November 30, 2011

Could man's murder arrest lead to new clues in McCann case?

A Baltimore man has been arrested in the killing of a 26-year-old Northeast Baltimore woman, a development that parents of a runaway Virginia teen hope may yield new leads in the case of their daughter's mysterious death.

Police say Darnell Kinlaw, 21, confessed to fatally shooting Lakeisha Player inside her home on Nov. 11 and stealing her candy-apple red car, a purchase which friends say had been a point of pride for her. Kinlaw told police that Player was his girlfriend.

The troubled man has a long record, charged eight times with stealing cars and twice with burglary, one case which was filed by his mother who said he broke into the family home and took valuables after being kicked out for stealing.

One of the car theft cases was connected to the 2008 death of Virginia teen Annie McCann, who ran away from home and was found dead in an East Baltimore housing project.

An autopsy determined that Annie, 16, had died from a lethal does of lidocaine from a bottle of Bactine, used to treat pierced ears. Police say the death points to suicide, but her family has rejected that conclusion and say police never did a proper investigation.

The McCanns pressed police to charge Kinlaw and two juveniles for taking Annie's car and driving it to a gas station five blocks away. One of the teens admitted to removing Annie's body from the car and putting near the trash bin. The juveniles were found responsible for the unauthorized use of the car; but charges against Kinlaw were dropped due to lack of evidence.

Annie's father, Daniel McCann, said that he might use the arrest to press authorities to question Kinlaw about more details in his daughter's death. He said he felt police did not question the young man hard enough after charging him with taking his daughter's car.

"He's facing murder one," McCann said. "This might be the time to press him to learn about additional cases. He might be more forthcoming now than he every will be."

Click the "Annie McCann" tab below for previous coverage of her death, or here for the rest of this article. 

Posted by Justin Fenton at 1:11 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Annie McCann, Northeast Baltimore

September 30, 2010

Parents of slain teen threaten lawsuit

The parents of 16-year-old Annie McCann, who was found dead nearly two years ago in Southeast Baltimore, are threatening to sue the city for up to $12 million, alleging police shelved the investigation and wrongfully concluded that the girl took her own life.

Dan and Mary Jane McCann have been fighting the city since their daughter mysteriously ran away from their Fairfax County, Va., home on Nov. 2. She left a letter that police concluded was a suicide note. But her parents note she wrote that that she thought about killing herself but had changed her mind and decided to run away.

How she ended up dead behind a trash bin in Southeast Baltimore had remained a mystery for nearly two years, and the McCanns have relentlessly pursued detectives and other authorities to do what they consider a proper investigation.

Find more stories on Annie McCann here.

The Medical Examiner ruled the cause of Annie's death undetermined but said she ingested a lethal dose of lidocaine from drinking from a 5-ounce bottle of Bactine. Police have suspended the case, saying the evidence points to suicide.

With the help of private investigators, the McCanns say they have unearthed many clues that have yet to be answered. They include:

A mysterious text that Annie got on her cell phone days before she disappeared from a convicted drug dealer in Northern Virginia.

A still mysterious woman that a waitress says she saw with Annie at a Little Italy pastry shop one or two days before her body was found.

Continue reading "Parents of slain teen threaten lawsuit" »

September 29, 2010

Parents of dead teen continue to press for answers

The parents of Annie McCann continue to seek answers.

Convinced that their 16-year-old daughter did not run away from her Virginia home of her own volition, and did not kill herself once she reached Baltimore by drinking Bactine, Daniel and Mary Jane McCann (at left, in a photo by The Sun's Amy Davis) are refusing to give up.

Read more on the twists in the case here.

The couple have scheduled a news conference for Thursday to update the public on their private investigation. They say have "significant new developments" into the case but wouldn't divulge them to me on Wednesday.

As you might remember, Annie left home Oct. 31, leaving behind a note that said she had contemplated suicide but decided to run away instead. Her body was found two days later off Lombard Street east of the Inner Harbor. Her car was found dumped two blocks away.

The cases has had dozens of twists and turns, including youths who admitted to finding her body in the car, removing it to near a trash bin at a public housing complex and taking the car for a ride. There were other suicide notes, written and crossed out, found both at Annie's home and by her body. The Medical Examiner has ruled the cause of her death undetermined but said she overdoses on lidocaine from drinking a bottle of the antiseptic Bactine.

