The Pelecanos Brief

Truth is Stranger than Fiction

On Monday we looked at what effect a newsroom retirement could have on the media coverage of the Wone case.  WUSA-TV’s Gary Reals was certainly working his sources hard early in the investigation.

What other retirements may have impacted this case?

Pelecanos1A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to chat with noted author and “the poet laureate of the D.C. crime world,” George Pelecanos.

He was speaking at an author’s function at Busboy and Poets, a neat little place around the corner from Swann Street.

Pelecanos is known for more than a dozen richly textured crime novels, all of them focused on DC’s mean streets.

His 2006 book, The Night Gardener looked at a serial killer whose victims were found with semen in their rectums.  Go figure.

Known for having excellent contacts and friends among the MPD, Pelecanos often rides around town in patrol cars with his officer pals.

George was good enough to entertain a question about Robert’s murder.  He knew about it and then went on to provide some context about crime in DC and the skills of the MPD.

Pelecanos knew of the investigative issues in the Wone case and said that in cases like this, solving a murder without a confession could be near impossible. “These things happen,” he said with a hint of despair.

He said one of the problems in the Wone investigation may have to do with the retirement of “a lot of seasoned murder investigators” over the past four years.  This can take a toll on any police department’s ability to track and crack cases.

It seems this exodus coincided with the Robert’s murder.  Bad timing on his part I guess.  Perhaps this is a question best posed to Chief Lanier the next time she surfaces on WTOP or News8: “How is the MPD compensating for such a loss of institutional experience and investigative ability?”

Pelecanos related a story about riding shotgun with the MPD in March 2005 when Wanda Alston, former Mayor Tony William’s liaison to the gay community, was viciously stabbed in her home by a neighbor, someone she knew.  From the Post:

On Wednesday afternoon, Alston apparently was still fighting when she was attacked with a knife in her home.  Her partner, Stacey Long, 37, found her hours later in a pool of blood in the living room, defensive wounds on her arms, police said.

…District police arrested William Parrot Jr., 38, who lived two doors away from her duplex on East Capitol Street NE.  He was charged with first-degree murder and was expected to appear in court today.  Police said Parrot knew Alston, but they would not discuss a motive.  Police said there was no sign of forced entry into her house.

He was with the detectives the night of the arrest and interrogation of Parrot and he, “…saw the guy confess in the box.”   Nice work boys.

(The “box” was probably the Violent Crimes Branch in Anacostia that hosted the Swann Street defendants during the early hours of August 3, 2006.)

Parrot, strung out on drugs at the time of the killing ultimately copped a plea to Murder 2 and was sentenced that July to 24 years in prison, the maximum term under sentencing guidelines.  Over and done with in four months, not four years.

The MPD motto:  We always sometimes get our man.


16 comments for “The Pelecanos Brief

  1. Clio
    10/07/2009 at 1:43 PM

    Have any of the detectives or officers on the case that fateful evening retired from the force? Or, were these detectives and officers on August 3, 2006 the replacements for the retiring, seasoned sleuths to which Pelecanos refers? My understanding was that Detective Folts at least was both experienced and savvy.

  2. Craig
    10/07/2009 at 5:38 PM

    Clio – Both Waid and Folts are still on the force. I think they both had a couple years under their belts before the Wone murder.

    I want to reread the Duggan piece to see who might have been doing the interrogation that night – in particular the gay baiting cop.

    • Clio
      10/07/2009 at 8:44 PM

      Thanks, Craig.

      Has anyone read The Night Gardener? If so, is it worth reading?

      The resolution of the Alston case does show the temporal value of confession. Unfortunately, the defendants in this case apparently have no souls to save in order for a confession to repair any eternal karma. Thus, I’m increasingly afraid, they’re going to hold out until the absolute bitter end, as if Robert’s death wasn’t dreadful enough!

      • Clio
        10/10/2009 at 3:52 PM

        In reference to the defendants’ souls or the lack thereof, Culuket defined his religion as “alternative.” What does that mean?

        Does “alternative” imply an actual faith such as Santeria or Zoroasterianism, or does it connote just a passing fancy for the deities of classical antiquity?

        • Bea
          10/10/2009 at 8:58 PM

          Joe worships Joe.

