Law and Order
Law and Order
SVU, Episode 4.01
Production number: E3151
First aired: 27 September 2002
  th of 476 produced in SVU  
th of 476 released in SVU
  th of 1229 released in all  
Stabler Maggie Peterson Chameleon.jpg
Written By
Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters

Directed By
Jean de Segonzac

Detectives Benson and Stabler investigate the death of several men, who have been killed by a female serial killer.


The detectives go on the trail of a recently paroled rapist responsible for the murder of a prostitute during a raid at a men's club and are called to the scene where he was shot in self-defense by his own gun. However, the murder weapon was also used in another crime while he was still in prison, leading the detectives to investigate the victim through a trail of previously unsolved cases, a spending spree and another victim.


During a police raid in a men's club, one of the girls claims a men tried to rape her and insists to press charges, so the SVU is called to the scene. When Olivia and Elliot arrive at the local, another girl raped and strangled is found dead in the club's bathroom. At the precinct, the police make Lisa Perez, the girl that was almost raped at the club, look at line ups with the men arrested at the club to try to identify the one that tried to rape her, but she says the man was gone before the police arrived. Lisa tells Olivia that Sister Peg warned the prostitutes about a guy that was choking working girls. Elliot and Olivia talk to Sister Peg and ask her how she knew about the man strangling hookers, she says it was one of the girls that told her, she keeps a black book with all the bad "Johns", so she can warn all the girls.

Some time later, another body with the same M.O. is found, Dr. Warner rides in with Fin and Munch to the scene, and they find a thumb print in the victim's forehead. The print is match to Shawn Becker, a recently paroled man convicted of assault and rape, Capt. Cragen asks Olivia and Elliot to give his mug shot to all the working girls. They ask Sister Peg to tell them where the girls that saw him lately are working and she gives them their usual spot.

When they arrive at the hotel, the doorman says he just called the police about shots fired in one of the rooms, the detectives show him a picture of the suspect and the doorman confirms he is in the room where the shots came from. Olivia and Elliot go in the room and find a hooker with a gun in her hands and Shawn Becker dead on the floor, she says she shot him. The woman claims she didn't intended to kill the guy; she just wanted him to stop. At the hospital, Olivia asks Deborah what happened, she says she was at a bar looking for a "john" and Shawn approached her. She claims that when they arrived at the hotel room and she wanted to discuss the price, he started hitting her and after he raped her, she found his gun and pulled the trigger.

At the lab, the bullet from Shawn is a match to another homicide, the only problem being that Shawn, who supposedly owned the gun, was in jail at the time of the murder. The police suspects Deborah owned the gun all along and is responsible for the other murder as well, and that she lied to them when she said the gun belonged to Shawn. Capt. Cragen tells the guys to investigate the first murder and try to find a connection between Deborah and the murder victim. Munch receives a call from the hospital saying that Deborah took off after talking to the police, and that the name and address she gave were fake.

Munch and Finn manage to trace a call fake Deborah made at the hospital before disappearing; it is a call to a day care center for children. They go there and ask the manager about the call and get Deborah's real name, Margaret Peterson. Olivia and Benson find a series of unsolved homicides that fit Maggie's pattern: she lures them to her room posing as a prostitute and then kills them and steals their credit cards.

Another man's body is found and one of his credit cards is missing, they track down the last charges in it and find Maggie in a hotel with her little son. Elliot arrests her and they call social services to take the child. Dr. Huang asks to talk to Maggie before they interview her and thinks she suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, and that she is saying whatever she thinks he want to hear. Elliot goes to interview her and she starts hitting on him, unbuttoning her blouse. Dr. Huang says she has a "cocktail" personality; she reads people and adapts her manners accordingly. The next to interview her is Olivia, who Maggie tries to attack when confronted with the truth, showing her true colors.

Alex decides to go for the capital punishment, death penalty, but it is a tough battle since no woman has ever been sentenced to death by a New York court. The judge denies the DA's request to seek the death penalty on Maggie's case, so all Alex can do is try to convict Maggie to life without parole. At the trial, the defense tries to make it seem like Maggie killed all those men in self-defense because they all raped her.

Looking for a way to secure a conviction, Olivia stumbles into Maggie's medical records from the time she was supposed to be eight months pregnant with her son, but the records show no sign of her being pregnant at that time, so they do a DNA comparison and it shows Joey is not Maggie's biological son. Alex finds out that Joey's real mother was killed 18 months before, she confronts Maggie with the facts and offers her a deal, she says she wants to think about it and Alex gives her till the next morning to make her mind. The next day in court, they receive a call saying Maggie killed herself with her pantyhose.


Main cast[]

Recurring cast[]

Guest cast[]


Vice Squad; OnyX; Shawn Becker; Rita Colligen; Palm Hotel; Leonard Graves; 22nd Precinct; Debra Weldon; Porter Hotel; John Donatov; Brad Horton; Phillip Malakowski; Vincent Bertram; Lancaster Hotel


Olivia Benson: Sit down in the chair, Maggie.
Maggie Peterson: Where's Elliot?
Olivia Benson: Just us girls now. Sit! That act of yours was a whole lotta fun to watch. But you should know that it's not gonna work with me.
Maggie Peterson: What act?
Olivia Benson: Pretend to be a victim, you can pretend to be a whore, you can pretend to be whatever it is you wanna be. It's a joke. Maggie, you're done.
Maggie Peterson: Where's my son?
Olivia Benson: Oh... see, that's not gonna work either.
Maggie Peterson: I do not believe that you are talking to me this way. I was raped more times than I can remember!
Olivia Benson: Right, and your mom died, and your dad beat ya. (slides a paper towards Maggie)Your mom's alive. No dad on the birth certificate, you never knew him, did you? Was your mom a pro, too?
Maggie Peterson: Where's my son? I need to see him.
Olivia Benson: Your son? You're never gonna see that kid again. You murdered seven men for a hotel room and a manicure!
Maggie Peterson: They raped me!
Olivia Benson: You want the whole world to think that you're a victim? Well Maggie, you're getting your wish. Because the state's gonna kill you.

George Huang: I'm not confident with calling the suspect a serial killer.
Odafin Tutuola: How many guys she gotta whack until you are confident?

Odafin Tutuola: Cause of death was between two and four hours ago... *pre-release*.
Elliot Stabler: Is that significant?
Odafin Tutuola: No, that's just cold.

Nora Lewin: Do you really think the first woman the state executes should be a single mother, prostitute, rape victim....
Elizabeth Donnelly: ...serial killer. She knew those men were violent.
Nora Lewin: So you're saying she was asking for it?

Alex Cabot: I see this as a coup for women everywhere. They've proven they have the right to die by lethal injection just like any man.

Background information and notes[]

  • This episode is based on the case of Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who claimed to have murdered 7 clients in self-defense.
  • Starting with this episode, B.D. Wong joins the main cast.
  • DA Nora Lewin says that Maggie Peterson would be the first woman to receive the death penalty in New York. This is incorrect; in Law & Order lore, the first woman to be executed in New York state history was Monica Johnson in 1998. (L&O: "Bad Girl")
  • This episode marks the final appearance of Dianne Wiest as Lewin.

Episode scene cards[]

1 2 3

Eleventh Avenue
@ 44th Street
Monday, September 9

The Palm Hotel
515 West 37th Street
Monday, September 9

Ballistics Lab
One Police Plaza
Tuesday, September 10

4 5 6

Bluebird Daycare Center
454 West 43rd Street
Tuesday, September 10

Trial Part 74
Friday, September 13

Rikers Island
Interview Room
Sunday, September 15

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