Did she drink it herself or did someone force her to down the bottle? The McCanns say the drug wasn't enough to kill her, that her note indicated she had changed her mind and was not a declaration of suicide, that she met at least two mysterious people in Baltimore. They are angry that Baltimore police shelved the investigation in March 2009, saying they're sure Annie took her own life.

It is not a conclusion the McCann's can live with. We'll have more have the news conference on Thursday.

August 17, 2010

Family upset after charges dropped in McCann case

In October 2008, a teen runaway from Virginia was found dead outside a Southeast Baltimore housing project, a mysterious death that has raised many questions - investigators believe she died from a fatal ingestion of Bactine, used to treat pierced ears - but provided few answers. FOX Baltimore is reporting the following (because there's not a story URL, I'm posting the full text here):

The parents of a 16-year-old girl found dead in Baltimore are outraged that prosecutors have dropped charges in the case.
Annie McCann was found dead behind a dumpster in Southeast Baltimore after she ran away from her Virginia home in October 2009.
While police ruled the death a suicide, they charged 21-year-old Darnell Kinlaw with stealing and ransacking her car.
Daniel and Mary Jane McCann hoped for justice Tuesday at Kinlaw's court hearing Tuesday, but they were shocked by the outcome.
Prosecutors dismissed the charges due to lack of evidence.

Prosecutors sent me this response today:

"Darnell Kinlaw’s name surfaced while police investigated the unauthorized use of the vehicle driven by the late Annie McCann in November 2008.  That investigation was very thorough and included consultation with prosecutors in the State’s Attorney’s Office.  During that investigation police issued an arrest warrant for Kinlaw in October 2009; it wasn’t served until July 2010.  The police attempted to gather further evidence but were unable to do so.  The state, in consultation with police, determined this case could not proceed to trial due to the fact that the only evidence was uncorroborated testimony and therefore a NP was entered August 17, 2010 in case number:  2b01984817 State vs. Darnell Kinlaw (unauthorized use, etc).
The State’s Attorney’s Office personally contacted the McCanns informing them of this matter; the court did not list them as victims in this case (it was their vehicle in which the alleged unauthorized use took place.) The McCanns were unaware this case was pending until that personal contact from the State’s Attorney’s Office.  We also informed them what would happen in court, fully explaining why so that they would not be surprised at the outcome."

Click the tag for more of our coverage on this perplexing case.

Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:59 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Annie McCann

December 15, 2009

McCanns get response from city.. sort of

The parents of Annie McCann, who have been pleading with the city to reopen their daughter's case and have retained high-powered consultants to help them make their case, got a terse response from city officials last week. It was forwarded to the media on Friday but I've been too swamped to get it up until now. The response from Deputy Mayor Christopher Thomaskutty, which is below, indicates that city officials are either exasperated with dealing with the family or realize this could be headed to court at some point and want to choose their words carefully:

"Mr. and Mrs. McCann:

On behalf of everyone in the Mayor's Office, we are terribly sorry for your tragic loss. To answer your question, "no", the Baltimore Police Department will not re-open the investigation into your daughter's death.



Posted by Justin Fenton at 10:26 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Annie McCann

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:

Continue reading "McCann's family turns up the heat" »

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

November 12, 2009

City responds to McCanns

Dan and Mary Jane McCann, the parents of Annie McCann, gave me the letter the city sent to them after complaints that police mishandled and then closed the investigation into the death of their daughter about one year ago.

City officials had refused to give me their response, even after I posted the letter the McCanns sent to them (see earlier posts here). The McCanns are still fighting to get answers to how and why their daughter apparently ran away from home and was found dead near a trash bin in the Perkins Homes public housing complex in Southeast Baltimore.

Police have concluded that Annie killed herself by drinking a 5-ounce bottle of Bactine, which contains Lidocaine, though the McCanns dispute this and have a letter from the manufacturer and an outside forensics expert saying there is no way Annie could've died only from drinking Bactine. Police never took Annie's fingerprints but did take her DNA, which they say they found on the bottle. The Medical Examiner has ruled her death undetermined.

