SVU, Episode 4.03
Production number: E3104
First aired: 11 October 2002
  th of 476 produced in SVU  
th of 476 released in SVU
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Warner Vulnerable
Written By
Dawn DeNoon & Lisa Marie Petersen

Directed By
Juan José Campanella

The detectives investigate an elderly woman who was abused.


When an elderly woman breaks into an apartment, the detectives discover she had been mistreated but have to investigate with no credible information from the victim because of Alzheimer's. They discover that she had been released from a nursing home to the custody of her financially scheming son who becomes the prime suspect. However, they go back to the nursing home to find a pair of suspects, including the director who details the dangers faced by both patients and staff with her own heroics precariously standing out.


A couple is woken up by a noise in their apartment and they find an old lady in the kitchen. The woman claims it is her house, so the couple calls the police. Olivia talks to the old woman, but it seems like she is senile or has some sort of dementia. Upon a closer look, Olivia finds cigarette burn marks on her. She is taken to a hospital and examined, but there is no DNA present, and the doctor tells Elliot and Olivia that the woman probably has Alzheimer's. At the precinct, Elliot and Olivia try to get information out of the old woman, but she is too vague in her responses to provide any meaningful information.

The detectives decide to start by investigating the address where she broke in, under the impression that she must've lived there at some time in her life. They track down one of the previous tenants and ask her about the lady. She recognizes the woman and claims that she was their neighbor when they were children, and informs the detectives that her name is Bess Sherman; she also insists that they suspected Bess was abused by her uncle at the time. Dr. Huang suggests that the latest attack likely triggered memories of the abuse she suffered as a child, so she fled to the only place she felt safe; her friend's house.

Knowing her name, the police manage to find a nursing home where Bess used to live and inform the detectives that Bess's son, Joe Sherman, was the one who had Bess released from the nursing home. With a warrant in hand, Elliot and Olivia go to Joe's house. The superintendent says that since Joe brought Bess home, the collectors stopped showing up and the delivery companies started coming. At the apartment, Olivia finds Bess's bedroom and straps to keep her locked in the room. Joe claims the bills from the nursing home were too expensive, so he took her home, and the straps were for her own protection.

In Joe's trash, Fin and Munch find several cigarette butts, and the lab tech manages to find fingerprints on them. Bess's finances show large amounts of money being sent to someone, and while they assume it is for Joe, he claims it must've been for his son, Andy. Andy admits he asked for the money, but only because the college fund that Bess had set up for him was used by Joe years ago. Andy denies hurting Bess, but insists he was there with a friend. In addition, he doesn't believe his friend would have done anything to Bess either, as he works at the nursing home.

At the Jubilee Towers Nursing Home, Elliot and Olivia talk to Hal Shipley, but he denies it all. The manager says that Hal has only one serious complaint against him. However, it was from a man who is considered senile, so they believed it wasn't true. All of the detectives talk to other nursing patients, and many say they were harassed by Hal. Back at the precinct, the detectives agree that nobody believed them, because they are senile or were under the effects of some medication at the time.

Alex finds records of a wrongful death suit against Jubilee Towers that was settled with a confidentiality clause. They decide to exhume the patient's body to see if there was any foul play involved, and Melinda finds a needle prick that was unaccounted for in the medical records. She says that because of the embalming process, it is impossible to examine her for poisons, but it is possible that the needle prick is related to her death.

Olivia and Elliot talk about the suit with Hope Garrett, the Nursing Home's manager, and she says they settled it out of the court, because it was easier. She adds that many grieving families need to blame someone for their relative's death so they sue, but there was no foul play on their part. They ask to speak with the staff about Hal. However, all of a sudden, a code blue is called in Bess' room, and the detectives rush there. Garrett is there, and, panicking, accuses Hal of doing it because she had just fired him. As the doctors take Bess to another room, Olivia notices a fresh needle mark in Bess's arm. Elliot and Olivia go after Hal and ask him his whereabouts in the last 15 minutes, but he refuses to cooperate.

At the station, Captain Cragen announces to Hal that his fingerprint was found on one of the discarded cigarette buds in Joe's trash. Cragen then lies to Hal that in the other end of the bud was Bess's seared flesh. He confesses to burning her with the cigarette, but swears that he didn't go near Bess the day she coded. Hal alibis out by confessing he was hacking the Nursing Home's computer to steal drugs at the time. Munch and Fin check the computer and confirm Hal's story. Benson and Stabler come to the conclusion that if Hal is telling the truth, the only other person that could have done it was Garrett. They talk to the nurses and they say Garrett saved people that were coding before.

The detectives suspect she creates a crisis so she can save the day and receive all the attention. Elliot finds out that Garrett was a nurse and had her license suspended for gross negligence when people died at another nursing home, causing them to suspect her of murder there. With the help of Huang, the detectives figure out that Garrett used epinephrine to push up patients heart rates, mimicking a heart attack so she could "save" them. Stabler and Benson arrest Garrett at the Nursing Home. At trial, Warner testifies that Garrett definitely killed the people at the other home with potassium poisoning. Garrett is dragged out of court after a rant that all but confirms her guilt.

Garrett was later executed for all seven murders.


Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast



Olivia Benson: Did you know your attacker? Who was it?
Elliot Stabler: How did he get in the house?
Bess Sherman: He stays there.
Elliot Stabler: He stays there? Why?
Bess Sherman: He stays there because he lost all his money investing. He drinks every night: whiskey. Oh he smells so awful.
Olivia Benson: We can help you, but you've got to tell us his name. OK?
Bess Sherman: Who?

Finn: (after Cragen claims that they got DNA off the cigarette butt) CSU said they couldn't get flesh off of the cigarette.
Cragen: (sarcastically) Oops.
Stabler: Senior Prom? Emphasis on the senior?
Benson: (about Hope) This woman's a complete whacko!

Background information and notes

Background information and notes

Episode scene cards

1 2 3 4

National Archives
Northeast Branch
Tuesday, October 1

Jubilee Towers
524 Madison Avenue
Tuesday, October 1

Adventures in Capital
331 Ninth Avenue
Wednesday, October 2

Sherman Residence
Newark, New Jersey
Wednesday, October 2

5 6 7

Office of
The Medical Examiner
Friday, October 4

Jubilee Towers
Nurses' Station
Friday, October 4

Trial Part 74
Monday, October 7

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