Police think the assailant who killed a mother and her 2-year-old son in their northeast Baltimore apartment -- the 10th and 11th city homicides of the young new year -- may have been someone the family knew.
There was no sign of forced entry or ransacking at the second-floor apartment in the 2400 block of Gainesborough Court, where the bodies were found, leading police to think the killer wasn't a stranger.
"She probably knew who killed her," said Agent Arlene Jenkins, a city police spokeswoman, outside the apartment building near Northern Parkway and McClean Boulevard last night.
Police said Nakia Williams, 12,returned home from school yesterday to discover her mother, Maria Bryant, 29, and her baby brother, Tavon Thompson, fatally shot. Bryant was found in the living room and Tavon in a bedroom, Jenkins said.
"Nakia left her books and ran down the street" to a friend's or relative's house after the discovery, Jenkins said. Police were called about 3 p.m.
Bryant lived in the apartment with her mother and four children, Jenkins said.
Police refused to say where and how many times the mother and son were shot.
Bryant and her son were killed sometime after 9 a.m., after the other children had gone to school, police said.
Police haven't made an arrest or established a motive.
Police said the deaths brought to 11 the number of murders in the city this year.
A 12th slaying involved a man shot by a tavern owner when he threatened a bartender with a gun, but it was ruled justifiable and not counted as a murder, a city homicide detective said.
Last year, 304 people were slain in the city.
What made yesterday's double shooting especially painful was that a young child had been killed, said friends and relatives, who screamed and cried when they learned the news.
"He lived a short life," said Theresa Thompson, Tavon's aunt, as she cried in a parked car. "It was the life of a lovable boy."
Thompson said Bryant was quiet and "stayed to herself," and therefore would not have let just anybody into her apartment.
"It was somebody who had to have known her," Thompson said.
Thompson said she learned about the deaths while watching the television news. She said she saw the apartment building and heard that a mother and her 2-year-old son had been killed.
"First thing went through my mind was it was them," Thompson said.
As neighbors stood in the cold on the parking lot and sidewalks and peeked out windows, homicide detectives searched for clues inside the bloody apartment.
At 7 p.m., workers from the medical examiner's office placed the bodies in red body bags and into the back of a van.
Minutes later, police returned Nakia Williams to her family after she received psychological treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
This weekend alone, five people, including a pregnant woman and her sister, were killed in Baltimore.
Of the 11 homicides in 1992, three have been stabbings, two shootings and one a beating. Two children died after a firebomb was thrown into an East Baltimore rowhouse shortly after 1 a.m. Friday. Another victim died Saturday in a local hospital from gunshot wounds he received in December.
Police have charged a 32-year-old Jamaican national in the firebombing.
The other homicides remain unsolved.
Reacting to the five weekend slayings, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said he'll seek money from the financially strapped state during the General Assembly session to help pay for more city police officers.
Warren Blue, 49, an onlooker outside the Gainesborough Court apartment, said, "It feels like you know them all. It's so many. . . . It's senseless.
"Me, I say bring back capital punishment. If not, you might as well forget it."