D.C. Police Start Internal Probe of Sergeant Whose Report on Jacks Visit Changed

By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 24, 2009

A D.C. police spokeswoman said Thursday that the department is conducting an internal investigation of a sergeant who acknowledged filing an inaccurate report about his 2007 visit to the home of Banita Jacks, the Southeast Washington woman on trial on murder charges in the deaths of her four daughters.

On April 30, 2007 -- seven months before the girls' decomposing bodies were found in Jacks's home -- Sgt. James Lafranchise visited the residence to check on the welfare of the oldest daughter, Brittany, after a social worker said she had missed weeks of school.

Lafranchise did not file reports about the visit until January 2008, after 16-year-old Brittany and her sisters, ages 5, 6 and 11, had been found dead. In a Jan. 9 report, the officer wrote that he had not seen Brittany during his visit. In a follow-up report filed Jan. 13, he amended his account, saying he "thought" he had seen Brittany and her sisters.

Department spokeswoman Traci Hughes said yesterday that Lafranchise did nothing improper by not filing the reports until long after the visit. At the time of the April 2007 visit, Hughes said in a statement, "there was no requirement to file an incident report when responding to a call to check on the welfare of a resident."

After the bodies were found, Hughes said, the department issued a rule "directing members to file an incident report when checking on the welfare of a resident." She said Lafranchise wrote the two reports after authorities asked him to provide a written recollection of the visit as part of the death investigation.

Interviewed by a prosecutor during the homicide investigation, Lafranchise said that he had seen Brittany that day in April 2007 and that she seemed well.

However, when he testified Wednesday in Jacks's trial in D.C. Superior Court, Lafranchise acknowledged that he had not seen Brittany. He said his earlier accounts of having seen the girl were "inaccurate" and resulted from "wishful thinking."

He said he was "burned out" after more than two decades of police work and blamed his inconsistent statements on stress.

"The department was made aware of the discrepancy in [Lafranchise's] accounts when he testified," Hughes said. "Now that the discrepancies have come to light," the department "is conducting an internal investigation," she said.

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