The anniversary of Anne McCann's death nears and her parents are still fighting for some resolution. As many recall, the 16-year-old Virginia girl mysteriously disappeared from her home and was found dead two days later in Baltimore, near a trash bin in the Perkins Homes public housing complex near Fells Point.
See an earlier two part column series on the case: Part 1 and Part 2.
Baltimore police have suspended the investigation. They believe she overdosed after ingesting Bactine (an empty bottle was found at the scene and the active ingredient, Lidocaine, was found in her system, but the Medical Examiner's Office has ruled her death "undetermined"). Her car was found a few blocks away and Daniel McCann and his wife simply don't believe their daughter took her own life and are angry with police for not pursing leads and trying to answer vexing questions.
Police found what they term suicide notes in Annie's bedroom indicating she wanted to run away; The McCanns say that portions of those notes suggesting suicide were crossed out, and to them that means she changed her mind. Why did she go to Baltimore, a city she had only visited a few times with her parents? Private investigators hired by the McCanns have identified several teens that they said took Annie's car and moved her body; police interviewed at least one of those teens but never pressed charges, saying they had nothing to do with Annie's death.
That brings us to the latest battle. The McCanns say they tried to file charges on their own but were thwarted when a court commissioner called police and they say police talked her out of filing the paperwork. My understanding is that police, worried that charges for taking Annie's car might hurt any chances at legal remedies farther down the road, pressed them not to follow through. The McCanns want to know why police care if they've suspended the investigation.
The family firmly believes someone lured Annie to Baltimore and that she fell victim to a crime. There are simply too many unanswered questions for them to put this to rest. They sent a scathing letter to Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, and police tell me the commander of homicide has given the mayor's office information and that they will be drafting a response.
Dixon's spokesman, Scott Peterson, sent me this: "The Mayor continues to have empathy towards the McCann family for their horrible loss. The Mayor also has faith in the Baltimore Police Department that they are doing their jobs properly and handling this incident correctly. “
Here is a timeline of events provided by the McCann's, followed by their letter:
Our daughter, Annie McCann, was found dead early in the morning of November 2, 2008, behind a dumpster on South Spring Court in Baltimore. After a vigorous early effort, the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) investigation waned. In early March 2009, following a family press conference, the BPD promised to re-invigorate the investigation. After more than two weeks with virtually no additional effort, we pressed for a meeting with police officials. On March 20, senior BPD officials clearly and angrily informed us that, "This investigation is over!" Later in the meeting they corrected that position - the investigation was suspended.
We proceeded with the private investigation, collecting additional information. We expect soon to present to police officials a significant new finding.
On Saturday, October 10, Annie's father traveled to Baltimore to file charges against the now five individuals known to have been at the scene, with our car and Annie's body. A document we prepared to support those complaints accompanies this statement. (Names and addresses of the prospective defendants have been deleted.)
While the complaints were being processed by the Court, but not yet sworn to, a clerk asked Annie's father to accept a phone call. It was Major Terry McLarney, chief of BPD's homicide unit. Major McLarney explained to Annie's father to this effect: "You're not doing any good here, Mr. McCann...I want to be clear, nothing has changed. If anything, we've spent too much time on this case, to the point of borderline malfeasance. But based on your letter to the mayor, threatening litigation, we have examined all of our actions, with a view to protecting the city from a possible suit...We believe that you may be right, and that perhaps we should have arrested the boys. We are watching the calendar, and November 2 is coming up soon...No, dumping a body is not a crime...There have been frequent meetings with the Commissioner and the Mayor's Office and the State's Attorney; I was going to contact you earlier this week. We'll be meeting further with the State's Attorney, and will probably press charges. I will keep you informed, and call you this week."
Six days later, this past Friday evening, Major McLarney sent us an e-mail update. He informed us that "We consulted with the State's Attorney's office and have been advised that there is no statute-of-limitations ref this matter...At no point in our telephone conversation on October 10 did I intend to communicate that any actions on my part were, or would be, fashioned to "insulate" my police department from possible civil litigation. If you wish to sue the Baltimore Police Department that is your business. Any action I take is consistent with my sworn duty to enforce the law, and to that end alone..."
We don't wish to sue the BPD. We don't know yet if the reference to statute of limitations is for homicide or for grand theft auto. We don't know what in the world the BPD would be waiting for, with respect to law enforcement; nearly a year ago, their detectives collected physical evidence and individual admissions as to auto theft, a felony. (If body dumping is not a crime, is it somehow viewed as a mitigating factor?)
