By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 20, 2010; B01
Prince George's County police detectives said they think they have a man in custody who is responsible for the slayings of two mother-daughter pairs in the Largo area last year, said sources familiar with the investigation.
The man is a stranger to the victims, and the sources said there was no obvious motive for the killings, making them think that he is a serial killer. Detectives are investigating whether the man might be tied to other unsolved slayings in the area.
The man has not been charged in the mother-daughter killings, the sources said. Authorities are making sure they have a good case and need not hurry because the man is in prison on other charges, they said. The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing, declined to name the suspect.
It is unclear how police connected the man to the slayings. About a year ago, detectives investigating the two cases said an FBI profiler had concluded that they were unrelated, although the detectives said they had not ruled out any possibilities.
At the time, the detectives said they had no suspects in the slayings of Karen Lofton, 45, and her 16-year-old daughter, Karissa, who were found shot in their locked home Jan. 26, 2009. They also said they did not have any suspects in the killings of Delores Dewitt, 42, and her 20-year-old daughter, Ebony, whose bodies were found March 16, 2009, in a burning car that had been stolen that day. The cases were wide open.
That, apparently, has all changed. Maj. Andrew Ellis, a Prince George's police spokesman, said Monday that "we've identified a person of interest in both cases," but he declined to provide details. He said investigators had turned over the results of their probe to the Prince George's state's attorney's office.
Ramon V. Korionoff, chief spokesman for State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey, said in a written statement: "Prosecutors are bound by ethical considerations and grand jury secrecy rules to refrain from discussing cases yet to be charged. We take allegations of murder very seriously and work steadfastly with police along every stage of the investigation, and the same is true in the matter of the Dewitt homicides."
Law enforcement sources familiar with the cases said that the person of interest has been jailed on an unrelated federal charge for several months and that detectives think he is responsible for both double killings. One source said he is well educated; two sources said he is a possible serial killer without any clear connection to either mother-daughter pair.
From the beginning, the slayings seemed connected by more than chance. Both pairs of victims were a mother and daughter. The slayings occurred within a half-mile of each other. But there were also key differences. Detectives investigating the cases had said whoever killed the Loftons seemed to be more organized. Unlike in the Dewitt case, the killer or killers made no effort to take the bodies elsewhere, they said.
Family members of the victims said Monday that they had not been briefed on the person of interest or how police had identified him.
Rosa Smith, Delores Dewitt's mother, said that a homicide detective was coming to meet with family members that night and that she hoped he would tell them the killer was a stranger so the news would be easier to take.
"That's the thing I think of the most, how it would be better if it's somebody you don't know," Smith said. "We're just waiting now and hoping we can get past this thing and move on."
Kirkland Lofton Sr., Karissa Lofton's father, said he was skeptical that police had one man in custody who was responsible for both crimes.
He said detectives had told him previously that they had a person of interest in the Dewitt case, but they hadn't shown him any evidence to suggest that case was linked to the killings of his ex-wife and daughter. He said he worried that police were using a suspect in one case to close the other.
"I don't really feel comfortable with them saying that these two are linked without showing me any evidence why they think this," he said.
"I want to know how he did it, why he did it. Show me something strong, show me something that says beyond a reasonable doubt he did it."