By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 9, 2011; 10:41 PM
The prime suspect in the New Year's Day slaying at Suburban Hospital was captured on video disposing of what turned out to be a pair of gloves thought to have been worn by the killer.
But that same suspect was seen moments earlier washing a pair of gloves in a bucket of chemically treated water.
Detectives were worried: Would there be any evidence left on the gloves? More than two months later, as the case heads toward trial, they say they have their answer.
Forensic analysts were able to lift DNA evidence from the gloves, leading a grand jury recently to indict Keith Little, 49, of Lanham on first-degree murder charges in the fatal stabbing of his boss, Roosevelt Brockington Jr., 40. Brockington, of Lusby, had been stabbed more than 70 times in a boiler room at the hospital. Initial test results showed Little's DNA on the inside of the right glove, and the victim's DNA in blood stains on the outside of that same glove, according to court proceedings in the case.
Before the DNA match, police had no forensic evidence linking Little to the stabbing, according to court records. Last week, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge set a July 18 trial date.
Adam Harris, Little's attorney, declined to comment Wednesday but said in a District Court hearing recently that police had come up short in building a case against his client.
"What we have, Your Honor, is a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces that don't fit; many pieces that are simply missing," Harris said, according to a recording of the hearing. "There's just no way to put this jigsaw puzzle together in such a way that it forms the face of Mr. Little."
Montgomery's first homicide of 2011 is filled with intrigue. The scene: a maze of pipes and rooms and heating equipment hidden from the public below the well-known Bethesda hospital. The suspect: a man who years earlier was found not guilty of murder charges in the shooting death of a co-worker in the District. The manner of death: so many stab wounds, detectives said, that the crime most likely was motivated by rage.
By 10:30 a.m. Jan. 1, police had been called to the boiler room, where they found Brockington's body with a knife in his neck. As in similar workplace cases, detectives began asking about co-workers.
They learned that Little had held a second job until late 2009 at the U.S. Courthouse in Greenbelt. He worked there in the mornings, according to Detective Greg Jordan, who testified at an earlier hearing. At some point, Brockington, Little's boss at the hospital, moved up his starting time, making it difficult for him to hold both jobs.
In response, Little allegedly used a racial epithet and curses in describing Brockington. "I was going to get that [expletive]," Little told his supervisor at the courthouse, according to Jordan. "He changed my schedule."
Detectives also learned that Little had faced charges in the death of co-worker at a previous job, a maintenance facility in the District, in 2003. He was found not guilty.
In the Suburban case, police say they got a break five days after the killing. A hospital worker said he saw Little, just outside the boiler room, using chemically treated water to wash black gloves and a black knit cap, police said. Officers arrested Little that night.
DNA on the outside of one of the gloves matched Brockington's, according to Jordan. Forensic analysts also found the DNA of three people on the inside of the glove: Little, Brockington and an unknown person. Brockington's blood likely seeped through the glove, prosecutor Robert Hill said in court.
State's Attorney John McCarthy called the DNA matches "an essential development" in the case.
Harris, Little's attorney, said in court that if Little had killed Brockington, it made little sense that he would go so long without hiding or destroying the evidence.
"It just doesn't stand to reason that five days later, Mr. Little is disposing of instruments of the killing in full view of a surveillance camera, which presumably he knows is there," Harris said.
Law enforcement officials acknowledge being baffled by the move as well but say they think Little hid the items somewhere in the basement, was nervous about walking out with them and decided to make his move.
Hill, the prosecutor, said that the handle of the knife showed a variety of DNA, which may have included DNA left by a doctor who came downstairs and tried to save Brockington. Little's DNA was not found on the handle, but Hill said that was consistent with his theory that the assailant wore gloves.