Baltimore FBI agents announced yesterday that the body of 21-year-old Donzella Peters and a child's body believed to be that of her 3-year-old daughter had been found floating in the Occoquan River in Virginia.
The two, who vanished 10 days ago after leaving their Baltimore home en route to a local laundromat, had been the subjects of a widespread search by federal and local authorities after two other family members were found stabbed to death at Fort Meade.
A fifth family member, Donzella Peters' 2-year-old niece Sherrill Peters, was found April 22, apparently abandoned near the C&O Canal in the Seneca area of Montgomery County.
At the time, the child told FBI agents who questioned her that "Donny"-her name for Donzella-was "in the water."
Peters' body was found at 6 a.m. yesterday by two fishermen at Occoquan, according to Ed Hegarty, the FBI's special agent in charge in Baltimore. Members of the Peters family then traveled from Baltimore to Fairfax Hospital and positively identified the body.
The cause of Peters' death was not determined. Authorities plan to conduct an autopsy today.
In late afternoon, Hegarty said, FBI agents and a Prince William County game warden found the body of a little girl roughly the age of the missing Danielle Shoulders. Positive identification had not been made last night.
The finding of Peters' body at Occoquan adds another chapter to a grisly odyssey of murder that covered two states and more than 100 miles. Donzella Peters and her daughter had left their West Baltimore home on April 21, along with her 17-year-old brother George, their 3-year-old nephew Dominick and his sister Sherrill.
Later in the day, George and Dominick were found stabbed to death on the outskirts of Fort Meade. The next morning, a passing driver found Sherrill alive, but bleeding from knife wounds, in the Seneca area.
"We put out a law enforcement bulletin for two missing persons, one of them a woman six months pregnant," Hegarty said.
The FBI, which has jurisdiction in the case because two bodies were found on government property, arrested Donzella Peters' ex-boyfriend, 22-year-old Kenneth Howard Neal, on April 22, charging him with the murder of George Peters Jr.
That charge was dropped when the FBI found a witness who said he had seen Neal stab George Peters while driving to Annapolis-indicating that George Peters was not killed on federal property.
However, a federal grand jury in Baltimore indicted Neal yesterday on a charge of committing a crime-the murder of Dominick Peters-on a government reservation.
"We have turned the facts [in the George Peters slaying] over to the City of Annapolis," Hegarty said.
Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Warren Duckett said the county would review the FBI's information "with an eye toward prosecution" of Neal for murder in the death of George Peters.
Family members, attorneys and police have described the relationship between Donzella Peters and Neal as stormy, with violent confrontations, an allegation of rape that Peters first made against Neal and then withdrew, and the brief abduction of Peters' daughter. Relatives said Peters broke off the relationship last December because of the quarrels.
She was two months pregnant with Neal's child last January when Neal kidnaped Danielle Shoulders. He returned the child seven hours later when Peters agreed to meet with him. Neal later was charged with the abduction, and pleaded guilty March 14. His sentencing has been postponed, according to his defense attorney.