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November 10, 2009

Death of Annie McCann: new developments

I see that city prosecutors have charged two youths in connection with theft of Annie McCann's car. This is the girl who last year disappeared form her home in Virginia and was found dead at the Perkins Homes Public Housing complex in Southeast Baltimore.

Annie's parents have been pressing for police to do more; police have closed the case, saying she died from drinking a 5-ounce bottle of Bactine, which contains Lidocaine, and that they suspect she took her own life. Her parents dispute that and have pressed cops to charge the youths who admitted to moving her body out of her car and taking it for a short joy ride. They believe the youths know more than they've told cops and that charges might press them to talk.

The McCanns were angry last month when they said they tried to file charges against the youths but a District Court commissioner talked them out of it or refused after talking with the city police homicide commander. At the time, they felt police were not only refusing to adequately investigate their daughter's death but then tried to prevent the parents from contining the probe themselves.

This morning, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the homicide commander did not tell the district court commissioner not to file charges but told him "We have this case" and that they were still planning to do something. Guglielmi said police couldn't tell the family that they were planning to charge the youths, and that is what happened on Monday. (I'm sure the family will feel the charges came about only after they exerted public pressure on police).

Guglielmi said that at the onset of a homicide investigation, "the primary focus is on the cause of death." He noted rightly that there are always lesser crimes involved, such as a break-in before a murder, that must be "put on the back of the notepad for a while" during the active part of the investigation.

"If you charge people right away, chances are they aren't going to cooperate with you," the spokesman said. "It stonewalls the investigation."

Here are some of the McCanns complaints:

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.

Sincerely,

 

Daniel J. McCann  Mary Jane Malinchak-McCann

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:22 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Annie McCann
        

Comments

(I'm sure the family will feel the charges came about only after they exerted public pressure on police).

"the family" is not alone in this belief. As a citizen of Baltimore, I believe that the Baltimore Police take the easy way out as often as possible.

Criminal negligence on the part of the Baltimore Police Department.


Gugliemi says at the start of a murder investigation,
focus on the cause of death. Didn't cops end investigation in Feb or
March? If it was inactive 8 or 9 months, when were they going to do
somethig about Grand Theft Auto? And on Oct 20 the Wash Post quotes
Gugliemi as saying police might do misdemeanor charges, "because there
was no proof of whether Annie McCann granted the young men permission to
take the Volvo." That was after they already said they stole the car
and dumped the body.

Sounds like the family's right. Without being made to,
cops wouldn't of done anything.

Unfortunately, this does not surprise me. I had a similar experience with the Baltimore Police department. They've become insensitive to these matters. Our streets have become a war zone.

What do they expect the police to do? Invent evidence where there is none? Sometimes crimes can't be solved because there are no witnesses and no evidence. That happens everywhere, not just in Baltimore. And there's no evidence that a murder was even committed here. Sounds to me like the parents are trying to assuage their guilt for driving their daughter away.

Did Dixon even respond to this letter or was she too busy scheming her own criminal defense?

What's Bealefeld's response to outside investigators turning up leads that his guys missed and to the lack of follow up on the suspect from Va?

What a disgrace.

What we expect the police to do is to fully investigate a crime. Put aside the death of the girl for a minute - isn't abuse of a corpse a crime? I have heard of other jurisdictions that charge criminals for leaving a body outside.

I really do not believe that a teen chose bactine to kill herself. It's a very small bottle and I doubt she thought it would kill her....that's IF she drank it willingly. Somehow I doubt the whole story.

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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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