Kanika was born on January 31, 1980, and her mother Judy says she was a fun, feisty child. She grew up to be a ambitious young woman, and after graduating from Largo High School in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, Kanika decided to enlist in the U.S. Army, which was a complete surprise to her family and friends.
Kanika's family doesn't know what made her so determined to join the military, but her strong desire became reality in 2000, when she joined the Army. She served in Korea for several years after enlisting. Throughout her service, Kanika maintained close ties with her family.
In 2004, Kanika left the military and returned home to Prince George's County, Maryland. Not long after moving back home, she landed a contract position with the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. Since these labs work on homeland security projects, the exact nature of their work is unknown.
It was a dream job for Kanika since she wanted to work in national security, and she was excited to start this next chapter of her life.
Strangers at the Door
On Saturday, August 23, 2008, Kanika had a strange experience. Two men knocked on the door of her apartment, claiming to be from the FBI. In an interview with True Crime Daily, her mother recalled Kanika calling her that evening:
"It was a Saturday evening, I'll never forget. She called and said, 'Ma, these two men just knocked on my door saying that they were from the FBI.' She said they called her by name. She said, 'I've already called the FBI to find out if they had sent anybody.' And so she said they put a fake badge—I guess she could tell that it was fake—up to the peephole.”
Kanika was so scared after the incident that on Monday, the 25th, she wrote a long email recalling what happened. The email read in part:
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.
Also in the email, she stated that she had called the FBI, who advised her that real agents would have left a card. She also called the local police in case "someone was out there trying to rape or harm single women."
She ended the email by advising the recipients to forward the information to women they know. As she stated in the email, she had called the local police, who arrived at Kanika's apartment four minutes after she called. Despite canvassing the area, they did not find anyone who matched the description that Kanika had provided.
Kanika hoped that the men at her door were just scammers, but four days later, on Wednesday, August 27th, another person knocked on Kanika's door. She spoke to him through the door.
As with the first man, he asked her if her name was Kanika Powell, and when she replied yes, he told her that he had a package for her but he needed to go and get it, he never came back. Kanika became convinced she was being targeted after three strangers came to her home within one week.
12 hours later, Kanika was visited by yet another strange man. On August 28, 2008, Judy said that she got a call from her daughter that morning telling her about another man knocking on her door saying that he had a package for her.
Judy said it was around 7:30 in the morning when her daughter called her. She said Kanika asked her "Who delivers a package at 7:30am?" Judy said that looking back, she could hear the fear in Kanika's voice, but had no way of knowing whether or not Kanika was in danger. Kanika contacted the police again after that early morning knock; the police again came over but found nothing.
She told her mother during their conversation that she was going to take the day off from work. The next day, she was planning to leave town. It's unclear whether the trip was personal or for work, because her work often required her to leave town, but she had some errands to run.
In light of everything going on, she wanted to go out early rather than running around in the dark. Her plan was to get everything done and be back home early.
Judy had no idea that would be their last conversation when she hung up with Kanika.
As Kanika arrived home shortly before 12pm, she had no idea what awaited her. The suspect waited for Kanika to return home, investigators say. The first 911 calls came in at 11:50am reporting gunshots at the complex.
Upon arrival, police and EMS discovered Kanika lying in the hallway with multiple gunshot wounds. She was still alive, but unconscious and barely holding on to life. In an attempt to save her life, she was rushed her to a nearby hospital.
That afternoon, Judy received a call from detectives. They told her that Kanika had been shot. She had just spoken to her daughter and now a detective was informing her that Kanika had been shot. It was shocking.
Investigators began investigating the scene after Kanika was rushed to the hospital to try to figure out what happened and why. She was killed outside her apartment, so robbery was the first theory police posited. When her wallet and car keys were discovered next to her, robbery was ruled out.
Investigators struggled to determine a motive in the hours following Kanika's murder. There was only one thing they knew about Kanika's death: she was shot with a handgun. And they believed the gunman had been waiting in the doorway for her.
Kanika, who was still alive when she arrived at the hospital, never regained consciousness. On August 29th, the day after she had been shot, she succumbed to her injuries and died. It was a tragic end to a life that had so much more to offer.
Investigation Hits an Early Dead End
Police were having trouble finding information early in the investigation. At the scene, little physical evidence was found, and no weapon was recovered.
