Growing up I remember watching a hell of a lot of Da Vinci’s Inquest with my parents. That cheesy, overacted CBC crime drama was my gateway drug into the big beautiful world of corny, overly dramatic crime dramas like CSI, CSI: Miami, Dexter, Bones…etcetera, etcetera. It’s not my favourite TV genre but it’s so dang easy to get hooked, because what’s more satisfying than a murder that gets solved within an hour-long episode? Nothing. The answer is nothing.
Reality isn’t nearly as satisfying. Real-life murders do not get solved in an hour, sometimes they never get solved at all.
In the case of Latonya Wallace’s murder the Homicide detectives have virtually no physical evidence from the crime scene. The 11-year old girl was found in an alley early one rainy morning. The weather effectively washed the alley of any traces of the suspect and it was clear that her body had been relocated from the crime scene. One of the most defining leads in the case is an earring that was missing from the victim’s lobe.
“In addition to the bloody clothes or bedsheets and a serrated knife, they are searching for the star-shaped gold earring, nothing less than a proverbial needle in the haystack.”
Imagine searching an entire neighbourhood — bedrooms, basements, closets, garages, backyards — for an earring.
Chapter three started with a similarly defeating tone.
“It has been 111 days since Gene Cassidy was shot down at the corner of Appleton and Mosher streets.”
I was immediately frustrated. How come these murders were taking so long to solve? Shouldn’t the detectives be able to scan something with a black-light, or take some swabs, or run something through a computer to find the murderer? Then I caught myself. This isn’t a television show and these crimes actually happened. It was an icky moment of realization that my world-view was somewhat formed by the shows I watched on TV.
That said, Gene Cassidy’s case reads like an episode of CSI. Cassidy was a police officer that was shot in the head twice on a street corner, leaving him blind, but alive. Terry McLarney is the detective assigned to his case and a close friend of Cassidy’s, he is more than invested in solving the difficult case. There are no reputable witnesses off the bat and Cassidy can’t remember the events leading up to the incident. We follow McLarney to all kinds of dead ends before the offender is ousted by a witness months after the shooting.
But, McLarney’s victory is short-lived. Baltimore has an average of 200 murders per year, meaning each detective of the homicide unit takes on a new case every few days. Following the closing of the Cassidy case, Baltimore experiences 13 murders in 14 days.
Thanks David Simon, I don’t think I can respectfully watch another polished, well-rested TV detective tie a pretty-little bow on a murder case ever again (unless, of course, we’re talking about The Wire). Reality is much more interesting.