Don’t Open the Door: The Kanika Powell Murder

Though she lived alone, Army veteran, Kanika Powell, was intelligent and cautious, and not one to be easily victimized.  On the evening of Saturday, August 22, 2008, a bizarre chain of events, which seem like something more befitting of a spy movie than reality, began with a knock at her apartment door.

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Kanika Powell

Born January 31, 1980, Kanika graduated from Largo High School in Upper Marlboro, Maryland in 1998.  A few years afterwards, she joined the Army and served several years in Korea.  After she returned from her tour of duty in Korea, Kanika moved back to Prince George’s County, Maryland.  She lived only forty minutes outside of Washington, D.C. and began working as a security contractor.

In 2004, she became a contract worker at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, also known as APL, located in Laurel, Maryland.  By 2006,  Kanika was hired on as an official full-time employee at the laboratory which describes its focus as “ensuring the reliability of complex technologies that safeguard [the] nation’s security and advance the frontiers of space.”

In 2008, Kanika forwarded the following e-mail to a group of family and friends about an unnerving experience she’d had the previous Saturday, on August 23rd:

“Date: Mon, 25 Aug 2008 08:04:54 -0400

From: ktp131

Subject: Weekend

I just wanted to share with you the scariest thing that happened to me this weekend. Saturday evening around 7pm a man was knocking at my door (as all of you may know I live alone). I asked who it was and he didn’t answer, so once I got close to the door and looked out of the peephole I saw a male figure that was not familiar to me at all. I asked who he was and all he stated was that he was from the FBI and that he was looking for Kanika Powell. It freaked me out completely because this man knew my name. He held a shield up but no picture ID and he never gave his name. He told me he was looking for me in regards to an investigation. I told him that I had no idea as to what he was talking about and that he would need to show me documentation as well as a warrant of some sort. So he left and I looked out my bedroom window and saw him walking. I also heard a voice tell him to walk in the opposite direction. The whole situation was scary and seemed so false. So because of this incident not only did I get NO sleep for the rest of the weekend but I am now trying to get an alarm system installed in my apartment. I had one in my old apartment, but I just hadn’t had it transferred over to my new one.

As far as everything that happened with the guy. I did call the FBI and they told me that it was more than likely bogus because they never come to your door by themselves and they always leave a card of some sort so that you can contact them. I called the local police as well to give them a description just in case someone is out there trying to rape or harm single women.

pass this on ladies.. This is not a fake Forward this happened to ME Kanika…Who knows who these guys are and what they are doing and in what areas other than mine.”

Kanika was very shaken by the interaction.  She told relatives that she thought an FBI agent would have identified himself properly and would’ve provided more details.  In addition, she thought the shield he quickly flashed at the door looked like a “fake badge.”  And, something just didn’t seem right about how someone else, just out of view, yelled at him to “walk in the opposite direction” as he was leaving.  Afterwards, Kanika could not shake the feeling that the entire situation had “seemed so false.”

Fearful, Kanika called the police and filed a report immediately after the incident.  Police arrived only four minutes after her call and “canvassed the apartment complex” but did not find the man.

Kanika also “reported the incident to the apartment complex” and sent the above e-mail out to warn others.  Her mother, Judy Forrest, said that Kanika “thought she was being set up for a scam after the first visit.”  In the days following, she did everything possible to handle the situation, including having a security system installed inside her apartment and contacting the Federal Bureau of Investigation who “[insisted] that none of its agents [had] approached [her].”

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Kanika

However, by the next Wednesday, on August 27, 2008, (only five days later) there was another knock at Kanika’s door.  A different man stood outside and asked if she were Kanika Powell.  Again, Kanika refused to open her door.  The man said he had a package for her and that he’d go get it, and “he never came back.”  He disappeared without leaving a package or a note indicating where she could collect the delivery.

The next morning, on Thursday, August 28, 2008, at around 7:00 AM, Kanika called her mother saying “Someone knocked on my door again saying they had a package for me…  It’s 7:30 in the morning — who delivers packages this early?”  Her mother, Judy, said that by this point, Kanika felt “targeted,” and was no longer convinced she was the random victim of a scam.  As she was going out of town the next day, Kanika decided to take the day off at work and run some necessary errands during the daytime, so she wasn’t “running around in the dark” and could “get back home and be safe.”

But, tragically, upon returning to her apartment around 11:50 AM, “someone was waiting in the hallway and opened fire, riddling her with bullets.”  Kanika was shot “several times with a handgun,” which authorities confirmed was “never recovered.”  According to media reports, her “keys and wallet were found next to her body, and robbery was ruled out as a motive.”  Kanika Powell died from her injuries the next day on Friday, August 29, 2008.


 

Confidential Motive

The murder of Kanika Powell has been described as “[continuing] to baffle law enforcement.”  In the ensuing homicide investigation, authorities found “no apparent motive for her killing — no spurned lover, no robbery, no signs of gang activity, nothing.”  In addition, Kanika had no prior criminal history and “nothing unusual or illegal in her apartment” according to police.

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The most dramatic possibility is that Kanika Powell was murdered due to her work as a security contractor with the prestigious Hopkins APL.  Described as having “top secret clearance,” Kanika would “occasionally leave town for a couple of days to pick up things for the lab” and told her mother, Judy, that she couldn’t say where exactly she was going.  In an interview with CrimeWatch Daily, Judy stated that Kanika’s job “had to do something with military” and she’d fly to California and Florida.  In this interview, Judy also mentions that Kanika said there were “two men” during the visit from the fake FBI agent.

spokesman for the lab told reporters that “it was premature to speculate on whether [Kanika’s] death had any connection to her work.”  He also refused to specify “the lab [Kanika] worked in or her title, citing the ‘nature of the work.'”  Police told reporters that “they don’t believe her job was a motive.”


 

A Killer Unknown

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Sean Green

However, some internet conspiracists have pointed out strange connections between Kanika’s murder, and the unresolved murder of 31-year-old, Sean Green, an employee at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Virginia.  On November 12, 2008, (less than three months after Kanika’s death) Sean was shot nine times “by a masked gunman” while waiting in a line of cars at a traffic light.  He was murdered only thirty minutes away from Kanika’s apartment.

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Locations of the Murders

In addition to the lack of motive, Kanika and Sean were both unmarried, lived alone, had no prior criminal history, and had security clearance.  They also both seem to have been, at the least, chosen (if not outright targeted) by their murderers and were shot multiple times.

However, Prince George’s County police have asserted “there’s no indication the two killings are connected.”

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Jason Scott

Another possible theory some have suggested is that Kanika Powell was the victim of 25-year-old serial killer, Jason Thomas Scott.  Dubbed as the “Mother-Daughter Killer,” Jason Scott, was particularly active between June 2008 and March 2009 in Prince George’s County, Maryland.  Ultimately, he was convicted and sentenced to a total of 182 years in prison for the murders of Vilma Butler, Karen Lofton, Karen’s 16-year-old daughter, Karissa, Delores Dewitt, and Delores’s 20-year-old daughter Ebony.

Described as “educated, good looking and internet savvy,” Jason reportedly “made use of a database where he worked at UPS to target and gather information on his victims.”  The following quotation from federal prosecutors details some of Jason’s crimes:

“…The evidence showed that Scott started committing burglaries at a young age, then he graduated to home invasion robberies in 2008. Many of the crimes were committed with accomplices, but Scott committed some crimes by himself.

Scott selected the homes to be targeted; observed the targeted homes to assess the number of occupants and the vehicles present; checked addresses, using internet searches and a database at the Landover UPS facility where Scott worked; cut phone lines to disable alarm systems; and gained entry through unlocked windows or by smashing glass windows and doors.”

Though he was not known to use fake identities, and doesn’t match the exact modus operandi of Kanika’s murderer, Jason Scott did kill at least three of his victims by shooting, setting the two other victims on fire after attacking them (which effectively prevented a cause of death determination).

In 2013, Jason entered an Alford Plea which “doesn’t admit guilt but acknowledges that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict him.”  He has not pointedly admitted to many of the crimes and has revealed no details about the murders.


