Friday, March 11, 2016

Annie McCann: Baltimore's Not-So-Secret Shame

Baltimore, October 31st, 2008

16-year-old Annie McCann disappears from her home in Northern Virginia and is found dead and stuffed in a dumpster in the notorious Perkins Homes public housing complex in Baltimore.  When her parents, Maryjane and Daniel McCann received the tragic news two days later, they were devastated, but little did they know that seven years later, they would still be waiting for answers, waiting for justice.  Seven years of bungling Baltimore detectives, an incompetent coroner, Judicial misconduct and empty promises from city officials, and Annie's death remains unsolved.

You can trace the downward spiral of the shoddy police investigation, and the events that followed, in the lines of the Baltimore Sun articles covering the case.  From the discovery of Annie's body in 2008, through to 2012 when Annie's parents came forward with the shocking allegation that the State Medical Examiner had, against the family's wishes, thrown Annie's organs away after the autopsy.

When Annie first disappeared, in October of 2008, she left a note saying that she'd thought about suicide but decided against it, and that she just wanted her parents to "let me be free" and to "live, love, learn and grow."  Annie's parents did all the right things, they immediately contacted police and asked that they issue an Amber Alert.

Here in New Zealand, we don't have an equivalent to the Amber Alert,  so for those who don't know, an Amber Alert is issued when someone under the age of 18 disappears, and the disappearance meets certain criteria - If a minor has been abducted, and/or a minor is at serious risk of injury or death.  The alert goes out to all law enforcement agencies, all media outlets and is broadcast on all emergency channels.

But the Fairfax County police, the local law enforcement agency in the area of Virginia where the McCann's live, refused to issue an alert in Annie's case because they believed she was not in serious risk of death or injury, and she hadn't been abducted, she ran away.  They also determined her note to be what's called a non-suicide note, which doesn't mean that the person won't take their own life, but that officials consider it unlikely. 

Less than 42 hours later, Annie's body was found in a dumpster in one of Baltimore's most notorious housing projects, a complex well-known for gang activity, drug use, crime and all the other societal problems we'd expect to find in a high poverty area.  Her grieving parents were bewildered, as far as they were aware, Annie didn't know anybody in Baltimore.  What had possessed her to make the one and half hour drive from Alexandria, Virginia, to Baltimore? Especially as she had only gotten her license very recently, wasn't overly confident behind the wheel, and was a terrible navigator.

Not long after Annie's body was discovered, two teens were found in possession of her car, which they'd apparently appropriated after finding Annie dead, or dying, inside and dumping her body.  To this day, Annie's parents believe that if the teens had just called 911, their daughter might still be alive.  Which brings us to Annie's cause of death.

The State Medical Examiner who handled the autopsy (and illegally disposed of Annie's organs) found that Annie had died from lidocaine poisoning, lidocaine being an anaesthetic used to numb specific areas, either by injection into specific tissue or joints, or by absorbtion through the skin.  It's the main ingredient in numbing creams like Bactine, which is a localised pain reliever, often used in piercing.  That's what Annie had been using it for, and a container of Bactine was found near the dumpster where Annie's body was left.

The police immediately concluded that Annie had taken her own life, and stopped bothering to put any work into the case.  But, they neglected to tell Annie's parents of their conclusions until many months later, a week after giving a press conference, with the parents in attendance, saying they were giving the investigation into Annie's death "everything we've got."

The Baltimore PD never gave it everything, they never gave it much of anything.  The teens found in possession of Annie's car were sentenced to counselling and mandatory school attendance.  A third teen, legally an adult at the time, who was also involved in dumping Annie's body and taking her car, went on to murder another girl and steal her car.  He was convicted for that crime, but Baltimore PD refused to question him about Annie's death in case it jeapordised their murder case.

The McCann's, who quickly gave up on any hope of justice from the Baltimore justice system, hired their own investigators and launched their own independent investigation into Annie's death.  They talked to witnesses, followed up leads and provided police with numerous persons of interest, including a sketch of a woman seen with Annie just hours before her death.  The police ignored those leads and have consistently refused to put any effort whatsoever into re-examining Annie's death.

Annie's parents have detailed their story in an extensive blog, which you can read for yourselves, but be warned.  By the time you've finished reading, you may want to punch the next cop you see.  Please don't do that, by the way, punching cops is not the way to send a message about corruption in law enforcement.  That's what we have governments and independent inquiries for.  Lets keep it legal folks.

Maryjane and Daniel McCann's Blog

Archive of Baltimore Sun Articles on Annie's Death

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