Four Alexandria police officers have been disciplined for their part in an incident in January in which an 89-year-old woman was robbed and sexually abused for two hours while the policemen dispatched to her home investigated her neighbor's home by mistake.
Ada Belle Allan, who told a friend that she kept crying "Oh my God, help me" during her ordeal, died a month later of congestive heart failure. Neither her doctor nor the local medical examiner would discuss whether her death was related to the earlier incident.
After her Jan. 26 trauma, Allan, whose story first appeared in the Alexandria Port Packet newspaper, refused to go to her second-floor bedroom and slept in a chair downstairs, according to neighbor William A. Yoast.
John Emory McDaniel, a 30-year-old cemetery worker, was charged Feb. 5 with robbing, sexually molesting and attempting to rape Allan, according to court documents. McDaniel, whose trial is set for April 4, is being held without bond in Arlington County Jail for security reasons.
Allan died Feb. 21.
Acting City Manager Vola Lawson met with Public Safety Director Charles T. Strobel yesterday to discuss the Allan case. Lawson said afterward that she suggested drawing up guidelines on which internal police investigations are to be brought to the attention of the city manager.
According to Alexandria police spokeswoman Lucy Crockett, Allan placed a call to police at 3:37 a.m., saying someone was trying to break into her home. Allan also said she was returning to bed and did not want to see a policeman, Crockett said.
Arlen Justice, deputy public safety director for police operations, said yesterday that Allan's "calm and collected" demeanor and the fact that she did not want to talk to a policeman, led the police officer taking her call to order a dispatch for a "suspicious person" rather than for a "burglary in progress," which is a higher priority call.
The dispatcher did not order policemen to Allan's home at 300 Cambridge Rd. until 3:58 a.m. because he was already involved in dispatching officers to another burglary in progress, Crockett said.
When the officers arrived at 4:03 a.m., they stopped in front of 302 Cambridge Rd., the house next to Allan's two-story brick home, Crockett said. The officers investigated footprints in the fresh snow around a car outside the 302 address, Crockett said, and left after reporting that they saw no one.
At 6:21 a.m., Allan, whose only relative is a granddaughter living in Pennsylvania, called police again, said she had been robbed and asked that someone come to talk to her.
A day later one of the officers who had made the first visit to Cambridge Road, saw the report of a burglary there, returned to the scene and realized he had investigated the wrong house, Crockett said.
Crockett said she did not know exactly when the police department's internal investigation began, but that the first interview of the investigation was dated Feb. 6. Crockett would not name any of the officers involved in the incident.
The person who took Allan's call was suspended without pay for two days and received a letter of reprimand in his file. Justice said that though the call-taker had "operated in good faith" he had "used poor judgment."
The dispatcher received a letter of reprimand and the two responding officers were given oral reprimands by their superiors, Crockett said. All four officers have good records, Crockett said.
"It certainly is a tragic situation," Justice said yesterday. "I wish there was something we could do to undo the trauma Mrs. Allan suffered."
Justice said the police receive more than 60,000 calls a year and "there have probably been four or five goof-ups in the communications section in the last two years."