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Edward D. Reuss
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 When Linda Dixon decided to join the Prince George’s County Maryland police department her reason for doing so was similar to many young, enthusiastic police recruits—she wanted to help people. Also, her father who was an Assistant Police Chief in the Washington, D. C. Metropolitan Police Department, at the time, strongly influenced her desire and decision to enter the field. Dixon began her career in 1977 on street patrol and joined the detective bureau three years later in 1981.  She is currently a Major and the highest ranking female in the department and, perhaps, the most notable female law enforcement official in the county.

On October 2, 1985, a call was dispatched that Dixon responded to.  A woman had been raped, beaten in the back of the head, and her throat had been cut down to the spine; she was nearly decapitated. When Dixon arrived on the scene, the victim had already been transported to the hospital. The crime scene was secured, roadblocks were set up, and a canine track was initiated.  Dixon observed a lot of media had already arrived as well as numerous public bystanders. Once other officers learned of the brutal attack, they swarmed the area with approximately fifty officers arriving on the scene to assist. 

The day of the incident, Dixon had arrived at work at 6:00 a.m. She worked until 2:00 a.m. the next morning and then returned to work at 5:00 a.m.  Dixon never had a case with so much information coming in at one time and, initially, she didn’t know how to organize it and what to do with it.  It did not take her long, though, to develop a numbering system to organize and integrate the information she received.
Following the brutal attack and the emergency response, the victim immediately went to surgery. When Dixon saw the victim the following day, she was heavily medicated and covered in bandages. She had lacerations around her face and head, a large laceration on her neck, and a laceration over her eye that was filled with blood.  At the sight of the victim, Dixon immediately made a decision that she was going to apprehend the perpetrator of this vicious crime no matter how long it took. She promised the victim she would find the man who did this to her.

Though the victim was heavily medicated, she was able to assist in developing a composite drawing of the perpetrator, and she was cooperative with DixonDixon thought to herself, “It’s nice to have a truly legitimate victim.”

Hundreds of posters depicting the composite sketch of the suspect were immediately distributed and roadblocks, once again, were instituted. The media presence was pervasive, and reporters swarmed Dixon everywhere she went.

Following this incident, Dixon worked twenty hours a day, seven days a week for the first two weeks. She then cut back to sixteen hours a day. After the first month, she had lost more than twenty pounds, and her sergeant told her the case was devouring her. He assigned her other cases in an attempt to get her off the case that was consuming her.   Dixon stated, “That just made me work longer.” She worked her assigned cases while on duty and resumed working the rape case on her own time. She continued to work the case when she was promoted in rank, and she carried her file boxes with her throughout her career progression. Dixon’s drive and motivation for this case centered upon three facts: (1) It was a legitimate case (2) It was very brutal. (3) There was no question in her mind that this offender tried to kill the victim.

Two other rape cases had occurred in Prince George’s County in August 1981 and January 1984, and Dixon believed this same offender could possibly be a suspect. Dixon admitted, “It was like riding a roller coaster. Then the wheels would fall off”. Dixon would wake up during the night in a panic thinking that she did not do something she should have regarding the case. She would have dreams about it and would start over. Dixon acknowledged she “had nothing to go on other than a vague description.” She had to narrow her information down to focus on the most likely suspect.

 For the first couple of years following the incident, Dixon stayed in touch with the victim. Later, their contact ceased; Dixon had nothing to tell the victim. However, in April 2004, Dixon was talking to an evidence technician in the department and discussion ensued about this case. At the time of the rape, DNA testing was non-existent.  Dixon then realized a DNA test could be done but understood that a mucous swab from the victim would be required in order to run the test.  Dixon thought about contacting the victim but was somewhat reluctant. She said, “I felt guilty about bringing it back to the surface again”.   However, she decided to contact the victim. Dixon explained the DNA test to her and the potential of what it could reveal. 

                                                                   Photo Courtesy of  Major Dixon
The victim agreed to the test. Subsequent to running the DNA, a hit was returned from the state system. Dixon was on her way to lunch when a secretary stopped her and told her that someone was on the way over to her office with a hit on one of her old rape cases. When she was handed the paper, Dixon said, “This is my guy. He did this”.  It took Dixon two months to track down all the witnesses after the DNA hit. There were approximately twenty five to thirty significant witnesses and some were living out of state. Dixon wanted to ensure this would be a good case.

The defendant was charged with Attempted Murder and First Degree Rape. Dixon was notified when he was apprehended.  Though a Major at the time, Dixon wanted to interview him and did so along with a homicide investigator who was present. She said, “It was a very nice feeling.” During the interview process, the defendant wrote the victim a letter of apology.

For twenty years, Dixon worked the case.  She never lost sight of the horrific nature of the crime, and she was keenly aware of its enduring impact on the victim. On July 22, 2005, the defendant pled guilty to the charges in Prince George’s County Circuit Court.  Under a plea agreement, two life terms were suspended and the defendant was sentenced to thirty-two years in prison for rape and attempted murder. Dixon commented, “This is the big day.  I felt for the victim”. Following the sentence, the victim-- who was present in court-- immediately gave Dixon a big hug.

Dixon lived and breathed this case for twenty years and unrelentingly devoted her time and energy to fulfill her promise to the victim. This case had a tremendous impact on her and she said, “It made me look back on my career and realize that I had a larger impact on people than I thought I did.” In the end, she realized her initial reason for entering the law enforcement profession to help people had actually been valid and fulfilled. Dixon is an exemplary and inspirational role model to all who work in the criminal justice system, and she is living proof that police officers genuinely care and believe in what they do.

Copyright 2005 Karen L. Bune

***Karen L. Bune is a Victim Specialist/Legal Assistant in the domestic violence unit of the State’s Attorney’s Office for Prince George’s County, Maryland.  She is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.  She is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant on victim issues.  Ms. Bune is a Fellow of the Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress and is Board Certified in domestic violence.  She can be reached at Kbune@gmu.edu



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