While all around her other mourners gave vociferous release to their grief, Lorena (Gloria) Shelton sat in numb silence yesterday before the bronze coffins of her two slain daughters at Campbell AME Church in Southeast Washington.
Last week, Shelton's daughters, Darrena, 25, and Sabrina, 28, were fatally shot as they slept in Darrena's Northwest apartment, while their young children watched. Shelton herself was wounded in the attack, the apparent result of a dispute with the landlord. The assailant dragged Darrena outside, doused her with a flammable liquid and set her afire in front of witnesses.
For years the apartment, at 3404 13th St. NW, had been the home of Shelton's mother, who was fatally stabbed with a butcher knife last fall as she lay in her hospital bed.
Shelton's 30-year-old son, Cardell Shelton, who has been charged in his 84-year-old grandmother's death, said he was released yesterday from the D.C. Jail to attend his sisters' funeral.
The accumulated losses seemed to leave Shelton detached as she accepted the condolences of family and friends who tried to share in the sadness yesterday. And, according to Cardell, she pondered her family's recent run of ill fate. He said he wanted to help his mother while he was free, consoling her with his assurance that "the most beautiful flower can grow in the most stagnant ponds."
"Maybe we could find something beautiful," he said.
"We've had so much bad luck," he said. "Sometimes it seems like somebody is picking on us."
Last Thursday, relatives said, Gloria Shelton was visiting Sabrina and Darrena, who was anxious to move from the second-floor apartment where she was ensnared in a long dispute with the landlord involving back rent. But before the day was out, a man with a shotgun entered the apartment while the women slept, D.C. police said.
Gloria Shelton was the struck by the shotgun's blast and was grazed in the side. In the aftermath of the attack, she discovered her daughters fatally wounded and Darrena set afire on the concrete front yard.
Police charged the landlord, Francois Robert Bourgeau of Mount Rainier, with two counts of first-degree murder.
"That girl's done had a rough time," Julia Allen, an old friend of the family, said of Gloria Shelton. "I don't care what it is, she keeps her head up."
In the opening moments of the funeral, Sabrina's 3-year-old son, Richard Jamar Coefield, appearing overwhelmed with fear as his mother lay in a copper- bronze-toned coffin before him, had to be carried from the church by an elder. His tiny, hurt screams trailed behind, moving adults to tearful outbursts.
"Lord have mercy," Paulette White whispered under her breath, choking up.
White said she had known Sabrina Shelton for almost 20 years. They had gone to junior high together, weaving dreams of the future and the happy lives they would make for themselves.
"I talked to her the night before she died," said Samuel Tillman, uncle to one of Darrena Shelton's two young children, who recalled that she had ambitions of finishing business college and becoming an entrepreneur. "Darrena wasn't the kind of person you would think anything like this could happen to."