Justice For Annie

Annie McCannMcCann Family Statement - January 19, 2012

On December 6, in response to our request, Lieutenant Colonel Garnell Green, the new head of homicide for Baltimore police, met with us.  The meeting lasted about an hour.  Throughout, Colonel Green listened closely and respectfully to our concerns with the police investigation into the death of our daughter Annie three years ago.  He took careful notes throughout, interrupting occasionally for certain telephone numbers or name spellings.

Colonel Green, who replaces former homicide commander Major Terrence McLarney, promised to fold our many concerns into his close review of the police investigation.  He promised to contact our lead private investigator, a retired veteran of Baltimore’s very own detective corps.  He promised to look at the case with new eyes, and get back to us.

Three long weeks later, on December 27, Colonel Green told us he had one more thing to check on, and he would get back to us shortly.  Since then, he has refused to take or return our daily phone calls.  We have it on good authority that Colonel Green has been muzzled by Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld, after being rebuked sharply for speaking with us in the first place.

Here, briefly, are the concerns and new information we had shared with Colonel Green:

  • Baltimore police never honestly investigated Annie’s death.  Major McLarney stifled the investigation from the start.  Claims of a 1,200 hour investigation are preposterous, and completely undermined by the fact that, more than four months after Annie’s death, the lead detective didn’t even have a photograph of Annie, and only learned that she had alcohol in her system from press reporting.
  • The McLarney theory, the police theory, is that Annie killed herself by drinking a half-empty container of Bactine, which includes lidocaine.   That theory has been exploded by world-class pathologists, including Dr. Michael Baden – yesterday, more strenuously than ever.  There was far too much lidocaine in Annie's system than could have been delivered by the half-container Annie had with her, for her pierced ears.
  • Lidocaine is obscure, but alcohol is common, and well understood, so here’s the police theory, the McLarney theory, in a nutshell:  Supposedly, Annie killed herself by drinking the equivalent of half a bottle of beer.  There’s not near enough alcohol in half a bottle of beer to kill anyone.  And there’s not near enough lidocaine in half a bottle of Bactine to kill anyone.
  • We laid out for Colonel Green several lies offered by the police department, with respect to their investigation, or non-investigation, into Annie’s death.
  • We stressed our firm belief that Annie’s killer came from a few small pools of people – from our neighborhood, from morning Mass at St. Louis Catholic Church, from Annie’s school, or a named drug dealer in Gainesville, Virginia.  We provided detail to support that belief.
  • We provided Colonel Green with new leads, including a recent very positive ID, with name, with a connection to our church, of the sketch drawn years ago of Annie’s companion at the pastry shop in Baltimore’s Little Italy.
  • We noted that Darnell Kinlaw – who had been arrested for being at the scene, dumping Annie’s body and stealing our car – had recently been arrested for murdering another young woman and stealing her car.  We stressed that Kinlaw and his attorney, facing Murder One, might be eager to cut a deal with information on other crimes, including Annie’s murder.  Why would street kids get involved with a dead body?  Surely not just for a joy ride.  What led them there?  Who led them there?  Do authorities think it rude to ask Defendant Kinlaw or others those questions?
  • We told Colonel Green that the medical examiner acknowledged to us, and to others, that Annie had suffered blunt force trauma to opposite sides of her forehead – opposite sides of her forehead – as well as other physical wounds.  How does that happen in a simple suicide?
  • We pointed out that Annie’s Bactine bottle had been wiped clean of fingerprints, when it should have been covered with Annie’s unknown prints and her mother’s known prints.  How does that track with suicide?
  • And finally, we told Colonel Green that we still don’t know whether or not Annie was raped.

It’s been more than six weeks now, and we still don’t have a response to any of these concerns.  Colonel Green’s initial, earnest assurances have been squashed from above.  Honestly, if the case had been quietly turned over to the cold case unit in December, it might have been solved by now.  Instead, the police hierarchy chooses to hunker down in denial.

