Slain girl was 'gift from God'

March 07, 1995|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

As police confirmed that an 11-year-old girl found dead Sunday in the basement of her West Baltimore home had been slain and her body set on fire, horrified family and friends gathered yesterday in failed attempts to comprehend the crime.

From students at Calverton Middle School, where Natishia Moore attended the sixth grade, to ministers at the Family Bible Church on the western edge of the city, the girl's death sparked sorrow and fond recollections.

"She was my personal gift from God," said her mother, Annette Watson. "She was always smiling. And she always had an extra smile and made the extra effort to make things right."

Raymond Parker, a guidance counselor at Calverton Middle, remembers a girl who wanted to attend college "so she could help people. It's a tremendous tragedy that such a young life was snuffed out."

Natishia's body was discovered Sunday morning in the basement of the rowhouse where she lived, in the 2800 block of Rayner Ave.

Police said she had been killed as four other children, including her brother and sister and a 7-year-old neighbor, slept upstairs.

Authorities released few details of their investigation yesterday. Officer Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a police spokesman, said preliminary autopsy results indicate the girl was beaten on her upper body.

The spokesman also said there was evidence "of charring on the upper torso . . . indicating that at some point in time during commission of the crime, the suspect tried to set the victim on fire."

Officer Weinhold said the medical examiner has determined a cause of death, but he declined to release the information, saying it could jeopardize the police investigation.

He did say the death has been ruled a homicide.

Police said they know of no suspect or motive. The house is across Dukeland Street from the old, vacant Lutheran Hospital building.

Behind and beside the rowhouse is a large vacant lot, and a dirt path cuts through the tall grass and debris nearby.

Detectives spent yesterday gathering information at the medical examiner's office and interviewed the mother, Ms. Watson, for 45 minutes at the Family Bible Church, housed in a refurbished movie theater on Edmondson Avenue near the Baltimore County line.

After Ms. Watson, 27, finished talking with two detectives, she moved into another room to face reporters. She described her first child as happy. "She was always looking out for you," the mother said.

Two weeks ago, Ms. Watson said, Natishia had their regular evening chat. "She always told me what she did every day. When she stopped, I knew something was wrong."

But Ms. Watson never found out what troubled her daughter, who was receiving counseling at church.

Ms. Watson said Natishia was interested in church work, and participated in plays celebrating Black History Month and was a member of the youth choir, the Sunshine Team.

A month ago, she sent away for admission materials from a New York college.

Natishia's guidance counselor, Mr. Parker, met her in October when the family moved from Northeast Baltimore to their house on Rayner Avenue, nestled on a stable block surrounded by streets where drug dealing is common. Yesterday, he and several other counselors helped Natishia's friends grieve -- a process made worse by the apparent randomness of the crime.

"They know of the social ills in this area," said Mr. Parker, who described the students as distraught, and awash in fear and anger. "This was a horrific crime. They realize it could have been any one of them."

Mr. Parker said one teacher read aloud yesterday's newspaper story to her class of 33 students. "They sat in rapt attention," the counselor said. "When they heard that she had been set on fire, they were visibly stunned."

In front of Natishia's house and along the street, family members and friends gathered to console each other. Elder Eddie Pugh, of the Family Bible Church, just shook his head and looked up to the house where Natishia lived. "She was always looking toward the future," he said. "She wanted to be someone and she never got the chance."

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