Deborah Beard and daughter Qurra Iqbal were "two peas in a pod," relatives said, sharing a special bond that had evolved in recent years as Beard's medical needs increased her dependence on her teenage daughter, who hoped to attend college and be a lawyer. No matter how difficult things got, they leaned on each other to stay optimistic.
"You never spoke of one without the other," said relative Howard Beard, 49.
On Dec. 3, the pair were brutally beaten in their home, and police say the suspect is a 32-year-old man who was on a drunken rage after an argument with his girlfriend. Iqbal, 17, was pronounced dead at the scene, and Beard, a 52-year-old double amputee who used a wheelchair, died Tuesday night at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
"We're numb," said Howard Beard, an Ohio resident who is Deborah Beard's brother and Qurra's uncle. "It's just been unbelievable to think that such a horrendous crime would be performed on just a small child and a defenseless woman."
Police identified the suspect, William Jones, as a cousin of Iqbal's, but Howard Beard said Jones was the adopted son of Deborah's cousin. According to charging documents, Jones' girlfriend lived in an apartment above Deborah Beard and her daughter in the 5500 block of Midwood Ave. and he had been dropped off at the residence that morning by his adoptive mother.
Police say Jones, listed at 400 pounds, got into an argument with his girlfriend and began drinking heavily after she left. He then went downstairs, where he started fighting with Iqbal. He struck her several times with a hammer, police say, then turned on her mother, who was yelling for him to stop. Jones does not have a criminal record, though he was ordered to attend anger management counseling after being charged with assault last year.
Court records describe a grisly crime scene, with blood throughout both floors of the residence and a bloody hammer located in the kitchen. Jones was arrested without incident after barricading himself in a nearby home and has been ordered held without bond.
Family members have kept details of the incident from Beard's father - and Iqbal's grandfather - who is 80 years old and is dealing with significant medical issues. "We haven't let him watch the news," said Vivian Beard, Deborah Beard's stepmother. "We're keeping it down to a minimum because of his condition."
Howard Beard said his sister never regained consciousness, but family members were hopeful. Over the past couple of days, he said, "she continued to fade," and was pronounced dead at 6:38 p.m. Tuesday.
Deborah Beard did clerical work for the Baltimore City School system, but in recent years had encountered numerous medical problems. A diabetic, she lost her left leg about four years ago and had her second leg amputated within the past year, confining her to a wheelchair, Howard Beard said. In between, she suffered a stroke, flatlining six times.
"We were lucky to bring her back," Howard Beard said.
Iqbal was attending a GED program with the aim of going to college. "Between trying to visit her mother and things of that nature, it was very hard to stay in a normal academic program," Howard Beard said. She had participated in debate team in high school, and hoped to become a lawyer.
"That was her dream. She would've been 18 in March. She was looking forward to that and all the possibilities."