In researching this case, what I found odd was how little information was available about it. Most of the information about Kanika's case centers on the mystery men who showed up at Kanika's door just before she went missing. However, after that, almost nothing is known about her case.
Kanika's case should have way more information. There should be several articles asking what happened to her. Aside from a few articles, most discussion of this case has come from web sleuths and Reddit threads.
Was Kanika's Murder Connected to Her Work?
Because the police were unable to provide any real information about Kanika's murder, people began to come up with their own theories, and many of them involved what Kanika did for a living.
Her job at John Hopkins Laboratories was top secret, and even after her murder, the laboratory would only confirm that she worked for John Hopkins but would not reveal which lab she worked for or her title. Her work was highly sensitive.
Through their own research, some people have concluded that she reviewed other people's clearances. In light of the top secret nature of her work, as well as the fact that it dealt with matters of national security, people wondered if her murder was somehow connected to it. Perhaps she knew something someone didn't want her to know, or discovered something she shouldn't have.
There was also the possibility that the strange series of visitors was a hit, since Kanika did not recognize the men who came to her door, and they did not seem to know her either; they seemed like they were just confirming that she lived there. However, that does not answer the question of why someone would want Kanika dead.
Early on, police only indicated that they were considering multiple possibilities without elaborating. There were no suspects named, and no official theory was released.
A few months after Kanika's murder, a young man named Sean Green, who worked for the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Virginia, was murdered 30 minutes from Kanika's apartment. In a job similar to Kanika's, he handled highly sensitive information and required top security clearances.
In November 2008, Sean was ambushed by a masked gunmen while sitting at a light. While there were several differences in the murders, internet detectives pointed to the fact that both Sean and Kanika worked in national security jobs, and that Sean was killed close to Kanika's home. Police never officially stated whether they believed there was a connection.
Was Kanika the Victim of a Serial Killer?
It is also possible that Kanika was not murdered because of her job, or by a hitman. It may have been a random, senseless act of violence and that's why investigators couldn't find a solid lead.
Some suspect Kanika was killed by Jason Scott, a serial killer convicted of five murders between 2008 and 2009. He had numerous run-ins with the law and had been arrested numerous times for burglary and other crimes. Although he was highly intelligent, he used that intelligence to commit crimes.
The police report that he began working for UPS and that he used his degree in computer science to access the information of victims to rob and kill.
After police received a tip that he was selling illegal guns from his UPS truck, he was arrested in July 2009. Police raided a stash house Jason Scott kept after his arrest and found evidence linking him to five murders in the past year. In four of his murders, he murdered mothers and their daughters. Three of the victims were shot. The murders were all random, and none of the victims knew Scott.
The media dubbed him the mother daughter killer, and police in the DC and Maryland area said they believed he was involved in other homicides.
All of the murders had some things in common, including the victims' characteristics. All of them occurred within a 9-month period, during which Kanika was also shot. Even though Kanika hadn't been robbed or had no sign of forced entry into her apartment, he might have been planning to rob her, but couldn't.
He might have been hindered by the fact that she lived in an apartment building. However, that theory, along with others, is just that—a theory. Kanika's murder has never been linked to Jason Scott, and police have not said whether he is a potential suspect.
Kanika's Murder Remains Unsolved
It has been 14 years since Kanika was murdered outside her apartment, and there is no information about where the case stands today. It is unclear if the case is still open or if anyone is even trying to find out what happened. The mystery of her murder remains unsolved, and no one has been held responsible
At just 28, Kanika had done everything right in her life: joined the military, served her country, and when she came home, she got a job related to the security of the nation. However, someone stole her life from her before she could live it out.
We don't know who did this, or why, but it's clear that whoever did this targeted her, waited for her, knew where she would be, and wanted her dead.
Perhaps it was the men who came knocking on her door, or maybe it was a random act of violence. Regardless, Kanika's family has lived without answers for the past 14 years. I hope that new interest will be sparked in this case. I also hope that someone out there can help bring answers to this family, even though so many years have passed by. There must be someone out there who knows something.
Kanika Powell was shot to death in her apartment hallway on August 28, 2008 in Prince George County, Maryland. She was 28 years old. Please contact the Prince George's County, MD Police Department if you have any information about her murder.
You can hear Kanika's story and others like her on Black Girl Gone: A True Crime Podcast. Available wherever you get your podcasts.