To Catch a Killer

By DeNeen L. Brown
Sunday, July 2, 2006

It's taking them forever to find the keys to the morgue. When they finally do, Valencia Mohammed hesitates before entering because she is still weak from having done this before, five years ago when another of her sons was killed.

The gray door opens, and she steps across the cold, yellowing tiles. She remembers seeing her 23-year-old son lying on one of those metal tables. There is a white sheet up to his neck, and his skin is still beautiful, and the blood is still dripping, and someone is trying to clean it up.

Valencia wipes her tears with the back of her hand.

The detective asks whether she can identify the body on the table. She doesn't answer.

Imtiaz Mohammed, her third child, second son, is dead. She is here only to confirm it for authorities, but for some reason she is unable to form the words.

All she can think is: Not again.

She wipes her face with the hem of her blouse.

Praying for a miracle, bargaining with God.

She remembers praying the same prayer when her younger son 14-year-old Said (pronounced SA-eed) Raqib was murdered five years ago. She remembers praying for God to make him come back alive, like Jesus raised Lazarus: Listening for a tap on the coffin. Keeping my ear real close to see whether Said will say, "Ma! Let me out of here!"

She had that kind of faith then, so she prayed that kind of prayer. This time she is praying not out of faith but desperation.

Then this thought crosses her mind: Oh, my God, the police are not going to do anything. I have no real name recognition. I am not rich. I am nobody to them. Imtiaz is nobody to them. They will give me the song and dance, but just like with Said, they are not going to find who did it.

The detective standing in the morgue asks again: "Is this your son? Can you describe his birthmarks? Tattoos?"

CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company