The Ten Cases That Captured Our Attention This Year

One hundred and eight murder victims. Seventy suspects. From them, these were the cases that captured our hearts and minds this year. This list of ten cases was created based on your suggestions, our observations and an analysis of which stories were most read or most commented on.

Latisha Frazier

Early at the start of 2011, MPD announced that an 18-year-old Maryland woman reported missing in August 2010, was now believed to be dead. Six young people were eventually arrested in connection with that woman’s, Latisha Frazier’s, death. Frazier’s body has not been found; some of the defendants told police that Frazier’s body was placed in a dumpster. Prosecutors have moved forward with the case despite not having the body. Defendants Cinthya Proctor and Laurence Hassan have pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the case. They are scheduled for sentencing on Jan 6, 2012. Lanee Bell, though MPD announced that she was arrested on suspicion of felony murder, has not been charged with murder. Court records indicate that she was charged with kidnapping in January and pleaded innocent. Aneka Nelson, according to public records, is in custody and awaiting an indictment from the Grand Jury. Nelson and Bell are dues in court May 18, 2012. Brian Gaither and Johnnie Sweet each have pleaded innocent to first degree and felony murder and kidnapping and a trial date has been set for Nov. 2012. Plea documents in Proctor’s and Hassan’s cases state that the group of young people was upset because they believed Frazier had stolen $900 from one of them.

Raheem Jackson

Early this year, there was hope for Raheem Jackson, and perhaps even an escape from the life and the streets that he feared. The 16-year-old was a starting guard on his school’s varsity basketball team. He was a straight-A student. And he had a $50,000 scholarship in the bank. He intended to go to Georgetown University. But in April he was gunned down. A poem that was due to be published the next day hinted at the fear Jackson faced everyday. “It’s crazy./You are paranoid, cautions on every/ turn. You hear a voice, turn around./ No one speaking a word./ walking through the dark street/ you run away with a long distance scream./ You’re running from dark faces you’ve seen,/ all the nightmares you have ever dreamed.” Jackson’s murder remains unsolved.

Ebony Franklin

Seventeen-year-old Ebony Franklin’s body was found in a Columbia Heights dumpster in Nov. 2010, but the case went unsolved until May of this year when her father, Rodney McIntyre, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in connection with her death. He pleaded guilty in July to premeditated first-degree murder while armed and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Franklin had been sexually assaulted and was stabbed to death. Judge Lynn Leibovitz spared few words when describing McIntyre’s sexual assault on and killing of his daughter. Though she said, “It is hard to put into words Mr. McIntyre’s degree of culpability,” she did try to. The words she used: “Disgusting. Cruel. Heinous. Heartless. Horrible. Unspeakable. Atrocious. Indescribable. The product of a depraved heart.

Viola Drath

One of two murders to take place in Georgetown this year (the other was Tyrone Garner), Viola Drath was found dead inside her Q Street townhouse in August. Drath , 91, was a DC socialite and former journalist. MPD detectives quickly arrested her husband, Albrecht Muth, on suspicion of second-degree murder. Muth, 47, said the marriage was a “marriage of convenience,” that he was unemployed and was paid an allowance by his wife. That allowance, that Muth told investigators, had recently been reduced. Muth has asserted his innocence and is representing himself against the charge. He has kept an active correspondence with the court.

The Kearney Cases

Jailhouse rumors and neighborhood beefs are believed to have been at the root of three homicides all connected through one man: Kwan Kearney. Kearney was convicted this year of fatally shooting Joseph Alonzo Sharps Jr on Nov. 8, 2010 and he’s currently awaiting trial in the shooting death of Jamal Demetrius Wilson on Nov. 14, 2010. Motley acknowledged that Kearney’s presence interlocks the cases and that a recovered gun believed to be used in both cases could yield DNA evidence pertinent to both cases. Kearney’s brother, Eric Kearney, was fatally shot just weeks before Kwan Kearney’s Nov. 2011 trial. The man suspected of killing Eric Kearney is alleged to have done so over a jailhouse rumor: Eric was rumored to have been spreading word that the man’s friend was cooperating with authorities in Kwan Kearney’s prosecution.

