Gathering remembers girl killed by gunfire

Two years ago, mother of two was fatally shot on her east-side porch

January 05, 2004|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Jada Bottoms -- a 2-year-old with pretty braids and a lively personality -- was all smiles last night as relatives and friends held a candlelight remembrance for the mother she is too young to remember, fatally shot exactly two years earlier on the front porch of an East Baltimore rowhouse.

For now, Jada's family -- her grandmother, great-grandmother, aunts and uncles -- do the grieving and pray that police will find out who killed her mother, Clarissa Ward.

Ward, 17, was shot in the back of the head while taking down Christmas lights early Jan. 4, 2002, outside the house where she lived with her mother, Tammy Baker.

"All I know is that my innocent child was shot down on her porch," said Baker, who organized the vigil held last night at the rowhouse where her daughter died in the 2900 block of E. Madison St. "This should never have happened."

While some of Ward's friends got involved in illegal activities, Baker said, her daughter was planning for a brighter future. She wanted to go to nursing school and move into her own place.

Ward was overjoyed that her year-old son, Tyquan Bottoms, was soon to be released from Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital. Tyquan had a weak heart but was growing stronger.

And at 6 months, Jada was already charming relatives.

"Clarissa was so happy with her little family," Baker said. "She was so happy when she got the news that Tyquan was gong to be coming home. But she never got to see it. She died before he was released."

At the vigil, Baker wrapped her arms around friends and family who came to light candles and sing songs.

Ward's cousins and friends sat on the concrete steps where she spent her last minutes. She was talking to a male acquaintance and taking down strands of Christmas lights when a man approached them and pulled out a gun.

Spotting the weapon, Ward panicked and ran toward the door. As she ran, the gunman opened fire, hitting Ward in the head and the visitor in the left arm.

"It makes me totally mad that this happened," said Ward's uncle, Gwyenthan McLaurin, 37, of East Baltimore. "The only comfort we have now are these children. Are they a comfort? Yes, Lord."

Several family members said they think that the wounded acquaintance -- who survived and lives nearby -- knows who shot Ward, but is too afraid to reveal the name of the shooter.

"If he knows and he won't tell, he will have to answer to God," McLaurin said.

Baker has her own theory of what happened that night, she said. She thinks that the killer was coming for the visitor, who she said was a drug dealer.

"She wouldn't be dead if he had stayed away from the house," Baker said as wax from her candle dripped and pooled on the cold sidewalk.

Several uniformed Baltimore police officers watched over the vigil.

A police detective with knowledge of the investigation into Ward's death -- the first recorded homicide of 2002 -- could not be reached for comment.

Baker -- who is raising Tyquan and Jada -- said she isn't giving up hope.

"I'm not going away," she said. "In this life or the next, I will find closure."

Ward's grandmother, Beverly Chase, 54, recalled how her granddaughter used to call her every Sunday night to chat.

"I miss that," she said. "I really miss that."

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