Hunched over the kitchen table in an East Baltimore row home, E'Lexus Cole carefully arranged photographs of David Mbugua into a collage. It was important that she get the close-up photo, the one with him wearing a black knit hat, in the middle. Everyone agreed it was the best.
One photo was separated from the others — a tiny thumbnail, which was being held in the hand of Mbugua's 18-month-old son, David Jr.
David Jr. gazed at the picture. His family is unsure whether he understands that his father is dead. In the days since Mbugua was stabbed to death in downtown Baltimore, the toddler occasionally has called out the pet name they had for each other.
"What am I to tell him?" asks Jennifer Swanson, Mbugua's fiancee and the mother of David Jr. She says she is glad their child is so young.
"I don't have to explain it to him," she says. "I don't know how I'd do that."
Mbugua, 36, was attacked about 1:30 a.m. Saturday. He stumbled to a bus stop at Baltimore and Charles streets, seeking aid for a wound to his neck, and lost consciousness.
Police have not provided a possible motive. His family is pleading for the public's help in solving the case.
Mbugua was born in Kenya. He came to Baltimore from Texas around 2010 to study nursing at Coppin State University, family and friends say.
He and Swanson met at a club on Greenmount Avenue, and a friendship developed into romance. They moved in together in February 2012, and their son was born later that year. Mbugua also helped raise Swanson's three children, who consider him their stepfather.
Mbugua worked six days a week, on the night shift at Locke Insulators in South Baltimore as an assembly worker, and as a DJ under the name DJ Davie.
Linda Williams, vice president of human resources at Locke Insulators, remembers him thanking his supervisors for the opportunity on his one-year anniversary in April.
Swanson believes Mbugua was taking the bus home when he was stabbed. Police told her his wallet was found on the ground near his body, a sign of a possible robbery.
"David did whatever he had to do to take care of my family," Cole, Swanson's daughter, says between tears. "It's sad. You take good people away, and it's sad. That man didn't bother nobody."
Funeral arrangements have been complicated because Swanson and Mbugua were not married, and she says there is a language barrier with his Kenyan family. His body must also be shipped to Kenya, which she says will cost tens of thousands of dollars.
"I'm just here," says Swanson, sitting on a chair in her largely unfurnished home, into which they had moved only recently. "I don't know what I'm going to do. They took something from me that I'll never be able to get back."
Police are asking anyone with information to call detectives at 410-396-2100.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun