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As more details emerge regarding the story of Ebony Franklin‘s murder,  the District is likely to be haunted by them. The 17-year-old was reported missing by her mother on Nov. 26. In a Columbia Heights alley on the cloudy afternoon of Nov. 29, a passerby spotted a trash receptacle with Franklin’s body dumped inside. The high school student had been stabbed 15 times, then dropped head-first into the container.

Franklin’s father, Rodney McIntyre, was charged with her murder at an arraignment in D.C. Superior Court Monday. He will be held without bail. The day she disappeared, McIntyre had plans to meet up with his daughter to give her a few Christmas gifts.

Prosecutors say they have evidence that McIntyre had sex with his daughter before she was slain. A call to McIntyre’s lawyer wasn’t returned.

Though the alleged crime is inexplicable, there might have been some foreshadowing, Court records indicate that McIntyre had thought about harming someone close to him at least once before.

McIntyre has been involved with the criminal justice system since the ’90s, and in 2005, was sentenced to three years in prison after he pleaded guilty to a threatening to injure/kidnap a person charge.

According to charging documents, on March 15, 2005, McIntyre threatened to burn down a dwelling. He and his girlfriend had a fight the night before, and when McIntyre showed up at an apartment in the morning, looking for his girlfriend, her sister answered the door and told him she wasn’t there. He flipped, say court papers: “You are lying, I’ll set this place on fire.” Police picked up McIntyre not too far from the scene. The incident could have been a clue that, at the very least, McIntyre was violently angry. He might have even been psychotic.

The research of forensic psychiatrist Sara G. West contends that when it comes to fathers committing the act of filicide, mental illness can play a pivotal role: “Psychosis seems to be common in men who commit filicide. Two studies from psychiatric populations found the rate of psychosis was 40 percent, while two studies from general populations found it to be about 30 percent.”

When his DNA was allegedly found inside Franklin, cops say McIntyre first offered the bizarre explanation that he’d given his daughter a bottle of his sperm because she wanted to become pregnant. McIntyre later changed his story, but the fact that he thought it was plausible in the first place may point to a mental ailment.

West contends that mental health professionals should keep an eye out for patients who could be prone to filicide. “Much as asking about suicidal or homicidal thoughts has become second nature for psychiatrists over time, so too should inquiring about filicidal thoughts,” West writes.

Maybe that should become standard for those involved in the criminal justice system, as well. Franklin had already been born when McIntyre was pegged as a would-be arsonist. That’s not to place blame, but to wonder if a new approach that evaluated criminals’ mental states might help keep things from getting worse down the line. Of course, improving mental health services would reduce the need for investigators to shoulder prevention.

In any event, it’s a problem that deserves attention. The District’s Child Fatality Review Committee announced last year that in 2008, the last year for which stats are available, nine District kids were victims of “fatal abuse.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery