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For Homicide Investigators, The Streets Yield Few Allies

As Patterson labored on his fresh case and delved into older ones, he helped Carlson investigate the killing of 15-year-old Myesha Lowe, a high-profile slaying that resulted in an arrest. He received tips on old homicides and spent hours and days chasing them down, often without results.

Patterson, one of 40 detectives tackling recent killings in the D.C. police violent crimes branch, has many demands on his time: Homicide investigators help one another as the need arises, debriefing witnesses, serving warrants, swarming murder scenes. He frequently pitches in to aid the six other detectives on his squad. With his squad going through a busy stretch, Baskin's homicide case went from front burner to back burner.

D.C. homicide detective Tony Patterson, left, investigates the scene at Rhode Island Avenue and Fourth Street NE, where Larry Baskin was killed in a downpour on the Fourth of July. (Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post)

Patterson continued to pursue leads that evaporated with further investigation. He finally found the girlfriend this month. She, too, suggested that Baskin was killed in retaliation for an act of violence but offered little else of substance.

He kept Baskin's family posted on his lack of progress. Baskin's sister said she thought the detective was doing what he could.

"I don't think he's getting any cooperation from witnesses," Janifer said. "I mean, this happened in broad daylight at noon on July the 4th. I guess people are just afraid to come forward."

On one of his most recent trips back to the crime scene, Patterson once again came upon the man who remained his star witness, the one person he felt might ultimately be able to identify the killer. The man was wearing a fraying baseball cap and a stained T-shirt.

Patterson pulled up and asked the man how he was doing.

"Not so good, Tony," the witness said, his voice gruff and scratchy.

"What's wrong?"

"It's my eyesight," the man said. "My eyes are infected. I can't see."

Patterson gripped the steering wheel tightly. He could not believe what his only eyewitness was saying: that he was going blind.

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