Diamond Williams

Diamond Williams, 16, was found dead with her throat badly cut in Northwest Baltimore. (Family photo / July 19, 2013)

It had been just two hours since Damond Williams Sr. heard from his 16-year-old daughter, and he knew something was wrong. The girl was a homebody, a standout student. She was rarely out after dark.

Diamond Williams' family launched a search of their Northwest Baltimore neighborhood. They quickly located her after midnight Friday in a stairwell just blocks from the family home — close to death with her throat deeply cut. She would die within an hour.

"I found her," Williams said Friday afternoon, fighting back tears on the family's front porch.

Police believe a 19-year-old man, Shaquille Anthony, is responsible for the death of the rising junior at Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School. He committed suicide near a basketball court in North Baltimore not long after Diamond's body was found, authorities said.

"We know that they knew each other for a couple of days," said Sgt. Eric Kowalcyzk, a police spokesman. He did not provide additional information about their relationship, saying detectives are still investigating.

Teachers said Diamond was enrolled in a nursing program and was a cheerleader. She was a member of the school's modeling club and had acted in two school plays, including "Annie," this past year. Her mother said she wanted to pursue a career in theater.

"She was one of the sweetest, best kids I have ever met," said her English teacher, Alicia Van Wert. "I loved having her in class every day. She was going places."

Family members said they suspected the involvement of Anthony, who lived nearby. They said he had shown interest in the teenager, and Diamond had been heading to his house, distraught, the last time anybody saw her.

"My son actually followed her down and told her to come home, but something had her upset," Damond Williams said. "So there are a lot of missing pieces to this puzzle, because she never storms off."

A woman who answered the door at Anthony's home declined to comment.

According to police, Diamond was found near the 3100 block of Liberty Heights Avenue on the southern edge of the city's Ashburton neighborhood about 12:50 a.m. She was pronounced dead at a hospital about 1:18 a.m.

Anthony was found near a basketball court off Tunbridge Road around the same time. Kowalcyzk said several people called 911 and reported that a man had a gun and was telling people to leave.

On Friday, blood still stained the stairwell to a basement behind Salon L in the Ashburton Shopping Center. Julie McConnell, whose family owns the business, said she had seen Diamond's father and another man looking around the back, trying to find something that belonged to the girl.

"He was walking back and forth. He was so distraught," McConnell said. "I don't even know if he knew what I was saying. I feel so sorry for the family."

Damond Williams said police have handled the investigation "poorly."

Shortly after he'd determined she was missing, he filed a missing-persons report, he said, a step police confirmed. But he said police treated the case as though "she was just a typical teenager out running the streets," he said.

"They didn't even open up a search party, didn't even put up a helicopter," Williams said. "They leave you to go and find your own child."

Kowalczyk said officers followed proper protocol when they took the missing-person's report and had broadcast information about Diamond Williams to fellow officers throughout the city. The department's "thoughts and prayers" are with the family, he said.

"A family lost a loved one, and any time that happens, it's a terrible situation," he said.

City Councilman Nick Mosby, who represents the area where Diamond Williams was found, called the killing "a cowardly act" and noted that there has been a rash of women killed this year. "It's just disgusting," he said.