Police Task Force Pores Over Two Mother-Daughter Double Homicides in Largo

Police are trying to determine if there is a connection between a pair of mother-daughter murders in Prince George's County, Maryland. Video by AP
By Aaron C. Davis, Avis Thomas-Lester and William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 19, 2009

Inside Prince George's County police headquarters yesterday, a squad of homicide detectives and nearly a dozen other senior investigators moved into a separate office, closed the door and began poring over two cases that were suddenly the department's top priority.

Not far away, in a quiet neighborhood near FedEx Field, all anyone talked about was the possibility that the cases -- two double homicides -- were connected, that someone is killing mothers and their daughters.

The Loftons, Karen and Karissa, were the first, shot in late January in their Largo home. On Monday, less than a half-mile away, the bodies of Deloris and Ebony Dewitt were found in a burning car, one in the trunk, the other in the back seat.

"To me, the feeling is there's just got to be some kind of connection," said Michael Jeter, 45, a neighbor of the Dewitts. "It just makes you think, two daughters, two mothers, killed like that."

Near where the Dewitts lived, in an aging subdivision of modest homes and carefully tended lawns, many residents left their porch lights on all night. Neighbors who were little more than strangers exchanged phone numbers and pledged to look out for each other. One man tried to break into his own home, just to see whether it could be done.

"Everybody in this neighborhood is in fear right now," said William Mackall, 62, who lives several blocks from the Dewitt home. "I have kids, but thank God, just boys, no girls."

At a news conference Tuesday night, police said they could not rule out the possibility that a serial killer was responsible for the slayings. No physical evidence linked the killings, but police said the parallels were disturbing and went beyond proximity: In each case, the mothers were in their 40s and the daughters were teenagers. They were found dead early in the morning, on a Monday.

One other commonality that emerged yesterday -- Karen Lofton, 45, and Deloris Dewitt, 43, were both nurses -- appeared to be coincidence, police said. Lofton had just finished her first day of orientation to be a school nurse in Largo. Dewitt had worked at a nursing home in Clinton for nine years.

Detectives were searching for possible connections between the homicides and a string of burglaries in the area. In all, police said, more than 10 homes have been burglarized since the fall. Police questioned teenage suspects in those cases yesterday, according to sources, who like others quoted in this story spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.

On Nov. 26, a Sony PlayStation, a Nintendo Wii and other items were stolen from the Dewitt home in the 9700 block of Cedarhollow Lane, police said. Neighbor Trummelle Reece said Deloris Dewitt called her home, shaken, after the break-in.

"It's just a shame only now when it's too late the police are looking into the burglary," said Reece, whose son Ryan Reece graduated from Largo High School last year with Ebony, 19.

Backing off a statement they made at the Tuesday news conference, police said yesterday that they are no longer sure that the Lofton home in the 10800 block of Southall Drive was burglarized before the Loftons were killed.

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