D.C. Police Delayed Seizing Possible
By Brian Mooar and Linda Wheeler
D.C. police acknowledged yesterday that homicide detectives failed to seize a pair of shoes that belonged to a potential suspect and that had a dark stain immediately after the triple slaying at the Starbucks coffee shop in July. But officials said the shoes were seized later and held no evidence related to the shootings.
The shoes belonged to a former employee of the Starbucks on Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest Washington's Burleith neighborhood. He was questioned shortly after the shop's assistant manager and two other employees were found shot to death July 7 during what police have said may have been a robbery attempt.
A source familiar with the investigation into the Starbucks killings said that a day or so after the interview, an evidence technician mentioned that he had seen a stain that could have been blood on the former employee's shoes. Black-and-white photographs also showed the stain.
It was unclear whether the detectives failed to notice the stain or had dismissed it as not being relevant, the source said.
After the technician made his report, investigators obtained a warrant to seize the footwear, a pair of white gym shoes, from the man's home. Subsequent tests performed by the FBI showed that the stain was not blood.
Sgt. Joe Gentile, a police spokesman, said the potential delay in testing did not affect the evidence. Although it is department policy not to discuss evidence in investigations, he said, officials felt it necessary to clarify some matters about the case in light of broadcast media reports.
"Did we take the footwear at that time? No, we did not," Gentile said. "We got a warrant to seize the footwear and sent it to a lab for analysis. . . . The last word I got was there was no blood. There is no evidence at this time to link the footwear to Starbucks."
He said any bloodstains could not have been removed between the time of the interview and the time the shoes were taken by investigators.
The former employee was not arrested in the case.
That the shoes were not taken during the first interview with detectives was first reported yesterday by WTOP radio (1500 AM, 94.3 FM).
The report comes as the D.C. police homicide division is under intense scrutiny by police officials as a result of the squad's failure to close most of the cases it investigates and allegations of abuse of overtime pay.
D.C. Police Chief Larry D. Soulsby, himself under pressure to improve the department's performance, recently replaced all the homicide division supervisors and announced he is looking nationwide for a new commander for the unit.
The Starbucks slayings are among the most prominent of the homicides in the city that have gone unsolved. No suspects have been identified by police.
Starbucks Coffee Co., of Seattle, has offered a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer of Mary Caitrin Mahoney, Aaron David Goodrich and Emory Allen Evans.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company