Annie's parents are convinced their daughter was lured to Baltimore and was either killed or helped in taking her life. They've put up billboards, held news conferences, hired private investigators, hunted down people who may have seen Annie in Baltimore and pressed to file charges against youths who admitted to finding Annie's body in her car, and moving the body to the parking lot.

Police have now charged two youths as juveniles in connection with stealing Annie's car and leaving it several blocks away. Police say they've invested more than enough time in the case and point to a note Annie left behind on her bed. They say it's a clear suicide note. The family notes that Annie wrote she wanted to take her own life but changed her mind and decided to run away instead.

It's a difficult case. The Baltimore Sun published a two-part series (Part I and Part II) on the case last year. And here's the letter the city's deputy mayor sent to the McCanns:

Continue reading "City responds to McCanns" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Annie McCann

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:

Continue reading "Death of Annie McCann: new developments" »

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

Weekend crime update

Please forgive no posts yesterday -- I took the day off to rest up after a virtually non-stop week of helping out our British crime reporter from The Independent. I see there's quite a bit of catching up to do ...

In another blog, I'll talk about new developments in the Annie McCann case, and of course the DC sniper is set to be executed tonight, the mayor's trial continues, the police dog Blade, shot in a case of friendly fire, is well on his way to recovery, prosecutors dropped charges in an alleged brothel in Patterson Park and two more people were killed.

First off, Mark Hughes seemed to enjoy himself though he left with no interview with either the city's police commissioner or the mayor. In fact, we tried to catch Sheila Dixon on Saturday at a tree planting ceremony in North Baltimore but she declined to speak. "I'm planting trees today," she said to a spokesman, but in earshot of both Mark and I. There's much more on their Tale of Two Cities blog.

Too bad. For all the city does to counter the image of Baltimore as The Wire, the silence of the two leaders on the topic of crime left him the impression they've got their heads in the sand. And coupled with the crime he did see -- a murder while out with union cops and a shooting just moments after he arrived at the train station -- our leaders didn't do much to dispel the notion of a dangerous city to our friends overseas.

We followed the mayor as she bicycled around a neighborhood delivering trees; she could've saddled up to Mark and used the moment to talk about her initiatives and how she thinks they helped bring crime down. We were in a park that had a murder a year ago; she could've used that to explain how planting trees gets the community energized and is indeed a part of combating violence. We were on the street where a community activist lived whose house was firebombed several years ago by angry drug dealers. She could've used the tree moment to again talk about reclaiming the streets.

Instead, mark went home feeling snubbed and our image of crime and our inability to deal with it only reinforced.

On the other side of the pond, our very own Justin Fenson found that cops in London don't report breaking crime, usually until an arrest is made. He quoted one spokesman saying that reporting, say a body that was found near where Justin is staying, would only incite the public into thinking crime was worse than it really was. I can't imagine that line going over too well here! Justin had some quiet nides riding with cops, but I was more heartened by some of the comments from people who wanted to make sure he got to the really bad parts of town.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:44 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Annie McCann, Confronting crime

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:


Continue reading "Annie McCann anniversary" »

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

October 20, 2009

Anne McCann's parents still fighting

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:

Continue reading "Anne McCann's parents still fighting" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:43 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Annie McCann, Confronting crime

March 23, 2009

Annie McCann investigation ends

In a column published Saturday, I raised the question of when police should suspend an investigation into a death. We're talking about Annie McCann, the 16-year-old girl who ran away from her suburban Virginia home on Oct. 31 and was found dead in Baltimore on Nov. 2. (see previous columns, Part 1 and Part 2.

Her parents, Daniel and Mary Jane McCann, have launched a campaign to find out why their daughter left home, how she got to Baltimore, what she did when she got here, who she might have met and how she ultimately died. They are doing what any parent would do and are understandably upset that police have now all but given up.

But for the police,  and answers the McCanns are seeking do not relate to a criminal case. Investigators now strongly believe that Annie took her own life, and on Friday after meeting with the McCanns and discussing new evidence, said they would soon close the case.

Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said DNA tests reveal Annie's genetic markers on the lip of a 5-ounce bottle of Bactine and on the cap, "indicating that she both removed the cap and drank from the bottle."

