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December 7, 2008

Death of Annie McCann

Daniel and Mary Jane McCann wanted to tell me about their daughter. In fact, halfway through a steak and potato dinner at their home in Fairfax County, Va., they apologized for going on for so long.

Tour their house and you immediately understand why. Annie McCann, who apparently ran away from home and was found dead a few days later in Baltimore of still mysterious causes, seemed a typical teen-ager.  But what is typical? She was involved with sports, active in school and church, had many friends (tributes run into the hundreds) and enjoyed engaging in strong-willed arguments about politics with her parents.

She appeared to be grasping the responsibilities of being an adult -- she was driving and one dresser drawer was filled with perfume -- while embracing the innocence of childhood -- she loved to cuddle on the couch with her mom, another dresser drawer was filled with videos more popular with 10-year-olds.

Her father works as a security chief for the Transportation Security Administration. Her brother Sam is studying journalism at a college in New York. Her parents were parents want to know why she suddenly apparently wrote a note saying she had run away from home and somehow ended up being found in Baltimore, dead in the Perkins Homes projects, her car with Virginia license plates parked five blocks away.

Spending an evening with the McCann's was heartwrenching. I met the family beagle, Breeze Max, and learned a favorite back and forth between father and daughter -- "Oh, blessed beagle!" he would say. "Oh sainted hound," she would reply.

The night before she disappeared, Annie, a rabid New York Yankess fan, told her Red Sox-loving father: "I wish the World Series was still on. I'd love to watch a game with you." Daniel McCann remembers that as if they were his daughter's last words. It wasn't. Intead of baseball, they talked politics, of her love for Obama, his support of McCain, of how she opposed abortion but for her it wasn't the only issue. Her mom couldn't make stuffing for Thanksgiving (it was Annie's job) or put up the Christmas tree (she loved to help).

The house is a virtual shirne to Annie. Prayer cards fill desktops and are taped to walls. Her elaborate artwork is framed and hanging on walls. Her father saved a soda can because it said, "New York" on it. Her room has been cleaned of clutter but everything else left in tact, from the stuffed animals on the bed to the Yankee penants on the ceiling. At the front entrance, a newspaper clipping about Annie is next to a candle and vase filled with red roses. It will stay, her mother said, until they find out what happened.

So far, the story is a mystery. The autopsy has not revealed how she died. Police say they have no clue why she left her home, how she got to Baltimore and how she ended up dead. Her parents say they are prepared for the worst: drugs, an Internet predator, but so far authorities say nothing leads in any one direction.

The McCanns admit Annie was sheltered. She only recently got her own e-mail address (before, the family shared one) and her mother has access to all the messages. Same with her cell phone. She drove, but mostly only to school and to a nearby shopping center, and was legendary for getting lost when going out alone. She shunned organized basketball, preferring to instead play for a club team that allowed her to get home earlier in the afternoon. She served as an alter girl for her church. Her father told me a girl couldn't be more sheltered in today's society unless she lived in a convent in the middle of Amish country.

Her note she left behind when she disappeared indicated she wanted to be free, and fly someplace far away. Was she smothered at home? If so, her parents said she showed no signs of any problems. Her father has hired a private detective and has consulted colleagues at the TSA, many of whom are former police officers. The computer is being analyzed by police, and teenagers have ways of leading lives beyond their parent's knowledge.

Still, Baltimore police admit that have few leads and almost no new information on the case, which is now a month old. It's a mystery not only in how Annie died, but how she got, as her father says, "from here to there."

The Mount Vernon Gazette in Virginia recently ran a story on Annie on its front page, "A mystery wrapped in an enigma" and showed a picture of a rock decorated by her classmates at West Potomac High School. On it they painted, We love Annie. The love was was in the form of a giant red heart. Off to the side were the initials "NY" with the Y superimposed over the N, the way the Yankees do it.

A few days before she died, Annie wrote a poem. Her mother gave it to me and it's posted below. Much of it is personal -- it talks about the Coast Guard (her father served); names of music bands she liked; of her Irish and Czechoslovakian heritage; of trips to the New Jersey Shore and to Yankee Stadium (and Fenway Park); of her dog's "jingling collar."

Death is usually straightforward in Baltimore. Annie McCann's parents not only don't know how she died and why, but why she came to this city in the first place.

Below is her poem and some pages from her funeral program.







Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:04 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Annie McCann


Any news yet on why she died?

Ms. Spritz.....Yes you would be doing the same thing. I surely hope that the media does not think that because Ms. McCann was more forturnate than many others in many ways and has persistant parents that anyone would not label the case "as white rich girl runs off and is found dead in the inner city streets of Baltimore".

As for faulting the police.....not faulting..just wondering WHY.....there are four potential witness or atleast those whom MOVED her body..someone SAW something...she was seen.....she was seen with a woman on two occassions....Little Italy is a tight nit tight as the Perkins Housing Projects she was found in..people are AFRAID to talk maybe? Afraid of being accussed but SOMEONE knows something.....the police officers need to push those parents of the teens to please answer tough questions....and what about the damn EYE drops....
who ingests eyes drops to cause their death? A note saying she ran away...that doesn't sound right....she seemed, although somewhat sheltered to have fair parents. What is NOT right here....why Baltimore......something is just NOT fitting and the police know that already. What is it?

As far as the investigation..I am certain the police are trying.....the city is plagued with crime.....they need the "never giving up of the parents"....and the keep on pushing.....already there have been more than 4-5 people who seen this girl...teens LOVE to talk..someone KNOWS something...cell phone records? computer? Did she just write these notes....had she written notes of disapproval of life before? She was political...she liked controversial subjects.....COME ON BCPD....

what an awful story, that poor girl and her family. i find it very strange that the police are not questioning certain aspects of it much, much more. obviously this girl had many underlying issues that she hid very well from friends and family. and her association with the drug dealer police identified through text message, the woman she was seen with, the hoodrats that reportedly moved her body in order to take her car for a joyride-it just sounds like a more thorough investigation is needed i.e. the cops screwed this up through their own inaction.

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About Peter Hermann
Peter Hermann started covering news for The Baltimore Sun in 1990, first in Anne Arundel County and, starting in 1994, reporting on the Baltimore Police Department. In 2001, he was assigned to Jerusalem as the Baltimore Sun's Middle East correspondent. He returned in 2005 as an assistant city editor overseeing crime coverage. In 2008, Peter returned to the beat as a daily reporter and blogger. A recent BBC report featured him in a segment on the harsh realities of covering crime in Baltimore.

Coverage will focus on crime trends, problems in neighborhoods in the city and elsewhere, profiles of victims and police officers and try to offer readers a fresh perspective on one of the most vexing issues facing Baltimore and its future.

Contributing to this blog is Justin Fenton, who joined The Sun in 2005 and has covered the Baltimore City Police Department and the criminal justice system since 2008. His work includes an investigation into Cal Ripken Jr.’s minor league baseball stadium deal with his hometown of Aberdeen, a three-part series chronicling a ruthless con woman, coverage of the killing of five Amish children at a schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa., and a job swap with a British crime reporter to explore differences in crime-fighting. A special report looking into how city police handle rape cases led to sweeping reforms that changed the way sexual assaults are investigated in Baltimore. He was recognized as the best reporter in Baltimore by the City Paper in 2010 and by Baltimore Magazine in 2011.

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