By Cheryl W. Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 3, 2000
The public seldom gets the opportunity to look at any of the case files of the 1,500 unsolved slayings that occurred in the District of Columbia over the last 10 years. Because they are open cases, police do not make the files public and generally do not answer questions about them.
The Washington Post gained rare access this summer to 20 cases that were open in three police districts. Several of the cases illustrate the problems with fundamental police work that Chief Charles H. Ramsey refers to as "basic blocking and tackling." Three stand out.HOMICIDE NO. 96-693: `My Boyfriend is Beating Me Up'
At 1:51 a.m. on June 20, 1996, the 911 call crackled over the D.C. police communications airwaves:
"Can I have the police at 3707 New Hampshire Avenue, please?" a frantic Jacqueline Glover asked. "My boyfriend is beating me up.... And he hit me with the hammer.... And this is not the first time."
Twenty-nine minutes passed before D.C. officers arrived, according to internal police records obtained by The Post. Fourth District officer Evans Carter knocked on the front door of Glover's apartment in Northwest. No one answered. He asked a dispatcher to call Glover's home.
"As I stood by the front door I could hear the phone inside the residence continue to ring," Carter said in a sworn affidavit this year. "The dispatcher advised me that no one was answering. I once again knocked on the door and checked around the back for any point of entry. After several minutes of this I cleared the run and advised the dispatcher that the female was unable to be located and contacted."
Two days later, Glover's decomposing, 6-foot corpse was found sprawled in a pool of blood in the bathroom. She was 30, a bubbly woman who enjoyed dancing in nightclubs and shopping at outlet malls. Her black-and-gray painted fingernails were broken, one of many signs of a struggle. The telephone receiver rested on her lower left leg. She had been beaten and shot in the arm and chest.
The only suspect was her boyfriend of four months, Patrick Hewitt. He was possessive and hotheaded, Glover's friends say, and she had said he beat her. A friend said he saw Hewitt point a gun at Glover and tell her: "I will shoot you. I will kill you."
Still, it took police three months to get an arrest warrant for him.
"You've got to gather enough facts to get an arrest warrant," said Detective Brett Smith, who is investigating the case.
Smith said he was the lead detective on the case for the first 10 to 12 hours and then was removed for "internal political reasons." After several months, the case was reassigned to him. Asked if he knew whether police were searching for Hewitt immediately after the slaying, Smith said, "I don't know."
Within a month, Hewitt fled to London, where he met Lorraine Stamp, a big-boned Jamaican woman in her thirties, at a reggae party. They lived together for four years in Stamp's cramped four-room, government-funded apartment in South London with her son, Tevin, now 4.
"He looked after my son and kept the flat for 16 months while I was away," Stamp said, referring to a prison stint she served for drug charges. "My son calls him Daddy."
Last spring, Stamp gave Hewitt money for a ticket to return to the United States. "He always talked about wanting to go back to America," Stamp said. "He liked America more than England."
On March 4, Hewitt landed in New York. U.S. immigration officials were suspicious of the unusual thickness and poor lamination of the photo on his passport, which was in the name of Glen Martin Goodwin. They deported him to England for having a "forged or altered" passport.
Smith said Hewitt was fingerprinted but immigration sent him back to London before the results arrived from the FBI. "They had no idea he was wanted for murder," Smith said.
When the FBI results got to England the next day, Hewitt was already being detained in the passport matter. He was arrested on a charge of murder after admitting to using the alias Patrick Hewitt.
Last month, he was extradited to the United States, where he is now in the D.C. Jail, awaiting trial. Hewitt declined to be interviewed.HOMICIDE NO. 99-903: `She Was Too Good for Her Own Good'
Clara Carter, a frail, 84-year-old woman, was a retired domestic who had once worked for President Theodore Roosevelt's granddaughter and great-granddaughter. She loved to bake chocolate chip cookies and summer at her cottage at Chatham, Mass., near Cape Cod. She lived alone in a neatly kept row house in the 1200 block of Shepherd Street NW.
Neighbors knew that "Miss Clara" kept her door keys under a flowerpot on the front porch and several hundred dollars tucked between table linens in the dining room china cabinet. They also knew that Carter's health was failing and she was growing very dependent. She sometimes gave her car keys to strangers so they could move the vehicle across the street.
"People knew how she was and would take advantage of her," said Frances Abrams, Carter's closest friend for more than 35 years. "She was too good for her own good."
Shortly after midnight on Sept. 18, 1999, Viola Koranteng, Carter's next-door neighbor, heard a loud noise come from the back of her house on Shepherd Street. Koranteng went outside and found clothes smoldering on a high-intensity security light. She called police to report a possible burglary.
When officers arrived, one went inside Koranteng's house and the other stayed in the police cruiser waiting for the mobile crime unit, records show. Meanwhile, Koranteng saw a man run out the back door of Carter's house. Koranteng yelled for the officers.
She gave them a description of the man. A police bulletin was issued. The officers drove around the neighborhood and stopped two suspects, including one who was out of breath. Koranteng couldn't positively identify the men, so police let them go, police records state.
The officers didn't check inside Carter's house, according to a statement given by one of the officers.
Concerned about Carter's safety and seeing her back door ajar, Koranteng again called 911. When a new group of officers responded, they found Carter's body in the upstairs bedroom facedown on the bed with a white sheet tied around her neck and a plastic bag over her head. She was wearing a pink nightgown and one red footie.
The room had been ransacked. A broken vase was on the bed, its bloodied pieces scattered on the floor, police records state. A telephone receiver was off the hook. A lamp was knocked onto the couch. There were no signs of forced entry.
