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December 9, 2009

McCann's family turns up the heat

The family of Fairfax, Va. teen Annie McCann, who was found dead in an East Baltimore housing project last year, is stepping up pressure on police and City Hall. Police say McCann committed suicide, but her death remains shrouded in mystery - no one is quite sure why she was in Baltimore, and her death has been attributed to ingesting Lidocaine, a liquid used to treat pierced ears. Those are just two of the main questions being raised, but there are many more.

 While police say the situation clearly represents a suicide, Annie's parents are committed to getting answers. A letter sent this morning to Deputy Mayor Christopher Thomaskutty shows that the family has retained high-powered attorney John Q. Kelly - of Natalee Hollaway fame - and forensic pathologist Michael Baden, who has been a consultant/lead pathologist or expert court witness in the the OJ Simpson and Phil Spector murder trials, among many other high-profile cases.

 Their letter is reprinted below:

Dear Deputy Mayor Thomaskutty:

We are writing in follow-up to the month-old request from our attorney, John Q. Kelly, that your police department re-open the investigation into the death of our daughter, Annie McCann, in November 2008.

Since at least March 2009, and probably as early as November 2008, the Baltimore Police Department concluded that Annie killed herself by drinking from a partial container of Bactine, an over the counter medication containing a tiny amount of lidocaine.

Mr. Kelly provided you the opinion of renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden.  To produce the levels of lidocaine reported at autopsy, Dr. Baden concludes, Annie would have to have ingested several containers of Bactine.  Consulted on autopsies from JFK to Michael Jackson, Dr. Baden finds no reliable basis to label Annie's death as a suicide.

Mr. Kelly also provided you with the written report of Bayer, the maker of Bactine.  Demonstrating remarkable corporate candor, Bayer reports that "the amount of lidocaine in a single 5 ounce bottle (of Bactine) would not be expected to produce death."

Shortly after Mr. Kelly's letter, we separately reported an apparent anomaly to you.  You had relayed to us the police report  that "No fingerprints were recovered from the Bactine bottle."  As we wrote you on November 10, Annie's unknown prints and our known prints should have been all over the bottle, and easily recoverable.  Where would they have gone?  Who would have a motive for wiping prints off that bottle?

We believe there are exactly two reasons, and no more, for the police conclusion. First, "Annie’s and only Annie’s DNA" was found on the bottle of Bactine -- as if such evidence could not have been forced from Annie, or easily planted after her death. Second, a few rambling and confused notes from Annie. Similar notes would be found in a book bag search at any American high school. The fact that teenagers write such notes does not authorize warrants for their death.

Police investigations should stand on facts and sound analysis, not conjecture.  The hard facts and analysis in this case point to murder or manslaughter.  Fundamentally:  How in the world did so much lidocaine, a lethal amount, get into our daughter's body?  A sheltered suburban teenager, Annie -- like us -- never heard of lidocaine in October 2008.

Against the opinion of a world class specialist, and against the uniquely informed opinion of the makers of Bactine, your police hierarchy is clinging to a theory that has completely disintegrated.  Annie did not kill herself with Bactine.  That is the police theory, and it is inescapably wrong.

We know that your office and the Mayor's office have been pre-occupied of late.  Still, it has been a month since Mr. Kelly's letter to you, and our reported anomaly.  We fear that, more than 13 months since our daughter's death, there has been no open-minded investigation into Annie's death by the only agency to investigate her death.

Will your police department re-open the investigation into Annie's death, Mr. Thomaskutty?  Much basic police work remains to be done.  Given the right leadership, even a year late, your strong and smart police officers and detectives are still capable of solving this mystery.

Please provide your response by reply e-mail, or to our attorney or to


Mary Jane and Dan McCann

Alexandria, VA

Posted by Justin Fenton at 9:54 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Annie McCann


I hate to sound insensitive because I really do feel for the McCanns and I can’t imagine what they’re feeling, but this doesn’t sound as much like a bad police investigation as it does two grieving parents who can't let go. They say that police investigations shouldn't be based on conjecture, but then that's all they offer up themselves. I’m no expert but it sounds like the findings were based on the evidence the police had. She drank the bactine, she left the letter. I don’t remember there being other signs of foul play. And since she was a runaway, that in itself hints that she may have been having some problems, maybe the kind you don’t always tell your parents about.

Maybe she ingested more bactine than what she had with her when she died. As long as it didn’t kill her immediately, she could easily have ingested it, then gone someplace else, ingested more, and then died. I do hope that the Police have their stuff straight, and I hope the parents get the answers they need, but their daughter ran away to a large city where she didn’t know anyone, so there may be some things they’ll never know.

The police work has not been completed. Simple. 1. You cannot believe that Annie drank more than one bottle of bactine. Bayer, the makers of Bactine, say there is not enough lidocaine in one bottle to be fatal, more importantly, not enough produce the level found in Annie’s body. How did such a large amount of lidocaine get into Annie’s system? Lidocaine is the part of answer. Where did the lidocaine come from and in such a large dose? 2. Who is the girl Annie was seen with before her death? She holds a lot of the answers. Why aren’t the police trying to locate her? 3. And sure, they arrested 2 people in connection with taking her car? But, there are 5 fellows who were involved? Why were only 2 arrested? Why did it take almost year? Why haven’t the rest been questioned? 4. The police have not checked out a phone call on Annie’s phone. Isn’t it important to question these persons? Why are the police not questioning the people Annie had contact with prior to her running away? 5. Annie stayed after school to re-do missed questions for partial credit the day before she left? Why waste your time? Simple answer, she did not know she was leaving.
The police decided this was a suicide. They failed to do their job. The answers are out there. Re-open the case.
Annie was coax into leaving. She took her clothes, jewelry, and money. Where are her clothes, jewelry and money? Annie’s parents are not out for anything but justice for their daughter. Nothing will bring back Annie. There are so many unanswered questions.

I am deeply saddened by this painful ordeal that the McCanns have been put through in their quest to find answers to their daughter's tragic death. I would hope that the authorities will address the serious questions raised by the parents and their attorney with civility and focused attention to detail. Out hopes and prayers are with the family as they seek some solace in the knowledge that they know what happened and perhaps something of the "why" it happened.

Annie's death is the first ever attributed to ingesting bactine. Surely that fact alone warrants a bit more investigation?

Tracy, you say: "Annie's death is the first ever attributed to ingesting bactine."

I'm not sure where you're getting that information, but I personally was involved in a case where a teen ingested Bactine and died on the way to the hospital. The individual was a troubled youth, but I don't know whether the intent was to commit suicide, or in acting out the individual died unwittingly.

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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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