Illuminating the Dark Days
Some comments have come in from distraught readers, some of the newbies, who wonder how they’ll get through the next ten days without trial news.
The answer is simple: do what the old -timers here have been doing the last ten weeks, ten months, and even longer; break every piece of known evidence down to its subatomic particles. Sometimes, the smaller the puzzle pieces are, the easier they are to fit together.
We hope to use the dark days to refresh, recover and recalibrate. We’ll also have the chance to rectify a few inaccuracies that cropped up over the past few weeks on these pages.
One particular error that came to light last week regarded the locking mechanism on the patio gate to 1509 Swann Street. The testimony wasn’t clear for days, but we think we have it figured out in the wake of former MPD detective Bryan Waid’s time on the stand.
Based on defendant Joe Price’s statement to police, he said that the intruder would’ve climbed over the fence for entry and egress as well. For months, this has led us to believe that the dead bolt on the heavy patio gate was keyed on both sides; it was not. The inside of the lock had a thumb latch on it to release the deadbolt, the outside was keyed.
We learned this while Waid was testifying about the August 2008 bicycle theft at 1509. The perp exited the patio area, with the bike, through the heavy metal gate, not over the fence. From Sarah Morgan’s and Waid’s testimony, we learned that the gate was heavy and did not swing closed on its own; although it swung easily on its hinges, opening inwards to the patio, it had to be pulled shut.
The other ‘burglary’ from the neighborhood that was brought up last week was the one that allegedly occurred at 1417 Swann Street, two weeks after Robert’s murder in August 2006.
We went on another field trip yesterday: not an Outward Bound adventure a la Tom Connolly however, just a photo shoot.
Waid’s testimony on his redirect with AUSA T. Patrick Martin, about the attempted forced entry into 1417 Swann, was one of the more peculiar moments from last week.
To underscore the high crime rate in the neighborhood, on cross, Waid was hit on an attempted burglary, less than a block away from 1509, that was reported in the days following Robert’s murder.
It was said that a man scaled a chain link fence and tried to jimmy the backdoor lock to 1417 Swann, but the alert resident inside held onto the doorknob and thwarted the attempted breaking and entering. The suspect then fled back over the chain link fence and disappeared, never found.
But it seems that this incident didn’t quite pan out; no police report was filed and the scene was never processed or dusted for prints. Waid testified that upon further investigation, an occupant of the house doubted the veracity of his partner who reported it. Was someone hoping to ride the coattails of Robert’s murder and report an alleged copycat crime just a few doors away?
Whatever chain link fence that may have been on the rear of 1417 Swann is long gone, replaced by a wooden stockade, about six feet high. Also on the property line of 1417, was one of those mercury vapor lights, the type that line most DC alleys and streets. Anyone trying to break into that backyard under cover of night wouldn’t have had much cover, just plenty of illumination.
–posted by Craig