Esther Mae Edwards remembers her daughter's last words to her.
"She said, 'Mom, I'm going to my night job I just got, and I'll see you tomorrow," Ms. Edwards recalled yesterday -- the day after her daughter, Sharon Edwards, was found stabbed to death at a halfway house for troubled teen-age boys at the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital.
The slaying of Ms. Edwards on her first overnight shift at Fordham Cottage -- allegedly at the hands of a 16-year-old resident -- left relatives with questions as they gathered in mourning: Why was a newcomer left alone and vulnerable? And why was this hard-working, affable, 26-year-old woman fated to die while doing her best for herself and others?
"A woman that struggled all her life, a single mother trying to support her child the best she could, and her life was snuffed away," said Deborah Edwards, 42, a sister of the victim. "It's like a firefighter. She died in the line of duty."
"We're wondering why a girl so young, her first day on the job, didn't have somebody else helping her," Deborah Edwards added.
Esther Edwards' East Baltimore rowhouse was filled yesterday with friends and relatives grappling with the slaying. Sharon Edwards' 7-year-old son watched television. Her four brothers and four sisters filed in and out.
Tacked to the wall on the rowhouse's living room was a poster-size photograph of Ms. Edwards, playfully posing in a black outfit.
Sharon Edwards, who lived in the Winston Apartments in North Baltimore, was a lifelong Baltimore resident and 1987 graduate of Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School, family members said.
She worked for about a year in the food services department of a North Baltimore nursing home, and then took a job as a cashier at a Westside grocery store, they said. A little more than a year ago, she began working as a counselor for the mentally #i disturbed, first at a residential center in Cockeysville and later at Sheppard Pratt.
"She just liked to work with the patients because she was so tender-hearted," Esther Edwards said.
The victim's father, Earl Edwards, said his oldest daughter had been murdered in 1974. He said he'd bought a double grave then. Now, tragically, the other one would be filled. "The oldest and the baby," he said. "I'm putting the baby on top of the oldest one."
The funeral was planned for 11:30 a.m. Friday at the March Funeral Home, 1101 E. North Ave.