Raising their youngest daughter was always a challenge for Michael and Gale Seaton. As far back as they can remember, Stacey was a contrarian, sharp-tongued and exceedingly private. She struggled in school and she ran with the fast crowd.
Her beauty and quick wit were an asset and a magnet for trouble, especially with boys.
It wasn't until she was 17 that the Seatons figured out the right medications for Stacey Seaton's bipolar disorder. But once they did, they say, she turned into a different girl. She didn't come home late at night, she talked about a future in the design industry, she decided to get her general equivalency diploma.
"It was magical. She had really come around," Michael Seaton said last week, sitting at his sunny kitchen table overlooking his backyard pool in Bowie. "She said she hated her life the way it was. She said she wanted to change. We had a big plan.
"That's the cruelly ironic thing."
Four months after she started taking the medication, she was killed, shot in the back of the head. It happened June 1 as she walked on a path in a Bowie Forest park, not 200 yards from her home.
She was eighteen days from her 18th birthday, and she was several weeks pregnant.
Police said Seaton's killing is different from the other 95 homicides in the county this year because of the brazenness of the crime in such a thriving, quiet part of Prince George's County. It also is distinct because of the community's response, said Detective Jarriel Jordan Sr., the lead homicide investigator in the case.
"I get several calls a day from the community, from the citizens of Bowie," Jordan said. "They tell me speculation and things they've heard. If we got the same amount of interest in the other murders we're working, we'd be able to move closer to solving them."
He said he is fairly close to making an arrest. His theory is that Seaton spent too long associating with the wrong people and had gotten herself in over her head.
"She has a lot of associates involved in a lot of criminal activities," Jordan said. "You name it, the associates were into it. She fell prey to that."
He said he didn't think Seaton was "deep into much of the stuff" but said she knew what her friends were doing.
"She was out of her league," he said. "She was doing things that she had no experience in dealing with."
Michael and Gale Seaton have been left wondering whether their daughter's past indiscretions contributed to her fate, or whether she was the victim of random violence. They wonder whether bringing her up in Prince George's, even in a normally calm section of the county, contributed to her death.
"We only expected to be here for three years," Gale Seaton said. "But we fell in love with the house. We wanted our kids to put down roots."
Stacey Seaton was born in 1987 at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. Her parents, a military couple, moved to Bowie five years later.
Seaton was a "blue baby" whose neck had been wrapped three times by the umbilical cord. Her parents were not sure she would survive. As she got older, she had trouble learning in school and was never an A or B student, her parents said. She attended three high schools and dropped out of each one. At the time of her death, she was being tutored by an aunt for the GED test.
Her parents said she tended to take on other people's problems.
"She always saw the good in people," Michael Seaton said. "She had a great heart and soul."
Plus, her father said, she was 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 105 pounds. He wonders who would commit such a violent act against such a small person.
"Nobody deserves something like this," he said.
If police make an arrest in the case, it will not ease their pain, Seaton's parents said, but it might quiet some of the questions raging through their minds.
"We will never have closure, ever," Gale Seaton said. "But we might have a measure of peace. And it would be justice for Stacey."
She said she deals with her grief by running on a treadmill and playing with her grandson, Diego, her older daughter's baby. Her husband said he talks with friends and family and also gets joy from Diego.
Both said that the pain is overwhelming and that they want to start attending bereavement support groups. But after a while, Gale Seaton said, she might have to find a new place to live.
"If there's not an arrest or conviction in the case, I'm out of here," she said. "I'm not going to stay in the community where my daughter's killer is running around."
Police are offering $25,000 for information that leads to an arrest and indictment in the case. The Seatons also set up a fund of about $5,000 with Crime Solvers and are asking for donations to increase the reward. Anyone with information can call 301-772-4925.