Not A Simple Suicide
Handout (March 2, 2009)
Numerous seasoned investigators, including the lead Baltimore homicide detective in this case, all agree: Without help, Annie could not have gotten from suburban Northern Virginia to where she ended up in Baltimore. Who helped her? What was that person's purpose in helping Annie run away? How did that enterprise end in Annie's death? Or was that the other person's plan all along? The circumstances of this runaway do not seem consistent with simple suicide.
There is no known or suspected case – ever – of someone killing himself or herself with Bactine. Toxicology findings do not seem consistent with simple suicide.
We find it very difficult to believe that Annie drank Bactine to kill herself in the back seat of our car, or from the back of a dumpster. The reports of where and how Annie was found dead are not consistent with simple suicide.
In death, Annie had clear signs of violence on both sides of her face and forehead. This does not seem consistent with simple suicide.
The two witnesses who recalled in January seeing Annie around Halloween recall her so well, not because she was so depressed or so angry, but because "she was so pretty," as one witness put it, and because "she was so nice," as the other witness put it. These characterizations do not seem consistent with simple suicide hours later.
Annie took over $1,000 cash with her when she apparently ran away. (This was money she had hoarded all her life, from birthdays, Christmases, First Communion, and the like.) This does not seem consistent with simple suicide.
Annie took a large box of Cheerios with her when she apparently ran away. This does not seem consistent with simple suicide.
Annie took her jewelry with her when she apparently ran away. This does not seem consistent with simple suicide.
Through all of October, Annie's schoolwork was at the same high level it had always been. Her notes are detailed and meticulous. Essays are strong and clear, passionate, thoughtful, and often funny. None of this seems consistent with simple suicide.
On Thursday, October 30 – the day before she apparently ran away – Annie stayed after school to earn incremental extra credit in her Advanced Placement Psychology class. (For a half-point each, she corrected wrong answers from an earlier test.) This does not seem consistent with simple suicide.
The lead homicide detective has characterized this case several times as "the most baffling" he has ever encountered. This does not seem consistent with simple suicide.
On November 2, police reported to us that Annie had been found with what they said they thought was a "to-do" list written on her hand. They believed the list had four items, with only the first two legible. The second of those two legible hand-notes said simply, "Pray." A hand-noted to-do list does not seem consistent with simple suicide.
There is unanimity, we confidently believe, among all of Annie's family, friends, classmates, teachers, and doctors that Annie was happy and cheerful. Most are aware of her unusually strong pro-life views. None of this seems consistent with simple suicide.
Annie's Notes. We will refer to three sets of notes that Annie apparently wrote. We believe that all should be profiled forensically, for handwriting and for content. First, there is her runaway note, found by Fairfax County police the night of October 31. Second is a seeming "post-suicide" note that we found the night of November 2; it had apparently been written by Annie and then discarded. Third is a set of notes found by Baltimore police near our car on or about November 2; the notes were found wadded up, wet, illegible, and seemingly discarded. On January 13, during an evidence review with private investigators from Beau Dietl and Associates, Baltimore homicide detectives found this third set of notes dried out and then largely legible.
- The runaway note begins, "This morning, I was going to kill myself but I realized I can start over. I don't want help and I'm no longer scared." The note ends, "I love you and I will be careful." This is the only note under consideration that was actually left, not discarded. In a suicide context, it might more accurately be termed a "non-suicide" note. That is how the Fairfax County Police Department took it, as they declined to declare Annie an endangered runaway. This note does not seem consistent with simple suicide.
- There is no salutation in the runaway note, no "Dear Mom," "Dear Dad," "Dear Mom and Dad." This does not seem consistent with simple suicide, or with simple runaway.
- The second note, found by us late on November 2, is addressed to a friend of Annie's. Again, it had apparently been discarded. It asks this friend not to blame what Annie has done – referring apparently to suicide – on what we can only term a mild prank the two had planned. It seems unlikely that Annie, as thoughtful as she was, would have seriously worried that the friend would have attributed suicide to a mild prank. This note does not seem consistent with simple suicide.
- This same second note, drafted and discarded, also says that life is too short, live it to the fullest. This seems extraordinarily unusual in a suicide note; certainly, most must more typically say that life is too hard, or too long, or too unfair. Again, this note does not seem consistent with simple suicide.
- The wet and wadded and apparently discarded draft notes found at the scene largely echo the tone of the second note. They are rambling drafts of apparent "post-suicide" notes, written to a wide range of people, including bare acquaintances. None is addressed directly to us. Not one even refers to our son, Sam, Annie's best friend. None refers to our beagle, Breezy, beloved by Annie. None of this seems consistent with simple suicide.
- We believe that the wet and wadded notes found at the scene on November 2, but not read until mid-January, have been assigned inordinate evidentiary weight by the police. Ten days and longer after we provided the November 2 "post-suicide" note to police, they continued to characterize Annie's investigation as a red ball case. That note was by no means considered determinative, or even especially significant. Somehow, though, the old and redundant and similarly discarded "post-suicide notes, newly analyzed in January, came to have powerful influence. Perhaps that was because the investigation had by then been stalled for many weeks. Again, these notes do not seem consistent with simple suicide.
We have not ruled out suicide. Strangely, though – with many unanswered questions, with much basic police work yet to do, and with keenly relevant forensic results still pending and long overdue – the authorities have ruled out homicide and manslaughter.
This is not a case of simple suicide.