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  One Year Later, Starbucks Slayings Unsolved

By Cheryl W. Thompson and John Fountain
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, July 6, 1998; Page B01

Mary Belle Annenberg cries hysterically whenever she sees a slender, twenty-something young woman with "dirty-blond" hair and hiking boots, imagining for an instant that it's her daughter, Mary Caitrin "Caity" Mahoney.

She knows in her head that Caity is gone forever, but in her heart, she has yet to accept it. Mahoney, 25, was shot to death along with co-workers Emory Allen Evans, 25, and Aaron David Goodrich, 18, at the Starbucks coffee shop near Georgetown last July 6 as the trio finished their evening duties. The shootings, so horrific that Mahoney was unrecognizable, numbed a community unaccustomed to such violence.

A year after the execution-style slayings, D.C. police continue to search for the killers. Privately, police familiar with the investigation say that two people, perhaps three, were involved; that two guns were used, and robbery was the motive; and that a former employee who once was a prime suspect no longer is.

Publicly, officials are saying little about the investigation, in stark contrast to the days after the shootings last year when information about evidence and possible suspects flowed from detectives.

But after several mistakes, including the department's failure to seize a pair of shoes with a dark stain on them that belonged to a possible suspect, and the release of specific information about the case that irked police supervisors, few detectives will discuss the case.

"You had some individuals that had some knowledge of the case -- but who weren't responsible for the case -- passing out information," said Assistant Police Chief Rodney Monroe, who oversees homicide investigations. "There was uncorroborated information and misinformation that was leaked. That hurt the department."

Monroe, who declined to discuss details about the investigation, said that two homicide detectives, two homicide supervisors and one FBI agent are working on the case full time. Investigators have interviewed dozens of people claiming to have information and have chased hundreds of leads.

"We're much closer to solving these crimes," Monroe said. "We continue to receive information that leads us in a direction. We're very optimistic we'll close this case."

Annenberg, who has spent the last year wondering who shot her daughter and two of her daughter's co-workers, said the more time passes, the more doubtful she becomes that the killers will be caught. "We gave the police six months and didn't hear a word from them," Annenberg said. "We're not sure they even have anyone in mind."

The slayings occurred sometime after 9:15 p.m. on July 6, a Sunday, as the three-day Fourth of July weekend was winding down. The bodies of Mahoney, who was the night manager, Evans and Goodrich were found in a back room of the shop at 1810 Wisconsin Ave. NW in Burleith, just north of Georgetown. All had been shot several times.

Their bodies were found by a female employee arriving for work on July 7. Police believe the three employees were killed about seven hours earlier. The woman, screaming and crying, ran out of the shop and into the street, flagging down a Metro bus driver who called 911.

Nothing was taken from the cash register. The safe, to which Mahoney had the combination, was unopened. There were no signs of forced entry, and no keys to the business were missing, police have said.

Evans, who lived in Northeast Washington with his father, David, had worked at the store for only three weeks, hoping to earn enough money to attend Howard University, where he wanted to major in music.

Goodrich was the store's youngest employee and was nicknamed "Baby" by co-workers when he was hired three months before the slayings. He got the job with help from his father, with whom he had lived since moving to Northwest Washington from Baltimore in 1996. His relatives could not be reached for comment for this article.

As word of the killings spread, the entrance to the coffee shop instantly became a memorial to the slain employees. Friends and strangers left flowers, candles and words of sympathy.

The shop remained closed for seven months and reopened in February with a floor-to-ceiling maple wood mural with three boxes attached that are engraved with the initials of each victim. Family members have placed photos and other mementos in the boxes.

Late last week, as customers sipped lattes and cappuccinos and chatted, it was difficult for some not to think about the crime that ended three lives and stunned a community.

"We talk about it. It's in the back of your mind," said Meaghan Mountford, 25, who works next door at a pottery shop. "I guess it worries me because I'd like to know the root" of the killings.

Mountford, who moved to Washington in January but had read about the killings in a New Jersey newspaper, said her employer implemented "strict closing policies" after the shootings.

If a potential customer comes to the door after closing, "I say, `No,' " Mountford said. "We don't open the door."

A candle-lighting ceremony in remembrance of the victims is scheduled for 6 a.m. today at the Wisconsin Avenue coffee shop. The candles will remain lighted throughout the day.

The elder Evans said he still can't believe his son is gone. The last year, he said, has been difficult.

"I come in the house and I see his picture but know he's not here," he said. "There's always something to remind me."

Evans said he rarely goes out anymore, except to his chef's job at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. "I go to work and come home, and that's it," he said.

The Seattle-based Starbucks Corp., which paid for the funerals of the victims and counseling for family members, has promised to donate all net profits from the store to a foundation that promotes nonviolence. The company also has offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killers. The Georgetown Business Association has offered $10,000. The D.C. police department has set up a 24-hour hot line: 202-393-1137.

"Nobody's happy that this hasn't been solved," said Dean Torrenga, director of Starbucks' mid-Atlantic region. "We want it solved, the families do, and I'm sure the police do, too, so we can all move on."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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