washingtonpost.com  > Metro > Crime

Relatives Recall Children's Closeness

By Donna St. George
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 13, 2004; Page B01

Tucked away inside a third-floor apartment in Temple Hills, a mother dwelled with her memories. Her two young children were dead -- struck by the car of a man fleeing police in the District and killed in one irreversible instant. Now, a day had passed. She was steeped in grief.

Friends came to see her: relatives, church members, neighbors, children. Towhanna Boston received them as best she could, said her cousin, Nadine Boston. The mourning mother brought out scrapbook albums that documented the lives of 8-year old Octavia Suydan and 7-year-old Christopher Suydan Jr. -- their sonograms and first days of school, their Christmases and summer vacations.

Octavia Suydan, 8, and her borther Christopher often played together, family members said. (Family Photo)

_____From The Post_____
Driver Accused in 2 Deaths Faced Probation Revocation (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2004)
Chase by D.C. Officers Contradicted (The Washington Post, Sep 13, 2004)
Two Children Killed by Driver Fleeing Police (The Washington Post, Sep 12, 2004)

The loss was still hard to comprehend.

"The children were her life," said Boston, stepping outside the family's apartment and speaking for the mother. "She was a single mother and a very active parent."

Recently, Towhanna Boston, who also has two older children, had graduated from Strayer University, her family said.

Her little ones -- better known as Tavi and CJ -- were remembered by relatives and neighbors as siblings close in age and in heart. They often played together in the grassy courtyard of their well-kept apartment complex, climbing trees, throwing balls, riding bikes, collecting insects. They were described as upbeat, sweet, quiet, bright, respectful.

They died together on an outing with their father, who was a few steps behind them when they set off in a crosswalk on Florida Avenue in Northeast Washington. The children never made it. A car driven by Eric Palmer, 19, who was fleeing police on a drug stakeout, raced through a red light, police said. Palmer has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder.

In that moment, everything changed.

As police investigators sought to answer questions about the events that preceded that terrible moment -- and whether police were in pursuit of the suspect, in potential violation of the D.C. police department's policy -- the family made it clear that they look forward to getting more answers. By early last night, they had not been contacted by the mayor's office or police officials, Nadine Boston said.

"We definitely want to make sure there's a thorough investigation so this doesn't happen to someone else's children," Boston said. "If something went wrong, we just want to make sure it doesn't happen again."

The children's father, Christopher Suydan Sr., who is separated from their mother, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Outside the apartment in Temple Hills, a Prince George's community just over the District line, neighbors and friends remembered the children fondly and talked about the claim by one witness Saturday that police pursued the suspect through a residential neighborhood. They had not yet heard other witness accounts that police were not in sight when the children were hit.

If police were in pursuit, said neighbor Hakim Thompson, "the police are just as guilty as the guy driving the car -- and they should get the same amount of time." He looked over at the family's apartment and asked pointedly: "Who's going to replace what they lost?"

Thompson said his son, Kari, was among CJ's closest friends and was devastated by the news. At first, Kari cried and would not leave his family's apartment. In the early afternoon, he walked with his mother and father to the Suydan children's home to express his sympathy.

CONTINUED    1 2    Next >

© 2004 The Washington Post Company