The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office has asked the medical examiner’s office not to make any potential changes to the ruling on the cause of death of homicide Det. Sean Suiter, citing lingering questions about DNA evidence, according to a key member of the independent panel that reviewed the detective’s death.
Gary Childs, a retired homicide detective who played a key role in the Independent Review Board tapped by police to look at the evidence, said the State’s Attorney’s Office objected to any changes being made to the autopsy’s finding of homicide. The IRB determined that Suiter’s death was likely a suicide.
The State’s Attorney’s Office “is claiming there’s unknown DNA,” Childs said Wednesday night.
Melba Saunders, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office, declined to say Wednesday whether the office raised concerns, but added: “While we never have an interest in influencing the conclusion of the Medical Examiner, we will always have a vital interest in making sure that any such conclusion is based on complete and accurate information.”
Dr. David Fowler, Maryland’s chief medical examiner, told The Baltimore Sun late last month that his office’s determination was unchanged but that an agency he would not identify still was looking at information.
“We’ve had discussions with other individuals and agencies who are still looking at other issues,” Fowler said. Of the IRB report, he said: “We want to give everybody time to digest and evaluate whether or not those findings are in fact appropriate truth.”
Fowler did not return a message seeking comment late Wednesday.
A law enforcement source who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive information also said the State’s Attorney’s Office was the agency that raised questions.
For his part, Childs said he believes there are no open questions about DNA evidence. The IRB’s report, released in August, said only that “no traceable DNA was recovered from the weapon other than Suiter’s.”
“I talked to the head of the crime lab and their DNA people. There’s things, they call them ‘shadows,’ but it’s not like there’s an unknown profile there,” Childs said. “If there was any [unknown profiles], I would’ve pursued it.”
Attorney Jeremy Eldridge, who was representing Suiter and was in communication with him in the days before he died, also said that he raised objections with Fowler.
Eldridge said he believed Fowler was poised to change the ruling from homicide, saying that he contacted Eldridge and told him how to file an appeal.
But Eldridge said he began outlining concerns about information that he and Suiter’s family and other supporters believe were overlooked or distorted in the IRB report.
Last week, Suiter’s family visited the site where he was killed, a vacant lot in the 800 block of Bennett Place, on the one-year anniversary of his death. Many wore “Justice for Sean Suiter” T-shirts and released balloons into the sky.
Suiter was out with a partner on Nov. 15, 2017, conducting an investigation with another detective when he darted into the lot. Police say he was shot in the head with his own weapon, which was found beneath his body.
Police say they have no leads despite a $215,000 reward.
Suiter was shot one day before he was to have testified before a federal grand jury looking into misconduct allegations surrounding the Gun Trace Task Force case. Suiter had been involved in a 2010 arrest in which federal prosecutors say drugs were planted on a man following a pursuit that led to a fatal crash. Suiter was not a “target” of the investigation, officials have said.
Former Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, who was criticized for his public comments early in the case and for the lockdown of the Harlem Park neighborhood in the days after Suiter’s death, maintains that Suiter was killed.
“A politically convened IRB was determined to make a murder a suicide. Det. Suiter’s good name was smeared and his wife and family victimized a second time,” Davis tweeted Wednesday night in response to a WBAL report about the DNA questions in the case.