Early on April 9, as a gang of young men who had invaded her Washington apartment looking for drug money held her, her mother and her aunt on the floor at gunpoint and discussed how they would kill the witnesses, 16-year-old Denise Michelle King rose to her knees and began praying.
In her prayer, the girl said she was ready to die, then asked God to let the gunmen spare her younger brother and sister, who were in another room, and take her life instead.
As Denise prayed, the girl's mother reached out and tapped the boot of one of nine young men, all armed with guns, who were in the apartment. "Please, if you believe in God, don't hurt my babies," Nancy Slaughter, King's mother, implored.
"Get off my shoe, bitch," the young man snapped back. Almost immediately, Denise King, her mother and aunt each were shot once in the head. The younger children were not harmed.
Denise King died instantly. Her mother and aunt both lived, and partly based on their accounts, a D.C. grand jury indicted four young men this week on charges of first-degree murder, armed robbery, assault with intent to kill and weapon violations.
The suspects -- Derrick Moore, 16, and his twin brother, Darrell Moore, of the 4400 block of Warner Avenue in Hyattsville; Larry D. Lucas, 19, of the 4200 block of 58th Avenue in Bladensburg; and Ricardo D. Land, 21, of the 300 block of 18th Street NE -- are all charged as adults and all are being held without bond pending trial.
According to the indictment and affidavits filed in D.C. Superior Court, the nine young men invaded Denise King's apartment in the Marshall Heights neighborhood of Southeast Washington to rob a man identified as Dennis "Hit" Hill, whom they knew as a marijuana dealer. The nine met in an apartment on the same floor and waited for someone to enter the apartment they thought was Hill's.
This account is drawn from the court documents and police sources:
Sometime in the early morning hours of April 9, Slaughter, 33, and her sister, Gloria Higgins, 39, arrived at the apartment after attending a birthday party for Slaughter. Slaughter told police that she had unlocked the first lock on the door and was opening the second when a man armed with a shotgun and a group of other young men, all armed with handguns, rushed toward her, forcing their way into the apartment.
"Where is the money?" the men demanded, then marched the two women from room to room as they ransacked the apartment searching for money. The three children, who had been asleep in the apartment, were all awakened during the robbery. A 10-year-old told police that the men told her to stay under her blanket, but that she saw them going through drawers in her room. A 3-year-old also was awakened.
Denise King eventually was dragged from her bed and forced to lie on the living room floor with her mother and aunt.
One of the men, later identified as Lucas, threatened to drag one of the women to another apartment and kill her there. Slaughter later identified Derrick Moore as the man with whom she pleaded.
After the three women were shot, about 4:40 a.m., all the young men fled, taking about 100 recorded compact discs, $500 in cash and items of clothing.
Slaughter, who was able to call police for help, told a dispatcher, "They shot my baby in the head."