Parole Agency Continues to Search for Man Who Died in '08

By Brigid Schulte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 15, 2009

Surveillance cameras in stores, on traffic lights, over ATMs and in subway stations can track our every move. Every swipe of a credit card, every click of the computer keyboard leaves a trace of our movements, our purchases, our preferences. Our Social Security numbers, personal information, taxes and bill-paying histories are logged in databases and easily cross-referenced by law enforcement officials as well as advertisers. In our information-rich society, it would seem, disappearing would be close to impossible.

Unless you happen to be Edward M. Hawkins. Although siblings say he never set foot outside the District in recent years, the system lost track of him.

Hawkins was a felon, convicted of second-degree murder and assault, and a heroin addict who spent most of his adult life in and out of prison and on and off parole. The system lost track of him one day in July 2007, after he had been out on parole for about two years and failed a drug test at his rehab center. Although parole officers spent countless hours making more than 340 attempts to find him -- phone calls to relatives and friends, certified letters, arrest record checks, visits to his last place of employment (Goodwill) and his last known address (the Samaritan Inn), sometimes with police officers in tow -- they never found him.

Hawkins died one year later, in July 2008, at 54, of metastatic lung cancer. His family has the death certificate and certificate of cremation to prove it.

The system still hasn't found him.

Hawkins should have been easy to track when he was alive: He was receiving Social Security disability checks and Medicaid coverage for his cancer treatment and his last months of hospice care.

The case is still active, Len Sipes said yesterday. Sipes is the spokesman for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, or CSOSA, the federal agency that took over the D.C. parole office nine years ago when the federal government assumed responsibility for the city's prison system. According to its records, a warrant for Hawkins's arrest, issued in April 2008, is still outstanding. He is to be supervised on parole until April 27, 2016.

Last month, Hawkins's parole officer called one of his sisters to ask whether she had seen him lately.

"They said they were trying to get in touch with him because he'd been violating parole and they needed a number for him," said Maria Watson, Hawkins's younger sister. "I said, 'Well, you can call 1-800-G-O-D.' "

As Watson recalled, the parole officer hung up, only to call back five minutes later. "He wanted to know if I could send him the death certificate, because it would be easier and quicker than if he had to go get it himself," she said.

The phone call was only the latest frustrating twist for Hawkins's family. Parole officers have called other siblings for the past several months, they said, and they have all told the officers the same thing: Edward is dead.

"It's so Twilight Zone-ish. He's dead. Leave us alone," said Joe Hawkins, a brother. "Hollywood movies make you think the government can find you like that." He snapped his fingers. "That they can turn off your credit. Steal your identity. Well, not in D.C. they can't."

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