The day after Jahkema "Princess" Hansen was killed, her mother sat down to talk about her in a friend's kitchen. Judyann Hansen lit a cigarette off the stove's gas burner. She did not cry; she talked about her daughter's problems.

A gunman had burst into a neighbor's house Jan. 23 and shot Princess seven times, apparently because she was a witness in another homicide.

Her mother said that recently Princess had been staying out late with friends in Sursum Corda, one of Washington's most brutal housing developments. There had been a lot of bad things in her life -- bad habits and bad friends.

"Her behavior and the people she hangs out with, I see the potential," Hansen said.

But nobody else could leave it at that, because Princess was only 14. In life, the headstrong girl hated taking orders from anybody. In death, she was everybody's symbol.

First, because of her age, she was an archetype of innocence: The mayor was pilloried by some in the community because he hadn't paid his respects.

Then the backlash: The mayor's camp was quoted as saying that Princess was an unwed mother, staying in a drug den. Now she was a symbol of what a bad environment can do.

The cycle repeated itself. The accusations were refuted, and at her funeral, Princess was innocent again. "She'll never get a chance to see graduation day," one of the speakers said.

Then, again, police say they believed Princess might have triggered her own killing by trying to procure money in exchange for stonewalling homicide detectives.

Two months after Princess's death, her mother sits down again with reporters. This time, she is measured and defensive, both about her daughter's behavior and her own parenting. She brings a lawyer to sit in.

"Everybody seems to forget: Princess was a child," she says. "Princess is a child who was brutally murdered, right here in Washington, D.C."

-- David A. Fahrenthold

In death, Jahkema became a symbol of Washington's ills.