When she was 33, the family moved her into the John L. Deaton Medical Center, a private chronic-care facility near the Inner Harbor.
Early on Oct. 22, 1982, Pearson's roommate alerted nurses that she was on the floor suffering from an apparent seizure. It looked as if she had thrown her body over her bed's guardrails.
Nurses strapped Pearson back in using a cloth restraint that went around her chest and under her arms like a vest. Some time after 4 a.m., she was found dangling from her bed, partly held by the chest restraint. Nurses again put her back to bed.
At 4:30 a.m., a hospital worker found Pearson dead, her body once again dangling from her bed.
The medical center called the Medical Examiner's Office to determine if the restraints were to blame. The autopsy report came back with a different conclusion: She had been killed.
Baltimore police homicide detectives told The Baltimore Sun in 1982 that neck marks and tracheal hemorrhaging indicated Pearson had been strangled. They said the evidence showed that she was killed with a thin cord that didn't match anything in the hospital room.
Detectives spent more than 12 hours interviewing hospital staff but arrested no suspects. The Deaton center's internal investigation turned up no leads, either.
Julia Briggs, Fannie's sister, could never recall another time seeing her father, Ninmark Pearson, cry so openly. The murder was "overwhelming" for her mother, too, Briggs said. But Margaret Pearson continued to lean on Mount Moriah Baptist Church, serving as a church usher, even as a detective told her the case would always be open.
It remains that way today, years after Ninmark Pearson died. It is currently being reviewed for possible re-investigation, Baltimore police spokesman Lt. Eric Kowalczyk said.
Margaret Pearson says Steven was her most independent child. He refused to walk next to his mother when she took him to kindergarten. He often crossed the street, she says, or ran ahead and yelled, "Boys don't need anyone."
He joined the Marines because he wanted to get out of the house and served for three years in the 1970s. Family members said discipline shaped his life.
"His house was so clean, you could eat on the floor," Margaret Pearson said. "Everything had to be in order and place."
He built his own house, finished his sister's basement and built her an elaborate two-level deck with a white gazebo. He taught his brother Maurice how to cut crown molding and rewire light switches.
Steven Pearson told his family he was heading for a building estimate appointment on Dec. 17, 2012. He didn't mention whom he was meeting, and when he didn't come home that night, the family notified police.
Three days later, Baltimore police found a "John Doe" lying unconscious in the hallway of a building in the 1600 block of McCulloh St. Police said he had been struck in the head and the impact had caused bleeding in his brain.
That night Margaret Pearson prayed, "Lord, pray we find him, dead or alive."
The next day, the family learned John Doe was Steven Pearson. Maurice Pearson said several tools had been stolen from his brother's white truck, which was parked outside the building where his body was found.
All indications point to robbery as the motive, Baltimore police Det. Eric Ragland said.
At first, Pearson breathed on his own. But a doctor told the family he was brain-dead.