Three years ago, Major McLarney jumped to the wrong conclusion, and quietly pulled his detectives off the investigation.  The sheltered honor roll student from Northern Virginia who could barely navigate in her own neighborhood, the girl found stuffed behind a dumpster in Baltimore with external wounds and a massive amount of poison in her stomach?  She killed herself, McLarney concluded, by drinking from half a bottle of Bactine.  No other possible explanation.  Not a sophisticated predator, not gangs or human traffickers, not nothing but the first ever death by Bactine.  In quantity far too small to kill.

Several weeks ago, Police Commissioner Bealefeld announced with apparent pride, “I’m the guy that sacked McLarney.”  Why then does his department cling so to McLarney’s demonstrably flawed judgment?

The time may come soon for Mayor Rawlings-Blake to announce, “I’m the one that sacked Bealefeld.”  The commissioner brags about the drop in Baltimore’s murder rate as if it is some unique local success.  Actually, the drop in homicides is a gratifying phenomenon that has swept cities across the nation.  Today, still, Baltimore remains locked in a grim struggle with New Orleans and Memphis and St. Louis for the title, “Murder Capital of the United States.”

Here’s a not-so-charming demographic about Charm City.  From 2000 to 2010, Baltimore’s population declined by more than 30,000 persons.  The #1 single reason for residents leaving Baltimore’s rolls during those ten years:  They were murdered.  One at a time.  Residents.  Tourists, too.  By the thousands.  Maybe Baltimore should be called Harm City.

In Baltimore, it’s against the law to litter, but you can dump a body anywhere you please.  A city resident wrote authorities recently to complain about that bizarre anomaly, and to ask that the investigation into Annie’s death be re-opened.  We got a copy of the answer she received from State’s Attorney Greg Bernstein.  It was shockingly mis-informed.  In opening, Mr. Bernstein somehow referred to Annie’s as a traffic death.  In closing, he casually – and completely wrongly – offered this clunker: "...as you know, the conclusion of the Medical Examiner...is that Ms. McCann's death was a suicide."

In point of fact, the conclusion of the Medical Examiner is that Annie died of lidocaine poisoning, and otherwise undetermined.  The Medical Examiner has never, ever ruled out homicide as the manner Annie’s death.

We don’t know who drafted that response for Mr. Bernstein, but we would appreciate the opportunity to meet with Mr. Bernstein to clear up the record.  We hope that he may refer the case to the head of his homicide unit, who attended our meeting last month with Colonel Green.  Or perhaps to the head of his police integrity unit.   Lord knows, the integrity of the police investigation, and the posturing, and the outright lying in this case is gross.

As far as the Medical Examiner goes, while we appreciate the integrity of the finding as to cause of death, we have been horrified to learn that they really did lose our Annie’s organs, as recorded by the embalmer.  When we first learned of this terrible possibility, we naturally pressed the matter.  We were met with vague denials and rambling assertions of the medical examiner’s right to retain organs for forensic or other purposes.  We even hoped the Medical Examiner’s Office was working, in some manner unknown to us, to refine the cause of death finding.  When we finally met with the Assistant Medical Examiner, through the assistance of the splendid Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center, it finally became clear.  The Medical Examiner had lost Annie’s organs.  They could not tell us which jar on which shelf in which office in which building held our Annie’s organs.

The State of Maryland has the right under law to retain organs, but it must be for some lawful purpose.  The State has no right to casually lose organs.  The State has no right to silently violate our right of sepulcher.  The State has no right to abort our effort at Christian burial by carelessly losing our Annie’s brain and her heart, her very essence.

We have filed a Notice of Claim against the State of Maryland.  That’s a legal action, preliminary to filing suit – something we’d really rather not do.  But except to acknowledge receipt, the State has not responded.  They haven’t offered proof that they did not lose Annie’s organs.  They haven’t even apologized.  So it looks like we’ll have to sue.  We’ll plow that jury award into an increased reward for information leading to Annie’s killer.

