A Crime Fighting Contributor at USA Today

Dean’s Intern Alex Beall at USA Today

Finally, after two months of researching and hours spent in the clerk’s office at the D.C. Superior Court, there’s something to show for it.


Here I am making cold calls at my desk for the new project I’ve been assigned to.

For the first half of my internship, I worked on a project with USA Today investigative reporter Brad Heath exploring the extradition system, the process through which fugitives are transported back to the state in which they are wanted.  While the project, Fugitives Next Door, features a variety of different angles, anecdotes and media, I worked primarily on the section about murders committed in D.C. by wanted criminals.

My time contribution first included looking up the criminal history and pretrial reports of over 300 suspected murderers at the D.C. Courthouse.  I filtered through, looking for those who had outstanding warrants in other states.  Then I researched any interactions these fugitives may have had with D.C. law enforcement before the murder, but after their warrant was issued.  This information helped the team determine which cases featured fugitives who could have been extradited, but were not, leaving them free to continue breaking the law.  This part of the project made clear that most data investigative journalists use is not spoon-fed to them by government agencies.  Rather these reporters, with their journalistic magic, create their own databases and extensive spreadsheets to connect and organize information.  Fortunately I was just required to add information to these databases, not build them.

Looking through the project, my most evident contribution is in part two in a small info graphic that documents the stories and histories of 10 wanted suspects accused of murder in D.C.  While the write-ups are short, it taught me to take all the information I had gathered in my hours of researching and to tell that story in four sentences and a couple bullet points.

It took a large team, working across multiple platforms, to build this multi-media report and I’m excited to be listed among the contributors.

You can find Fugitives Next Door here.