The men kicked in the door of the Oxon Hill apartment and burst into the back bedroom where the woman and her young children had run. As the children hid under the bed, the intruders shot their mother. The men never said a word.
In the garden-style apartments on Marcy Avenue, this was supposed to be justice. A day earlier, on Nov. 18, 2011, Jakari Butler, a popular amateur boxer who hung out in the neighborhood, had been stabbed to death in the parking lot. Word on the street was that the killer lived in Building 1002, Apartment T-4.
But the street had it wrong.
Kaya Wilson, a 29-year-old aspiring dental assistant who was gunned down in front of her 2-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter, had nothing to do with Butler’s slaying. Neither did her boyfriend. But police said there were rumors that he did.
On Thursday, Prince George’s County police announced that they had arrested Nathan J. Farmer, 24, and Antonio M. Randall, 28, both of Oxon Hill, and charged them with first-degree murder in Wilson’s 2011 slaying.
“That’s what it was — mistaken identity,” Deborah Wilson, Kaya’s mother, said in an interview Thursday.
Kaya Wilson was a “very upbeat, positive person” who was studying to be a dental assistant at ACT College in Northern Virginia, her mother said in an earlier interview. She said her daughter liked to eat out at restaurants and watch movies.
After their mother’s death, Kaya Wilson’s 2-year-old son would repeat, “Mommy gone,” family members said, and her daughter cried often. The children have been in counseling and seem to be doing better, said Deborah Wilson, who now cares for them.
The spark that set off the violence came about 5:30 p.m. Nov. 18. Against his grandfather’s wishes, Butler, 20, had gone to hang out with friends at the apartments on Marcy Avenue. According to police charging documents, he got into a fight with an Alexandria man 15 years his senior.
It is unclear what started the altercation. But police said it ended when Michael D. Nealy, 35, fatally stabbed Butler, then ran. Nealy was later charged with first-degree murder, and his case is pending. His attorney did not return a phone message seeking comment late Thursday afternoon.
A 2010 graduate of Croom Vocational High School, Butler was well-known and well-liked in Oxon Hill, his grandfather, Ralph Cook, said in an interview last year. The young man, who enjoyed boxing and playing the drums, planned to enroll at Prince George’s Community College, Cook said. He dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur.
“He was very good,” Cook said. “He liked to help people.”
Those on Marcy Avenue refused to let his death go unanswered. As homicide detectives began to search for Butler’s killer, so, too, did his friends. According to police charging documents, Farmer thought Wilson’s boyfriend — who lived with her in Building 1002, Apartment T-4 — did it. The rumor began to spread.
About 8:30 p.m. Nov. 19, at least two men kicked in the front door to the apartment where Wilson was staying with her children and some of her boyfriend’s children, according to the charging documents and family members. She fled to a back bedroom, telling the kids to hide under the bed, according to family members.
According to police charging documents — which are based largely on an unnamed witness — Farmer and other people had planned to kill Wilson’s boyfriend. The documents say Farmer acted as a lookout while Randall and possibly others went into Wilson’s apartment and shot her.
Stan Brown, the family’s attorney, has said that by Wilson’s daughter’s account, the assailants never said a word. Wilson’s boyfriend was not home at the time, according to the charging documents.
On Thursday, Deborah Wilson said that after the killing, she moved her grandchildren from Marcy Avenue to a home in Temple Hills.
“It was too wild over there,” Wilson said. “Too much going on.”
After Kaya Wilson’s killing, police moved her boyfriend out of the apartment to keep him safe. Cook said he, too, was asked to relocate from his Oxon Hill home for a short time because detectives feared retaliatory violence.
Wilson said she was “really happy” that police had made arrests because “justice needed to be served.” She said she was unsurprised, however, to hear that detectives think the the wrong people were targeted for death.
“I already knew that,” Wilson said. “It was hard from the beginning, because I knew neither one of them was like that.”
Efforts to reach Randall and Farmer’s relatives were unsuccessful Thursday. Phone numbers listed for both men and their families in public records were disconnected.
Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.