A month has passed since Bernadine Hughes either saw or heard from her youngest child.
In February, her daughter, Oletia "Lisa" Bernadine Hughes, 25, left their home in the 2800 block of Auchentolory Terrace and has not since contacted her family.
Oletia Hughes had always been a rebel who associated with the wrong crowd, members of her family said yesterday. Whenever she felt like it, Oletia Hughes, a ninth-grade dropout, would leave her home to stay with friends, most of whom her family did not know. That was a habit she began at age 14, family members said.
Yesterday morning, city police knocked on the family's door and delivered news about her whereabouts. The news was bad. The officer said: "'I'm sorry to be the one to have to tell you, but Lisa's dead,' " her mother recalled.
On Tuesday afternoon, the bodies of two unidentified women were discovered in a vacant building in the 2500 block of Salem Ave. near Druid Hill Park.
Yesterday, police identified one victim as Oletia Hughes. The other woman was identified as Debra Ann Echoles, 31, of the 5100 block of Pembridge Road. An autopsy confirmed that the women had been strangled, police said.
No one has been arrested in the murders and police haven't established a motive.
Police said they believe the women had been dead less than 24 hours before they were found. Members of Oletia Hughes' family said she was the youngest of six girls and four boys. She was identified through fingerprints.
Members of Ms. Hughes' family said they did not know the other victim. They also described as a scrappy person who probably resisted her assailant.
"Lisa does not go down without a fight, that's the way we all are," said another sister, Lavinia Hughes, 38.
"They didn't have to do that to her," said another sister, Cecilia Hughes, 27, referring to the killer or killers.
Ms. Echoles' mother, overcome by grief, declined to talk yesterday.
Members of the Hughes family said they heard rumors that Ms. Hughes' body had been discovered in the house. Cecilia Hughes said she went to the house on Salem Avenue and asked homicide detectives to let her look at the bodies.
"I could have known, right then and there," Cecilia Hughes said. "I asked him to just unzip the bag a little so I can see the face." She said the detective refused.
So far, none of Oletia Hughes' friends have expressed sympathy to the slain woman's family. Most are on "drugs or worried about their next fix," several of the slain woman's sisters said.
Meanwhile, police are investigating the slaying of Louise Griffin, 70, who was found stabbed to death Tuesday in her home in the Gilmor Homes housing projects in the 1600 block of Delano Court.
Police said robbery appeared to be the motive and that no one has been arrested.
The news of Ms. Griffin's death have rocked neighbors and made them question why someone would want to kill a woman many thought of as their mother or grandmother.
Children referred to her as "Mama Lou" her friends said.
"That's a beautiful woman gone for nothing," said friend and neighbor, Franklin Bouldin, 47.
Another man, Israel Butler, 48, who lives across the street, found the body.
Mr. Butler said that when Ms. Griffin, who suffered from a hearing problem and arthritis, failed to answer his telephone calls, he went to her home and knocked on the bedroom window.
When she still didn't answer, he went to the back and noticed that the back door was open. He said he knocked before going in and when he did, he saw her lying on a sofa in the living room.
He ran and called police.
Detectives said there were no signs of forced entry. Her bedroom had been ransacked, Mr. Butler said. He also said her 19-inch colored television was missing.
Mary Franklin, 51, a neighbor and longtime friend of Ms. Griffin, said she was shocked when she learned of the slaying. "Oh no, no no, I can't believe it, no no," she said, recalling her reaction immediately after learning about her friend's death.
"It's something that all of us should think about," she said of the slaying.