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Suspect In Slaying Was High, Police Say

By Lori Montgomery and Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, March 19, 2005; Page B01

The man accused of fatally stabbing a top D.C. official has told police he was high on crack and armed with a knife Wednesday afternoon when he knocked on the door of his neighbor's Northeast Washington duplex, according to charging documents in the case.

In a videotaped statement, William Martin Parrott Jr., 38, told police that he attacked Wanda R. Alston after she let him into her home. Afterward, Parrott said, he took Alston's car and drove to numerous gas stations, where he used her credit cards to buy fuel for other drivers in exchange for cash. He said he used the money to get high again.

Wanda R. Alston, a member of D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams's Cabinet, was stabbed in her home.

Parrott, who lived near Alston in the 3800 block of East Capitol Street and was unemployed, told police that he has only a vague recollection of the stabbing. "The defendant stated that he thought he hurt Ms. Alston," the charging papers say.

Alston, 45, was acting director of the city's Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs. According to the medical examiner's findings, she was stabbed twice in the chest, three times in the neck and three times in the back. One lung was punctured, a jugular vein was severed and she had multiple defensive wounds on her arms and hands.

Yesterday, Superior Court Magistrate Judge Diana Harris Epps ordered Parrott held without bond, saying she was concerned about his admitted drug use, as well as any role of drugs in the alleged crime. Parrott, who was charged with first-degree murder, faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Alston's family watched the hearing from a reserved row in the back of the courtroom, surrounded by court security officers, a D.C. police sergeant and an advocate from the U.S. attorney's office. Parrott, who has no previous criminal record, stood motionless, wearing blue jeans, a gray Timberland T-shirt and plastic bags over his shoeless feet.

In the neighborhood near Gallaudet University, where Parrott was born and where he is still known by the schoolyard nickname "Fat Bug," friends said yesterday they were saddened and baffled by the charges.

"We're all trying to make sense of it," said Thson Rowe, 39, a minister who grew up with Parrott. Rowe said he had long suspected that Parrott was addicted to crack. "But still, it wasn't in his character to be violent," he said. "It's just too hard to conceive."

According to interviews with his friends, a preliminary background report prepared for the judge and other public records, Parrott grew up in Near Northeast not far from Trinidad. His mother worked as a bank cashier. His father, a diabetic and double-amputee, had a long career in the District's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner but grew gravely ill and died while Parrott was a student at Dunbar High School. Friends said Parrott learned to drive so he could take his father to medical appointments.

Throughout the neighborhood, Parrott was known as an obedient boy who doted on his parents and always stopped to help their friends. Betty Armstrong, 69, remembers Parrott carrying groceries into her house. Another neighbor, she said, asked Parrott to feed his dog and take care of other matters while he was out of town, entrusting the boy with a key.

"If I had had son, I wouldn't have asked for any son that was any better. That's the kind of person that he was," said Armstrong, a retired Defense Department employee who has kept in touch with Parrott's mother since she moved back to her native South Carolina in 1997.

Parrott didn't graduate with his friends in 1984, Rowe said, but obtained his high school diploma later. He soon followed his father to the medical examiner's office, where for years he helped pick up bodies and take them back for autopsy.

In the early 1990s, when Washington gained a reputation as the nation's murder capital and local TV newscasts had declared the District a "city under siege," Parrott's face regularly appeared in the background on the nightly news, Rowe said.

Even at the height of the District's drug wars when his neighborhood was overrun with dealers, Parrott stayed out of trouble, Rowe said. "He wouldn't even get on the basketball court with those guys," Rowe said.

So it was shocking a few years later, Rowe said, when he began to hear rumors that Parrott was hooked on crack.

According to public records, Parrott in recent years bounced between the District and his mother's home in South Carolina. He held a series of jobs, most recently as a desk clerk at the Temple Hills Community Center and as an audiovisual specialist at Gallaudet University. He was unemployed when he was arrested.

Married at least twice, Parrott has three children, according to public records. About two years ago, he moved to East Capitol Street, where he lived in the home of his current wife, Kassandra.

Rowe said he last saw Parrott about two months ago, when he showed up in the old neighborhood looking for change. Once heavyset, Parrott had grown thin and haggard, Rowe said.

"He looked kind of dazed," Rowe said. "You could tell he was on that stuff. That's a crack look."

Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company