Suburban Hospital worker charged in fatal stabbing of boss; was acquitted in 2006 killing

By Dan Morse and Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, January 6, 2011; 10:17 PM

The unusual slaying at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda was high-profile, coming on New Year's Day at the well-known facility. The victim, Roosevelt Brockington, was stabbed more than 70 times in a basement boiler room.

Detectives quickly identified a suspect: Keith Little, a hospital employee. He worked for Brockington, who had recently given him a poor performance review. Little had also been accused of killing a co-worker at a previous job, at a maintenance facility in the District in 2003, but he was acquitted.

Detectives spoke to Little, but they said it wasn't until a bizarre incident Wednesday night that they had enough to charge him: Another hospital worker said he saw Little, just outside the boiler room, using chemically treated water and a bucket to wash down a pair of black gloves and a ski mask, police said.

"We got a break in the case," Montgomery Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said Thursday.

Little, 49, of Lanham, was being held without bond in the Montgomery County jail. He is due in court Friday for a bond hearing on a charge of first-degree murder.

Detectives said the brutality of the crime indicated a lot of anger. They said the recent poor performance review from Brockington kept Little from getting a raise.

"We believe this may have been the motive," Manger said.

In the District case, Little was charged on three counts, including second-degree murder while armed, in the shooting death of Gordon Rollins, according to court documents.

Rollins and Little were co-workers at the facility in Northwest Washington. Rollins, 47, was a janitor, and Little was a maintenance man who had joined the company a month before the shooting.

Authorities said the two men argued over a missing plumber's snake before Rollins was shot to death. Rollins had accused Little of stealing tools, according to Montgomery officials.

Co-workers said they had seen the two men argue before Rollins was fatally shot Feb. 3, 2003.

The case sat until Little was charged with second-degree murder in 2006. Little pleaded not guilty, and a jury acquitted him after a four-day trial.

After his arrest in Montgomery this week, Little didn't say much when questioned by detectives, according to law enforcement sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the case. "He's been down this road before," one of the sources said.

When police began investigating the case, they thought they might be looking at a robbery gone bad. They were called to Suburban about 10:30 a.m. Sunday and within two hours had spoken to a close friend of Brockington's.

According to arrest records filed in court, she told detectives that she was on the telephone with Brockington at 9:45 a.m. that day when she heard a voice in the background saying: "Give me all your money. . . . You got any more?"

She said she heard Brockington respond, "That's all I got," then ask the other man not to hurt him. Then she heard Brockington scream several times, according to the arrest record, and then his phone went silent.

But the scene didn't look like a robbery. The boiler room, in the basement, is accessible only to hospital staff. Detectives theorized that the assailant was an employee "wearing a mask or some sort of disguise," Detective Dimitry Ruvin wrote in the arrest records.

Ruvin learned that Little, a maintenance engineer, had worked a shift that ended about 5:15 a.m. Sunday and was relieved by his boss, Brockington. Detectives spoke twice to Little, who said that after his shift ended, he drove to his sister's house in Gaithersburg, got some sleep, then spent the rest of the day helping her move to a new home in the District.

Ruvin examined Little's cellphone records. They indicated that callers couldn't get through to his number Sunday morning - specifically until at least 10:32 a.m. Little told Ruvin that he couldn't get a cellular signal in the boiler room, and Ruvin noted that he couldn't get a signal on his own phone there, either, according to arrest records.

On Wednesday night, in the hospital basement, one of Little's co-workers saw a white bucket under a valve in a room adjacent to the boiler room, according to arrest records. The valve was open, and chemically treated water "was pouring inside the bucket," Ruvin wrote. The co-worker looked inside the bucket and saw a black ski mask and black gloves, police said.

Little suddenly approached, grabbed the bucket and said, "I'll take care of this," Ruvin wrote.

Then Little poured the contents of the bucket into a red metal trash cart. Several minutes later, the co-worker looked in the cart and saw the gloves and ski mask. Little then announced he needed to check his vehicle for possible parking tickets and left. The co-worker checked the trash cart again, and the gloves and mask were not there, Ruvin wrote.

The co-worker reported this to his supervisor, and police were called at 9:20 p.m. They detained Little. Security cameras revealed that earlier Little appeared to be hiding something in a trash can. Inside, police reported, they found a "black hat with cutouts for eyes" and a pair of black gloves.

morsed@washpost.com alexanderk@washpost.com

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