So…thugs stuffed Annie’s dead or dying body behind a dumpster…then the police swiftly and silently trashed the investigation into her murder…and then the Medical Examiner threw her organs out with the garbage.  That’s ugly.  That’s Baltimore Ugly.

After years of asking, we still don’t know whether or not Annie was raped.  The police refer us to the Medical Examiner, the Medical Examiner refers us to the police.  Meanwhile, the police department clings to the judgment of a man they fired for…well…poor judgment.  At the same time, the police tell reporters the investigation is closed.  The same reporters seek comment from the Medical Examiner, who declines to comment because it’s an open police investigation.

Can Baltimore’s leaders stop hiding behind each other?  Can they crawl out from under their desks?  Commissioner Bealefeld, Mayor Rawlings-Blake, State’s Attorney Bernstein:  Can you accept accountability as easily as you cash your paychecks?  Have you no shame?

Without leadership in Baltimore, can there be justice for Annie?

Can there be justice for poor Lakeisha Player, the young woman murdered by Darnell Kinlaw?  Had the State’s Attorney’s Office followed through on charges against him in Annie’s case, Lakeisha might still be alive.  Her young children could still have their dear mother!

Can there be justice for poor Phylicia Barnes, another happy-go-lucky honor roll student who found her way to death, simply by finding her way to Baltimore?

The lives of Lakeisha and Phylicia are every bit as precious as the life of Annie.  And think of the lives of Lakeisha’s young children!  How precious are they?  Without leadership in Baltimore, what kind of city will they grow up in?  Without leadership, can there be justice in Baltimore?

To just a few of the other leaders to whom we’ve reached out, we say:

  • Senator Mikulski – give Mayor Rawlings-Blake something to think about, while she hungrily eyes your Senate seat.  Ask your Chief of Staff about our quiet outreach.  Flex your muscles, Madame Chairwoman!  Ask the FBI to get involved!
  •  Congressman Cummings – can you reconsider our quiet request, in light of the senseless and unsolved murder of your nephew in Norfolk?
  • Maryland Governor and Mrs. O’Malley – bad choices, wrong companions, and bad luck for teenagers…Can you see that your dear daughter, in her graduation catastrophe, was but one bad break away from ending up just like Annie?  Was your teachable moment a private lesson only?  Can you reconsider our quiet request, and help us?
  • Virginia Governor McDonnell – ask your Chief of Staff about our quiet outreach, before you even assumed office.  And ask superstar Attorney General Cuccinelli why he meekly accepted a non-response from his Maryland counterpart, Attorney General Gansler.  And ask yourself if your former parish, St. Louis Catholic Church, can be beyond investigation.

Major McLarney’s failure, and now Lieutenant Colonel Green’s, must be laid squarely at the feet of Commissioner Bealefeld.  Green never even applied for McLarney’s job.  He was handpicked by the Commissioner.  Handpicked to head the homicide unit, with less experience in Baltimore homicide than we have.  Handpicked, so that he would do what he was told.  It’s time to hold the Commissioner accountable for his own abysmal failure in this terrible matter.

Is the criminal justice system in Baltimore dying from the neck up?  We call on Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Commissioner Bealefeld to step up.  Demonstrate real leadership.  Accept real accountability.  Commission a real and vigorous investigation into Annie’s death.  If necessary, ask another jurisdiction to do so – how about Baltimore County, or the FBI.  Or the Maryland State Police, working already on the murder of Phylicia Barnes.

We demand honesty and integrity.  All we’ve ever asked for is the truth.  No spin.  No bureaucratic posturing.  Just straight answers to straight questions, and a straightforward investigation.

And finally, we call on the long-suffering people of Baltimore to demand justice.  Justice for Annie.  Justice for Phylicia.  Justice for Lakeisha Player.  And, perhaps most important of all, justice for Lakeisha’s children.

Will there be leadership in their Baltimore?  Can Baltimore’s leaders embark today, on a path to justice tomorrow?


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