Man, linked to Va. teen's mysterious death, charged with killing woman

A Baltimore man has been arrested in the killing of a 26-year-old Northeast Baltimore woman, a development that parents of a runaway Virginia teen hope may yield new leads in their daughter's mysterious death.

Police say Darnell Kinlaw, 21, confessed to fatally shooting Lakeisha Player inside her home on Nov. 11 and stealing her candy-apple red car, a purchase that friends say had been a point of pride for her. Kinlaw told police that Player was his girlfriend.

Kinlaw has a long record, charged eight times with stealing cars and twice with burglary, one case that was filed by his mother who said he broke into the family home and took valuables after being kicked out for stealing.

One of the car theft cases was connected to the 2008 death of Virginia teen Annie McCann, who ran away from home and was found dead in an East Baltimore housing project.

An autopsy determined that Annie, 16, had died from a lethal dose of lidocaine from a bottle of Bactine, often used to treat pierced ears. Police say the death points to suicide, but her family has rejected that conclusion and say police never did a proper investigation.

The McCanns pressed police to charge Kinlaw and two juveniles for taking Annie's car after one of the teens admitted to removing Annie's body from the car and putting her near a trash bin. The juveniles were found responsible for the unauthorized use of the car, but charges against Kinlaw were dropped because of a lack of evidence.

Annie's father, Daniel McCann, said that he might use the recent arrest to press authorities to question Kinlaw about more details in his daughter's death. He said he felt police did not question the young man sufficiently after charging him with taking his daughter's car.

"He's facing Murder One," McCann said. "This might be the time to press him to learn about additional cases. He might be more forthcoming now than he ever will be."

McCann never suspected the three of killing Annie, but McCann said Wednesday that he thinks Kinlaw knows details that could point to a killer. "I firmly believe that he knows a lot more about what happened that night than I know, or that my private investigators know, or that the Baltimore Police Department knows or seems to care [about]."

The father of one of the youths told The Baltimore Sun in November 2009 that the boys didn't have any information. "This is a dead end for what they want," said the father, Bryant Woodley Sr.

Kinlaw is being held without bond on first-degree murder and related charges in Player's death, which occurred 11 months after Kinlaw was sentenced to four years in prison.

Court records show Kinlaw pleaded guilty in January to charges of drug distribution and unauthorized removal of property. He received four years for the drug charges and three years for the unauthorized use charge, plus one year for violating his probation in another case. The sentences were to all run concurrently.

Because he had been incarcerated since May 2010, he was credited with that time served. Officials said he was paroled in October after serving 18 months because his conviction was a nonviolent offense and Kinlaw did not commit any infractions while incarcerated.

On Nov. 11, homicide detective Martin Young received a call from a man who said he had heard a gunshot from Player's home in the 2600 block of Kentucky Ave. and observed a man leave from the back, Young wrote in charging documents.

The caller said he and the man locked eyes, and the man quickened his pace and ran to a 2004 red Honda Civic that belonged to Player, then drove off. Officers in the Northeast District forced their way into the home and found Player in a second-floor room, dead from a gunshot wound to the back of the head.

Kinlaw was later found with Player's vehicle. In an interview with detectives, Kinlaw confessed to shooting Player, and said he recovered the spent shell casing from the scene and disposed of all the evidence, police say.

A friend of Player's said she was the mother of two young children and was working toward her GED. She loved fashion shows, the friend said, and had a "great laugh."

"She was a special person with a warm heart," the friend, who requested she not be named because she is afraid for her safety, said in an email.

In Virginia, McCann's still-grieving father continues to press for answers. He's actively pursing leads through private attorneys and investigators.

There is now a new state's attorney and a new commander of the city police homicide unit. But, McCann said, "it's the same police commissioner."

McCann said he and his wife are doing "terrible, and worse in some ways than before." He said, "Part of it is that we're in this ungodly limbo of not knowing what happened to our daughter. I know what didn't happen. She didn't kill herself."

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