Prayers Of Healing For Burn Victim

By Christian Davenport
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 31, 2006

They prayed for Fredia Edwards yesterday at the New Abundant Life Missionary Baptist Church in Northeast Washington. They asked God to help heal her wounds. They sang the gospel that she so often sang, her voice rising to an ethereal soprano that could make grown men cry.

As Edwards, 39, was recovering in the burn unit at Washington Hospital Center yesterday, a day after Prince George's County authorities said her boyfriend doused her with gasoline and set her ablaze at his Landover home, parishioners said they were overcome with grief and disbelief.

"Everybody's upset," said Robin Nobles, who sang in the church choir with Edwards. "It was a shock."

Edwards had not been a regular at the church in months, but parishioners remember her and her voice. The Rev. Wallace Johnson described her as a quiet woman who moved with grace and poise. She didn't talk much, he said, but she loved to sing.

"Singing for the Lord was her passion," he said.

Anthony Willoughby, 40, a self-employed landscaper, was arrested by police shortly after the Saturday attack. He was charged with first- and second-degree attempted murder and first- and second-degree assault. He was being held without bond at Prince George's detention center.

Police said Edwards had a restraining order against Willoughby, but a family member said the couple had reconciled. Police said Edwards went to visit Willoughby at his home, in the 2100 block of Ohio Avenue in Landover, after work late Friday. The two got into a heated argument that was so loud the neighbors could hear, police said, and Willoughby left the room.

About 3 a.m. Saturday, police said, Willoughby detached the fuel tank from a weed whacker, filled up a cup with gasoline and returned to the room where Edwards was. He threw the fuel on Edwards and set her on fire, police said. Willoughby fled, and Edwards ran a few blocks to her home, in the 2400 block of Kent Village Place, where a family member called 911.

It was not clear what prompted the argument, and police have not offered any more details about the incident. The case resembles an attack in Prince George's in the fall when Yvette Cade, 32, was set on fire by her estranged husband at a store in Clinton where she worked.

"We're very disturbed that it happened, seeing as we had a similar crime in October of last year," said Cpl. Clinton Copeland, a Prince George's police spokesman. "But we're still investigating what the motive was."

A spokesman for Washington Hospital Center said yesterday that Edwards was still in critical condition. But Copeland said she was stable and improving. Her progress has "been positive so far," he said.

Nobles, a choir member who visited Edwards on Saturday evening, said Edwards was burned on her face, hands and torso. Police said she suffered second- and third-degree burns.

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