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D.C. detective's family mourns a son and an open case

The mourners circled around the fire hydrant in the darkness of an isolated stretch of Central Avenue, the exact spot where Marcel Dessin died one year ago. But they held candles that flickered in a misty drizzle to praise the 22-years of fun-loving life he represented to family and friends.

At the center of Tuesday night's vigil, veteran D.C. police investigator Rene Dessin held a hand on the shoulder of his Marcel's mother, Tanya Jones, as the parents again said goodbye to their only child, a year after he was murdered.

"Thank you all for being here. It's been a hard and long year for myself, and for Tanya...I want to thank you for all the phone calls and letters," Rene Dessin told the crowd.

Marcel Dessin, 22, was fatally shot Nov. 24, 2009 after he and two friends left a go-go show at La Pearl Banquet Hall in Capitol Heights when a gunman or gunmen opened fire into his mother's car just after 3 a.m. The bullet-riddled car veered off of the 6800 block of Central Avenue and crashed into that fire hydrant, and left Marcel Dessin slumped between the seats.

The vigil was a memorial service, a chance for about 60 relatives and friends to remind each other of a bright, funny young man who was never known to find trouble -- though it found him unexpectedly the night he was killed.

"Thank you everyone. We wouldn't be able to make it without your love and support," Jones said.

To be killed by a seemingly act of random violence is still difficult for his parents to bear, especially his father Rene Dessin, who has been chasing illicit narcotics and violent drug dealers for most of his 24 years of police work. Marcel Dessin had spent his life around police officers, at his father's job at the major narcotics unit of the D.C. police department, most of whom acted as surrogate parents that guided his path.

The year has been difficult for the investigator in Dessin, as Prince George's County police have not made an arrest in the case, and he has had to hang back and allow them to do their work.

County detectives, including lead detective Thomas K. Lancaster, were at the vigil Tuesday night passing out reward flyers and working to find someone to offer new information that coould lead to an arrest.

Anyone with information is asked to contact county police at 301-772-4925.

As Central Avenue traffic whizzed by, his friends read poems about his laughter and rhymed with words that matched the musical lyrics he loved, as an aspiring member of a fledgling band.

Keita Madison, 23, had been close friends with Marcel since age 14, and always relied on his friend "the class clown" for a laugh but also to keep him "on point" with his school work or as football teammates.

Madison encouraged Marcel's survivors to remember that he was a young man who always tried to "pay it forward," meaning he tried to pass along good intentions and love and laughter to those who knew him.

"That's what this person was about, paying it forward in a positive way," Madison said.

-- Clarence Williams

By Clarence Williams  |  November 25, 2009; 8:55 AM ET
Categories:  Clarence Williams , Homicide , The District , Unsolved  
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