The widow of 30-year-old attorney David Messerschmitt, who was found stabbed to death on Feb. 10 in a downtown D.C. hotel room, made an emotional appeal on Wednesday for members of the public to come forward with information to help police solve the crime.
At a news conference outside of D.C. police headquarters, Kim Vuong, struggling to hold back tears, urged anyone who may have information about the murder to immediately contact police.
The case has attracted the attention of LGBT activists who say it has similarities to so-called pickup murders of which gay men have become victims in D.C. and other cities.
“I know there are people out there who could bring justice to David and me, to our families and friends, and to everyone in Washington who deserves to live in safety,” said Vuong, who was accompanied by members of her family and friends.
She also called on the public to carefully observe a video taken from security cameras at the Donovan Hotel, where Messerschmitt had checked into a room, showing someone police have described as a person of interest in the case.
“That video captures the image of the person of interest,” she said. “Please ask yourself if you recognize that individual. And, if you recognize that individual, or even think you may recognize that person, immediately call the Metropolitan Police Department at 202-727-9099.”
Lt. Anthony Haythe, the lead homicide detective working on the case, told reporters at the news conference after Vuong and the others left without taking questions, that police now believe the person of interest is a female.
Up until the time of the news conference, police have said they were uncertain whether the person shown in the video, who wore a hooded jacket, was a man or a woman.
“All information that we’ve obtained indicates that it is a woman,” Haythe said.
But he declined to answer nearly all other questions raised by reporters, including whether Messerschmitt may have met his killer through one of many online hookup sites that LGBT activists say have been the means through which gay men have met people who have robbed, assaulted, and sometimes killed them.
When asked by a reporter if the police department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit has been consulted in the Messerschmitt case, Haythe said, “I cannot confirm anything that has anything to do with Mr. Messerschmitt’s lifestyle.”
Asked why Messerschmitt checked into a hotel room when he lived with his wife in D.C., Haythe said, “That’s information pertinent to our investigation that I cannot reveal.”
LGBT activists following the case say they have no specific information to indicate Messerschmitt was targeted because of his sexual orientation – whether gay or straight. The activists, including Paul Tupper, chair of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, a D.C.-based group, have said their heart goes out to Messerschmitt’s wife and other family members.
Their main concern, Tupper and other activists said, was that others in the community, including members of the LGBT community, could be in danger if a killer targeting certain people remains at large.
“I would hope that if the police have any evidence that the person David met was through a sex line – gay or straight – the public would be informed quickly so they can be aware of any danger to them,” said gay activist Peter Rosenstein.
When asked if investigators have gone through Messerschmitt’s cell phone records to see if that provides leads in the case, Haythe said, “Those are matters that we’ll handle in an investigative standpoint. We’re dealing with that, and I can’t reveal any information involving what we’re going through in our investigation.”
In the days following the discovery of Messerschmitt’s body, a police affidavit in support of a search warrant for the hotel room said police found Messerschmitt suffering from stab wounds to the back and that his body was found lying on the floor with credit cards and his wallet on the floor near the body.
The affidavit also said police found one or more condoms, lubricant, and an enema in the room along with other items, including a computer and cell phone.
“In one day, I lost the most important person in my life and the man I loved so much,” Vuong said at the news conference. “And I have no answers.”
She added, “I am here because I need people to know about David. My husband was the gentlest and kindest hearted person I knew. He worked hard at everything. He was a brilliant lawyer who people trusted. He was deeply dedicated to his family and spent a great deal of time traveling to be with them.”