What Happened to Annie McCann: Runaway Teen's Death Remains a Mystery

Annie McCann's parents firmly believe their 16-year-old was murdered.

ByABC News
July 15, 2016, 12:22 PM

— -- When Annie McCann, a high school junior from Alexandria, Virginia, with a passion for art, keen sense of humor, and devout Catholic faith, went missing on October 31, 2008, her parents’ world was turned upside down. Shocked and terrified, they knew something bad had happened.

"I got this gut … something’s not right," said Annie’s mother, Mary Jane McCann.

Annie had left behind a mysterious note on her bed, saying she left to "start over" and promised to "be careful." Her father, Dan McCann, immediately called the Fairfax County Police Department.

When the police arrived, they thought Annie was perhaps just another runaway teenager.

"People were saying, 'Don’t worry … she just ran away … she’ll be back, you know, kids do this all the time … it’s not uncommon,’” Mary Jane McCann said.

Two days later, the McCanns received the worst news imaginable. Their daughter’s body had been found next to a dumpster in Baltimore, roughly 50 miles away from the family home. A toxicology report showed alcohol and lidocaine in her system.

The discovery of Annie’s body launched an ongoing dispute between Annie’s parents, who firmly believe their 16-year-old daughter was murdered and are fighting to have her case re-investigated, and the Baltimore Police Department, which stands by its conclusion that Annie committed suicide by ingesting Bactine, an antiseptic containing lidocaine, an empty bottle of which was found near her abandoned car.

Below is a timeline of events surrounding the mysterious death of Annie McCann. Tune in to watch ABC News “20/20” Friday at 10 p.m. ET.

Oct. 31, 2008

Annie McCann goes missing from her home in Alexandria, Virginia.

Her parents, Mary Jane and Dan McCann, learn she never made it to school that day and find a note on her bed, saying, "This morning I thought about killing myself, but I realized I can start over instead … if you really love me, you’ll let me go." In the note, Annie assures her parents she would "be careful."

"I almost collapsed," Dan McCann said.

The McCanns immediately contact the Fairfax County Police Department.

Annie McCann's parents, Dan and Mary Jane McCann, have been fighting for answers about what happened to their daughter for years.

Nov. 2, 2008

Annie’s body is found behind a dumpster at the Perkins Home apartments in Baltimore. Homicide detective Sgt. Sean Jones of the Baltimore Police Department immediately suspects homicide and begins to investigate.

Nov. 18, 2008

Sgt. Jones receives a fingerprint hit from processing Annie’s car, a white Volvo that she used to drive to and from school. The hit ultimately leads to a local Baltimore teenager.

Despite finding her car, the Baltimore Police Department has few answers. Police say it appears Annie had not been beaten, strangled or stabbed, so they wait for the autopsy report.

Baltimore police found Annie McCann's white Volvo, shown here, abandoned at a gas station not far from where her body was found.
Baltimore Police Dept.

December 2008

Searching for clarity, the McCanns hire private investigator Jim Kontsis, then a recently retired detective from the Baltimore PD. Kontsis is only one of the several experts the McCanns hire. They also consult with renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden and celebrity psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow.

March 2009

The medical examiner finalizes his findings in the autopsy report and determines the cause of death to be by lidocaine intoxication, but said the manner, or how she died, was “undetermined.”

Lidocaine, a numbing agent, is found in the antiseptic Bactine, which Annie had been using to clean her newly pierced ears. There was an empty bottle of Bactine found near her car, abandoned at a gas station. A broken cap to the bottle was found in Annie’s car.

For the McCanns, the manner of death marked as "undetermined" means no answers as to what happened to their daughter.

Items found near or inside Annie McCann's abandoned Volvo when Baltimore police discovered the car at a gas station.
Baltimore Police Department

November 2009

Baltimore police connect a group of Baltimore teens to the theft of Annie’s car. One of the boys, Darnell Kinlaw, admits they stole Annie’s Volvo and took it for a joyride, but claims when they found her in the back seat, she was already dead, so they dumped her body and took the car. They deny any involvement with Annie’s death.

Nov. 11, 2011

Police say Darnell Kinlaw, who had been linked to removing Annie’s body from her car and taking the Volvo for a joyride, kills 26-year-old Lakeisha Player inside her Northeast Baltimore home in a domestic dispute and takes her car. He is charged with first-degree murder.

March 13, 2013

Almost five years after Annie’s death, with few leads in the investigation, the case is assigned to the cold case squad in the Baltimore Police Department. They believe Annie killed herself by ingesting Bactine, pointing to the lidocaine found in her system.

Sgt. Jones told “20/20” he "doesn’t have any other evidence to point [him] in any other direction."

The family, however, remains dissatisfied with this conclusion and continues to seek answers.

November 2015

The McCanns seek the help of Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to get answers about their daughter’s case. They ask people to write letters to him asking him to look at Annie’s case.

Diane Downey, from the funeral home where Annie's service was held, writes a letter to Sen. Grassley saying the staff at the funeral home always suspected homicide.

"There was absolutely no way this was a suicide with all the trauma to her body," Downey told “20/20.”

The staff at the funeral parlor was suspicious of a goose egg bump on Annie’s head, what Downey considers a cigarette burn on her forehead, and what appears to her to be a mysterious letter "J" on her ankle. Downey believes the teen was raped and beaten.

March 2, 2016

Sen. Grassley sends letters to the Baltimore Police Department, the FBI and Bayer, the maker of Bactine, asking for answers.

The Baltimore PD and FBI stand by the original investigation, believing Annie most likely died by ingesting Bactine. Bayer, the makers of the drug, however, says that it does not expect that the amount of lidocaine present in one 5-ounce bottle of Bactine could have caused death.

April 21, 2016

Mary Jane and Dan McCann sit down with "20/20" to share their story as part of what they say is a quest to get justice for their daughter, Annie.