Portraits of the 16 killed this year in Prince George's County

Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, February 1, 2011

One was a teenager who would cook eggs for his 3-year-old brother so his mom could grab a few extra hours of sleep. Another was an ice cream truck driver known to kids as the "Dollar Man" because his cold treats cost about a buck. A third was a physics and astronomy major at the University of Maryland who produced his own music and tutored athletes.

As February begins, Prince George's County homicide detectives are investigating 16 killings in the new year. These were victims five, six and 11. Like nearly all of the others, none of these victims knew one another. There is no evidence that their slayings were connected.

It is an inexplicable - maybe unavoidable - flare-up of death and mayhem in a county that wants desperately not to be defined by violence. Police insist that law-abiding residents have little to fear, because most victims were targeted by their killers, and many of those slain were selling drugs. But they cannot ignore the human toll: When you get killed in Prince George's, friends and relatives come to know your number.

"To Prince George's County, he's just number 11 of 2011," said Kara Sarvey, a close friend of U-Md. student Justin DeSha-Overcash, 22, who was slain Jan. 11. "I just want to give a face to number 11."

No. 11, friends and relatives said, was perhaps best known as a hard worker. He double-majored in physics and astronomy at U-Md. In addition to tutoring athletes, he worked in the campus observatory. When his mom fell on hard times, he helped pay her bills.

"He was so cool. He was so fun to talk to. He just made me happy. He made everybody happy," said Karen DeSha, DeSha-Overcash's mom.

DeSha-Overcash was shot to death in the College Park home he rented with others. Police and law enforcement sources have said the incident appears to have been a drug-related robbery, and investigators seized a large quantity of marijuana, scales and pot-laced lollipops from the home.

Family members and friends said they doubted that the drugs belonged to DeSha-Overcash. This was a college student who worked two jobs to put himself through school and still found time to blog about music, they said. This was a regular young man whose last conversation with his father was about whether national champion quarterback Cam Newton was going to go pro.

"This is not the kid that they're trying to make him out to be," said Randy Overcash, DeSha-Overcash's father. "This is a kid who would give you the last shirt that he had on his back, if you needed it."

Police had not made any arrests in the slaying.

Michael D. Layne Jr., victim No. 5, was the youngest of the 16. Layne, 19, of Temple Hills, had recently received a high school degree after finishing a home-schooling program. With his dying breath, he repeated his dream of one day owning a Monte Carlo.

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