Thomas Gray remembers kissing his daughter goodbye last Dec. 8 before he left for work. "Girl, you got freckles all over you!" he said happily.
It was the last time he saw her alive.
Several days later, Prince George's County police found 13-year-old Cynthia Gray's nude body hidden in a clump of bushes in the back yard of their home in Landover with multiple chest wounds.
The slaying remains unsolved. Police say the case is open, but not being actively investigated unless new leads surface.
Gray, 46, a widower who holds two jobs to support his only other child, spent just over $1,000 to bury Cynthia, but says he cannot afford a headstone for her grave.
The Maryland state agency that provides up to $900 for funeral expenses of innocent victims of violent crimes says it cannot help him until police close the case.
"I can't understand it," Gray said yesterday. "I can't understand why this whole situation has to exist. I'm a religious man, but I'm beginning to feel hate."
The state Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, which awards about $1.5 million to more than 400 victims of stabbings, rapes and other assaults annually, informed Gray's lawyer that because Gray and his 12-year-old son apparently had not been eliminated by police as suspects in the case, its regulations prohibit it from awarding Gray any money.
County police spokesman Sgt. Robert Law said yesterday that although the case is still open, Gray and his son were not, to his knowledge, suspects. "Nothing like that ever came up," he said.
"Damn the money, that's not the question. I'm angry with the indifferent attitude of these people. I want a definitive answer. They don't tell me a damn thing."
Martin I. Moylan, the compensation board's executive director, said Gray's situation is unique. "This is the first time we have ever had this in 11 years of operation."
Moylan said that no funds can be released to Gray until the board receives word from police that its investigation is over, or that no members of the family are suspects.
Moylan said the board got a letter from the county prosecutor's office in May saying the investigation was still "active" and that there had been no elimination of suspects, including members of the family.
The investigators for the state's attorney's office who wrote the letter would not comment yesterday except to say the case is still an active homicide investigation.
According to the board's annual report, the law that established the compensation award system in 1968 was enacted because of the "failure of the state to insure the safety of its citizens, and a sense of responsibility which a humane society feels" for innocent crime victims.
Last year, the board made 341 awards to victims of assault, stabbings, murder, shootings, and rapes. Of the 66 claims disallowed, most were either due to a lack of serious financial hardship, or provocation by the victim.
"I don't understand the whole rigamarole," said Gray, who said he realized that his daughter was missing when he found her torn bathrobe in the kitchen and part of the kitchen door broken. Police hypothesized then that Cynthia Gray might have walked into the kitchen while a burglary was in process.
"I'm a victim of the crime," says Gray who works as a carpenter at the National Zoo. "This is what it is all about."
In most murder cases where the victim was the financial provider for the family, the board can award thousands of dollars for the loss of an income. In situations like Gray's, where the victim was a child, the award is to cover simple funeral expenses, and is usually processed quickly.
"My inner feeling is that I am being found guilty until I am proven innocent," Gray said. "All I know is here was a beautiful young lady -- a young kid -- she was killed and no one knows a damn thing about it. I want to clear my mind. I don't know if it will ever be cleared."