For years, Sandra Johnson pleaded with her daughter to stop risking her life.
Don't do drugs, Johnson told her, they'll destroy you. Don't hang around with people involved in drugs, they'll use you up and throw you away. Finally, when Sherry K. Larman's drug addiction led her to prostitution, her mother warned again and again: "Please, Sherry, be careful out there."
"We'd beg and plead with her," Johnson said. "Just last week, I told her, 'Sherry, somebody out there's killing girls. You're living dangerously.' She said, 'I know, Mama, I'll be careful.' I guess it caught up with her."
Saturday morning, Larman's body was found on the top deck of a four-story parking garage in Arlington. Police sources say she had been suffocated.
Larman, 26, was one of seven women identified as prostitutes slain in the Washington area in the last 14 months. Although the victims came from widely different backgrounds, they were linked by a few common threads: Each was white and had blond or light-colored hair. And, according to family members and friends, most had had their lives shaped by drugs and a search for self-esteem.
Larman, whose father is a retired District police officer, grew up in suburban Maryland and was living in Lanham when she was killed. Her mother said Larman had a happy childhood, but was bothered by her parents' divorce when she was 6.
Larman began experimenting with drugs as a teenager, her mother said, and was enrolled in the Good Shepherd Center, a residential treatment center and high school for girls in Baltimore. There Larman excelled in athletics, and seemed to have put her troubles behind her when she graduated from Good Shepherd's high school in 1981, Johnson said.
"She won trophies for track and was really doing well," said Johnson, who has two other children, a daughter, 25, and a son, 16. "She went on and worked as a secretary and receptionist in D.C. for a couple years."
It was then, Johnson said, that her daughter "fell in with the wrong people," and started using drugs again. Within a year, Larman was working as a prostitute in downtown Washington, calling herself Stacy.
"She got caught up in this street life and it had a hold on her," Johnson said. "She knew what she was doing was wrong, and she wanted to get out. But the pull was just too strong."
Friends say the pull of drugs also was too much for Lisa Colleen Grossman, 29, who worked as a prostitute near 14th and L streets NW before she was killed by a gunshot to the head in March. Her body was found in Alexandria's West End.
Grossman, who at the time of her death lived with her common-law husband and two young sons in a Fairfax County motel, was described by friends as a vibrant woman with reddish-blond hair who had grown up in Prince George's County. Grossman had worked as a topless dancer and as a prostitute in part to support her crack habit, friends said.
Mary Ellen Sullenberger's path to the streets of Washington was marked by a search for love and attention, friends and relatives said. Teased about being overweight throughout her childhood in Lancaster, Pa., Sullenberger was attracted to men who told her she was beautiful and who made her feel wanted.
One of those men became her first pimp and brought her to Washington to work the streets. Police say she was fatally shot in April 1989 while sitting in a car, presumably with a customer, in downtown Washington.
Other women slain recently and identified by police as prostitutes:Sandra Rene Johnson, 20, who was found dead of asphyxiation Sunday in her South Arlington apartment. Johnson, who is not related to Larman's mother, told other women who work in the downtown prostitution strip that she had come to Washington from Atlantic City with her pimp. The women said Johnson was seeking help for a drug problem. Carolen Marie Wallace, 22, of Forestville, whose body was found in a Fairfax County storm sewer on Feb. 14. She had been shot in the head. Friends said Wallace had dabbled in drugs and had worked as a prostitute for more than a year. Roxanne Lynn Johnson, 23, who was found shot in head in Southeast Washington last October. Cori Louise Jones, 29, whose body was found in August 1989 on an Anacostia street. She had been shot in the chest.
"All of this is just terrible," said Sandra Johnson, Larman's mother. "All of these girls had families somewhere, people who loved them. These girls just took a wrong turn somewhere."
Johnson said she hopes her children will learn from their sister's death.
She said she hopes it keeps her son in school and "convinces him not to hang out. I don't want Sherry's death to be for nothing."