WASHINGTON - The work of a homicide detective is often stressful and exhausting as countless hours are spent trying to solve a puzzle. There is pressure from police commanders, lawmakers and residents who want answers – even when there are none to give.
That work in Prince George's County is about to be featured in a new book that exposes the raw truths about murders and the toll it takes on the detectives who try to solve them.
Last Friday, FOX 5 reported Prince George's County police have a suspect in the 2012 murder of 17-year-old Amber Stanley. DNA evidence points to a man now behind bars, but there have been no charges so far.
A phone call that ushered Sean Deere into a personal hell came at 11:10 p.m. on August 22. It was a warm and muggy Wednesday. In his new book, A Good Month for Murder, that is the way Del Quentin Wilber introduces us to the detective who will try and solve Stanley’s murder.
She was a rising senior student at Charles Herbert Flowers High School who was shot to death inside her Kettering home by a masked man. A suspect who – by his actions – appeared to be out for Stanley.
As he worked the scene that night, Deere was thinking, “Nobody executes honor students – not like this.” Detectives in Prince George's County police’s homicide division called the murder a "redball."
“Redball can be a little bit different,” said Prince George’s County Police Capt. Brian Reilly. “It can be a young child case. It could be a high school student case. It could be an elderly woman case, which is discussed in the book. Redballs come in several times a year.”
The murder of Stanley was definitely a redball. Within 24 hours, Deere had a theory that the crime had something to do with teenager’s foster sister who had been sexually assaulted in the days before the killing.
Living by the mantra, "There are no coincidences in murder," the detective focused in on a Facebook post that was written by the foster sister. Deere thought it was a threat aimed at the girl’s attacker.
The theory is that Stanley was the wrong victim at the wrong place.
“That is a good theory, yes,” said Reilly. “That's our theory. It’s a crime that took place against the foster sister, has something to do with Amber’s murder and Amber was mistakenly the victim of this murder.”
In the winter of 2013, Wilber was shadowing the detectives at a time Deere was trying to solve this case.
"You see how hard it is to do this job and you understand why these detectives put up defense mechanisms to deal with it – the grim humor, the gallows humor,” said Wilber. “It’s just the job going through it. By the end, I was totally affected by it. It changed me.”
Wilber’s book now puts Prince George's County homicide unit on a national stage by revealing ways in which investigators get suspects "into the box" where they are interviewed for hours.
"I don't know how the community is going to react to it,” said Reilly. “I just don't. I don't know how they are going to react to it. I hope the community and the readers react in a good way to it because it’s a snapshot of what takes place in a homicide office.”
For the first time, it reveals virtually everything about an open case – an open high-profile case that at one time had the community of Kettering on edge.
We asked Reilly if this case hangs over his head.
“It does,” he said. “It hangs over Sean’s head. It hangs over his squad’s head. It’s a case they put a lot of time and effort into and we haven't gotten the results yet that we really, really want to get from this case.”
Last week, knowing the book was coming out, investigators went back to Stanley’s house where they met with her mother, Irma Gaither. It is a difficult part of the job trying to explain to a grieving mother why her daughter’s killer has not been charged.
Detective Deere still has the case and continues to pursue leads.
A Good Month for Murder goes on sale Tuesday.