A 15-year-old girl was charged yesterday with second-degree murder in the death of a Montgomery County ninth-grade girl who was stabbed after a high school football game Friday night, police said.
Kanisha Neal, 15, died after being knifed at James Hubert Blake High School about 8:30 p.m., police said, during a fight in the parking lot between two groups of girls. The stabbing stemmed from a weeks-old feud over one of the girls spitting at another, they said.
Authorities would not release the suspect's name because she was charged as a juvenile, but they said she was an Olney resident who attended Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring. She is being held at a youth detention facility in Rockville.
Witnesses and police said the fight broke out as students were emptying the parking lot after Sherwood defeated Blake, one of its football rivals, 44-0. Police officers and school officials who were at the game ran to the parking lot to break up the brawl and administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation to Neal.
The Rockville High School freshman was taken to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, where she was pronounced dead.
The stabbing was the second fatal assault in a week after a Montgomery County high school football game.
Stephone Wiggins, 23, of Germantown died of injuries received Sept. 16 when he was beaten with a miniature baseball bat after a football game in Germantown between Seneca Valley High School and Northwest High School, police said.
That fight, which investigators said also stemmed from an earlier feud, took place off-campus. The two suspects in the case -- Quatrell Oladele Adedeji, 18, and Perry Kevin Sims Jr., 17 -- did not attend the football game at Seneca Valley but met Wiggins later in the evening near the game's end.
Adedeji has been charged with attempted murder and possession of marijuana, and Sims with attempted murder, assault and carrying a concealed deadly weapon. Both will face upgraded charges because Wiggins died, police said.
Montgomery County school and police officials said they do not believe the fights were gang-related or had anything to do with high school football games, which draw thousands of young people who come to cheer or just hang out with friends.
"Kanisha loved going to games," said her mother, Joyce Neal, crying during an interview yesterday. "She's not a troublemaker. . . . She was my baby girl."
Neal said authorities told her that her daughter had been stabbed once, near the heart.
Brian Edwards, spokesman for the Montgomery school system, said officials believe they had provided enough security for Friday night's game at Blake, which is in the Norwood area of northeastern Montgomery. Still, police and school officials plan to review ways to improve security during games.
Montgomery police spokeswoman Lucille Baur said the brutal fights were anomalies.
"High school football games have been going on for years, and we have not for many years had any deaths or severe injuries," she said.
Baur offered few details about Friday night's fight, other than to say that it stemmed from an earlier spitting incident. Another law enforcement official said the suspect had obtained the knife from a girlfriend.
"We are all quite devastated,'' said John Yore, principal at Sherwood High School. "It's even more difficult to know that a student who attends our school is involved in it."
Joyce Neal said her daughter had been invited to the football game by her half sister, Kelly Grimes. Neal, 45, said she didn't know whether Grimes, 21, who had attended Rockville High, had a connection to Blake or Sherwood high school.
She said Grimes gave the following account: Grimes, Kanisha Neal and another girl were in the football field's parking lot when a fight broke out near a car she believed held five girls.
Joyce Neal said Grimes told her, "One girl hit another girl and hit Kanisha, and Kanisha retaliated. She got to fighting with two girls and a girl said, 'I stabbed that [expletive],' and jumped back in the car."
Grimes tried to pull the assailant out of her car, then Kanisha Neal fell into her arms. Grimes and the third girl placed Neal on the ground, where she shook uncontrollably. Joyce Neal said Grimes told her the car hit Kanisha Neal when it reversed.
Joyce Neal said she doesn't know how her daughter got involved. Kanisha Neal, the youngest of her five children, was not in a gang or caught up in any long-running feuds, her mother said.
Carole Goodman, Blake's principal, was one of five administrators on duty at the game. She said yesterday that although there was nothing unusual about the crowd of 3,500 who attended, administrators were on alert. The previous week, when Paint Branch High School played football at Blake, several small fights broke out. Administrators worked with police and campus security personnel afterward to rethink security plans, officials said.
There were four police officers at Friday's game, double the number present the previous week, Goodman said.
She said six members of security teams from both high schools also were at the game. Other faculty operated the gates and walked the grandstands.
Goodman said about half the crowd had left the stadium when a call for emergency personnel came over her radio. She and an assistant principal ran to the parking lot, where a crowd had gathered. She saw people administering CPR to someone on the ground as students milled around, confused and upset. She said many had witnessed the incident.
"They'd never seen anything like this,'' she said.
Joyce Neal said that her daughter, who often went by "Missy," had been expelled from Roberto Clemente Middle School several years ago for fighting with another girl but that she had begun to change her ways.
"Missy has a lot of heart," Neal said. "She won't take anything from anybody, but she never strikes first. . . . She'd say, 'As long as you don't put your hands on me, say what you want to say,' and she'd keep on going."
David Brubaker, principal of Earle B. Wood Middle School, said he didn't recall any fights involving Kanisha Neal last year when she attended eighth grade at his school.
"What I remember most is her outgoing personality and smile," Brubaker said. "That part stands out right away."
Rockville High Principal Debra Munk said extra counselors will be available tomorrow for students.
"She was a bright girl," Munk said. "We're just shocked. I know the kids are going to be just devastated."
Joyce Neal said she learned about the fight when her sister called her cell phone. By the time she arrived at the hospital, it was too late.
"All I could do was scream," Neal said. "They said, 'Miss Neal, she died on the table.' "
At the affected high schools, officials were working through the weekend to prepare for the return of students tomorrow.
"For us, Monday will be about taking care of each other and talking about what occurred and how we can stop it," said Goodman, the principal. "It wasn't one of our kids, but we have to stop these things from happening because it could have been."
Staff writer Ernesto Londono contributed to this report.