The Maryland State Medical Examiner's Office has ruled the cause of death undetermined, neither homicide nor suicide, but said she overdosed from lidocaine, which is in the antiseptic Bactine. Police found the Bactine and the cap near her abandoned car at a gas station five blocks from where her body was found lying next to a trash bin at Perkins Homes, between Harbor East and Fells Point.

The McCanns accept that their daughter died this way but do not accept suicide. They think Annie could've been forced to drink from the bottle (police say no other fingerprints or DNA was found on the bottle) or at the very least she had help or was lured to Baltimore.

That could be plausible. Early in the investigation, the McCanns learned that a clerk at a Little Italy pastry shop saw Annie and another woman with dark hair. Later, after the family put up billboards and announced a $10,000 reward, a bouncer at Club Orpheus said he recognized Annie and the woman. Meanwhile, a clerk at Costco's in Northern Virginia has said she recognizes the woman. And a number dialed from Annie's cell phone went to a house in Virginia occupied by a drug dealer.

Baltimore police say they will do two more things before suspending the investigation. They will go to the Caroline County Detention Center to determine whether a woman being held there is the woman Annie was seen with at the two locations in Baltimore. Police said they also will finish scanning Annie's laptop and desktop computers, though that could take up to three weeks.

Annie's parents still want police to press four teens for information; one of them admitted to moving Annie's body when he saw it in the backseat of her car apparently abandoned at Perkins Homes and then taking the car for a joy ride. And the McCanns don't accept that the note Annie left on her bed indicated she wanted to kill herself. The note says she thought about suicide but changed her mind and wanted to run away instead.

Guglielmi said police have invested 1,200 hours and used up to 44 people in this investigation, and that it's now time to bring it to a close. "Truly, we gave it everything we had," he told me on Friday. "Our detectives and our investigators are trained to follow evidence. It's truly a devastating case. It's sad and I can't begin to articulate how it must be for the family. But the evidence we are able to get out of this does not point to homicide. It does point to suicide."

The spokesman says the lead detective, Sean Jones, did what he thought was right in the case. Asked whether the youths who said they took her car could've been pressed harder (one talked, one through his father refused and the two others are known only by their nicknames), Guglielmi said: "I have to stand behind the work of the detectives."

Guglielmi noted rightly that cases are never closed, especially this one since the Medical Examiner has not made a conclusive ruling. "If a year from now or a day from now, if someone comes forward with new leads or clues, they will absolutely be investigated."

The meeting with the McCanns police on Friday, which included Guglielmi, a colonel, a major and the lead detective, ended on a bad note. The McCanns questioned whether detectives had done enough, angering police commanders. Guglielmi said the commanders got angry when the detectives' integrity was impugned. "They were criticizing the efforts of the department," the spokesman said. "The colonel said, 'You can't sit here and criticize members of homicide."

Daniel McCann, driving back to Virginia, said he left the meeting frustrated and called the police "defensive, hostile and adversarial."

The McCanns' private investigators will continue to push this case forward. It's never easy for police to reach this conclusion, especially with so many questions yet to be answered. I've gotten many emails about my columns on this subject; some criticizing me for giving too much attention to this case above other murders. I will add one of the emails below, but I will say that it was the mystery that propelled my writing. Most killings in this city are, sadly, related to drugs and the utter despair that permeates some Baltimore neighborhoods. Even if Annie killed herself, why did she come here, and how? And whom did she meet, and how? And what can we learn from the death of a young girl whose parents thought she had everything, and was happy and content?

It was not my intent to push this case to the top of the list in homicide, and I doubt that happened. It was simply a different type of case than we are used to in Baltimore, and tragic whether Annie killed herself or not. The lead detective on the case, Sean Jones, summed it up best when he told me a few weeks ago that Annie simply "fell off the grid."

