Recovering at Ceeatta's House

Video by Christina Pino-Marina

Ceeatta Stewart-McKinnie was 23 years old and five months pregnant when she was beaten to death in a wooded area outside Richmond in April of 2002. Her married boyfriend, Willis Edward Anderson, was convicted of first-degree murder and is serving a 50-year sentence. The case is one of 1,367 documented in a year-long Washington Post investigation.

Stewart-McKinnie's aunt, Madonna Stewart, said her niece's death prompted her to confront a history of family abuse and violence. She vowed to change her own life by ending a debilitating cocaine habit, cutting off abusive relationships and starting a program to help other women caught in the cycles of abuse and drugs.

The result was Ceeatta's House, one of five recovery houses established by Stewart in the Richmond area. Between four and five women live in each house. They are required to hold jobs, pay rent and attend regular group therapy sessions as they recover from addictions, life on the streets, and years of physical and sexual abuse, some of which occurred during pregnancy.

Photos of Stewart-McKinnie and copies of her college degree, awarded posthumously, are present in each of the houses. Residents learn about her story by watching videotapes of news coverage from spring of 2003. Stewart-McKinnie did not struggle with drug addiction, but the women in Ceeatta's House say they relate to the abuse she suffered and to her fear of speaking out.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company