A week after her gruesome murder, several teddy bears, flowers and cards lay strewn on the sidewalk before Jhoma Blackwell’s home. A child’s pencil drawing of what looks like a girl and a large flower is taped to a porch wall.

One man, who lives three doors down from Blackwell, remembers her as a quiet homebody. “It’s scary. You never know what’s going to happen,” said Robert Cole.

“You try to look out for each other, but you never know what some crazy person is going to do.”

On March 29 Blackwell, 18, was found dead in the upstairs bedroom of her Remington home, with multiple stab wounds. Television news reports say her father found the body, and neighbors heard shouting coming from the house earlier that day. Soon after arriving on the scene, police carried Blackwell’s 2-year-old niece out of the home.

Ironically, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake had planned a community walk to promote safety in the area the day after the murder. During the march, Rawlings-Blake said she understood the heartbreak of losing a loved one.

“I can’t diminish what (the family) is feeling at all,” she told reporters. “I’m committed to working with the police force, the detectives to get to the bottom of what happened.”

Authorities remain tight-lipped about possible suspects as the investigation continues. Police spokesman Jeremy Silbert said officials have no new updates on the case, but said he doesn’t believe the killing was a random act of violence.

The AFRO’s attempts to contact Blackwell’s family went unanswered April 4, but a woman who identified herself as Blackwell’s eldest sister appeared in a five-minute YouTube video she called an official statement on behalf of the family. She did not mention her name, but the video was uploaded under the username sanctifiedchild.

During the video, she mused on the “callousness” of the killing and pleaded for anyone with information in the case to come forward.

“The person or the persons responsible for this horrific crime – to take someone’s life in the manner that my sister’s life was taken – has got to be a troubled soul, has got to be a person who has experienced immense pain of their own, has got to be a person that’s bound by their own demons in order to subject someone else to experience the pain that (they) caused,” she said.

Blackwell attended Coppin State University last fall with hopes of becoming a nurse, but a school spokeswoman said Blackwell had not enrolled this semester.

According to her Facebook profile, Blackwell graduated from Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School last year and had a boyfriend she’d dated since July 5, 2010.

Nick Copeland, a Coppin student that befriended her during an English class last September, shared fond memories of his peer. “She was a mature, respectful young woman,” he said in a Facebook message. “We always used to goof around in class…I don’t understand why someone would kill her.”

The family held a public viewing for Blackwell April 6 and a funeral the following day at Manna Bible Baptist Church on Belvedere Avenue. She will be laid to rest at the Interment Oak Lawn Cemetery in Dundalk.

In the second half of the YouTube video, her sister addressed the murderer. “You may be pondering if you are going to get away with this…You may be even trying to rationalize in your head that she deserved this for whatever reason and you may even elude the authorities, but let me tell you something, you can’t elude God.”

 

Shernay Williams

Special to the AFRO