"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 lesbian and gay 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.
Wanda R. Alston was the acting director of the District's Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs.
D.C. police Sgt. Brett Parson reflects on the death of colleague Wanda Alston.
Metropolitan police captain C.V. Morris announces the arrest of William Parrot, Jr. in connection with the stabbing death of Wanda Alston.
Friends described Alston as an active force in the local Democratic Party and on the issues of D.C. statehood and feminism. They said she played a key role in bringing 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."
"It sounds kind of trite, but she was wonderful," Hamilton said.
Alston joined the mayor's office in August 1999 as his liaison to the U.S. Census Bureau. She later became director of operations for the Office of Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice.
When he appointed her to the gay issues office in 2001, Williams said: "Wanda Alston's experience dealing with the gay and lesbian community, as well as her background in the District government, combine to make her an excellent advocate and liaison for the community."
Peter D. Rosenstein, who advises Williams on gay and lesbian issues, said the slaying was "mind-blowing. She just is a very sweet, hardworking individual. The only hope you have is that the police will find out why."
Rosenstein said he learned of the slaying when he arrived at the John A. Wilson Building for a 6 p.m. meeting with Alston and Bobb.
Rosenstein said a colleague of Alston's told him that Alston's assistant had been trying to reach her for much of the afternoon. He said the assistant finally phoned a person he identified as Alston's partner, who drove to the home and discovered the body.
Police shut down the block where Alston lived, using yellow crime scene tape, for more than six hours.
As police searched for clues, high-ranking city and police officials and family and friends arrived at the scene. School board member Mirian Saez sobbed into a handkerchief and was comforted by board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz.
Staff writers Lori Montgomery and Lexie Verdon contributed to this report.