Many cases captured our hearts and minds this year. For many, the stories were personal. Others we cared about because they affected our neighbors, our friends. Still others we paid attention to simply because this is our community. These are our streets. Our buses. Our shops.
This year’s list of ten cases captures that. It was created based on your suggestions, our observations, and an analysis of which stories were most read or most commented on.
Was there a case that you would have included and we didn’t? We invite you to leave the case, and why you include it, in the comments below. Thank you.
Denver nurse Gary Dederichs was one of five people attacked in the Petworth area in April, all of them struck by a claw-tooth hammer. Four victims survived, but Dederichs was killed. Michael Davis, brother of football stars Vernon and Vontae Davis, was arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with the attacks. Davis has been found mentally incompetent to participate in his defense, however, and the case has stalled. A further mental health hearing has been scheduled for April 22, 2013, just two days before the one-year anniversary of Dederich’s death.
She was found nameless and alone on a doorstep on Channing Street Northeast, a tiny unconscious baby wrapped only in a pink stripped towel on a freezing night in mid-January. Nearly a year later, the child has still not been identified but her death has been ruled a homicide. No arrests have been made in connection with her death.
Over eight days in spring 2010, 14 young people were shot in a series of shootings stemming from an argument over a bracelet. Five young people were killed: Jordan Howe, 20; Brishell Jones, 16; DaVaughn Boyd, 18; William Jones III, 19; Tavon Nelson, 17. In March Orlando Carter, 22; Sanquan Carter, 21; Jeffrey D. Best, 23; Robert Bost, 23; and Lamar Williams, 23, were found guilty of taking part in those attacks. Testifying against them was Nathaniel Simms, who pleaded guilty to five counts of murder and two counts of conspiracy, becoming a key witness for the prosecution. Orlando Carter, Bost and Best were sentenced to life in prison. Sanquan Carter was sentenced to 54 years. Williams was sentenced to 30 years. And Simms, who testified against his former co-defendants, was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Selina Brown was holding her daughter and boarding a bus on Minnesota Avenue Southeast when the shots rang out. Brown, 20, her young daughter, and the bus driver were stuck. Brown died; her daughter and the bus driver survived. MPD soon determined that the shooter was Brown’s boyfriend and the father of her child, identified as 27-year-old Javon Foster. Foster was found dead in New York the next day; MPD said he appeared to have shot himself. Brown’s death was one of six domestic violence related homicides this year.
The early morning shooting death of June Grace Lim shocked the H Street Northeast community where Lim had kept a convenience shop for years. From the beginning police believed that Lim, 65, was killed in a robbery attempt. In November, five months after the attack, MPD arrested Steven Williams, court documents state that Williams was named as a suspect when DNA evidence in the shop matched Williams. Judge Robert Morin found probable cause in the case against Williams in late December.
The recorded sound of gunshots rang out in a DC Superior Court courtroom in March during the trial of Rickey Pharr. The shots were said to be the ones that killed Angelo Jones; at the sound of them nearly every member of the jury appeared to flinch. But it was what came before the gunshots that was most heartbreaking: a five-minute long call to 911 by a bystander begging for help. Help that was never sent. The 911 call taker was unable to locate the address the witness gave her in her computer system. DC Councilman Phil Mendelson, chair of the Committee on the Judiciary, pressed Office of Unified Communications Director Jennifer Greene for answers about the call. In a letter sent to Greene he asked for specifics about the call taker’s retraining and any disciplinary action that was taken. “How can you ensure to the Committee and the residents of the District that this type of call-handling will not reoccur?” Mendelson wrote. “When a person calls 911 to report an emergency, an efficient response is crucial. I request a full explanation of how the OUC will ensure it can locate callers.” Rickey Pharr was found guilty in the case and sentenced to 40 years in prison. Curtis Patterson, who pled guilty in the case, was sentenced to 11 1/2 years.
Mesfin Nega and Shimelis Yegazu were found unconscious inside a Columbia Heights apartment Aug. 14. Nega died that day and Yegaza five days later; both men had ingested a toxic combination of a drug used to treat seizures and another sedative police said. The deaths were ruled a murder-suicide. But friends said that wasn’t the whole story. “It was a mercy killing to take him out of his misery,” said Caleb Gobezie. “I know them both. They are family friends and we were all sad about it but that was what mesfin wanted. He was so miserable cuz he couldn’t walk move his hands or anything but that was his best friend.” According to the Washington Post, Nega’s neck was broken in an altercation outside an Adams Morgan nightclub in 2006. A year before the men had promised each other that if either suffered an injury or illness that they would not allow any extraordinary life-saving measures to be used.
Raymond Roseboro was 20 years old when he was arrested in 2010 on suspicion of second-degree murder while armed in connection with the death of teen Prince Okorie. Roseboro stood trial twice this year, the juries charged with determining his guilt each time failing to come to consensus. Roseboro, now 22, is expecting a third trial in late January.
Leroy Studevant’s body was found in Marvin Gaye Park at about 8 a.m. on Dec. 31, 2011. His pants, shoes, and socks were wet. A t-shirt, two black jackets, and a broken knife blade lay under him. A belt was around his neck. The next day, Jan. 1, 2012, Studevant’s death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner. It was the first homicide of 2012. Studevant’s case went unsolved until May when Alex Cater was arrested in connection with the case. Police said Cater was arrested after Studevant’s blood was found on his jacket. Cater has not been indicted on the charge and his attorney says there is an explanation for the blood “that has nothing to do with homicide.” At a preliminary hearing defense attorney Thomas Dybdahl said his investigation had revealed that Studevant, Cater, and the others had been drinking heavily while playing cards and that, after leaving the card game, Studevant had stumbled and fallen, striking his face and injuring himself. Cater helped Studevant up, Dybdahl said, and blood from Studevant’s injuries in the fall rubbed onto Cater’s jacket.
After a mental health hearing longer than some trials, Albrecht Muth was ruled comptent to both stand trial and to represent himself against the charge that he killed his wife, Viola Drath. Judge Russel Canan described Muth as “eccentric, unique, manipulative, (and) arrogant,” in issuing his competency decision. Muth has asserted that he is an Iraqi brigadier general and has argued that his wife’s murder was an Iranian assassination attempt on him gone awry. During the hearing, defense attorneys argued that these assertions were signs that Muth suffered from a delusional disorder. Said Canan, “He certainly has a unique personality, but that doesn’t make him incompetent to stand trial.” Muth is expected to stand trial in March. Among those he’s said he would subpoena: former General David Petraeus.