 

[Un]professional Hit?

kanika-powell-murderIt’s intriguing that Kanika did not recognize any of the multiple visitors requesting that she open her door.  They all asked if she were Kanika Powell; therefore, the visitors apparently did not recognize her either.  The distinct lack of recognition between the victim and the probable murderer(/s) in this case suggests the possibility of a contracted hit.  Also, because of her work with the government, the idea of a professional hit would certainly clarify the killer’s illusive motive.  But, some details aren’t congruous with this theory.

Firstly, why would a professional hitman attempt to gain entry into Kanika’s apartment?  Why even interact with Kanika at all?  Why not wait until she takes out the trash or leaves for work?  Why not break in or shoot through the door?  Perhaps, these questions can be answered simply enough by the murderer’s preferences, but the forced interaction between the two is bizarre.

In addition, the amount of times Kanika was shot could be considered overkill.  In this respect, maybe, the killer wanted the door open to make sure they’d hurt her enough to die.  This kind of intense focus on guaranteeing Kanika’s death seems more personal than methodical, especially considering the following issues with the methodology of this brutal murder.

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The number one question about the killer’s strategy is if he were a paid hitman, supposedly working for a powerful entity like the government, then why choose an easily-blown cover, like an FBI agent without identification or a delivery man without a package?

Why not forge identification which must be looked at closely to realize that it is questionable or inauthentic?  The FBI agent cover story and the fake badge both reek of inexperienced and infantile attempts at deception, even though the entire murder plot was based upon Kanika being deceived.

And, why keep trying the failed plan a second and third time while the victim is on high alert?  It seems incredibly lucky (for him) that Kanika did not call the police regarding the delivery man, considering she seemed to be actively taking every precaution possible.  What mades getting Kanika to identify herself and open her door so incredibly crucial to these men?  Why would multiple contract killers continue using different variations of the same failed method?

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Furthermore, though Kanika’s e-mail does not spell this out directly, it seems as though there were two men involved on the day of the “FBI” visit.  There was the first man who actively impersonated an FBI agent, and a second man that yelled out to the first (as the first man was walking away in the wrong direction).  Kanika only heard and never saw the second man.

The delivery man (who is described as “a different man” from the fake agent) may have been the second man in the FBI visit.  But, what about the delivery man the next morning- was that also a different individual?   After the last attempted delivery, Kanika even expressed her frustration by saying, “Why are these people bothering me, Ma?” In the same phone call, her mother said Kanika also “wondered whether she had angered someone,” perhaps unknowingly.  So, at the least, there were two separate mysterious visitors, if not three, begging the question: why would multiple, professional hitmen work together to shoot one young woman?

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No Leads, No Answers

Judy Forrest has described her daughter as “feisty… fast… adorable.”  According to news reports, Kanika’s “family and friends say they cannot fathom a reason for the killing.”

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Judy and Kanika

Judy further commented:

“She was just living a normal life.  It doesn’t add up.  Somebody knows something, and they’re holding on to it, and we don’t know why.”

Though the contract killer theory is certainly plausible due to Kanika’s involvement with Hopkins APL, the disparate lack of evidence in the case renders it difficult to assign to one theory or another.

kanika-powell-murder-5Obviously, the men were trying to convince Kanika to open the door for nefarious reasons.  Perhaps, they originally were scammers, as her initial instinct suggested.  And, after the scam portion of the crime didn’t work, the men retaliated against Kanika for some perceived wrong (ie. calling the police or alerting the apartment complex).

However, if the murderers were local criminals, thieves, and/or scammers, they have probably engaged in similar activities afterwards.  It is reasonable to surmise that until authorities work to pointedly discover more information about her murder, it will remain a cold case.  kanika-powell-murder-4

Over nine years later, no new information has been released about the murder of Kanika Powell.  Articles featuring Kanika have been mostly archived or removed from the internet, chronicled only in the copy/pastes of various blogs.  If Kanika’s killer is apprehended, it will most likely be the product of someone coming forward with new, critical information.

If you know anything about Kanika Powell’s brutal slaying, the men responsible, or the events leading up to her murder, please contact Prince George’s County Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-8477.  A cash reward of up to $25,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and indictment of those responsible for her death.

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