Saturday, January 24, 2015

"The Unusual Suspect" on NBC Dateline: an account of the horrific Maryland crime spree by Jason Thomas Scott, and there may be more important cases


Friday, January 23, 2015, NBC Dateline aired one of its most frightening crime stories ever, called “The Unusual Suspect”, a negation of the classic suspense movie title “The Usual Suspects” (by Bryan Singer with Kevin Spacey) from the 1990s. 
  

Jason Thomas Scott and two accomplices committed a string of home invasions in Prince Georges County, MD, east of Washington DC, in 2009.  In the course of the crimes, he murdered a mother and daughter, Delores and Ebony Dewitt, for which he was tried and convicted.  According to news reports, the first (state) trial ended in a mistrial on a legal technicality (here) .  But he would eventually be sentenced to over 100 years on federal charges alone. He had already been sentenced to 100 years in federal prison on various charges. Another mother and daughter, the Lofton’s, apparently were also victims but Maryland prosecutors had a stronger case with the DeWitt's. 
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Scott had worked for UPS and apparently used his database and educational background to target victims.  He was well educated, and the motive for his sociopathic behavior (or psychopathic) was beyond explanation.  The pattern shares a lot in common with serial killers of women.  Some news reports claim he said he had struggled with “homosexuality”, but most of his victims (and peeping interest) appear to have been female.  On the other hand, some of his behavior suggests "radicalization".  The NBC Dateline report explained how police promised him a kind of “fake immunity” after he confessed to the home invasions.  Police could still use evidence other than his “confession” for prosecution, but the legal technicalities were tickly, as the first mistrial showed.
  
The details of the crime spree are indeed convoluted and graphic.  It’s easier to get a sense of their scope from news reports, like here on abcnews here.   Murderpedia has a particularly detailed account here. There are some accounts of his likely connection with another case in Bowie, MD in 2008 (Washington Post, here   it seems as thought the WP accidentally inverted the middle and last names).

Unlike most Dateline crime episodes, this one does not end in a summary of the courtroom trial.  It focuses just on the investigation and bizarre nature of the crimes, which were rather like domestic terrorism.  The major break came over an federal ATF bust after his "purchase" of weapons in Charles County, MD. 
NBC Dateline would be well to examine the late 2008 murders of Kanika Powell and Sean Green, both workers with sensitive classified information, both crimes also in Prince Georges County, in Laurel and Oxon Hill, respectively. There could be a connection to Scott, as shown by the Reddit posting (here on Nov. 21, 2014), leading to other links.  Apparently, this case is still cold or unsolved, or authorities are unwilling to discuss it.  NBC Dateline should consider reviewing all the facts on these cases with its own journalistic investigation to see if there is a connection to the case in this show. I suppose ABC's 20-20 unit could also take a crack at this case, as could CNN Films.  
  
These Dateline shows are stronger than a lot of investigatory documentary movies.   Maybe some of them could be packaged for arthouse theatrical release through Universal Focus or Rogue pictures. 

I have some connection to NBC.  I worked for the network as a computer programmer in New York City Rockefeller Center 1974-1977 in an earlier era of technology.  It is an experience I still remember well.  

Update: April 25, 2016

NBC aired the episode again Sunday night. I noticed that the "Spooky House" looks a lot like the country park museum across a similar field from Contee Drive in Laurel.  Despite a good eductation, Thomas showed signs of character disorder and psychopathy as a pre-teen.

A Baltimore television station has an up-to-date story here. The Inquisitr has a detailed story by Tracy Reyes April 24 here. It's not clear if NBC has updated the report. 

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