Alicia Wheeler

One Monday in September, Alicia Wheeler was at DC Superior Court filing for an order to protect her from Claude Kinney. She was given a two week order, but on Wednesday of that same week, she was dead, fatally stabbed in a Trinidad alley as she walked her children home from school. Kinney, Wheeler’s estranged husband, soon pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. “Who could protect her?” asked a Homicide Watch reader. “ I taught her two oldest girls for two years. I’ve seen them come to school late, sometimes hungry. I’ve braided their hair. I saw sadness in their mother’s eyes, pleading for help as she pushed her son in a stroller. She really tried to do whatever she could for those children, to protect them at all costs… but who could protect her?” Kinney faces a maximum of 30 years in prison. He’s due to be sentenced in January.

Deon Thornton

Less than two weeks after Derrick Thornton was fatally stabbed, his older brother, Deon Thornton, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter while armed. Judge Gerald Fisher could have sentenced him to up to 30 years in prison: Prosecutors had alleged that Deon and his brother Derrick had been drinking and arguing that February night in the Adams Morgan apartment where they both lived. Later, as Derrick spoke with two people in the apartment building’s lobby, Deon approached him with a knife, ultimately throwing the mens’ grandmother out of the way in order to better reach Derrick and stab him multiple times in the chest. But instead of the 30 years, Fisher’s sentence was 90 months. It was a sentence that Fisher said was the minimum sentence possible for the charge, but that he felt that even that minimum was too heavy a punishment. Fisher could have been swayed by the men’s cousin, who told the court, “Derrick and Deon, our brothers, are gone from our sight. One is dead. We buried his remains. One is alive. He remains in prison. A sentence given to Deon is a sentence given to us all. The crime is very serious and we accept responsibility as a family. How did we permit something like this to happen?”

Wyatt Earp Robinson

When Wyatt Earp Robinson was gunned down in broad daylight on Minnesota Ave Southeast this summer, there were likely several witnesses. But only one concerns Robinson’s surviving family: a DC police officer who is rumored to have stood by and observed the shooting and done nothing to help Robinson. “I want to know something,” Robinson’s mother, Wanda Ortiz said following a preliminary hearing on a charge of first-degree murder for the cop’s boyfriend, who is believed to have pursued Robinson and shot him. “What’s going on with her? Is she above the law?” asked Ortiz. MPD Chief Cathy Lanier in September said the cop had been removed from duties and could face criminal charges.

Lucki Pannell

“Sitting on my porch with my bestfriend chilling.” Those were Lucki Pannell’s last words to Facebook before someone walked up to her house in February, aimed a gun at her porch, and fired, killing Pannell, 18. Two others, who were also on the porch, were injured in the gunfire. No one has been charged with Pannell’s death, but detectives said one of the men injured that night, Terry Jimenez, was the intended target. Jimenez may have again been a shooting target in June at the Caribbean festival. An exchange of gunfire there killed Robert Foster Jr, 43.

Demetrius Thompson

For passengers on the W4 bus to Deanwood in the early morning hours just after midnight on Oct. 20, this video shared by MPD is probably all too real. The video shows two men boarding the bus and pointing to the back where we now know Demetrius Thompson was sitting. Thompson ducked, but the men walked to the back of the bus, shot, and killed him. The men were identified by police as Vincent Gray and Delron Atchison and were arrested less than a week later in Florida. According to charging documents, a witness told police that when asked if he had killed Thompson, Gray said, “No I didn’t, it was Dale, I was fighting this guy and he tried to stab me and Dale and him got into it and when we got on the bus Dale just snapped.” Atchison and Gray have are being held while the Grand Jury investigates the government’s claims.

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