Slain woman pictured as a rebel Kin say victim, 25, strayed since she was 14.

March 20, 1992|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

Oletia "Lisa" Bernadine Hughes, 25, a ninth-grade dropout who was found slain Tuesday, had always been a rebel and associated with the wrong crowd, members of her family say.

A month had passed since her mother, Bernadine Hughes, either saw or heard from her youngest child.

In February, Oletia left their home in the 2800 block of Auchentoroly Terrace and had not been in touch with her family.

Whenever she felt like it, Oletia Hughes would leave home to stay with friends, most of whom her family did not know. That was a habit she began at age 14, family members say.

Yesterday morning, city police knocked on the family's door and delivered the bad news. 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 Oletia Hughes and another woman had been discovered in a vacant building in the 2500 block of SalemAve. near Druid Hill Park.

Police identified them yesterday. The other woman was 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 deaths, and police have not established a motive.

Police say they think 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 Oletia 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 a sister, Lavinia Hughes, 38.

"They didn't have to do that to her," said another sister, Cecilia Hughes, 27.

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 procuring their next drug dose, said several of the slain woman's sisters.

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.

The news of Ms. Griffin's death has 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, went in and 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 color television was missing.

Mary Franklin, 51, a neighbor and longtime friend of Ms. Griffin, said she was shocked when she learned of the slaying. She said her immediate reaction was, "Oh no, no no, I can't believe it, no no."

She said the slaying is "something that all of us should think about."

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