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Fairfax couple have questions about daughter's death

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By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 2, 2009

Annie McCann was a sweet-natured, sheltered suburban girl from Fairfax County. She didn't hang out at malls or party with friends. At 16, she still collected "Arthur" cartoon DVDs and "Madeline" books.

But last Halloween, Annie ran away from home, leaving behind a note saying "I was going to kill myself." She took off with a bunch of clothes, jewelry and $1,000 in cash. Other notes were found later, crumpled and crossed out, discussing her hidden depression and anorexia.

Annie was always smiling and upbeat, her friends and family members said. She was a devout Catholic, a vegetarian and a talented artist who was preparing goody bags to hand out Halloween night. She had no sense of direction and couldn't find the nearest Metro stop.

Two days after she disappeared, Annie was found dead behind a dumpster in a Baltimore housing project. She had swallowed a fatal amount of lidocaine contained in Bactine, an over-the-counter antiseptic spray, the medical examiner said. There were no signs of foul play.

Suicide, Baltimore police concluded. Case closed.

No way, said everyone who ever knew Annie.

A year after her death, the baffling contradictions remain, and Annie's family and friends continue to press for answers. She was so well liked that on Friday, her classmates at West Potomac High School, where she would have been a senior this year, painted a large rock outside the school in her memory. This week, they will plant a tree on campus in her honor.

There's enough confusion about how Annie died that her family can't help but continue to ask questions.

Renowned pathologist Michael Baden said in an interview Friday that he had analyzed the autopsy and tests done by the Maryland medical examiner's office. To ingest the amount of lidocaine found in her system, Annie would have had to drink five or six bottles of Bactine, he said.

"Five ounces of Bactine," the amount in a single bottle, Baden said, "would not contain nearly enough lidocaine to give the levels in the body that she showed at autopsy." He said that the medical examiner's finding that the manner of death was "undetermined" was correct but that police should not have concluded suicide without definitive evidence or witnesses.

But Maryland's chief medical examiner, David R. Fowler, said the test results were checked and rechecked. He said he also questioned the idea of a Bactine overdose. But his pathologists checked with the "PhD toxicologist who runs our laboratory. He assured us they had looked at that and verified that there was enough lidocaine in" a single bottle. Police said they consulted Bayer, the manufacturer, and found that there was more than enough lidocaine in one bottle for a fatal dose.

Annie's parents, Daniel McCann and Mary Jane Malinchak-McCann, don't rule out that their seemingly happy daughter killed herself. But they focus on the innumerable factors that seem to contradict that.


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