12 Days of Christmas

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, December 24, 2005

On the twelfth day before Christmas, two teacher's aides were walking through the playground at J.C. Nalle Elementary School in Southeast Washington around 7 a.m. when they saw what they thought was a pile of old clothes on the ground. As they got closer, the pile took shape: It was the body of a black woman, frozen, with her brains scattered across the playground, lying in a pool of blood between the hopscotch squares and the monkey bars. They screamed and ran to tell the principal. Police swarmed the area.

On the eleventh day before Christmas , children were not allowed to go outside and play. Crisis counselors sent to the school from the National Center for Children and Families remained for a second day at the school helping grieving and anxious children.

On the tenth day before Christ mas, the J.C. Nalle playground was still without lights and locks for the gates, although the school had requested both for the past three years. The lights might have illuminated the shooting suspect's face because a surveillance camera mounted on the school is focused on where the crime took place. The camera, however, was ineffective because only a few dim streetlights lined the block: Abandoned buildings are on one side of the street, the playground on the other. As a result, the camera captured only flickers of light from the gunshots and, of course, when the sun rose, the body.

That same day, The Post identified the shooting victim as Lakesha Parker, 33, of the 4600 block of East Capitol Street SE.

The news item warranted all of two sentences. So many murders, so little space, so little


On the ninth day before Christmas , Jamila Larson, a social worker assigned to J.C. Nalle Elementary by the National Center for Children and Families, wrote that "janitors and inevitably the children find used condoms, needles and broken bottles on the playground."

Larson, source of the twelfth day's account, also shared what happened when teachers arrived at school the day Parker's body was found. The authorities had not yet covered her, Larson wrote, so some teachers saw the body from their classroom windows.

"They covered their classroom windows with butcher paper as quickly as possible and ushered their children in as they filed into the classrooms at 8:30 a.m. I arrived at school at 10:00 and the body was covered but still out on the playground. The body was removed at about 10:30 a.m. and the pool of blood remained until 11:00 a.m."

On the eighth day before Christmas, Mayor Tony Williams continued to feverishly promote the baseball stadium agreement now forecast to cost the city $667 million -- well above the approved budget of $589 million.

On the seventh day before Christmas, J.C. Nalle Elementary School was still without locks for its fences and lights for the playground.

On the sixth day before Christmas, the D.C. police said that no arrests had been made in the shooting death of Parker and that her case was still open.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company