That's not easy in today's society, and is a reason I found this case so interesting. Here are two views from readers:

As a friend of Mary Jane and Dan McCann I felt the need to write to you to let you know my feelings about the lack of interest that the Baltimore Police Dept. has shown in discontinuing the investigation into Annie's death. I met the McCanns on January 1st, 4 days before what would have been Annie's 17th birthday at a memorial service at my church The Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation here in Baltimore. Very sadly we remembered the 43 children 18 and under who were killed due to violence in Baltimore City last year. So far this year we have 7 children to light a candle for and to remember their precious lives. This is not acceptable.They keep telling us that violent crime is down in Baltimore City. It certainly doesn't sound like it. I know that it is the belief of the police department that Annie committed suicide. Why would she drive all the way to Baltimore, bring quite a bit of money and clothes with her to do that. She could have done it in Alexandria. I know about the notes that she wrote but nothing adds up and it is very pathetic to me that so many of the people that came in contact with her while dead and alive have never been questioned Someone is walking around in her shoes. The McCann's did everything they could do to try to find answers to this mystery to be told that it wasn't worth the Dept's time and trouble to go further until they have answers.That speaks very badly about the Baltimore Police Dept. The McCanns were also treated very rudely on Friday at the briefing. This was their daughter !. All unsolved murders or deaths need to be solved regardless of color.

And an opposing view:

I believe that you have written at least 3 columns about the tragic death of Annie McCann. It seems you have unintentionally fallen into the same trap that the media  is often accused of, i.e. valuing a victim more who is white, pretty, well-off - someone that you and I can relate to. Of course I have tremendous sympathy for her parents and I'm sure I would be doing exactly what they are: questioning, agonizing, investigating, chasing every possible clue to try to solve this unsolvable mystery of how a seemingly normal, grounded and well-adjusted teen went so off course with tragic results. But how can the police be faulted? This beautiful young girl was suicidal, was found without a scratch on her body and the medical examiner has ruled that a homicide did not occur. In a previous article, you mentioned her parents' belief that some of her active actions before her death proved that she was not suicidal; however, it is well known in the psychiatric literature that those suffering from depression frequently appear much better right before they kill themselves precisely because they have made the decision to do it and so are relieved. Perhaps Annie made the decision and then purposefully put herself in harms' way, in a crime-ridden part of a dangerous city, for that very reason, i.e. because she no longer cared about her life.
I certainly have no idea what really happened and my heart breaks for the suffering of the family and this beautiful young girl who could have been mine. But in a city with hundreds of actual, real murders each year, how can we blame the police for not devoting more time and resources to what does not appear to be a crime?
Nancy S. Spritz

Here is a statement the McCanns released after Friday's meeting with Baltimore police:

Continue reading "Annie McCann investigation ends" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 8:16 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Annie McCann

March 12, 2009

Update on Annie McCann

The parents of 16-year-old Annie McCann, the young girl who ran away from her Virginia home on Oct. 31 and was found dead in Baltimore next to a trash bin in Perkins Homes on Nov. 2, have released a sketch of a woman seen with their daughter in Little Italy one or two days before her death.

The McCanns earlier this month launched a public campaign, complete with billboards, to find out what happened to their daughter -- parts one and two of columns can be found here, along with earlier blogs -- concerned that police had stopped their active investigation believing the death to be a suicide despite many unanswered questions. Annie died of an overdose of lidicaine from apparently drinking from a 5-ounce bottle of Bactine. She had left a note on her bed in which she said she had contemplated suicide but had changed her mind, took money, a car and jewelry and somehow made it to Baltimore.

Police have questioned a youth who told them he saw a man drive up in her car and leave it on Lombard Street. The youth then told police he and friends removed Annie's body, which they found on back seat, put it near the trash bin and took the car for a joy ride. The McCanns are pressing police, and have hired private investigators, to question this youth and his friends more closely. They also have found a clerk in a Little Italy pastry shop who remembered seeing Annie in the shop on either the afternoon of Oct. 31 or Nov. 1. The McCann's complained that city police had thwarted their attempts to hire a sketch artist, but the dispute was eventually worked out.

Today, the McCanns released this sketch and press release, in which they also complain that administrators at the school Annie attended in Fairfax County has blocked their efforts to interview her friends: Sketch 0001

The news release and another flier:

Continue reading "Update on Annie McCann" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 11:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Annie McCann

March 3, 2009

More informaton on Annie McCann

Now that the parents of Annie McCann have gone public with concerns about how their daughter's death case has been handled by Baltimore authorities, information is starting to filter out -- and it's causing even more pain for the family.

Annie, 16, ran away from her suburban Virginia home on Oct. 31 and was found dead in Southeast Baltimore on Nov. 2. She left a note saying she had considered suicide but changed her mind and wanted to get away instead. She left other notes with suicide as a theme but had crumpled them up and thrown them under her bed.

