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Law & Order: Special Victims Unit recap: Velasco makes a horrifying discovery

Law & Order SVU
Fin (Ice-T) and Benson (Mariska Hargitay) have to deal with a deadly serial killer on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’s They’d Already Disappeared. Pic credit: NBC

Joe Velasco got a nasty entry into the world of SVU.

On this week’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (the first with Octavio Pisano in the opening credits), Velasco learned the hard way just how dark these cases can be, and not everyone is cut out to be a detective there. 

It was also an eye-opener to Chief McGrath to perhaps rethink his strategy on which victims were “worthy” of being helped. 

A missing woman leads to trouble

As They’d Already Disappeared began, Tania Cruz (Dela Meskienyar) was being kicked out of a club and leading her friend Beauty (Keila Brown) down the street, ignoring some men trying to hit on them. Tania left Beauty to get a coat, her friend warning her to “watch your back.”

Tania Cruz met her sister, Daria (Amila Cano-Flavia) and asked for money. Daria pressed Tania to come with her and get help for her drug habit, but Tania refused. 

Tania was then in an alley, running for her life and begging Daria on the phone for help before someone dragged her off. That sent a frantic Daria to SVU to help find her sister.

Daria played Tania’s message, explaining her sister went from partying to becoming a sex worker but wanted to help her. 

Rollins and Velasco talked to folks at a homeless shelter who pointed them to Beauty, who had little idea of her whereabouts. Restaurant owner Country Jones (Melvin Abston), who had looked out for Tania on the street, gave Fin her backpack. 

A couple of other sex workers showed up to reveal that Beauty was also missing with her bag left behind. Velasco and Benson summed up that two girls in two days made a disturbing pattern. 

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Rollins and Velasco were upset to hear the local precinct didn’t care about these disappearances to the point they labeled the file on them “NHI,” as in “no humans involved.” Going over the files of women looking like Tania and Beauty, Rollins mused, “we may have a serial.”

A horrifying discovery

It was clear that no one had reported any of these women missing. However, medical examiner Abel Truman (Frank Wood) shared that one of the women had turned up on his table with evidence she’d been eviscerated after her murder. 

Country was questioned with traffic cams showing his car driving in the area Tania vanished in. Country admitted he made a “side living” dropping girls off and holding their stuff while they met with clients. He brushed off Tania being okay and would pop up.

Rollins and Velasco checked out the address Country gave them, meeting a kid who mentioned a weirdo the kids nicknamed “the vampire” for always sleeping in the day and only moving at night. He recognized Tania being there but refused to say more. 

Entering the building, Velasco and Rollins made the horrifying discovery of nearly a dozen corpses, all women in nice dresses and jewelry, their bodies mummified and staged around a table. On top of that, jars containing their internal organs were on the shelves with the fresh bodies of Tania and Beauty on tables nearby.

Truman revealed that almost anyone could have done this with the right equipment and that, disturbingly, the technique got better as it went. Even McGrath was jarred, calling this “evil” and pressing Benson to do whatever it took to get justice for the victims.

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When Velasco tried to apologize for being shaken, Benson said it was okay as “I’ve never seen anything like this. And honestly, you never get used to it.”

Country was the obvious first suspect but when he was shown a video of the bodies, he reacted with horror and then collapsed into tears for not knowing he was driving these girls to their deaths. 

Truman explained the women had been killed in various ways and that personal items showed at least two women had been from out of town. But, as Country was in jail when at least two of the victims vanished, he was off the hook. 

Tracking a monster

As Benson and McGrath gave a press conference, Velasco relayed it was impossible to find out who owned the building. The kid, Jamal (Alfred Richard Lewis), came up to share he’d seen the “vampire” driving a specific van. 

Daria had to tearfully identify Tania with Truman helping by letting her see an old photo of Tania rather than focus on the body, which moved Benson. 

Benson talked to Lois Hart (Nina Hellman), the mother of one of the victims who relayed Meredith had fallen for a boy working at a carnival. Meredith’s autistic son revealed he’d seen his mother get into a van, even providing the license plate. He’d kept quiet all this time as “mommy said not to tell.”

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Rollins and Velasco found the van’s owner, Trace Lambert (Blake DeLong), living with his mother, Maggie (Laura Gardner). In interrogation, Lambert brushed off the lack of evidence against him. 

Velasco and Benson talked to Maggie, who openly called her son “a loser.” That gave Benson an opening to press Trace on how Maggie called Meredith “too good” for her son, with Trace firing back that Meredith loved her. 

Benson expertly used Maggie’s slams on her son as not being capable of doing this as it had to be someone smart and methodical. When Benson said the killer was lucky the building’s owner was dead, Trace finally admitted he poisoned the guy and killed all of them, boasting of their last minutes. He finally threw in “tell my mother what I did.”

The wrap-up had Trace cutting a deal to plead guilty to a dozen homicides but might still face the death penalty if more bodies were found by the feds. Truman shared he’d identified two more victims and wouldn’t rest until he finished them all.

Finally, Fin met with Beauty’s grandmother as Benson stared at the photos of the victims someone had once labeled “no humans involved.”

It was a rough case for the team, with McGrath and Velasco both getting a first-hand lesson in how SVU operates in a dark world.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 23 airs Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC. 

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