Slain Arundel woman's daughters `were her life'

Grandmother to raise her 3 girls

father charged

September 15, 2002|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Five-year-old Micayla Alexander added two lines to her bedtime prayer this week: "God bless my mommy. God bless my mommy, and keep her safe with you."

The body of Micayla's mother, Paula Lynn Edwards, 34, was found Monday in Edgewater. She had been strangled.

The county school bus driver and mother of three had been missing since Saturday afternoon, when she failed to pick up her cousin and mother for a bull roast.

Anne Arundel County police charged Howard Alexander Jr., the father of her three daughters, with first-degree murder Monday. Police said Alexander told them where to find her body.

Friends and relatives described Edwards last week as a loving mother who was trying to move beyond a relationship with a man who had a history of assault and drug convictions.

She had worked hard - sometimes balancing three jobs and church activities - to support her children, relatives said.

"They were her life, her three kids," said her mother, Betty Edwards, hugging her two younger granddaughters as they sat together on her back porch Wednesday afternoon.

With the help of their grandmother, streams of relatives and friends and the church, the Alexander girls are grieving for their mother and trying to comprehend the charges against their father.

One of Edwards' daughters, 15-year-old Monica Alexander, asked her father Sunday whether he had seen her mother. He said he hadn't, according to Edwards' cousin Regina Laster.

"Monica is the one we're most concerned about," Laster said of the Severna Park High School 10th-grader. "She feels the loss, knows the loss."

Paula Edwards was raising her children to be as spiritual as she was, relatives said. A lifelong parishioner of Old Mount Moriah African Methodist Episcopal Church in Annapolis, Edwards at age 5 cut the ribbon when the church moved to Bay Ridge Avenue.

As an adult, she stayed active in the church, serving as vice president of the Nannie Bell Missionary Society, a vacation Bible school teacher and an adviser to junior ushers.

She had sung in the church choir since childhood and talked enthusiastically about her church activities, co-workers said.

"She was a delightful person to have here," said Perry E. Dillon, owner of the Pedco Inc. bus company, where Edwards worked for two years. "We all have tears running down our cheeks over this."

In her three years as a school bus driver, the last at Annapolis Bus Co., her young passengers called Edwards "Miss Paula."

"Everybody loved her, but she drew kids and seniors just like a magnet," her mother said.

Her relatives said Edwards had an on-again, off-again relationship with Alexander, who had a criminal record dating to 1992.

Court records show the 33-year-old had several battery and assault convictions in Anne Arundel County, but it does not appear that Edwards was a victim in any of those cases.

After being found guilty of second-degree assault in March 1998, Alexander was ordered to participate in a YWCA domestic-violence program offering anger-management and substance abuse counseling, court records show. Alexander had no outstanding restraining orders against him, according to court records. He is being held at the Jennifer Road Detention Center.

Until May, Edwards' two younger girls lived with their mother and father in Glen Burnie, Laster said. This spring, Edwards decided to end her relationship with Alexander for good, Laster said.

Weeks later, she and her daughters moved back into her mother's home in Severna Park.

Edwards' relatives knew little about Alexander, but Laster said he had never held a regular job and leaned on his girlfriend for financial support.

"None of us saw anything positive that he did ... other than producing the girls," Laster said.

Betty Edwards, 65, a retired county public school teacher, plans to raise her grandchildren. Her husband, N. Jerome Edwards, who was an assistant principal at Old Mill Senior High School in Millersville, where his daughter attended school, died 10 years ago.

"This has always been home to the girls," said Clarence Edmond, 47, a relative who lives in Severn, said of the girls' grandmother's house. "Even when they weren't living here."

Wednesday, Micayla and 21-month-old Mia bounced around their grandmother's back yard in handmade red-white-and-blue outfits.

But relatives said the girls know - even if they don't understand - that their mother is gone.

Bright-eyed Micayla at first worried that her mother had been kidnapped, Laster said. Her prayers changed Tuesday night to reflect that she realizes her mother is dead, Laster said.

Mia, in diapers, pointed to her mother in a family picture, smiled wide and said "Mommy." Mia has the same toothy grin as her mother, relatives said.

She would not let go of the picture frame.

A funeral service for Edwards will be held at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Old Mount Moriah AME Church.

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