Tequesta, Fla. ——Gwen Pitcairn drove slowly through the cemetery in Tequesta, the small Florida village where she raised her three children. She stopped in front of her son Stephen's grave.
More than a year after his death, it still was marked by a makeshift memorial, a collection of emblems stacked atop one another: A model airplane, a ceramic koi fish, a kanji — a Japanese character — that means "eternally loved."
She had been unable to complete his headstone.
"I started it and then, oh, I don't know, it just got really hard," she said. "How do I describe Stephen in a few words?"
He was supposed to get married and build a home full of precocious boys, just like him. He was supposed to become a doctor and cure cancer.
He was supposed to die of old age.
But he came to Baltimore, and he became a victim.
The Johns Hopkins researcher was stabbed to death last year by a career criminal as his mother listened on a cellphone 1,000 miles away. He was two days shy of his 24th birthday.
His murder outraged the city, spurring demands for change and shaping the political campaign that ousted the city's top prosecutor.
It's a legacy Gwen Pitcairn never wanted.
"He was so much more in life than in death," she said during the first interview she's given since her son's killer was convicted in Baltimore this August. "I would like people to know what was lost, because he was precious."
'The sweetest baby'
Gwen Pitcairn lives in a house full of memories.
There is the childhood construction set in the closet. The books about Japan, on the shelves of a living room bookcase. A folio of songs he wrote at age 5 on the table. The piano he played as his two younger sisters danced.
The house is up for sale.
Stephen "wanted to keep it for generations," Gwen said. But the reminders make it "hard to stay."
Gwen had to fight to have kids. She suffered three miscarriages before Stephen was born.
Gwendalyn Emery met Ian Pitcairn when they were in their teens.
She was a petite beauty, a classical ballerina who became a flight attendant after she injured her spine in a car crash. Ian was "so handsome" and "probably one of the smartest people I've ever [known]," Gwen recalled. They began dating a few years later.