Michelle Mitchell said she was tired of being told that she would die. She broke up with her boyfriend, she said, and he agreed to stay away and end what she called a contentious, abusive relationship. For more than a year, Mitchell said, he kept his word.
But early Wednesday, D.C. police said, he returned to Mitchell’s Congress Heights apartment, barging through an unlocked door, saying he wanted to reconcile. He shouted at her for hours, she said, the angry words ending only when her daughter intervened. Soon after, Mitchell said, her daughter was stabbed to death in a scuffle before her eyes.
“She came to my rescue,” Mitchell, 49, said during an interview Thursday. Paging through a photo album as she sat at her kitchen table, Mitchell said of her daughter Antoinette, 29: “She was awesome, and her smile was great.”
Police said they arrested the ex-boyfriend Wednesday evening. On Thursday, prosecutors charged Earl Johnson, 40, with second-degree murder while armed. A D.C. Superior Court judge ordered him detained pending a Sept. 7 hearing, according to online court records. His attorney from the D.C. Public Defender Service declined to comment.
According to Michelle Mitchell and charging documents, Antoinette Mitchell tried to push Johnson out of the apartment building while he stabbed her repeatedly in the chest and she fought back with a clothes iron.
Police said in court papers that Michelle Mitchell gave Johnson the final shove — getting stabbed in the arm herself — and then locked the door to the building’s lobby as her daughter lay in a pool of blood in the vestibule. Authorities said Antoinette managed to stumble upstairs before collapsing on the floor as her mother dialed 911.
She was pronounced dead at Howard University Hospital about an hour later, at 5:17 a.m., authorities said.
Mitchell said Johnson repeatedly called her on the phone after the stabbing, which helped police track him down. She said she didn’t take any of the calls.
On Thursday, Mitchell said that she couldn’t bear to go to the morgue or to the court hearing — that she didn’t want to see her dead daughter or her ex-boyfriend.
Instead, she sat in her apartment near the Congress Heights Metro station with two adult sons and two adult daughters. She called Antoinette, her second child, her favorite.
“She was the best,” Mitchell said. “She was my number one girl.”
Mitchell said she met Johnson about three years ago, adding that they were from the same neighborhood in Southeast Washington and that she knew many of his relatives. They dated for more than two years. It did not go well, she said.
In March 2011, Mitchell called D.C. police after an argument in which, she alleged in court documents, she was punched twice in the chest and pushed against a bed’s headboard so hard that it broke.
Police charged Johnson with misdemeanor simple assault, according to court records. But prosecutors declined to pursue the matter. Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, declined to comment on the case.
Two months later, in May of last year, Mitchell filed for a protective order against Johnson, alleging a pattern of abuse dating back to August 2010.
“Respondent frequently tells petitioner that he is going to kill her, including making such statements several times in . . . church,” an affidavit says. Mitchell said in the sworn document that Johnson threw a cup of liquid in her face in August 2010 and threw a chair at her in September 2010.
In May 2011, Mitchell said in her petition, Johnson came into her bedroom and made unwanted sexual advances that she rejected by elbowing him for two hours.
After that, Mitchell said, Johnson agreed to stay away from her, and she decided against pursing the protective order. The order would have required Johnson to stay away for a year, which she said he essentially did without a formal directive from a judge.
But Mitchell said he started calling again in June. On Wednesday, she said, she told him on the telephone that “she no longer wanted to have a relationship with him,” according to the charging documents, but he went to to the apartment uninvited about 12:45 a.m.
Mitchell said he abused her verbally — but not physically — until after 4 a.m., when Antoinette woke up on the couch and told Johnson to leave. He left, Mitchell said, and her daughter followed him downstairs to lock the building door, taking a clothes iron with her for protection.
As Johnson reached the front door, police said, he suddenly turned toward Antoinette. She told him to leave, according to authorities, and he replied, “So you gangsta like that?” and pulled a knife from his pants pocket.
Charging documents state that Johnson advanced toward Antoinette with the knife blade extended and that she hit him on the head with the iron. With her mother watching, police said, the “defendant attacked [Antoinette] and began stabbing [her] multiple times in the body.”