We are also providing a copy of our letter of August 24 to Mayor Dixon, to which Major McLarney referred on October 10. Please note that we asked for the investigation to be re-opened, for the five males to be prosecuted, and for the return of personal belongings, including Annie's rosary and baby blankets. To date, we have not received a response - except for Major McLarney's reference to it, over the phone on October 10.
- Mary Jane and Dan McCann
Here is their letter to the mayor:
August 24, 2009
The Honorable Sheila Dixon, Mayor of Baltimore
City Hall, Room 250
100 N. Holliday Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21202
Dear Mayor Dixon:
Our 16-year old daughter, Annie McCann, was found dead in Baltimore on November 2, 2008. Since then, we have been systematically victimized by gross incompetence and callous disregard by your police department.
In December, recognizing the Baltimore Police Department’s lack of progress, or even effort, in investigating our daughter’s death, we engaged private investigators to assist in the investigation. Significant new leads thus developed were completely ignored by the police. In at least two instances, police actions directly undermined our private investigation.
Following a family press conference on March 2, Police Commissioner Bealefeld’s personal spokesman assured us that “all available resources” would be dedicated to a renewed investigation. In fact, next to nothing was done. The only detective assigned to the case spent the next two weeks in training. Incredibly, police even reneged on their high-level commitment to develop reward flyers and “flood” neighborhoods with them.
On March 20, pounding a table and wagging fingers, senior police officials informed us that, “This investigation is over!” They later corrected that position, explaining that the case was “suspended.” They said they didn’t care about the circumstances under which Annie had crossed state lines, nor in whose company she was. To the press, police spokesmen said they were certain that Annie had killed herself, adding plaintively, and falsely, that, “We gave it everything we had.” In point of clear fact, they had given it next to nothing.
Officially, Annie’s death has been ruled “undetermined.” While it is possible that she killed herself, that is very, very far from settled. If a suicide, Annie’s would be the first recorded instance of suicide by Bactine, an over the counter medication.
What is certain is that there remain simple and sinister circumstances, unexplored, surrounding Annie’s disappearance and death. Just as certain is the fact that Baltimore police have made a mockery of the investigation into the death of our daughter. From November 2, when they somehow failed to take Annie’s fingerprints, to March 20, when they grossly misinterpreted simple DNA test results, their actions have been consistently ineffective – sloppy, misguided, or insensitive.
We can recite numerous failings; here are two:
• Five juveniles have been placed at the scene where Annie’s body was found. By their own account, probably understated and self-serving, they dumped Annie’s dead or dying body and stole her car. Baltimore police have interviewed one of these five juveniles once, and another twice…and no others! Zero arrests. Three juveniles never interviewed. And no follow-up when private investigators, including retired Baltimore city detectives, elicited materially different versions of what happened.
• Police have failed to investigate Annie’s documented exchange of text messages in late October 2008 with a telephone registered to a man in Gainesville, VA with reported ties to Baltimore and a record of narcotics production and distribution.
Our attorney, currently indisposed, has been trying for several weeks to have the police return to us Annie’s personal belongings, including her rosary and baby blankets. Shockingly, he has been stonewalled. Except for an initial acknowledgement, zero response. The lack of professionalism shown in this simple matter, and the unfounded arrogance, speak volumes as to the quality of the investigation itself.
We could go on. Indeed, we may have occasion to do so in the future, in another forum. First, though, we would like to appeal to you, Madam Mayor. Please take this matter under advisement; examine it objectively. Discuss it with Commissioner Bealefeld. If he tells you that the department devoted more than 1,200 hours to the investigation, ask him what there is to show for that effort. Ask him how, with that effort, the lead detective did not have a photograph of Annie four months after her death, and did not know there was alcohol in her system. Ask him how the City of Baltimore can defend itself in a multimillion dollar suit, for taking stout actions against a 7-year old boy for sitting on a dirt bike, when city police blithely ignore far more serious offenses by older juveniles with lengthy criminal records.
Please help us here, Mayor Dixon. More than nine months ago, we suffered life’s cruelest blow. Since then, our anguish, and our financial expenses, have been compounded needlessly and meanly by the Baltimore Police Department. Please right this wrong. We are asking, not for extraordinary measures, but basic police work. Please re-open, and invigorate, the department’s investigation into the death of Annie McCann.
Daniel J. McCann Mary Jane Malinchak-McCann
Copy: Chief of Staff Demaune Millard
US Attorney for Maryland Rod Rosenstein
John Q. Kelly, Esq; The Kelly Group PC