Marcellous Carter didn't know Don-Miguel Nathaniel Wilson Jr.
But Carter, 41, knew he had to stop by the green grass outside Don-Miguel's home after he heard on the radio about a gathering there as he drove home from work.
Carter took long looks at a line of stuffed animals and cards drawn in crayon that were propped up along a chain-link fence near Don-Miguel's home, and then he left. Minutes later, he came back with his 7-year-old son, Marcellous Jr., to honor the child found bound this week in the bathtub of his home.
"He said that he was hurt by this and he wanted to pay his respects," said Carter, who also lives in the Congress Heights area, several blocks from Don-Miguel's apartment complex on Wheeler Road SE.
Carter and his son were among about 200 people, many of them parents and their children, who held hands or carried candles in the waning light last night, offering support to the 6-year-old's relatives, along with prayers and proof that his life had mattered deeply.
Juanita Barber discovered her grandson's body facedown in a water-filled bathtub Monday morning, under a pillow and blanket with his ankles and wrists bound with cloth.
"We come, Lord, with heavy hearts. . . . Surround this family, Lord God," prayed the Rev. W. Ricardo Alexander of the New Dawn Family Christian Ministry in Southwest. "There are many wondering why."
Among those shedding tears and waiting for answers was Rachel Green, an aunt of Don-Miguel's mother, Julia Barber.
Authorities have said that Barber, 27, made rambling statements to detectives that implicate her in Don-Miguel's death. She remains at a D.C. psychiatric facility. No charges have been filed in the slaying.
Green said that her niece grew up a good person who became a good mother and still had those qualities inside her.
"I know that something just went wrong," Green said in an interview. "I'm confused about what has happened."
Several of Don-Miguel's relatives spoke to the supporters, who huddled closely to hear their praise of the rising second-grader.
"Don-Miguel was an intelligent and smart nephew. . . . I just want to thank everyone," said Khrystal Barber, 13, an aunt.
Police officials have said the boy probably was tied to prevent him from fleeing or fighting back. The death was ruled a homicide by the city medical examiner's office, which determined that he died as a result of drowning, suffocation and head injuries.
Community activist Katie Shephard, who helped organize the vigil, said she hoped that the vigil would let "the community know we care."
"We want to show strength," she said. "This is a hideous crime in our community."
D.C. Council members Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) and Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) were there to express condolences and the sentiment that the city government should do more to help those in need.
"This is a community that cares -- it's a community that cares for our kids," Mendelson told the crowd.
"How many of you brought your children?" community activist Sandra Seegars asked the mourners. Dozens raised a hand.
"Give them a hug," Seegars said.