Eric Hawk and John Ridout had been feuding since last March, when they were suspended for fighting at Surrattsville High School, Prince George's County police said yesterday. But that feud, which friends said began over a girl, has since grown from a high school squabble into the focus of a murder investigation.
Yesterday, police charged Ridout, who had turned himself in to District of Columbia police, with the fatal stabbing of Hawk on the grounds of the Clinton school Thursday afternoon. He is being charged as an adult with murder.
Hawk's death was the second time in three months that a student was killed at a Prince George's County school.
At Surrattsville, where the 17-year-olds were classmates, students cried over the death of Hawk and whispered over the fate of Ridout, who is being held in D.C. Jail.
Late in the morning, dozens of youngsters grasped hands in the school library for an impromptu prayer: "Dear God, I don't understand this," said a girl who had been friends with the slain student. "We loved him and we always will. Watch and look over Eric. He will not be forgotten."
A team of more than a dozen school counselors was sent to the school to work with students and staff and three security guards were assigned there temporarily.
A pall hung over the school. Students sobbed as they walked to class, comforted each other in the hallways and huddled with counselors in the library and offices.
Jean Phillips, supervisor for psychological services for the county schools, said, "There are those that were close to one or both of the boys and they are grieving . . . . You don't feel safe anymore."
Those who knew Hawk, who was also from Clinton, described him as a popular youth and a good student who recently found out that he would receive a scholarship to college, where he wanted to study business.
"They were enemies," said one girl. "They never liked each other . . . . It was over a girl."
Ridout, of 6806 Louise La., Clinton, was being held as a fugitive from justice on $30,000 bond after an arraignment in D.C. Superior Court.
The youth, accompanied by his attorney, Mercer Anderson, turned himself in to D.C. homicide investigators about 1:30 a.m. yesterday.
Ridout, who stood silently in the courtroom holding a blue baseball cap, refused to return voluntarily to Prince George's to face the murder charge.
An extradition hearing was scheduled for Feb. 26.
School officials said the two slayings since September were unrelated and they did not plan to implement any policy changes in response to the incidents. On Oct. 29, Dwayne Satterwhite, a Forestville High School student, was fatally shot in the school parking lot. Three youths who are not students have been charged in that case.
"I really don't think that any change in the security that we might propose could do anything to prevent something like this," said Board of Education Chairman Paul Shelby.
The Maryland medical examiner's office ruled Hawk's death a homicide yesterday and listed the cause as "a stab wound to the head."
Detective Charles Fobbs, a Prince George's homicide investigator, said Hawk was stabbed with a screwdriver, but the weapon has not been found.
"There had been a longstanding feud between those two since last March," according to Fobbs. Since then, he said, there had been "brushing in the hallways and hard stares, but no physical fighting" between the youths.
At the school yesterday, a counselor urged the students to find something positive in the tragedy, pointing out that students were helping and comforting each other.
"But look how much it takes to bring this school together," answered a girl. "It takes a death."