Fairfax Teen Found Dead in Baltimore Died of Bactine Overdose

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Fairfax County teenager who was found dead in Baltimore in November apparently died from swallowing an overdose of the topical pain reliever Bactine, and her parents yesterday launched a campaign to find out how Annie McCann wound up in Baltimore and whether she took her own life.

McCann, 16, was an honor student at West Potomac High School, a seemingly upbeat, artistic, religious young woman who lived with her parents in the Groveton area of eastern Fairfax. But on Oct. 31, she ran away, leaving a note that read in part: "This morning, I was going to kill myself but I realized I can start over. I don't want help and I'm no longer scared." The note ended, "I love you and I will be careful."

Fairfax police began an investigation but did not consider Annie endangered, based in part on the note. On Nov. 2, her body was found about 3 a.m. near the Perkins Homes housing complex in southeast Baltimore. Annie's parents yesterday questioned whether Fairfax should have pursued her disappearance more vigorously, but police said the circumstances did not warrant an Amber Alert-level search for a missing child.

Baltimore police considered Annie's death suspicious and initially worked the case tenaciously, Daniel and Mary Jane McCann said yesterday. There was no obvious cause of death, although the mother said, "There were clear signs of violence, including bruising, bumps and abrasions on both sides of her face and forehead."

Daniel McCann said police first mentioned to them in early November that lidocaine, the active ingredient in Bactine, was found in Annie's system. A bottle of the antiseptic liquid was found at the crime scene, and one was missing from the McCanns' home, her father said.

The investigation cooled as leads dried up, the McCanns said, and the couple hired private investigators to try to figure out how and why Annie wound up in Baltimore. Still no cause of death was determined. Then on Friday, after the McCanns announced a news conference to seek leads and offer a reward in the case, the Maryland medical examiner ruled that Annie died of lidocaine toxicity, with too much of the over-the-counter painkiller in her system. Daniel McCann said the substance was found in her stomach and not absorbed through the skin.

The ruling baffled not only the McCanns but also Baltimore police. Spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the department could not recall a similar case of a lidocaine overdose. Other reported lidocaine overdoses typically are the result of severe allergic reactions. Guglielmi said that police were still investigating the case and that the official manner of death was "undetermined."

The McCanns announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of a person in their daughter's death and asked anyone with knowledge of the case to call Metro Crime Stoppers of Maryland at 866-7LOCKUP. They also purchased billboard advertising space along Interstate 95 and Baltimore's sports stadiums as well as a mobile billboard to be driven around Perkins Homes soliciting tips.

Daniel McCann said he doesn't rule out the possibility that his daughter committed suicide. "We're not in denial," he said. "We just want to know what happened."

The McCanns noted that Annie took her life savings with her Oct. 31 -- $1,000 cash -- along with all her jewelry and a large box of Cheerios. The day before she left, she stayed late at school to earn extra credit in an Advanced Placement class. Police told the McCanns that Annie appeared to have a "to do" list written on her hand.

"None of this seems consistent with simple suicide," Mary Jane McCann said.

The family's white Volvo S60 sedan was found about five blocks from Annie's body. Teenagers told police that they found the car Nov. 1, dumped Annie's body from the back seat and went for a joy ride, the McCanns said. But the teens told different stories to the private investigators. The $1,000 she took with her was not on her body when she was found.

"It's just about inconceivable to us," Mary Jane McCann said, "that Annie hid thoughts of suicide behind a brilliantly crafted, happy-go-luck facade and then decided on suicide, and then reached for Bactine?"

Daniel McCann said there are too many unanswered questions. "I don't think we've done everything," he said. "It's our little girl. It consumes us."

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