A song sung, a dream seen, and too soon gone

December 21, 1992|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Staff Writer Laura Lippman contributed to this article.

Things were going well for 16-year-old Chaquista Spriggs.

She was a blossoming young woman who thrived at Edmondson/Westside Senior High School, loved music and was looking forward to serving in the Air Force and having a family.

Today, she's homicide victim No. 320 in a very bloody year in Baltimore, her boyfriend is critically wounded and her family is trying to make sense of a death that came much too soon.

Her mother, Linda Walker, was almost in shock last night at the family's apartment in the 2400 block of Reisterstown Road as she discussed her daughter and the murder, clutching her most recent report card and a song she wrote for Homecoming.

"She was my daughter and I loved her dearly, but God only lent her to me for a little while," said Mrs. Walker, 31. "Her death might help someone get close with God. It's never too late."

City homicide detectives yesterday reported few clues and no certain motive in the attack, which left Chaquista's boyfriend, Maurice Osborne, 19, in critical condition at Sinai Hospital.

The two were apparently walking from Reisterstown Road Plaza to the nearby Metro stop a few minutes after Chaquista's job ended at 10 p.m., when they were accosted in the 4200 block of Patterson Ave., police said.

The two were forced to walk about 200 feet along the CSX railroad tracks, away from the well-lighted street, according to police.

Officers arrived at the scene after a 911 caller reported hearing shots in the area. They found Mr. Osborne stumbling toward the street, trying to tell police about the shooting. Chaquista's body was found along the railroad tracks.

Police said they had identified no suspect and could not even be sure how many people were involved, although initial reports indicated that three people approached the couple.

Mr. Osborne, of the 900 block of N. Carrollton Ave., was shot in the torso, Detective Thomas Pellegrini said.

Saturday was the second day in a new job for Chaquista, at the mall's Dollar Town store. She was carrying a bag of toys she had bought for her 3-year-old sister, Latrice, when she was killed.

She recently wrote out her goals for the future in blue ink on a piece of notebook paper. In five years, she wrote, "I plan to be in AFR [the Air Force Reserve], studying psychiatry, about to graduate, soon to be engaged. And if the Lord spares me, [have] a son." In 15 years, she hoped to be married, have two children, her Ph.D. and a dog named Goldie.

The walls of Chaquista's small bedroom were covered with the things of a teen-ager: A pink and silver Mylar balloon decorated with a teddy bear and the words "I Love You"; two oversized Mexican sombreros; a picture of Chaquista dressed for the prom, looking grown-up with a fur stole draped over her shoulders.

"She loved her jewelry," Mrs. Walker said, running her fingers through a large metal can filled with costume pieces.

Chaquista's stepfather, Kevin Walker, said he and his wife, married in June, were talking just Friday night about how well things were going for the family. It was Chaquista's first night at work, Mrs. Walker's two younger daughters were playing, and Mr. Walker, a chemical operator for a paint company, had been making plans that day to officially adopt his stepchildren.

"She was at that turning point, when she was taking the step to becoming an adult," Mr. Walker said, his voice trembling. "We're still waiting for her to come through the door."

Now the family is making plans for burying Keisha, as they called her, in the blue Air Force uniform she wore for her military training class at school.

"You never know when your children go out, if they'll come back," Mrs. Walker said. "Don't take life for granted."

As her parents talked, Latrice padded around the apartment in pink pajamas, unable to sleep.

"She's kind of irritable," Mrs. Walker said. "She didn't go to sleep until 7 this morning. She's been waiting up for Keisha."

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