Conflicting Tales in D.C. Girl's Death

By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Congress Heights woman charged with killing her 7-year-old daughter last week told police that she stabbed the girl and set the family home on fire but later said that an unknown intruder had attacked them both, according to D.C. Superior Court records filed yesterday.

Carlese J. Hall, 29, stood silently before Magistrate Judge Karen Howze during her arraignment yesterday on a first-degree murder charge in the stabbing death of her daughter, Amari. Hall wore hospital scrubs, and she had bandages covering wounds on her arms. She sobbed briefly.

Early Dec. 26, Hall ran down the street and banged on a parked police cruiser near her rented home in the 3300 block of 11th Place SE, according to authorities. Noticing that Hall was bleeding, the officer asked her what was wrong, and she replied that she had "killed my daughter and set the house on fire," according to charging documents filed with the court.

Hall also told the officer that she stabbed herself in the chest, according to charging documents. Hall later tested positive for PCP and opiates, the documents say.

The officer tried to enter the burning house but was repelled by thick smoke. After D.C. firefighters arrived and extinguished the flames, they discovered Amari in the doorway of her bedroom, authorities said.

The girl was bleeding from an open wound in her chest, and blood was visible on her clothes and mouth, according to authorities. The girl was taken to Children's National Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

According to charging papers, fire officials determined that the fire was set using an accelerant in the master bedroom, across the hall from the girl's bedroom. Amari was covered in soot, and paramedics initially had difficulty determining whether she had been shot or stabbed, the documents say.

Investigators noticed a steak knife on the floor, just inside the door of the master bedroom, and blood on the girl's bed, according to charging documents.

After arriving at the hospital, Hall provided a different account, according to charging documents. She said an intruder had broken into her home, stabbed her and her daughter and started the fire, the documents say.

Hall described pulling the knife from her daughter's chest and told police that she could not identify the intruder because of the thick smoke, according to charging documents. But later, she gave police a detailed description, the documents say.

Hall, who is unemployed and on public assistance, had lived in the house on 11th Place for about eight months, officials said. On Monday, more than 100 people gathered outside the home for a vigil on what would have been Amari's 8th birthday. Hall has one other child.

Hall has been charged with assault three times since 2000, according to authorities. For a 2004 assault, she was sentenced to four months in the D.C. jail and was placed on probation until July 2006.

At the hearing, Hall's court-appointed attorney, Ronald Horton, said she should have been charged with second-degree murder instead of first-degree murder. He described the account in the charging documents as a "convoluted theory."

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Saybolt said the charge was first-degree murder because a child had died. "She stabbed a 7-year-old girl in her chest," Saybolt said. "It's hard to imagine something more vile and heinous than that."

Howze called Hall a "danger to the community" and ordered her held without bond. Hall's next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 9.

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