L&O, Episode 9.04
Production number: E0209
First aired: 21 October 1998
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Aaron Downing
Written By
William N. Fordes & Richard Sweren

Directed By
David Platt


After a child in a day-care center dies of a virus, Briscoe and Curtis try to find the source of the infection, leading to a case involving an extramarital affair, embezzlement and a drug manufacturer.

At the start of the episode, a day-care worker is seen waking up the preschoolers from naptime so they will go and play outside. When she reaches Ryan Downing, he won't wake up. She notices his sky-high temperature and immediately tells another person to call 911. Ryan dies.

It is discovered that Ryan died of a deadly virus known as VRSA. They retrace his steps for the day he was meant to have been infected, but nothing comes up, meaning it was unlikely he just caught the disease from someone. Then, a shocking discovery-a tiny puncture wound on his left thigh. Ryan was injected with the bug.

They later find another person-a heroin junkie in rehab-has also died from VRSA. Going through his personal effects, they find the reason he died-he was still taking drugs and there were traces of VRSA on the needle he was using. There were also traces of Ryan Downing's blood and it's the same strain of VRSA that infected the junkie that infected Ryan. They trace the needle to bins outside a certain apartment building.

The detectives screen everyone in the building and find that a woman called Theresa works for the same company as Aaron Downing, Ryan's father, but they deny knowing each other. However, it is revealed that Aaron not only knows Theresa, he has been using her as his bit on the side during his mid-life crisis. Theresa says that Aaron and her have something special and he's going to leave his wife, whilst Aaron insists she was nothing. Not only that, but Theresa and Aaron have been embezzling money from their company, but Aaron has been keeping most of it- $350,000 whilst Theresa got $100,000. It would appear that Aaron is deceiving both his wife and his mistress.

Using a few witnesses around the area, they find Aaron was in Theresa's apartment building a bit after Ryan got infected and could have disposed of the needle there. They arrest him when they see him in a car and find that he was planning to flee to Fiji. He insists that he would never kill his little boy, but his wife says to the detectives that Aaron had been depressed and when she thought she was pregnant with another child, he freaked out and said 'it is better to let kids never see the light of day so they don't end up miserable like us'.

The detectives also manage to pin down the biological company that supplied the virus- Algen. It would appear that their screening process for who they supply their viruses to is less than substantial. An employee who pointed this out got fired. They manage to get Algen fined for $11 million.

Despite their best efforts, Aaron is released on bail. He flees, and they track him to a hotel, where they find that he has hanged himself. It is never revealed for certain who killed Ryan Downing, but you assume that it was Aaron. A case of a man whose mid life crisis led him to sink into depression and eventually to murder and suicide in order to escape.


Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast



Curtis: The passengers went home?
Man: Yeah, they're not in any danger. The bacteria dies within seconds after it's airborne
Briscoe: Well, why the Tyvek suits?
Man: They're just standard for a level 3 biohazard.
Briscoe: Oh, that makes me feel better.

Lennie Briscoe: Downing, put the clothes down.
Aaron Downing: Why?
Rey Curtis: Just do it.
Briscoe: You're under arrest for the murder of Ryan Downing. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you do say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one...
Curtis: Skip the next part, Lennie. Mr. Downing's got a wad of cash, a passport, airline ticket. Fiji Islands, open return.
Briscoe: Come on, Robinson Crusoe.

Schiff: He murdered his boy because was depressed?
McCoy: He's the man in the gray flannel suit, Adam
Carmichael: With a syringe in his pocket.
Schiff: When I'm in the dumps I have a scotch and put on Louis Armstrong.

McCoy: You risked thousands of lives to put a few dollars in your pocket.
CEO Buckner: This is just about the Downing child.
Carmichael: Yeah, only one dead little boy. Does that help you sleep better?

Well, it ain't Fiji.

–Briscoe on discovering Aaron Downing's body

Background information and notes

  • Jack McCoy: He's the man in the gray flannel suit. This is an allusion to the well known Sloan Wilson novel and film, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit which bears a strong plot resemblance to this episode.
  • This episode appears to be based on the Brian Stewart case.

Episode scene cards

1 2 3

Office of
Deputy Commissioner
One Police Plaza
Wednesday, September 10

Apartment of
Mr. & Mrs. Dowing
36 E. 83rd Street
Wednesday, September 10

Supreme Court
Bail Hearing
Tuesday, September 30

4 5 6

Supreme Court
Motion Hearing
Monday, October 13

Supreme Court
Friday, October 24

Supreme Court
Plea Hearing
Friday, October 31


Office of
District Attorney
Adam Schiff
Wednesday, November 5

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