His neighbors along Fern Street in Shepherd Park knew him as the man who lived in the trailer.
Some knew that his first name was Lamar. Others knew that he had grown up in the Northwest Washington neighborhood, but little else. One even said that she thinks she heard the gunshot that killed him on Georgia Avenue early Sunday — but she also confessed that she did not know who he was.
On Sunday, D.C. police identified him as Lamar Michael Fonville, 29. But they had no address for him at the time, and they had few leads in the case a day later.
Fonville was killed about 2:30 a.m. in the 7400 block of Georgia Ave. NW, about two blocks from Fern Street, between a gas station and a funeral home. Police said they do not think the motive was robbery, and they do not know whether Fonville knew his assailant. They said that no argument precipitated the shooting.
Carlton Smith said that Fonville lived in a white cargo van parked behind Smith’s house, across from the former Walter Reed Medical Center. The retired trash hauler, 77, said that he fed Fonville and washed his clothes, but wouldn’t give him a key.
“I couldn’t take a chance,” Smith said Monday. “He stayed out all night, and I didn’t want him coming home when I was asleep. I loved him very much.”
Now, some in the neighborhood are mourning a man they knew by sight. He was Smith’s sidekick as they roamed the area in search of odd jobs. One neighbor often saw Fonville at a nearby grocery store. Another would sometimes spot him riding in passing cars.
Only sparse details of Fonville’s life could be found Monday. A woman listed in a court document as Fonville’s sister could not reached, nor could a man who appeared to be his brother. Some details were learned from Smith and a handful of public records, though some of the information could not be reconciled.
Smith said that Fonville grew up on Fern Street but later was placed in foster care. Property records show a house on Fern Street owned by his father, Gilbert A. Fonville. In 2003, a nonprofit group rehabbed the house as part of a Christmas in April venture. A year later, the father died at age 70 and without a will.
Lamar Fonville was appointed the estate’s executor with the help of an attorney, and he sold the $430,000 house. The lawyer, Michael R. Murphey, said that the money after taxes, repairs and paying off the mortgage left little to split among several siblings, including one who was in jail at the time.
“I remember Lamar being a personable young man,” Murphey said. “He was very easygoing, and the process with the estate worked out smoothly.”
Smith said that he had known Fonville for years and felt sorry for the young man when he fell on hard times. He let Fonville use his house as a mailing address and to shower once a week. Other than that, Fonville was restricted to use of the trailer.
Smith said he thought himself to be Fonville’s only option.
“He had nobody,” Smith said Monday.
Neighbors recalled Fonville as harmless and nice. Three of them, reached by phone, talked about the man but declined to be identified because police had not yet made an arrest in the case.
Smith said he went through the van and found pictures and a computer belonging to Fonville. He said his friend was taking classes at Montgomery College. A spokeswoman said that Fonville had recently completed four semesters of coursework at the school’s Takoma Park-Silver Spring campus, but was not currently enrolled. His major was paralegal studies.