A 13-year-old girl whose body was found buried under trash bags behind a Northeast Baltimore rowhouse had been shot by her young companions while playing with a rifle, according to relatives and police who arrested two youths Monday.
The boys, 12 and 13, were being held on juvenile charges of involuntary manslaughter, and police did not release their names. Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi described the case as "an absolute unspeakable tragedy," while the relatives of Monae Turnage said the charges were not severe enough.
Monae's mother, 56-year-old Edith Turnage, noted that the police account says one of the youths accidentally shot the girl in the chest Saturday, dragged her body out of a house she was visiting and across an alley, and concealed it in a backyard six blocks from her home.
Then, Turnage said, the youth called her twice Saturday night, once to say her daughter, an eighth-grade middle school student, was on her way home.
"They had plenty of time to think about this," Turnage said. "By the time he called me the second time, to ask, 'Is she home yet?' my daughter was already dead." Relatives searched back alleys before the victim's 16-year-old brother found the body Sunday evening in back of the 1600 block of Cliftview Ave., 19 hours after the mother said she got her first call from one of the youths.
Police said detectives have much work ahead of them to find out who owned the .22-caliber rifle, how it got into the rowhouse of one of the boys and, said Guglielmi, "how it got into the hands of a child." Police said there was an adult home at the time of the shooting but would not say where officers found the weapon.
The suspects are too young to be charged as adults; that is reserved for children as young as 14 in capital cases and 16 in other crimes, such as manslaughter.
"She was a very intelligent young lady, a very pretty young lady, a very outspoken young lady," Turnage said of her daughter. "She wanted to do something with her life." She lamented a life lost by "somebody she was with, somebody she trusted."
Monae attended William C. March Middle School — halfway between her home in the 1700 block of Sinclair Lane and the spot where her body was found. She earned so many perfect attendance certificates that her mother only hung a few at time on her bedroom mirror. She worked in a school program helping victims of child abuse, played lacrosse, sang in her church choir and wanted to be a pediatrician.
"She was a jolly, outgoing child," said her stepfather, Ricky Bailey, who works as a custodian at Notre Dame of Maryland University. He described her as a "tomboy" who loved to ride bicycles and play sports, but also a girl who loved modeling clothes and shopping in high-end stores with her mother.
Her bedroom has pink-striped wallpaper, a bed with a pink canopy and is decorated with Disney posters and Dora the Explorer trinkets. A bible on her bed stand was opened to Leviticus 22, with passages she highlighted for her class at South Broadway Baptist Church.
Saturday night started ordinarily enough in the Turnage household. The family had dinner, played cards and then about 8 p.m. Monae headed out to go roller skating at Skateland Putty Hill near White Marsh.
She walked to a corner sub shop and then to her friend's house in Darley Park, where the boy's mother was to drive four friends to the rink. One of the youths didn't have enough money to get in, Turnage said, and the group returned.
About 10 p.m., Turnage said, the boy who lived on Darley Avenue phoned and assured her that Monae was "getting ready to leave" and go home. He called less than a half-hour later, she said, to see if she had arrived.
"I knew then that something wasn't right," Turnage said. "We waited a while, and she didn't show up."
About 1 a.m. Sunday, the family called police. At daylight, family members started combing through alleys and streets around Darley Park, just off Harford Road. About 6 p.m., the victim's brother spotted a leg sticking out from trash behind a house on Cliftview Avenue, directly across an alley from the back of the rowhouse Monae had been in on Darley Avenue.
Monae's aunt, Patricia Marshall, identified the body for police. "I saw the trash that had been put over her," she said, describing her niece wearing the same purple jeans and white blouse she had worn to go roller skating.