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November 2, 2009

Annie McCann anniversary

Today marks the first anniversary of the death of Annie McCann, the 16-year-old from Fairfax, Va. (left), who somehow came to Baltimore and ended up dead near a trash bin in the Perkins Homes publich housing complex.

Many questions remain, and much has been written about this grieving family. I did a two-part series last year and many blogs. The family wrote an op-ed piece last month for this newspaper, and today the Washington Post did an anniversary story). Baltimore police concluded she took her own life by drinking a bottle of Bactine. The Medical Examiner's Office has ruled the death undetermined. Her family says there are too many mysteries to let this case go. (Part I and Part II of a a two-part series last year)

Among the questions:

-- notes left behind indicating suicide but with substantial parts crossed out and one, which left on her bed, indicating she had changed her mind and decided to run away instead

-- how did she get to Baltimore, a city she had only come to a few times in the past, and given she had a terrible time following the simplest of driving directions

-- Could she have killed herself by injesting a 5-ounce bottle of Bactine, which contains the poison lidocaine? Baltimore authorities say yes; a private pathologist hired by the family says no.

-- Police and private investigators have located some if not all the Baltimore teens who say they found her abandoned car, moved her body out of the back seat and took it for a joy ride. The car was found several blocks away. Police have not charged any of the youths with crimes and the family their efforts to file charges to press them to talk have been thwarted by police.

-- The family  has talked with several people who saw Annie in Baltimore before she died but none of their leads, and sketches, have panned out. Was Annie with anyone in the city or did she come alone? Was she lured here by a predator in Virginia (there's still some mysterious calls on her cell phone)?

Here is an updated letter the McCanns have put out on the anniversary of their daughter's death:


Justice for Annie

Today marks a cruel anniversary for us.  Family and friends join our son Sam and us in mourning the loss one year ago of our beautiful daughter, Annie.

Since March 20th, we have known that the Baltimore Police Department has concluded, wrongly, that Annie’s death was due to suicide.  They continue to acknowledge that many, many circumstances surrounding her disappearance and death are unanswered. They are convinced, though, that Annie killed herself by drinking from a partially empty container of Bactine, containing a tiny amount, perhaps a thimbleful, of lidocaine.

We can confirm reporting today in The Washington Post that Dr. Michael Baden, one of the world’s pre-eminent forensic pathologists, has effectively ruled out suicide as the cause of Annie’s death.  Dr, Baden adds further, and with inescapable conviction, that it would require several full containers of Bactine to produce the levels of lidocaine found in Annie’s system.  He concludes that Annie almost certainly died as a result of murder, manslaughter, or accident.  “I would have to know more about the circumstances of the lidocaine ingestion,” said Dr. Baden, “but in no way can this be classified a suicide.”

Who should we believe?  Dr, Baden, a world-class expert who has been consulted on autopsies from President Kennedy to Michael Jackson?  Or the State Medical Examiner, who has lost Annie’s internal organs?

We are stunned to learn from the Post that the Baltimore Police Department believed from the onset of its investigation that Annie death’s was a suicide. This completely undermines the fundamental integrity of the entire investigation into Annie’s death, by the only agency to look into it. What leading questions were asked? What clues were missed, ignored, or discarded? 

Has any witness or any evidence been examined with any rigor? Apparently, the Baltimore Police Department has been completely wrong, and completely close-minded, from the very start.
Told loud enough, the story of what happened to Annie in Baltimore, and what has happened to us since, could blow a fair-sized hole in Baltimore’s three billion dollar a year tourism industry.

The story involves still-misplaced organs…a homicide unit being slowly crushed under the weight of accumulating bodies…an autopsy leaked to the press in February, but withheld from the family until June…senior police officials, armed with handguns but no facts, pounding a table and shouting at grieving parents…the Mayor and other city officials taking as long as four months to answer explicit requests for a beautiful girl’s baby blankets and rosary…police officials fabricating non-existent fingerprint evidence, and concocting preposterous alibis for thugs who have already admitted to dumping a body and stealing a car – but maybe, say the police, the dead girl gave them her permission…

We hope soon to be able to tell tourists that a visit to Baltimore does not place them in mortal peril…that if harm does befall them during a visit, the City will respond with professionalism and compassion…that the Police Department and City Hall will not systematically brutalize victims’ families… that if the Baltimore police somehow leap to, and cling to, demonstrably wrong-headed, unfounded, and close-minded conclusions, and are exposed as having done so, that they are capable of admitting grave error, and newly pursuing the truth.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:41 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Annie McCann


I understand the unexpected loss of a loved one leaves parents grieving, hurt and confused; however, the notion that the Police would lie for the sake of tourism is ludicrous. One more "murder," that of a suicidal, teenage runaway, cannot possibly deter tourists already aware of the city's 260 plus murders, 16000 plus HIV cases, 55000 plus opiate and cocaine addicts all on top of some of the most pervasive poverty in America. Welcome to Charm City, USA.

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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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