On New Year’s Eve 2004, Jade Hodge was standing in the Giant grocery store parking lot on Brentwood Road in Northeast D.C. and talking with a woman he knew when a gunman walked up and shot him at close range.
By the time police arrived, he was dead.
News spread fast, reaching his teenage daughter as she drove along the Capital Beltway.
“She called me in tears and she was like, ’They killed him, they killed him, he’s gone, he’s gone,’” Jade Foster recalled being told. “I almost crashed my car.”
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There were witnesses to the killing but no arrests. Jade Foster, who was named after her dad, and her family wondered what happened that night.
The Metropolitan Police Department had nothing to share until December 2021, when a detective called to say the case had been closed and the suspect would not be prosecuted.
“He explained to me that they had enough evidence and reason to believe that they found the suspect in my father’s murder, they found the person responsible, and that he was in jail already in California,” Jade Foster said.
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Police gave her a name but would not reveal the evidence that they said linked the man to her father’s death.
According to internal records obtained by News4 through a Freedom of Information Act request, D.C. police have closed 113 homicide cases since 2018 without making an arrest. Of those cases, 59 were closed after the death of a suspect.
The records show that last year D.C. police closed two homicides with the death of a man named Breond Keys, who was shot and killed inside a Southeast D.C. barbershop in 2014.
Investigators say they have enough evidence to prove Keys killed Morris Snead in March 2004 and Jontel Wise in April 2004.
The cases were closed and the evidence was sealed, so no details were available.
Why Some Cases Are Closed With No Arrest
Assistant Chief Leslie Parsons, who’s in charge of investigations, said that not every case results in an arrest.
“We have circumstances where the offender may have died, may have been identified and died. In those cases, we would want to bring those to closure and notify those families that hey, we’ve been investigating your case,” he said.
“Some of the evidence and information we don’t learn until after somebody’s dead because people may not feel comfortable coming forward,” Parsons added.
The assistant chief said that when a case is closed this way, investigators tell the family of the victim, but that’s where it stops.
MPD generally does not put out a press release to notify the public that a case has been closed this way. Here’s what Parsons said about why: “That family of that deceased person had just lost their loved one. I don’t think it’s very compassionate for the police department to come to them after they have lost their loved one and let them know that we have identified them in a separate case, in a murder.”
Laverne Thomas still had questions.
“Why? I’m just saying why? I just want to know why,” she said.
Thomas’ daughter Lorraine Thomas, a peace activist, was shot and killed in October 2020. Seven months after Lorraine Thomas was killed while sitting inside her car on Fourth Street SE, police closed the case because the two teenage suspects were both dead.
Police say Navaras Johnson and Isaiah Armstead, both homicide victims themselves, killed Lorraine Thomas and that investigators have the evidence to prove it. But like in all the other cases closed administratively, the evidence has been sealed.
Why Cases Are Closed Late in the Year
A close examination of the records shows that 50 of the 113 cases with administrative closures since 2018 were closed in the final weeks of the year.
In a lawsuit filed last year in D.C. Superior Court, Sgt. Carlos Bundy claimed, among other things, that homicide cases are closed at the end of the year because, “The mayor uses the [numbers] to evaluate MPD and the chief of police. This pressure to close cases and open arrest warrants leads to officers violating MPD rules and regulations.”
The lawsuit is still pending.
Parsons said about the process: “They go through a lot of scrutiny before they’re approved to be an administrative closure. [...] There are times when those cases will kind of log jam up towards the end of the year, as we’ve been sending them through all year to get through the process.”
In 17 cases, suspects are already locked up and serving long prison sentences. In those cases, Parsons said, the U.S. Attorney’s Office made the decision not to take the cases to court. A spokesman said the office had no comment.
Records show that D.C. police also have closed cases because the suspects fled to Mexico or El Salvador.
Jade Foster said she would love to see her father’s killer in court.
“I want to punch him in the face, really,” she began to say.
“I would love a day in court. I would love to tell him how he hurt my family. I would love to tell him how he changed the course of my whole entire life,” she said through tears.