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FATAL FLAWS

Families of Victims Often Left Wondering

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By Cheryl W. Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 4, 2000

For seven years, Warren Roberts has wondered who killed his nephew, Pernell Roberts, in a drive-by shooting in the 4200 block of First Street SE.

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Roberts hasn't heard from D.C. police detectives since he identified the 31-year-old's body at the morgue. He didn't know the U.S. attorney's office declined to issue an arrest warrant for a suspect six weeks after the slaying because they had only one eyewitness. He didn't know that the case then sat uninvestigated for four years. And he didn't know that police closed the case administratively in March 1998 after a homicide task force reinvestigated it and found that one of the suspects was dead. The others involved were never charged with the crime, according to police records.

"I never heard anything about the case," a weeping Roberts said as he clutched a photo of his favorite nephew. "They should have called me."

When D.C. police close cases administratively without arrests, the relatives of victims sometimes sit by wondering what happened.

Jack Mims's younger brother, Lenwood, was fatally beaten with an iron rod and kicked and stomped in the head in April 1998 in the 600 block of Gallatin Street NE. The case was closed administratively after Mims's friend fatally shot the man who beat Mims.

Mims said detectives never returned his repeated telephone calls.


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