Correction to This Article
A Jan. 18 Metro article mistakenly referred to Cherrese Richardson-Frederick as Cherrese Robinson-Frederick.

A Radiant Smile, a Confounding Loss

By Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 18, 2008

Cherrese Richardson-Frederick's body lay in a pink coffin yesterday, her hands crossed over her lap and her fingers curled around a flower. The 18-year-old Prince George's County high school senior, killed last week in a drive-by shooting as she was walking home from school, seemed to have been granted a peace at her funeral that was deprived her in the final moments of life.

Hundreds of mourners, many of them her classmates at Charles H. Flowers High School, gathered at New Southern Rock Baptist Church in Northwest Washington. Stamping their feet clean of snow, they filed past Richardson-Frederick's body, said a few words and found their way to the pews as gentle piano music played.

Questions hung in the air, and the Rev. Rudolph White gave voice to them: "Why? How come?"

Why was this young woman, who said she aspired to be a lawyer or a teacher, dead? How come a teenager selfless enough to work 350 community service hours at a Boys and Girls Club had been shot in the street? Why would anyone take the life of a person who, friends recalled, could light up a room with her smile?

That was the one thing everybody remembered about Richardson-Frederick: her power to banish sadness with a grin.

"She always had a smile on her face," said Krytiseya Jordan, 16.

Jasmine Ellis, also 16, said: "If you had a bad day and you saw her . . . "

"You'd just forget everything," Jordan concluded.

"No matter how challenging or difficult, her smile would touch your very soul," Flowers's principal, Helena Nobles-Jones, told the mourners. "She was a confident young lady who always believed that everything was going to be all right. . . . Let tender memories soften your grief."

A procession of adults also reached out to the young people in the crowd, who remained largely silent.

"We older folks don't know any more than you know how something like this happens," said Jack B. Johnson (D), the Prince George's county executive. "We've got a lot to do in our county, because we cannot allow these kinds of acts to continue."

Last week, police charged three Lanham teenagers with first-degree murder in Richardson-Frederick's death.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company