The Death of Annie McCann

I had debated on doing this case because I feared that my conclusions would make me seem harsh, which would not be my intentions.  In one sense it is like many of the cases that I blog about where in the end there are different conclusions as to what happened and it seems that no amount of evidence, or research will change the opinion of those on either side.  That being said, the loss of a child has to be one of the most devastating things for a parent to suffer from.  And while I do not believe there is any age in which it would be an easy thing for any parent I do believe there is a certain age in which makes things worse and Annie fell into that area.  She was sixteen years old.  At this point as a parent you are seeing your child's personality start to shine through; you are having more adult conversations with them and not shielding them from the little things you did when they were a child; they are on the cusp of truly deciding what they want to do with their lives.

It seems so often that when it is thought that someone has committed suicide that so many families look for whatever they can to not come to that conclusion.  We see it all the time in cases.  It always seems like if there is any shred of inconsistency that can be found a family will tend to grasp for it as an alternative means to the death of their friend or loved one. Now this does not mean that there have not been cases in which someone has been murdered in a way in which it was meant to appear to be a suicide and the case has made a drastic change but those cases are rare compared to the cases in which are fought, or at least verbally expressed as not being suicides.  In my opinion this most often comes from survivors guilt.  People tend to feel guilty that they did not see some signs or that the person did not come to them with their problems and they be able to help them.  I would think this is especially hard for a parent.  No matter how open we are with our children and say they know they can come to us for anything, that is often not the case, especially during the teenage years when things are not generally as rosy as some tend to think they are.

On October 31, 2008, sixteen year old Alexandria Virginia resident, Annie McCann did not return home from school.  Her father went to the home to check on her and quickly learned that not only had she not returned home, she had never made it to school that day.  Of course her parents, Daniel and Mary Jane were upset and worried.  They found a letter on her bed that not only stated that she had simply left, but also that suicide had been on her mind.  According to the note to her parents Annie told them that they had considered killing herself but had decided instead that she could simply start over.  She asked them not to look for her.  She went on to say "Just know for the first time in my life I'll be happy.  I love life, and I'm ready to live."  

Daniel and Mary Jane of course did not heed Annie's wish that they not look for her and reported her missing.  She was officially considered to be a runaway.  Over time they would discover apparently more notes that spoke of suicide found crumbled under her bed.  It has been said that many of the letters had been written over with big X's.  The indication is that of course apparently at some point she had felt this way but had felt differently later. I am a person that believes in writing therapy but I also believe that no truer feelings are relayed than those that are written at a time of emotional distress.  Sure she may have gone back later (and no one knows how much later) and crossed out the words but it just goes to show that suicide was something that she had considered on at least one, or more occasions.  

Then the case took on a strange turn. Around 3 am on November 2nd, in a public housing apartment complex in Baltimore Maryland, about an hour away from Alexandria Virginia, the body of a young woman was found by a dumpster. It was quickly determined that this was Annie McCann. The one thing that everyone agrees is that Annie did not die here.  She was placed here by some teenagers who claim they found her body in the car and in the process of stealing it had dumped her body.  They also discarded a few things from the car with her, including the bottle of Bactine that she carried with her at all times according to her parents.  This bottle would play a significant role in Annie's case.

While her family admits that Annie always carried the Bactine, that was used to help clean pierced ears, I was unable to determine if this was a simple obsession or if she had recently gotten her ears pierced.  The answer to this question could be significant.  If it was simply an obsession for her to carry it around and yet her ears were not newly pierced it could give insight into her mental stability but also other things.  Investigators would claim that the Bactine bottle was found near her body with the cap removed.  They would also claim that Annie's DNA was found on the lip of the bottle.  Others argue that her fingerprints were not found on the bottle (although I am uncertain ANY prints were found) and indicate that she did not "drink" the Bactine, which contained lidocaine, on her own.  

I will get back to the Bactine in a bit because as I said this plays a huge role in this case.  In fact, one side believes it was the reason for her death.  As far as the condition of the body the investigators claim from the beginning that there were no signs of trauma to the body. Annie's parents have disputed that but based on information it seems from a person at the funeral home that prepared Annie's body and pictures they have been given after that in their mind confirms what the funeral home stated, but the medical examiner (ME) disagrees. The two main points that the McCann's claim are trauma to the body are what they call a cigarette burn to her forehead and what they believe to be some sort of tatooing on her left ankle.  They claim that it looks like a "stylized capital letter J" and possibly a letter D next to it.  For his part the medical examiner states that the mark on the forehead was what appeared to be an old wound and the mark on her leg was really nothing more than levitity. Levitity appears when a body has laid in a particular position after death and basically the blood pools in areas.  Both sides (ie. The McCann's and the ME and investigators) maintain that their description of these marks are accurate.  The funeral home also told the McCann's that Annie's hands were wrinkled as if she had been left in water for some time.  There seemed to be no evidence of this however anywhere else.

A few days after her body was found and a few mile away the car Annie was driving was found.  Fingerprints on the steering wheel led investigators to Darnell Kinlaw and a few of his friends.  They were all apparently interviewed and their story seemed consistent.  They maintained that they found the car, with Annie's body in it and admit that they left her body by the dumpster but that she was already dead when they stole the car.  Darnell and another 16 year old boy were charged only with the theft of the car.  In 2011 Darnell was once again in jail.  This time it was for the murder of his girlfriend.  The McCann's had always believed that he was involved in the death of Annie and that the investigators did not look at him deep enough.  They would often point out that after killing his girlfriend Darnell had taken her car, just as he had done with Annie's car.  Investigators maintained that the issue between Darnell and the girlfriend was domestic and had no indication he was involved more in the death of Annie as they had determined.  I recently saw a television episode on this case and the McCann's were able to visit Darnell in jail and talk to him. They stated after doing so and he maintained his innocence when it came to Annie's death they seemed to believe him but they still argue that Annie was murdered.  

