High up in West Baltimore's Lexington Terrace housing project, a mother struggles to reconcile the devastating turn her life had taken with the fatal shooting of her 12-year-old daughter.
"I'm just holding on because what I want most I can't have. She's gone," Sandra Manning said yesterday. "He took something from me. He just doesn't realize what he's done."
Police were still trying to piece together what really happened Wednesday night, when Monet Shannette Walker, 12, was shot in the left side of the face by, police believe, Ira Jimmy Martin, 16. The girl died at University of Maryland Medical Center yesterday at 10:30 a.m., the eighth child killed in the city this year.
Ira, who has been charged with first-degree murder and a handgun violation, told police he fired his weapon once out of the apartment's sixth-floor window and was walking back to the sofa when Monet grabbed the .38-caliber handgun, causing it to fire again. Homicide detectives investigating the case don't believe him.
"There is nothing to substantiate that," said police spokesman Sam Ringgold. "There were no powder burns on her hands to show that she handled the gun at all."
The gun, which Ira said he threw down a trash chute, has not been found. He told police he had been carrying the weapon for three months as protection.
"I didn't know that he carried the gun," said Ms. Manning, who was not home at the time of the shooting. "I knew that he was afraid because he came from East Baltimore."
Her apartment is a clean oasis in an 11-story building in the 700 block of W. Saratoga St. Ms. Manning sat on the sofa where her daughter was shot, her back to the cushion that was still splotched with her daughter's blood. Her walls are covered with pictures of her daughters.
She said Monet, who attended Francis Scott Key Middle School, was a quiet, gentle girl who visited the library often and loved music. She said Monet liked to crochet and proudly showed a pink square emblazoned with an aquamarine M. The letter stood for Mommy and Monet, Ms. Manning said.
"She was real sweet, just a big, 12-year-old baby. She loved to eat, loved food," said Ms. Manning. "She wasn't wild, just a homebody."
As she was finishing her reminiscence, Ms. Manning's older daughter, Nate (pronounced Natay) Walker, 14, walked in. The girl had seen what happened. She stood for a moment in the room where, just hours earlier, the father of her child killed her sister. Then she went limp and started to moan: "No. No. No."
She passed out, her body convulsed as housing authority police officers, friends and family members tried to calm her. Paramedics said Nate was going through shock and anxiety. The living room was the worst place for her to be, they said.
Across town, in the 1400 block of N. Bond St., Ira's family also grappled with grief. Last month, the families were linked by new life when Devin Walker was born to Nate and Ira. Yesterday, they were brought together by death.
"We're just tore up about it," said Cynthia Peaks, Ira's sister.
Ms. Peaks said her brother, who was going to take a Job Corps assignment next Tuesday, is a neat, clean kid, a big,soft-hearted boy who would never intentionally hurt anyone.
"It's just something unbelievable. It was an unfortunate accident and I'm not saying this because I'm his sister," she said. "All we can do is pray for my brother and their family, her grief. You hear about it all the time, but you never know until it comes knocking on your door."