Four months after Liza Anglin became a homicide detective in the Fort Wayne Police Department, 2-year-old Malakai Garrett died of internal injuries so severe that his liver was lacerated.
Anglin rushed to the hospital that day, witnessed the family as relatives spent agonizing moments until Malakai took his last shallow breath. Later, as lead detective, she took the shattered pieces of the story and wrote a telling narrative for the probable cause that included damning excerpts from text messages between Amber Garrett, the boy's mother, and Mitchell Vanryn, the boyfriend. Both were found guilty last year of criminal charges related to his death; Vanryn was sentenced to 40 years in prison in May 2019 and Garrett to six years in prison for two counts of felony neglect in July 2019.
“I don't think she could have found anything else or evidence to benefit us,” said Margaret Easterly, Malakai's great-grandmother, recalling Anglin's work on the case.
“I really think she gave us 110%. She was wonderful,” Easterly said.
Giving it her all is typical of Anglin, those who know her say.
Because Anglin is “so committed to her work,” Dottie Davis, a former FWPD deputy chief, has talked to Anglin about “work-life balance.”
“She's dealing with constant crisis. Homicide is usually a pretty small unit, very close knit,” said Davis, who helped train Anglin 20 years ago and considers her a friend.
“In law enforcement sometimes (male officers are) not real inclusive. Liza has to hold her own. That's why she does a good job there, because she's strong-willed and not afraid to voice her opinion,” Davis added.
Anglin, 45, is not the FWPD's first female homicide detective, but currently the only one among 10. The department does not keep records on women assigned to homicide, only to the investigative unit, a spokeswoman said.
Anglin joined the homicide unit full time July 2017 after working in the detective bureau the prior year and aiding some homicide investigations.
Female homicide detectives bring another perspective to a case, according to Michigan State University criminology professor David Carter.
“I know there's been some assessments of female versus male investigators. It's been found that for many, particularly dealing with domestic violence and crimes against children, females tend to be better interviewers and are able to get more information,” Carter said.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there are 164,000 detectives and criminal investigators working in 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. Women make up 23% of those detectives, but the percentage assigned to homicide is not specified, according to Gary Steinberg, Bureau of Labor Statistics press officer. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics also said it does not have a breakdown.
Police departments in some of Indiana's largest cities include women in their homicide investigations. South Bend has a homicide unit of four men, but calls on a female detective for assistance, said Jessica McBrier, director of media relations for the St. Joseph County Prosecuting Attorney.
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department has 28 homicide detectives, four of whom are women, according to Sgt. Leslie Van Buskirk, a homicide detective there since 1989.
Anglin's police career has been varied: patrol officer, staff instructor in defensive tactics at the FWPD training center where she was the only female instructor in northern Indiana at the time, School Resource Officer for seven years working at Wayne and North Side high schools, L.C. Ward Education Center and elementary school and middle schools. She has also been a temporary uniformed Vice & Narcotics officer; had two stints on call as a public information officer; nearly two decades on the Crisis Intervention Team; and has been a long-time negotiator for the Crisis Response Team.
In 2015, she received the National Association of School Resource Officers Model Agency Award and in 2017 the FWPD Outstanding Community Service Award, followed last year by a Letter of Commendation in homicide investigations from the department.
Anglin's ideal police department would be “50-50” men and women. Her advice for young women dazzled by television police shows such as the perennial CSI series and thinking about a career as a homicide detective is to finish their degree, work on their physical fitness and maintain their integrity.
Anglin transferred to the detective bureau in January 2016, looking to broaden her experience.
“I was ready to work with the prosecutors, work with the courts and see (cases) all the way through,” she said.
A year after her assignment, Garry Hamilton, a Fort Wayne police department chief who stepped down to oversee the investigative division, asked Anglin to go to homicide full time.
It wasn't an easy decision; Anglin has two children, currently 15 and 17. If she didn't mesh with the typically strong personalities in homicide, she'd be back on the road as a patrol officer, bidding on another position.
Another consideration was the hours.
“With my type of personality, when I latch on to something, I'm not going to let it go. It's not like (I would be) a support detective. I could be out for a long time,” Anglin said.
Her husband, Aaron Anglin, persuaded her to take the position.
“My husband is very proud of what I do. I do my best subconsciously. It's never been a motive to prove myself as a female officer. I grew up with two older brothers and five stepbrothers. Family life prepared me for the male-dominated career that I'm in.”
