Friends, family remember `Nikki'

At funeral for girl killed leaving light rail, prayers for killers, poems for the deceased

November 12, 2006|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,Sun reporter

There were no angry diatribes, no hateful words, in the Community Church of Christ yesterday. There was only the love of family and friends, who clapped hands and sang for the spirit of Nicole "Nikki" Edmonds.

They leaned on one another. They shouted "praise Jesus" and "hallelujah!" as they wept at her funeral in East Baltimore. And, led by her older brother Quentin and his stirring eulogy, more than 250 people mourned her loss and prayed for her attackers.

Edmonds, 17, was stabbed after midnight Tuesday, while walking away from the light rail stop on West North Avenue with her younger brother Marcus. Three men and a woman jumped the pair, who were on their way home from working fast-food jobs in Linthicum. Her brother was not injured, but he watched the life ebb from his sister.

"So many people around Baltimore City are calling this a senseless act," Quentin Edmonds, 24, said to the mourners, as he described his own struggle to understand her killing.

"The act may be senseless, but her death is not meaningless."

Before the service began, people walked up the center aisle to pay their respects to Edmonds. As the funeral started, a chorus of singers three rows deep hovered behind her white casket draped with pink and white flowers, leading the mourners in songs.

"We have got to pray for those three men and one woman, God, because they have trespassed against us," said Sirena Alford, a cousin, during an opening prayer. "We would not be children of God if we did not pray for them."

Edmonds was raised in a family steeped in religion. She grew up in a community of churchgoers, with her father a pastor -- and her brother, Quentin, a minister -- at Tabernacle Church of Deliverance in East Baltimore. She was involved in singing and dancing through her church. Her funeral yesterday attracted members from eight churches across the city, affiliated together under the United Ministry of Deliverance.

"Nikki loved to praise the Lord!" her funeral program reads. "She was usually one of the first people on her feet during devotional services."

To her family and friends, Edmonds was hardworking and caring, with a bright future.

"She was a real good friend," said Shyteak Lawrence, 16, who read a poem at the service that he wrote, titled "If there be Pain."

Edmonds' life and death typified the struggles of many inner-city youths, working against troubled schools, inadequate work opportunities and high crime.

Twenty people, age 17 and younger, have been killed this year in Baltimore, including two children ages 2 and 14 months, according to a count by The Sun based on police reports. Last year, 13 juveniles were killed -- the lowest number since 1984.

Fearing for her safety, Edmonds' parents withdrew her last year from Frederick Douglass High, one of the city's most troubled schools, in favor of home-schooling.

Because she couldn't find a job close to her home, Edmonds and her 16-year-old brother Marcus took jobs at a Wendy's restaurant in Linthicum, which required about a one-hour commute each way. It was on that commute home that she was killed.

Police said four people followed the siblings off the light rail and into the night. Two men held her brother down, while another man and woman chased her and stabbed her. Authorities said they were teenagers or young adults. A motive in the attack is unclear, and police officials said yesterday that detectives were busy chasing promising leads in the investigation.

A pamphlet passed out to mourners at the service contained notes written by Edmonds' parents and five of her seven siblings. One, written by her brother Marcus, read in part:

"I'm going to miss our sister Nikki. She was a peacemaker, and she always made us laugh, even when we were mad. You had no choice but to laugh at her. Even though she's in a better place now, it was a big scare to actually watch my sister struggle for her life, right in front of me. ... It is a hard time for everybody, but just like every bad thing, this too will pass. It will be all right.

"Love, Marcus."

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