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Williams Cabinet Member Is Slain

Gay Affairs Director Found Dead at Home

By Allan Lengel and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 17, 2005; Page B01

An appointee of Mayor Anthony A. Williams who headed the city's office of gay and lesbian issues was found slain late yesterday in her Northeast Washington home, police said, stunning city officials, activists and friends.

The body of Wanda R. Alston was found inside her home in the 3800 block of East Capitol Street, police said. Authorities said she apparently had been stabbed, but they were awaiting the medical examiner's ruling on the cause of death.

Police officers and the medical examiner investigate the scene at Wanda Alston's rowhouse on East Capitol Street. Much blood was found in the home, police said. (Michael Robinson-chavez -- The Washington Post)

Alston, 45, was found by her partner face down near the front door of the two-story brick rowhouse just before 6 p.m., officials said. No weapon was found. Police said her silver 2000 Nissan Sentra, with D.C. tags AZ9597, was missing.

Officials said they still were trying to determine a motive.

"We have not ruled out anything," Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said late last night. There were no signs of forced entry, but investigators had not eliminated robbery as a possibility.

"There was quite a bit of blood on the scene," Ramsey said.

Friends and activists were stunned by the news.

"Poor Wanda. She played a very important role in the gay and lesbian community," said D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1). "She was a real contributor.

"A shocking tragedy."

Williams named Alston his special assistant for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs in 2001. In September 2004, Williams turned her post into a Cabinet-level position, saying he wanted to raise the profile of the office. Recently, Alston had been focusing on preparations for the mayor's first gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender summit, scheduled for April 30.

Friends described Alston as an active force in the local Democratic Party and on D.C. statehood and feminist issues. They said she played a key role in bringing together a diverse group of people into a gay political culture that some said had not always been broadly representative.

"It was because of Wanda that we got" the Cabinet office, said Darrin Glymph, treasurer of the city's Gertrude Stein Democratic Club. "It was her brainchild. She basically mobilized the community."

Alston made the gay movement "a full rainbow," Glymph said. "She truly made the GLBT community representative of the fabric of the country and the fabric of D.C., and that's what I loved about her."

Everett Hamilton, 39, a friend of Alston's since 1994, called her "passionate" and said she was equally comfortable at a march, a sit-in, a cocktail party or "a million-dollar fundraiser."

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