Her parents, Daniel and Mary Jane, held a news conference yesterday raising numerous concerns about the police investigation and their inclination to call the death a suicide. The parents feel there are too many lose ends to come to that conclusion.

Among them are the cause of death. The McCanns had told me, based on conversations with police and the Medical Examiner's Office, that Annie had died from an overdose of lidocaine, an ingredient in the disinfectant Bactine. She drank from a five-ounce bottle of the over-the-counter medicine. The only alcohol in her system was a small amount that the body produces when it decomposes.

I had confirmed that with the lead Baltimore Police Department homicide detective, Sean P. Jones, and the head of the homicide unit, Maj. Terrence McLarney. But it turns out that police learned later that the Medical Examiner found additional amounts of alcohol.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told me they learned of this late Friday and even they have not yet obtained a copy of the autopsy report. He did not have the blood-alcohol content but he told me it was consistent with a light amount of drinking.

I could not confirm that with the Medical Examiner -- they refuse to release the report until the case is officially closed by both police and prosecutors, which is unlikely anytime soon because the cause of death has been ruled undetermined, which means it remains open until police either make an arrest or conclude the case for some other reason.

The information about alcohol also came as news to the McCanns. They have been talking to detectives and hired private investigators, only to find out new and painful information from reporters stemming from leaks -- the alcohol was first reported by WBAL-TV -- that could be coming from investigators privately frustrated that the McCanns have criticized them in public.

It does seem odd that after months of being told by police and the medical examiner's office that there was no new news on the death of Annie, that it was still under investigation and toxicology reports pending, that on the very day the McCanns made their intent known to go public with their complaints, and hours after I talked with the lead detective, that the Medical Examiner suddenly released his conclusions that Annie overdosed from lidocaine.

For a father trying to learn what he can about his daughter's death and trying to push authorities to do their jobs, this news was particularly maddening. Mr. McCann sent this response:

"Four months after a reportedly exhaustive autopsy on our daughter, we would be astonished to learn – if true – that toxicology results indicate Annie had been drinking alcohol. This would directly contradict results, as consistently characterized to us for months. We find it hard to believe that there has been a new finding with respect to blood-alcohol content – or with any other simple, static, objective, and quantifiable data."


Posted by Peter Hermann at 1:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Annie McCann

March 2, 2009

Annie McCann's mystery

Daniel and his wife Mary Jane McCann had their news conference this morning in which they pleaded for help in finding out how their daughter ended up in dead in Baltimore after running away from her Alexandria, Va., home.

I've detailed this case in columns today and yesterday and I won't go over it all again here. I've included the family's statement below that summarizes the case and their concerns.

Annie ran away from home on Friday, Oct. 31 (she was last seen around 6:40 that morning) and was found dead near a trash bin at the Perkins Homes housing project on South Spring Court in Southeast Baltimore about 3 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 2. She died of an overdose of lidocaine from drinking a 5-ounce bottle of Bactine, which her mother had given her for her newly pierced ears. The Medical Examiner has ruled the case undetermined -- neither a homicide nor a suicide, putting it in a strange netherworld, and adding further mystery.

After four months, the McCanns are frustrated that the investigation has slowed -- it is now assigned to the Cold Case Squad -- given the number of murders being investigated in Baltimore.

In fact the president of the New York-based private investigative firm the couple hired, John Cutter of Beau Dietl & Associates, said that everyone who looks at the case assumes suicide and "keeps pushing it back" to be dealt with later or not at all.

"They will accept whatever the findings are," Cutter told me after the news conference. "But what they are saying is that, 'Don't tell me they don't know.' We were not hired to solve Annie's death. We were hired to solve the mystery of what happened to Annie from the time she left her house unitl the time her body was found. There are a myraid of unanswered questions that need more basic investigative steps to answer. This is one of the most mysterious and unusual cases. It has a lot of twists and turns."

I'll summarize key points that the family believes should be investigated further and why they don't think their daughter committed suicide, at least by herself. In the end, it may very well be that Annie took her own life, or had help, or met a predator, but they feel there are too many details have yet to be thoroughly investigated to simply say suicide and walk away.