Forty-eight fingerprints were lifted from the scene, records show. A possible suspect, a man who had been committing burglaries in the area, was identified but never arrested. Eric Gainey, the original detective on the case, said no match could be found for the prints. Hair fiber was found at the scene and sent to the FBI laboratory. Gainey said the test results were still pending last summer, when he was transferred to another police district.
"I did a lot of work on that case," Gainey said. "I talked to everybody who knew her."
He criticized the officers who responded the night of the slaying for not making a more thorough search.
"They didn't do a canvass; they didn't walk around back. They didn't do a whole lot of things they should have," Gainey said. "They should have checked the whole block to see if there were any other burglaries. They probably could have caught the guy inside."
After Gainey's transfer, the case sat for months before a new detective was assigned to it, police sources said.
Six months ago, a detective showed up at Frances Abrams' door to ask what she knew about a different murder several blocks away.
"I asked him what he was going to do about Clara's death," Abrams recalled. "He told me, `Lady, I've only been up there [at the 4th District] four months.' They figure she's old and she's lived her life."
Julian Slaughter, Carter's second cousin, who identified Carter's body from a photo, said police did not keep family members informed of the progress of the case.
"The detectives never came to my house and never called," said Slaughter, a budget analyst with the AARP.
"I called them four or five times, and they didn't take an interest. I finally gave up."
In October, 13 months after Carter's death, Slaughter got a call from a detective saying the case had been reassigned and was being investigated.HOMICIDE NO. 99-379: `It Seems Like They Didn't Pay Much Attention'
Jesus Capayachi loved the convenience of living in the District. The retired George Washington University chef enjoyed shopping at a Southeast market where things were "bulky and cheap." Capayachi, a Peruvian native, also liked to rebuild car engines and watch Bruce Lee movies in his small Columbia Heights apartment.
The 63-year-old diabetic father of four knew the neighborhood wasn't the safest. Prostitutes and robberies were common. But the $400 or so monthly rent was affordable. And Ana Vela, his former wife and dearest friend, lived directly below him.
Capayachi and Vela, 76, were introduced by his aunt more than 30 years ago. They married three years later so that he could get his green card. They soon divorced but remained friends. Capayachi tucked Vela into bed every night and always stopped by after his morning jog to cook her breakfast. He enjoyed showing off his culinary skills: egg-and-cheese casserole or seviche, a raw fish cocktail marinated in lemon juice.
One chilly morning in March 1999, Capayachi didn't show up. Vela worried. The phone rang. It was Capayachi. He said he had been assaulted about 10:30 the night before in the foyer of their building as he was leaving to make sure his car was locked. He was now at Washington Hospital Center.
His attackers kicked him in the head and hit him repeatedly with an unknown object, fracturing the bones in his face, police records show.
They robbed him of more than $100, his watch, a gold bracelet with a raised eagle bearing his initials and several gold necklaces, including one with a Virgin Mary medallion.
Four days later, Capayachi had a heart attack and died. He lived long enough to describe one of his attackers to detectives. But two weeks passed before detectives canvassed the neighborhood. Experts say it is vital for police to make every effort to find witnesses within days of a murder. The chances of solving the crime drop precipitously after that point.
Capayachi's son, Marco, said he was told the delay occurred because police couldn't find a Spanish-speaking detective.
"I asked them if they did a canvass, and they told me they were waiting for a bilingual officer," said Marco Capayachi, a 36-year-old computer engineer who lives in Northern Virginia. "It shouldn't have been two weeks. It should have been that day."
Jose Solloso, the bilingual detective who drew the case after the original detective, acknowledged that the canvass was not done immediately but said he did not think it took two weeks. Reports show it occurred on April 15, 1999 -- 16 days after Capayachi was assaulted.
Solloso said the case has stalled because there are no leads.
"The family seems to think things could have been handled differently, but we had nothing to work with," Solloso said. "You got no witness, no physical evidence that can be traced to anyone."
But there was Capayachi's distinctive jewelry, which Solloso felt might be traced. So he went to Famous Pawnbrokers on Georgia Avenue near the crime and asked to see their ledgers for pawned items, police records show. The pawnshop manager told Solloso they did not have a ledger but said they reported all pawn transactions on forms to the D.C. police. Solloso was told he needed authorization from the head of the police pawn unit to see the forms, police reports show.
The head of the pawn unit, Detective Sandra Urps, told Solloso she would help him after she got back from a trip to North Carolina, records show. The case file examined by The Post contained no further reports about the pawnshop line of investigation.
Solloso told The Post that when he called Urps she simply told him that the pawnshop didn't have to show him any records.
Urps told The Post she never said that. "They have to show him if they have them. I would never say that to another law enforcement [officer]."
In any case, Solloso believes the jewelry might have been the key to solving the case.
"There was a particular piece (of jewelry), and that would have been a good break," Solloso said. "Who knows how many investigations could be properly closed if we had a paper trail on every piece in a pawnshop? The investigation was delayed because of it."
Marco Capayachi believes police could have done more on his father's case. "If this was in Fairfax, a different approach would have been taken," he said, adding that he calls the 4th District often but no one returns his calls.
Solloso said, "If you call [victims' families] once a month, you're doing pretty good because of everything else we're working on. Are we supposed to call every robbery victim? Every assault victim and ask, `How's that arm doing? How's that wheelchair working?'"
Vela said detectives talked to her "once or twice," but she hasn't heard from them in more than a year.
"It seems like they didn't pay much attention to this case," she said through a translator. "They said they were coming back, and they never came back. I have this sad feeling about the police."
She still mourns.
"When I lost him it was like losing my feet, my eyes, my hands, my everything," she said.
Then she weeps.