          • Clio
            10/10/2009 at 9:48 PM

            So true, Bea. LOL! Culuket’s singular faith in himself, though, has been shaken, no doubt by being indicted, then canned, and then contained at Aunt Marcia’s — without a specialized cage.

            The added pounds have not helped, and next year probably will be much worse for him.

            Like most perps, Culuket will need to “come to Jesus” (or Baal or Xango or Brahma) before long. Pity (them)!

        • John Grisham
          10/10/2009 at 10:19 PM

          As “hedonism” wasn’t on the list, “alternative” may have been his best alternative self catagorization.

    • NYer
      10/08/2009 at 11:13 AM

      Duggan’s great piece goes the extra step and relays the info that Wagner is indeed a seasoned cop:
      “In an interrogation room, for example, Detective Daniel Wagner, then a 23-year veteran of the force, goaded Price, saying it was obvious to him that the men had planned to make Wone a part of their family that night. “

      • Clio
        10/08/2009 at 12:16 PM

        Yes, Wagner was the one who used the unfortunate conversion experience analogy –“coming to Jesus” — to describe the trouple’s objective that night. Yet, however ham-handed that Wagner’s language may have been, does that usage or his view about the “men” rise to the level of goading or even gay-baiting?

        • CDinDC
          10/08/2009 at 12:32 PM

          Gay-baiting. I would think it would depend on Wagner’s “world view.” LOL If he’s narrow minded and thinks only gay people have alternative “family” arrangements, perhaps. But if he’s open-minded enough to realize there are probably more straight people in the world that swing or have alternative living arrangements, then maybe not.

      • Craig
        10/08/2009 at 1:34 PM

        Thanks guys. It’s nice to have extra eyeballs on this. According to a fast google search, Wagner has won his fair share of awards and commendations.

        He also surfaces in a 1996 Court of Appeals case. Mentioned are hardball tactics with a perp and plea bargain efforts. Some familiar names are in here: Ruth Ginsburg, Eric Holder and Judge David Sentelle, a cool guy we met here.

        • Clio
          10/08/2009 at 6:57 PM

          His colleague William Xanten III is also accomplished. The following excerpt is his bio blurb from a college workshop website:

          “William Xanten, III
          Bill Xanten, a homicide detective with the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C., brings nearly two decades of law enforcement experience to the classroom – ranging from lead investigator on dozens of Homicide and Critical Assault cases to providing key testimony at more than 500 local, state and federal court proceedings including criminal trials and grand juries.

          Detective Xanten is a frequent guest speaker at colleges and universities and helped train prosecutors and police officers in Belize as part of a U.S. Department of Justice program in Central America. As a gang intelligence investigator, he has delivered strong anti-drug/anti-gun messages to students in District of Columbia Public Schools. And as a former patrol officer, he brings street-sense to his teaching mission.

          Agencies from the Metropolitan Police Department to the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia have honored Detective Xanten with numerous law enforcement awards for his expertise in solving cases and advancing the law enforcement profession.”

          Xanten was periodically quoted in the press on the Wone case in August 2006.

          • Craig
            10/08/2009 at 8:05 PM

            Spot on Clio, good recall. You’re hired.

            Detective Xanten is credited with writing the search affidavit that first mentioned that the crime scene was tampered with.

            He first surfaced in Emma Schwartz’s Legal Times August 14, 2006 piece.

            • Clio
              10/08/2009 at 10:20 PM

              Thanks, Craig. Xanten was commended, along with Waid, Wagner, and a bevy of other co-workers, for winning a conviction in the 2007 murder of an off-duty fireman. This commendation is in a July 17, 2009 press release from the office of Channing D. Phillips, the Acting District Attorney for the District of Columbia. The sentencing judge in this case was, of course, Judge Frederick J. Weisberg.

              Is this case a dress rehearsal for May 2010? No, but it does have some of the same key players.

  3. Clio
    10/08/2009 at 6:06 PM

    So, if award-winning, experienced investigators were in play, then who exactly forgot to turn on the recorder? Was that a mistake, and how often does that error happen?

  4. 02/27/2012 at 8:46 AM

    Italian Proverb: “Let every fox take care of his own tail.”

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