Selena McDonald's body didn't clank-clank down the apartment stairs on a rickety gurney, the way most homicide victims leave the scene of their death. The medical examiner had swaddled her broken frame in a blanket and cradled her like a newborn making the first journey from hospital to crib.
Selena was a year old when the last blow finally killed her. When police came to the smoke-stained apartment on Shepherd Street NW in Petworth on Jan. 12, they found a child with injuries on nearly every inch of her body, according to the autopsy report cited in the arrest affidavit. She had bruises all over the front of her head, the bridge of her nose, her lips, her body. Her face and nose, her chest and her gums had been lacerated. Her feet, left eye and brain were swollen. Her chest was covered with human bite marks.
Neighbors remember her as a happy baby, born on Christmas Day.
"This is a sad, sad story of addiction," says Zakiya Ahmed, a friend of the family. "I knew Selena when they first brought her home, and I thought things would be all right for them." But drugs had a firm hold of the baby's mother, police say in the affidavit, and she gave her baby away to friend Caroline DeForest.
Neighbors said Selena disappeared into DeForest's dark apartment in the last months of her life, according to the affidavit. A few days before Selena died, Ahmed came to see the girl, but the crib was tented by a blanket, hiding her. "Caroline smoked. A lot. So I thought maybe she was just doing that to keep the smoke away from the baby. But I guess she just didn't want me to see the shape that little girl was in."
Before she was arrested, DeForest told police she had hit and kicked the little girl, who was "getting on her nerves," according to the affidavit. Neighbors left a memorial of flowers and formula in front of the apartment. And there was a note: "Selena, You can go with the angels. . . . Rest in peace my angel, and I know I got your killer and won't rest until she pay's for what she did to you. I loved you baby girl and I'm so sorry, Love, Mom."
-- Petula Dvorak