Abere Karibi-Ikiriko's present appeared sterling, and her future seemed limitless.
She had a perfect 4.0 grade-point average at the Howard University College of Medicine, where she was a fourth-year medical student. She was well on her way to earning a combined medical degree and PhD. On Jan. 15, she was in her Capitol Heights home, preparing for a flight to Austria to attend a Nobel Prize conference.
A few hours later, Karibi-Ikiriko was locked up in the Prince George's County Detention Center, accused of fatally shooting her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Okechukwu "Will" Ohiri, 26, a fellow medical student. She had called 911 and reported, "I shot him."
During a three-day trial last week, prosecutors alleged that Karibi-Ikiriko, 27, fatally shot Ohiri because she believed that he was seeing prostitutes. Karibi-Ikiriko testified that the gun went off accidentally when Ohiri grabbed it from her.
A Prince George's jury convicted Karibi-Ikiriko yesterday of second-degree murder and using a handgun during a felony. The jury, which deliberated for about four hours over two days, acquitted her of premeditated first-degree murder.
Karibi-Ikiriko laid her head on the defense table moments after the verdict was announced, a prosecutor said.
She faces a possible sentence of 50 years in prison. Circuit Court Judge Richard H. Sothoron Jr. scheduled sentencing for Sept. 9.
"It's a waste of two talented lives," said Prince George's Assistant State's Attorney I. DeAndrei Drummond. "Two lives were ruined in a second, in the time it takes to pull a trigger."
Simon Ohiri, the father of Will Ohiri, traveled with his wife from their home in Chicago to attend the trial, which ended Friday.
"Even though we are happy that she is found guilty, it still doesn't bring my son back," Ohiri said.
James N. Papirmeister, one of Karibi-Ikiriko's attorneys, said: "I think she should have been 100 percent acquitted. She doesn't have a violent bone or nerve in her body."
Karibi-Ikiriko, born in New York of Nigerian descent, was an unlikely murder defendant.
During two hours of tearful testimony, she described her academic achievements and her tumultuous romance with Ohiri, also of Nigerian descent.
In 1995, she enrolled at the University of Missouri as a biological sciences major.
In 1997, she founded the Campaign Against Female Genital Mutilation to educate Nigerian women about the perils of female circumcision.
Two years later, Karibi-Ikiriko was named one of the top 10 undergraduate women students in the country by Glamour magazine. In the magazine, Karibi-Ikiriko said her goals were to obtain her medical degree, then to work as an anesthesiologist in poor, rural areas. "I feel like I'm on a journey toward improving the world," she said.
After working for a pharmaceutical company, she bought a house in the 5100 block of Heath Street in Capitol Heights, and in 2001 enrolled in Howard University's medical school.
She met Ohiri during her first year of medical school, and the two started dating the following year. Karibi-Ikiriko testified that she fell in love with him.
"He was a very nice guy. He was always there for me. We had some problems in our relationship," she testified. Karibi-Ikiriko testified that Ohiri sometimes forced her to have sex.
The two began a cycle in which she would break up with him, then he would write her love letters, and they would reconcile until the next breakup, Karibi-Ikiriko testified.
In July 2004, while they were broken up, Ohiri rented her basement, Karibi-Ikiriko said. Ohiri insisted on signing a lease so she wouldn't be able to kick him out, she told jurors.
The two began spending time together and reunited as a couple, only to break up again, Karibi-Ikiriko testified. She said she put a deadbolt on the door leading to the main house to keep him away.
About 7 p.m. the day of the shooting, Karibi-Ikiriko went to the basement to do laundry, in preparation for her trip the next day to Austria, she testified.
Ohiri arrived and tried to talk to her about reuniting, and she angrily rebuffed him, Karibi-Ikiriko testified. Ohiri went upstairs and returned holding her handgun, she said. She said she had bought the gun for protection because she often heard gunshots in her neighborhood.
Ohiri directed her to a couch, sat next to her and pulled up the long nightgown she was wearing, Karibi-Ikiriko testified. He put the gun on a cushion, and she grabbed it, she said.
Karibi-Ikiriko told jurors that Ohiri grabbed it back and that the gun went off, fatally wounding Ohiri in the chest.
During cross-examination, Assistant State's Attorney Leslie Andrews Booker suggested that Karibi-Ikiriko was angry about an incident in Puerto Rico in which she and Ohiri hired a prostitute for a threesome but the prostitute had sex only with Ohiri.
Karibi-Ikiriko initially denied the incident, then said it upset her.