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Prince George's County Police Investigate Whether Same Killer Is Responsible for Two Recent Double Homicides

By Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 18, 2009; B01

Prince George's County police said last night that they are investigating whether the same killer is responsible for two recent double homicides, each of which resulted in the deaths of a mother and her daughter.

At a news conference, police said they have no physical evidence linking the two sets of killings, and the victims appear to have been killed in different ways. Even so, police said they were deeply troubled by similarities between the cases, one in January and one this week.

The bodies were found within a half-mile of each another in a quiet middle-class neighborhood in the Largo area. In each case, the mothers were in their 40s and the daughters were teenagers. The killings took place early in the morning, and each has a possible link to a burglary.

"This is priority one for the department," said Maj. Andy Ellis, the police department's head spokesman. "The similarities are very worrisome, very unusual, and they have caused us great concern."

Chief Roberto Hylton said later: "I don't want to say we're working a serial murderer. That's a possibility, but we're not there yet."

The police department formed a task force, and detectives are working in shifts round-the-clock to chase leads. Police announced a $25,000 reward for information leading to arrests in each case.

Ellis said investigators are searching for links between the two families but have found none. The girls attended different schools.

Police asked that residents of the area near the killings not enter their homes if they are burglarized. The task force will examine all burglaries during the past year, starting with those near the killings.

Early Monday, police found two bodies in a burning car, one in the back seat and the other in the trunk. Using dental records, police identified the victims as Dolores DeWitt, 42, and Ebony DeWitt, 19, of the 9700 block of Cedarhollow Lane.

"I just want to find out who did this to my sister and my niece," said Patricia Smith. Of her sister, Smith said, "She was a great person."

The causes of their deaths were listed as pending yesterday by the state medical examiner's office, meaning pathologists found no bullet wounds or other injuries that would clearly indicate that the two were homicide victims.

They were discovered after police received a 911 call about 4 a.m. regarding a car fire in the driveway of a vacant house in the 11100 block of Webbwood Court.

Police said yesterday that the car, a Nissan Maxima, had been stolen from a woman whose residence was burglarized Feb. 28. Police were investigating whether the burglar stole car keys and later stole the vehicle.

The car was found less than half a mile from a home where Karen Lofton, 45, and Karissa Lofton, 16, were fatally shot in January. Police initially said the Loftons were probably killed by someone who knew them, but no arrests have been made.

On Jan. 26, Karissa Lofton called 911 about 2:30 a.m. to report that she and her mother had been shot. Police arrived at their house in the 10800 block of Southall Drive a short time later to find both women dead.

The Lofton house had been burglarized before the killings, police said last night. It was unclear what, if anything, was taken.

Staff writer Matt Zapotosky and staff researchers Julie Tate and Robert E. Thomason contributed to this report.

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