Some of what follows differs a little from details offered in my columns (some new information emerged at the news conference):

Annie left one note on her bed in which she said she had thought about commiting suicide but had changed her mind, wanted to live and to be free. She took $1,000, her cell phone, iPod Touch, jewelry, a box of Cheerios and clothes packed in a trunk with her when she left in the family's white Volvo sedan.

Other notes were found in her bedroom, crumpled up and crossed out, none of which Cutter said "directly indicated suicide" though suicide was the central theme. Cutter described these notes as "drafts" and all were addressed to her friends, none to her parents, which whom she was close. Did she indeed change her mind?

On either the Friday or Saturday afternoon before her body was found, Cutter said two clerks in Vaccaro's in Little Italy. She ordered a connolli and a latte and was with another girl, about 17, with long black hair who looked Italian. The McCanns are searching for the girl Annie was seen with and have hired a sketch artist.

On Sunday morning, about 3 a.m., a man taking out his garbage found her body next to a trash bin. The white Volvo was found five blocks away at a Citgo gas station, an empty bottle of Bactine under a seat; the cap outside. More notes were found, similar to the ones crossed out that were found in her house. Police lifted a fingerprint from the car and found a teen-ager, 16, from Perkins Homes who we learned today has given conflicting accounts

He told police that he saw a white male with a goatee drive up in the car, abandon it and that he saw the body inside the back seat. Annie was lying face down, wet, her shoes and socks missing, the bottom of her feet clean. The youth told police he and three friends moved body to the trash bin and then took the for a joy ride. But Cutter said his investigators talked to the youth and he said the man with the goatee was one of his friends who drove up in the car and asked for help moving what he described as a mannequin.

Police have confirmed the above account, only to say her body wasn't quite face down in the back. But why was it wet? Where are her shoes? Her phone is missing (the teen told police he threw it away); but so is her iTouch and the $1,000 she took when she ran away. Cutter and the McCanns say Baltimore police didn't press hard enough to question the kids, especially after their stories didn't match. Police tell me they've only talked to the one youth; two others are known only by their nicknames or initials. Cutter said the father of the fourth youth has refused to let his son cooperate. Should the youth who is talking be pressed to talk more or threatened with criminal charges? (He did move a body, fail to report a crime scene, tampered with evidence and stole a car.)

Cutter said the FBI has the family computer and Annie's laptop but have yet to search the hard-drives for clues as to what web sites Annie was visiting or emails she may have sent or received.

There were 10 calls placed from Annie's phone in the days before she ran away. All have been accounted for but two, Cutter told me. One was to a man with no connection to Annie but appears to have been a wrong number; the man told investigators he frequently got wrong numbers and if Annie was trying to reach somebody else, authorites haven't figured out who it might be.

The second phone call is more interesting. Cutter said it was traced to a woman's cell phone. They found her address and police went there but were sent away. Cutter said his investigators went to the house, in Northern Virginia, and it was answered by a man with a drug record who refused to answer his door. Cutter said the man was filming his investigators as they stood at the door. This lead too hasn't been pressed further.

The McCanns have four billboards up around town for the next two weeks seeking information and hope to have a sketch out soon. Metro Crime Stoppers is offering a $10,000 reward -- $2,000 from the organization and the rest from the McCanns. Cutter went on the Ed Norris show this morning. 

The answer they seek may be painful, but they want to know how their daughter died and why. They've question whether police have pressed hard enough for answers or just did the basic work, shrugging it off as a suicide. They say they had a hard time getting a sketch artist because the police discouraged those they hired from working the case (police say it was a miscommunication and has been resolved) and had a hard time getting Metro Crime Stoppers to put up the reward.

I talked to the lead detective, Sean P. Jones, and the commander of the Baltimore Police Department's homicide unit, Maj. Terrence McLarney, on Friday. Details from their interview are in the columns cited above. They disagreed only on small details, such as positioning of Annie's body, but said they've worked the case hard. Two city police spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi and Troy Harris, stood in the back of McCann's news conference but would only say after that the case remains under investigation, that no lead is too small for someone to ignore, and he urged people call with any tips.

Guglielmi hugged Mary Jane McCann at the end. The McCanns statement:

Continue reading "Annie McCann's mystery" »

Posted by Peter Hermann at 12:04 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Annie McCann

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.





Continue reading "Death of Annie McCann" »

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