Routine gun case led authorities to suspect in multiple slayings

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 22, 2010; B01

The big break in the investigation into the high-profile slayings of two sets of mothers and daughters in the Largo area last year came when federal agents who raided the house of a man suspected of stealing guns found additional evidence that eventually made him a suspect in the killings, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

The investigation and subsequent raid by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives last July put the 27-year-old Largo man on police's radar because of items found in his house, including computer files, car keys and other items from break-ins around the area, law enforcement officials and other sources indicated.

The man was indicted on federal carjacking, weapons and sex charges and is jailed while prosecutors prepare an indictment in one of the Largo slayings, law enforcement sources have said.

"If we had to pick one moment in the investigation that was kind of the turning point, that was probably it: the search warrant on this guy's house by the ATF," said Maj. Andrew Ellis, a spokesman for the Prince George's County Police Department.

Detectives connected the man to at least five killings and possibly more, authorities said. Prince George's Police Chief Roberto Hylton said Tuesday that the man is a "serial killer" and that he is likely to be indicted within the month in connection with the killings of Delores Dewitt, 42, and her 20-year-old daughter, Ebony. Their bodies were found March 16, 2009, in a burning car in Largo that had been stolen that day. Hylton did not name the man because he is not yet charged.

The man is also a suspect the slayings of Karen Lofton, 45, and her 16-year-old daughter, Karissa, who were found shot in their locked home Jan. 26, 2009, Hylton said. Detectives are also investigating whether he might be responsible for a 2008 killing in which a Bowie woman was shot before her home was set ablaze, among other crimes, he said.

Special Agent Clare Weber, a spokeswoman for the ATF's Baltimore Field Division, said that ATF agents were simply pursuing a run-of-the-mill case for them -- the May theft of guns from JC Arms in Woodbine, Md. -- and that their investigation led them to connect the suspect to the cases in Prince George's, with the help of local detectives.

"For it to potentially have turned into such a significant case that affects this community, that's kind of why you want to go to work every day," she said.

Law enforcement sources have said the suspect was a "brilliant" criminal who studied forensic textbooks and changed his methods. The sources, as did others in this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the man has not been indicted in any killings.

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

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