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Forever Longing for a Mother's Embrace

After a Slaying, Friends Reach Out And Children Cope

By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 12, 2004; Page SM01

While Alma Young turned the pages of a scrapbook full of pictures of her daughter Darlene Dowsey, Dowsey's 2-year-old daughter, Dajon Dickens, pulled a blanket over her head and staggered around the living room, giggling. "I'm a ghost!" she said, poking her head out of the blanket, then stopping to look at the photos.

"That's my mommy," she said, and pointed to another one. "That's my mommy."

Alma Young has cared for Dajon, 2, and her brother, Demetrious, 12, since her daughter Darlene Dowsey was killed. (Dudley M. Brooks -- The Washington Post)

Her mother was shot to death Sept. 13, and her father, John Otha Dickens Sr., is in jail, charged with first-degree murder. Dajon and her older brother, Demetrious Carroll, now live with their grandmother in Lexington Park, in the same townhouse that was taped off by St. Mary's County sheriff's officers as a crime scene three months ago.

It is the rest of the long story after a violent death: the children who grow up without parents.

Last year in Maryland 18 children died as a result of domestic violence. Countless others live with it or live in the aftermath.

Dowsey's family and friends have helped Dajon and Demetrious. More than 300 people packed into the Happyland Club in Valley Lee to buy T-shirts with Dowsey's photo on them, dance and remember her. That money for the children went to the Darlene Dowsey Memorial Fund at Cedar Point Federal Credit Union, started by friends at the salon where she worked in the JCPenney in the Wildewood Shopping Center. People have been donating money for Christmas presents, said Vickie O'Neil, the salon manager, and winter clothing for the children.

Dowsey was always talking about her children, her friends said. She loved being a mom.

Dajon, who will turn 3 in February, grabs the hand of people who come into the house, asks their name and snuggles up to them on the couch. She likes to dance, play on her toy computer and style the blond wig of a hairdresser's model.

She pointed to another picture of her mom. "Oh, she's so pretty!" Dajon said.

Demetrious likes being home with Young and helping her with Dajon. "She knows," he said, rubbing his little sister's head, with her spirals of hair in bright barrettes, "but she can't feel it the way we do yet."

Young recalled a recent day when Dajon said to her, "I'm mad at my mommy."

"Why?" Young asked. "She said, 'She doesn't give me a hug and a kiss.' "

Young responded, "You want me to give you a hug and a kiss?" and then cuddled the child. Within a few minutes, Young said, "she went on about her business. I think she knows, but she doesn't know like we know. She's still waiting for her to come through that door any time."

Demetrious, who will be 13 next month, is always out playing basketball. He's tall, with twisted hair and a big smile. He doesn't know his father, who moved away years ago, Young said. He's close with a friend of hers, she said, and she contacted a volunteer mentoring group recently to sign up for a big brother. Demetrious likes his new friend, who plays basketball and talks with him.

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