So lets go back to the Bactine.  After all was said and done toxicology reports came back indicating that Annie had a large amount of lidocaine in her system.  Police maintain that this was a lethal dose and ruled Annie's death a suicide.  Experts, as is often the case, seem to differ on whether there was enough lidocaine in the bottle of Bactine to cause death.  Bayer, the manufacturer of the product, of course maintains that there is not.  Their response does not necessarily surprise me.  The McCann's have found experts, including renown forensic pathologist Michael Baden to agree with that finding.  The investigators, as well as others have found experts to say that there was enough lidocaine to cause death. Some also point out that this may have not been the first time Annie had digested the Bactin and there may have been a build up from prior use.  On the other side of that it appears that none of the experts can really know anything for sure since all agree they had never seen a case in which lidocaine was used and caused death. Some say that had she drank the lidocaine there would have been damage to her organs and a burning of her throat which was not noted in the autopsy.  But again, no one had ever seen this sort of cause of death before.

Investigators maintain that this is the only thing that came up in the investigation and that it had to be the cause of death.  They also point out that Annie's DNA was found on the lip of the bottle indicating she took it herself.  Others maintain that her fingerprints were not on the bottle and suggest that someone may have forced her to drink it.  The problem I have with the latter is that it was early November and although it was not said no one seems to know if Annie would have been wearing gloves (to be fair I found no mention of her hands other than what the funeral home supposedly reported later to the McCann's).  Also if we're going to suggest Darnell Kinlaw or any of his friends were involved he at least was not wearing gloves since his fingerprints were found in the car.  To add to this even if we believe as the McCann's do about the few marks on her body, there still does not seem to be enough injuries to indicate she was forced to drink something against her will.  Nor was there any indication that she had been hit to cause her to lose consciousness.  But, there are even bigger problems with the thought that she was forced to drink the Bactine. 

Since none of the experts, medical examiners or even the investigators had heard of a death caused by Bactine, let alone even lidocaine it is not like a simple criminal on the street would have known this.  It is just as unlikely that it was someone involved in human trafficking, which is something that has been indicated by supports of Annie's parents, would have known this.  The point is, either she drank it on her own, or she was forced to drink it and yet she was the one who by all indications may have been obsessed with having it. It was also well known that she had suicidal thoughts.  I found no information as to whether it was determined if she had possibly done an Internet search on the ingredients but that would seem more likely than to believe that some Joe Blow on the street happened upon a girl who carried Bactine with her, knew about lidocaine and forced her to drink it.  

That being said, in my opinion she drink the Bactine on her own.  But, to play devil's advocate we have to look at whether we believe the investigators in the fact that the lidocaine was lethal to her or if her death was caused by something else.  The McCann's have argued that a rape examination was done on the body and that they have never seen the results. Barring that, there still just seems to be the difference of opinion as to what really happened to her.  The McCann's maintain that the Baltimore Police Department did not adequately do their job.  Of course the BPD disagrees and argues that they have followed every lead they have received, including one that indicates Annie was seen the day before her death in a cafe with an unknown woman.  Others have argued that this was a white, blonde, 16 year old girl, from a fairly affluent family who's body was found "in the projects" and the odds that police did not look into the case as much and as best that they could are ridiculous.  Now I am not one to throw a race card into an investigation.  In fact, if you read my blog often, I am not one who mentions race in a case unless for some reason I find it appropriate, which I did find this comment to be.  We can say what we want but the majority of the high profile cases in this country that involve missing girls are of white women, many of them blonde, and when it comes to cases of minors it is even more high profile.  That does not mean that girls of color do not go missing or have tragedies happen to them.  It just means those are the ones that go global and we hear more about.... the attractive white girl.  

Investigators and the BPD maintain that Annie's death was a suicide and claim they have ample evidence to support this claim.  The McCann's and their supporters disagree and continue to fight the evidence and the result in attempts to push the police department, or the FBI to be involved and look into the case better.  To that avail they have contacted a state senator to help them in their question.  The FBI has actually already answered this question, but just like the BPD, it is not to the McCann's satisfaction.  In October of 2013 the FBI officially agreed with the findings that the death was caused by a fatal overdose of lidocaine.  The McCann claim they have gained access to an email that was found in the Baltimore file saying that the FBI had agreed with this long before their official answer and were reluctant to get involved but finally agreed believing that the BPD had not expressed it well enough to the family.  Apparently for their part the McCann's and their supporters believe that the subsequent look by the FBI was not adequate since according to them their minds had already been made up.

I feel bad for Annie's parents, I really do, but for me the evidence is clear.  It is always sad and frustrating when a family cannot accept what is in front of them but they are hardly alone in their thoughts.  Too often in my opinion a family is unable to accept that someone they loved and cared for was so despondent over life they were willing to take their own lives.  They will never get over the loss of their child but I have to wonder how much they are losing out on enjoying other aspects of life because of their obsession now.  How can they enjoy the love and compassion of other family members (speaking of families in general, not just the McCann family) and the growth of family when they spend so much energy on an issue they cannot accept?

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