Hundreds of people filled the pews and lined the walls in St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in St. Inigoes last weekend to say goodbye to Darlene Dowsey.
Many more, people who didn't know her but mourned all the same, have called places such as the Southern Maryland Center for Family Advocacy, worried about violence in their homes. One woman left a dream catcher on Dowsey's grave and went into hiding. Others talked about her and Ayanna LaChay Taylor, another St. Mary's County woman who was shot to death this year.
Dowsey, a 27-year-old mother of two described by family members and friends as beautiful, smart, outgoing and determined, died Sept. 13. Her estranged husband, John Otha Dickens, was arrested and charged with murder and violation of a protective order. Sheriff's deputies said he shot Dowsey in the head.
"We've gotten calls from people who hadn't called us before as well as people we're already working with," said Laura Joyce of the Center for Family Advocacy. "It awakens people's fears. It makes them very real."
Over the last several days, some of those who knew Dowsey have talked about how much they have lost.
Dowsey grew up in and around Lexington Park, playing with dolls as a little girl, then later tagging around after her older cousins on the Eastern Shore every summer. "She was a tomboy; she liked to ride bikes with us, whatever we were doing," said Boo Barnes, who lives in Leonardtown. "When we played football she would play; when we played baseball she'd throw a glove on."
She was strong, too, he said: He has a scar on his finger from the time she bit him during a fight and wouldn't let go.
"Oh, man," he said. "She had it for eight to 10 minutes," even though he was pleading with her and the older children were telling her to stop.
He always remembered that, he said, because she was determined. She didn't give up.
As she got older, she started styling friends' hair at the trailer park where they lived. She was a cheerleader at Great Mills High School and very popular, friends said, always smiling and friendly.
She had a child when she was 15, her best friend Rhonda Curtis said, but she continued her education.
Curtis got to know her when Dowsey came to the hospital to give birth to her son; Curtis had just had her first baby and was leaving the hospital. The two became friends immediately, helping each other with motherhood and going to clubs to dance and have fun.
Dowsey worked as a beautician at JCPenney, braiding, cutting and curling hair, and sometimes at a second job as well. She took classes at the College of Southern Maryland, planning to earn a bachelor's degree and run her own business, Curtis said.
She married Dickens, and they had a girl in 2002. "She was crazy for her kids," said Shelia Thomas, who knew Dowsey through her son, her job and her neighborhood. When Dowsey did her hair, Thomas said, she was always talking about her children, how she was going to her son's basketball game or taking them to the park.
She was very close to her family, including her sister and brothers; she loved going to play bingo with her mother. "She's very family oriented," Barnes said. "She's somebody you can confide in."
He looked up to her, he said. "Everyone did."
Since her friend was killed, Curtis has made T-shirts with Dowsey's picture on them, to raise money for a fund to support the education of her children, who are with Dowsey's mother now. And Curtis organized a benefit Friday night at a club Dowsey loved, with proceeds going to the same scholarship fund at Cedar Point Federal Credit Union.
"Darlene was a great person," Barnes said. "Just to be around her -- she made you feel good about yourself."