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Emergence of teen witness leads to arrest in D.C. firefighter’s 2011 killing

Prosecutors say victim was ambushed, attacked by girlfriend’s estranged husband

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Detectives early on had solid leads in the 2011 slaying of D.C. firefighter Marc Dancy, even interviewing the man now charged in his death.

But when the suspect's estranged wife — who was romantically involved with the victim — declined to testify before a grand jury, the case went cold. It wasn't until the woman's teenaged son came forward this year to provide details about the night Dancy was killed that D.C. police were able to arrest 39-year-old Melvin Linkins, according to court documents.

Mr. Linkins was charged Thursday with second-degree murder in the death of 37-year-old Dancy, who was found beaten to death in the entryway of an apartment building where Mr. Linkins sometimes stayed with his estranged wife. Mr. Linkins is being held without bond. A preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 27.

Police said Mr. Linkins used his wife's cellphone to text Dancy after she went to sleep and to lure him to the apartment. The text conversation was recovered from Dancy's phone. The exchange of texts had been deleted from the wife's phone, and she told police she didn't write them. Mr. Linkins also denied sending the texts.

But the woman's son — who was 16 at the time — came forward in May to tell police that on the night of the killing Mr. Linkins had been given the phone the text messages came from. He also told police that Mr. Linkins knew his mother was having an affair with Dancy and that he had witnessed the couple fighting about it. Members of the Metropolitan Police Department often stress the importance witness cooperation plays in solving crimes, but a spokeswoman declined to speak about it in this particular case.

In an interview with police three months after Dancy's death, the wife told investigators she did not believe her son was the one who had responded to Dancy's text messages, but she did not reply when asked whether she thought Mr. Linkins could have attacked Dancy.

She said "she was very upset about the death of the decedent and she agreed to cooperate fully with the investigation," court records state. The records do not name the woman or her son because they are witnesses in the case.

But two months later, when called to testify before a D.C. Superior Court grand jury in the case, the woman cited spousal immunity and declined to testify against her husband.

Neither the families of Mr. Linkins nor Dancy could be reached for comment.

The night of the homicide was a hectic one for Mr. Linkins and his family. Close to midnight on Jan. 22, 2011, police were called to the family's apartment at 3000 7th Street in Northeast D.C. after the 16-year-old boy and his mother got in an argument over his use of her cellphone, according to court documents. After police left, the woman left Mr. Linkins in possession of the phone to prevent the boy from using it, the boy told police, according to court documents.

About three hours later, Dancy sent a text message to the wife asking, "Can I come over?" The message he received from her phone said, "Yes." Several more messages were exchanged until Dancy arrived at the apartment. The boy told police that he, his mother and his two siblings had all gone to sleep in the same bedroom by that point.

At close to 8 the next morning, police were called to the apartment and found Dancy dead. He had suffered multiple fractures to the face and ribs, as well as hemorrhaging of the heart, injuries the medical examiner determined were consistent with being punched, kicked or beaten.

The charges against Mr. Linkins rely on the accounts given by those in the apartment that night. The boy has had at least one fight with his stepfather that required the assistance of police since the homicide, according to court records.

Police do not mention any eyewitnesses or other evidence linking Mr. Linkins to the homicide. His attorney did not return calls.

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