherry alone as she is not a part of it. Lilly tells him if it’s true, he has her guarantee. James says ”no”. Lilly reminds him that every cop in Philly is looking for him and some are inexperienced. It’s best to go in now and be safe. James says it was a bad idea and begins to walk away. Lilly asks James if he ever asked Sherry to marry him. He did but she had her reasons why she wouldn’t. Lilly says whatever her reasons, she quit him so why protect her now. She doesn’t think Lonnie was lying about her. James says that Sherry believed in him, even more so since they have been apart. She would never find someone that took care of her like James did - even now he knows she believes in him. Lilly wants to know why he believes in her; after all, she’s gone. Lilly tells him that Lonnie wasn’t lying the day he hit him with the brick and that he knows it too. Sherry didn’t love James. Lilly tells James, ”I’m your girl now.” A train comes through the station and when it passes, James is gone from the other side of the tracks.
At homicide station Lilly and Vera are waiting as Sherry is coming in. Lilly has new information about Sherry and doctors. In the questioning room with Rush and Vera interview Sherry Stephens. Lilly wants to know how Sherry met her husband. Sherry says he was her doctor. Lilly points out that all her health-care specialists are located mainly out in the suburbs, 45 minutes from James, and that all of them are male. Vera compares Sherry to James, a schlep. Sherry says how a man looks has never mattered to her. Rush comments on how good-looking Lonnie is. Sherry says not with the scar. Vera and Rush wonder if she has any remorse for that scar Lonnie has. Vera and Rush tell Sherry they talked to Lonnie and he told them everything. Lilly pulls out the letter from James’ apartment that Sherry had written 14 years ago. Lilly asks her why she said she was tense. Sherry doesn’t remember since so much time had passed. Lilly reads more from the letter: ”Let’s move up in the world”. She stops and asks Sherry about that. Sherry said that was about her goals and trying to do well. Lilly says she’s a driven person coming up in the world as she did. Sherry wonders what she would know about it. Lilly explains how she came up in a really sound situation. Vera interjects that Sherry had a hard time and had to fight hard to get to the mainline. Lilly asks if she had asked James to get rid of his grandmother in the letter they are looking at. Sherry says ”no”. Vera wants to know what she meant by asking him to read between the lines - that all grandma wanted was peace. Sherry said that she meant nothing and that she doesn’t even remember saying that. Vera presses her that she must have loved sharing a bathroom with an 81-year-old woman. Sherry said that she liked Krystal. Rush jumps in - but she was old and had lived a full life. Vera says grandma had her time, and now it was Sherry’s time. Lilly says that before she was a cop, she worked as a board-certified handwriting specialist. The check copy wasn’t Krystal’s signature, it was Sherry signing Krystal’s name. Sherry tells Lilly she is wrong. Lilly reminds Sherry that she is board certified.
Vera and Rush exit the interrogation room. They tell Stillman that Sherry went for the fraud but not the murder. Lilly’s cell phone rings and it’s James. James says he is calling to say goodbye and hangs up. Outside grandma’s house in Germantown, James has taken over the house. Brad and Dana are outside, the police surrounding the house. Rush, Stillman, and Jeffries show up. Lilly talks to Brad and Dana and runs to Stillman asking him to go to bat for her and let her go in and not to wait for the SWAT team to arrive. Lilly goes inside the house where James has a rifle. She calls out to him that she wants to enter the room but realizes he has a gun. He says he’s not going to hurt her. She says she knows that but he needs to put the gun down. She’ll show him her gun and then he can show his. They agree. He asks her to say his name again and she does. James says that Sherry would never call him that. He said she called him ”darlin’” mostly. He wanted to hear Sherry say his name - he would ask but she would never say it because it made her feel awkward. He says he should have known back then about her. Lilly says that Sherry was clever. James starts to move and says he felt like he could really talk to her, but Lilly warns him to keep the gun down. James wonders if Lilly liked talking to him and she says she did. James then says to Lilly that he has done a bad thing. In a flashback of 14 years ago, we see grandma getting into bed for the night, and James had given her water. They had a conversation about being old. He tells her to lay back and close her eyes and then he has a pillow in his hand. He stops for a moment... but then asks her to lift her head. He puts the pillow under her head. As he is leaving the room, Sherry meets him in the doorway. She looks at him and tells him it’s for the best and then goes into the bedroom and takes a pillow and suffocates his grandmother.
In the present day, Lilly and James are standing in the basement of the house. Lilly tells James he didn’t kill his grandmother, Sherry did. James says it was all the same because he put her in the basement, and that he dumped her like potatoes. Lilly says it was worse for him in his mind because he let it happen. What’s eating him is what he didn’t do. James breaks down saying he deserves to die for what he has done. Lilly tells him that suicide isn’t the way. She wants to know why this all started up. Sherry left him three years ago and there was no trouble. James told her he wasn’t getting over things the way a person is suppose to.
Last week was the final straw when his company had to do some moving just three doors down the street. He figured he would come and pay his last respects. The guy lets him in to go downstairs to look and it’s a party place! The basement was a cheesy bar and his grandmother was underneath the whole time. And he put her there. He saw his face in the beer mirror and thought what a disgrace he was. Lilly tells him he is not a disgrace but that he has regret and he is facing that night. James says, ”Who says that counts for anything?” Lilly tells him it’s up to him, but it counts for her. They come out of the house and he is taken into custody. We see Sherry getting fingerprinted. Lilly and James are in the interrogation room and we see Krystal’s ghost. When James comes out of the room, Lonnie is there and James walks by. The scene fades with Lilly looking at a picture of grandma at her desk at night. Vera takes the photo from her and puts it in the cold case box. Lilly attends the grandmother’s funeral and James puts a pale rose on her casket.
- Kathryn Morris as Lilly Rush
- Danny Pino as Scotty Valens
- John Finn as John Stillman
- Jeremy Ratchford as Nick Vera
- Thom Barry as Will Jeffries
- Silas Weir Mitchell as James Hogan (2003)
- Christina Cox as Sherry Stephens (2003)
- Lois Hall as Krystal Hogan
- Merritt Hicks as Sherry Fox (1989)
- Brent Huff as Lonnie Gable
- J.P. Pitoc as Brad Meyer
- Jake Bern as James Hogan (1989)
- Sarah Buehler as Dana Meyer
- Linda Castro as Joan Fink (2003)
- Steve Seagren as Tommy Burke
- Unknown actress as Joan Fink (1989)
- Krystal Hogan is the oldest victim of the series.
- Danny Pino does not appear in this episode.
- The title of the episode is also the name of a song by Bruce Springsteen, but neither it nor any of his songs play in the episode. The Season 3 episode 8 Years features all Bruce Springsteen songs.
- The Cure "Lovesong"
- Fine Young Cannibals "She Drives Me Crazy"
- Crowded House "Don't Dream It's Over"
- Closing Song: Don Henley feat. Bruce Hornsby "The End of the Innocence"