Anglin's supervisor, Sgt. Timothy Hughes, said Anglin “gives just as good as she gets. She's kind of like the sister who grew up in a family of brothers.”
Her nickname in the department is “Madness,” just because she's the opposite of that.
“She's always in a good mood and tries to put other people in a good mood,” Hughes said. “We're together a lot and sometimes we get frustrated or annoyed with each other. We're kind of like a family and Liza is part of that family.”
Besides being a tenacious investigator, Hughes said Anglin brings a different perspective.
“When we're sitting back and looking at the facts of a case, why did it happen, (she looks at it) from the perspective of a woman, a mother, a wife, a daughter. It balances us out nicely,” he said.
Under Hughes' leadership, the homicide unit was divided into partners, and her partner, longtime homicide detective Scott Tegtmeyer, was a natural choice. Although homicide detectives work in teams of two, the whole unit works a case in the first 48 hours.
Tegtmeyer, 53, and Anglin had worked together before they became partners and Tegtmeyer was one of her field training officers when she joined the department.
“She had the same work style I had, which was, 'Not everybody needs to go to jail.' Our policing style was caring. Whatever run we were on was the most important run, the people were the most important people. Everyone was treated fairly and equitably and that's what I liked about her.”
Before she joined the homicide unit full time, Anglin helped Tegtmeyer on the East Lewis Street triple-homicide in February 2016 where three African-born men were executed. One man was convicted in the slayings and sentenced in March 2017 to 190 years in prison.
When the memo came down that homicide detectives would partner, it was natural they would team up.
“We sat close together. Our cubicles were back to back. We talked to each other through the walls or around the corner. She could hear me talking on the phone. We just started kind of helping each other that way,” Tegtmeyer said.
Outside the office, they are friends. Their families go camping together.
“Even though her kids are younger than mine, she's brought her kids camping when we've gone. Her husband is great,” Tegtmeyer said. “For the most part, when I see Liza, I see my partner, another brother in blue. Her being female doesn't matter to me.”
One way to keep sane is to talk.
“As you go through these horrible cases, you see the toll it takes on your partner or the toll it takes on you,” Tegtmeyer said.
Born in Portsmouth, Virginia, when her father was in the Navy, Anglin was raised in Gas City. She moved to Fort Wayne in 1993 to experience a bigger, diverse city and get a business degree at the International Business College.
Her father was her mentor.
“There was nothing he would teach my brothers that he wouldn't teach me,” Anglin said. He taught her to fish, water ski, drive and introduced her to his work as an electrician by taking her out on jobs.
While working at Navistar International in Fort Wayne as a researcher, her first husband – she's not bothered if people know she's been married three times – encouraged her to apply to the police department. A newspaper article stated FWPD was looking for women and minorities.
At the time, Anglin had started courses at Trine University working toward a management degree she received in 2009.
Faith is a huge part of her life, Anglin said, but to get her mind off the violence and crime scenes, Anglin admits to enjoying “cheesy” romance movies, gardening, exercising – she can easily swim a mile – and lunch with friends.
Sandy Lahrman met Anglin when their boys were in Little League. The friendship led to pickleball doubles with their husbands and trips to Disney World where their kids performed in band competitions. Anglin is also a girly-girl who likes to talk hairdos and mani-pedis.
“I don't know how she balances everything she does,” Lahrman said. “Most people who meet her would have no idea what she does. I think being a detective is part of her nature. In her life in general, she likes to figure things out.”
Van Buskirk of the Indianapolis Police Department said doing the job well has little to do with gender or race and more to do with “empathy, tenacity and humility and the willingness to work long hours and make sacrifices within your personal life.”
Hughes said Anglin is looking for justice, just like other homicide detectives. Others, like former FWPD police chief Rusty York, cite her compassion for victims.
Compassion is what Easterly and her family saw at trial and subsequent guilty verdict for Vanryn.
“I couldn't imagine her being her and having children and seeing that case,” Malakai's great-grandmother, Easterly, said. “Bodies, pictures or the details.”
At trial, Easterly would look at Anglin as they sat in the courtroom.
“I seen her look down and her eyes were heavy, and there were times when you could just see, it touched her. It was kind of like watching a sad movie. I think her heart went out to us – even though I think deep down she was mad. And just think about what she seen. We didn't see everything.”
It wasn't easy for Anglin.
“That case will stay forever with me until I die,” she said.