Who Cared About Mary Grant? ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

November 11, 1992

A story in the current Reader's Digest, "When Your Doctor Doesn't Know," raises the disconcerting thought that you could bring an illness to your doctor, or doctors, and that the physicians couldn't figure it out, not because no solution existed, but because they weren't up to finding it. It's a dilemma that reveals that doctoring isn't all science, but part art, too.

The same might be said for criminology. Just because police haven't solved a crime, doesn't mean a solution is unattainable.

Take the case of Mary Kathleen Grant, 15, whose nude, battered body was found in a wooded area of Pasadena nearly three years ago. Mary Grant was no honors student. She was a chronic runaway, a dropout, an adolescent still smitten by the swagger of a tougher crowd. Yet, without knowing her, you couldn't help but be entranced by her radiant smile in the photo that ran in the papers at the time of her death. The wide grin that filled her cherubic face belied the tough girl image she tried to carry off with a cheap choker necklace and leather jacket. Judging from the photo, she didn't seem a bad kid. However dim her potential seemed in February 1989, it shouldn't have been left in a puddle of blood off a beaten path in Pasadena.

Fortunately, new leadership in the Anne Arundel Police Department felt similarly. The Grant file had grown cobwebs. Police had suspects, but witnesses were afraid to testify; a couple of them had been threatened. Besides, the victim was a teen runaway. Her death barely merited a couple of yellowed news clippings. It would have been an easy case for police to overlook -- and for a time, it was.

But recently, a revamped criminal investigation unit, with a new captain, sergeant and investigators, took a second crack at the case. They reinterviewed witnesses, got new information and charged Mark John Loetz, 32, of Arnold with first-degree murder. Sgt. Dennis Bailey said the unit hopes to devote more time to unsolved murders.

You look at that smiling visage of Mary Kathleen Grant and you have to be gratified that police are taking seriously their responsibility not to allow a violent death to fade quietly away. Of course, the break in this three-year-old case also raises a thought that may seem naive, but is sobering nonetheless: How many crimes go unsolved due mostly to a lack of motivation to solve them?

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