Pamela Prowant was shot multiple times in her apartment in Laurel in 1985, lived with paralysis and used a wheelchair for another 27 years, and died in January of what appeared to be natural causes.
In April, the office of the chief medical examiner ruled her death a homicide, essentially declaring that the injuries she sustained almost three decades ago caused her death this year while Prowant, in her early 50s, was still relatively young.
Prowant's death is the 28th homicide of 2012 in Prince George's, a negative mark on the county's crime books that won't — and legally can't — be erased with a murder conviction.
About 3:35 p.m. Nov. 1, 1985, Prowant was found shot multiple times on the bedroom floor of her apartment in the 11700 block of South Laurel Drive and transported to Prince George's Hospital Center.
Prowant's estranged husband was considered the top suspect in the shooting, and he was charged with a serious assault charge at the time equivalent to a first-degree assault in today's terminology, said Capt. Joe Hoffman, commander of thePrince George's CountyPolice Department's homicide unit.
But the charges were later dropped, and nothing ever came of the case, Hoffman said.
After the medical examiner's ruling in April, police attempted to re-interview the estranged husband — who no longer lives in Laurel and was not identified — but had no luck, Hoffman said.
"He didn't have anything to say," Hoffman said. "And he's one of the only people involved in the case who's still alive."
On top of that, the law in 1985 was that a person could be charged with a murder only if their victim died within a year and a day of their crime. That statute of limitations was done away with in the mid-1990s, Hoffman said, but still applies to Prowant's case.
In other words, there will be no murder charge to attach to the county's newest homicide — ever.
Hoffman has seen it before.
In fact, the death of a man who was paralyzed and forced to use a wheelchair after being shot in 1989 was the county's 12th homicide of 2012.
"Over the last 10 years or so, we've had somewhere in the ballpark of three or four cases a year that we have to count in our numbers that happened in previous years," Hoffman said.
The department also counts solved cases from years past in its yearly closures statistics, so things balance out to some extent, Hoffman said.
Watching the yearly homicide count tick up — at 28 so far this year, it's still way down, at just over half of the 55 in the county at this point last year — because of past cases is frustrating, but keeping records honestly is important, he said.
"It's the way it goes," Hoffman said. "We're doing the right thing."