The teen-ager suspected of gunning down two high-school sweethearts a week ago turned himself in to District of Columbia police yesterday as thousands of mourners gathered at a Northwest church to remember their lives.
Natasha Monique Marsh and Andre Tyrone Wallace, both 17, were born a day apart and died together Feb. 8 after returning home from a basketball game at Woodrow Wilson High School.
The suspected gunman, Carlton Blount, 19, and the driver of a sport utility vehicle, Jermaine Johnson, 24, were waiting for the high school seniors outside Natasha’s Northeast home and shot them about 10:30 p.m. as they unloaded groceries, police said.
Mr. Blount, accompanied by his attorney, public defender Claudia A. Crichlow, turned himself in to police at the 5th District Police Station about 11:30 a.m. His surrender came a day after prosecutors issued arrest warrants in the case, charging him and Mr. Johnson with first-degree murder. Police yesterday still were looking for Mr. Johnson.
Police talked to Mr. Johnson and his attorney Friday, trying to persuade him to turn himself in if an arrest warrant were issued, Assistant Chief William P. McManus said at a news conference yesterday.
A spokeswoman with the Public Defender’s Service did not return a reporter’s phone calls.
Police focused their probe on Mr. Blount who turned 19 the day of the shootings after interviewing witnesses and seeing him involved in a fight with Andre on a video taken at the Wilson basketball game just hours before Natasha and Andre were shot.
Mr. Blount, a former Woodrow Wilson High School student, had asked Natasha several times to go out with him. During the game, Mr. Blount asked her out again and she rejected him, said a court source familiar with the case.
Andre heard Mr. Blount’s statement, confronted him and the two men began fighting, the source said.
Arrests warrants in the case are sealed, in part, to protect witnesses in the case, including those who have testified before a grand jury, law enforcement officials said. Mr. Blount is expected to be arraigned this afternoon in D.C. Superior Court.
D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, who visited Bible Way Temple Church yesterday morning for the viewing, said late yesterday that he hopes Mr. Johnson will turn himself in immediately.
“The faster we get them the better,” Chief Ramsey said.
Family members yesterday also said they are relieved that one of the suspects is in custody.
“There is some consolation that on the same day we are paying our respects that we have one [suspect] turn himself in. That is good news,” said William Peters, one of Andre’s cousins, as he stood outside the church on New York Avenue after the joint funeral service.
Meanwhile, several speakers took the podium yesterday, calling for an end to the violence and remembering the couple as dedicated, hard-working students who loved each other and adored their families.
“We must stand together against the violence that has claimed the lives of so many of our young people, and we must look inside ourselves and identify how we individually and together can bring about peace,” said Woodrow Wilson High School Principal Stephen Lanham Tarason.
“This didn’t start last week,” Kenneth Dickerson, dean of students, said of the fight that prompted the shootings. “This started 20 years ago when we let violence come onto our streets.”
Mourners began lining up at the church well before 9 a.m. to view the bodies of Natasha and Andre whose blue steel caskets lined in white were placed side by side. Shortly after 10:30 a.m., the caskets were closed to the music of Mary J. Blige one of Natasha’s favorite singers.
The outpouring of community support was evident in the thousands of people who attended, including students of many D.C. schools, and the caskets, burial plots, food and limousine services that metro-area businesses donated.
Howard University and D.C. school officials also created a four-year scholarship, called the Marsh-Wallace Scholarship, in memory of the teen-agers.
The church opened a room adjacent to the sanctuary where the overflow crowd watched the service on a large-screen television.
In front of the pulpit hung Andre’s No. 11 football jersey. Behind the pulpit sat the school choir and the Woodrow Wilson football team whose members wore black football jerseys. In the mezzanine, the school’s marching band was seated, many of whom wept when the “last whistle” was blown in honor of Andre, the drum major who had led the band.
“You couldn’t have asked for more from two students,” said Horace Fleming, the school’s football coach. “And where there’s a good man, there also is a lovely woman and Natasha was that.”
President Clinton sent his condolences in a letter read moments after the 11 a.m. two-hour service began, writing “We are deeply saddened to hear of their tragic deaths.” Mayor Anthony A. Williams and several council members also attended the funeral service.
Friends remembered that Andre’s dancing abilities one day saved a school Christmas party in the band room after all the food had been eaten. Andre and a friend danced to tunes for more than two hours to entertain the party-goers.
Natasha’s cousin, Africa Marsh, remembered how the young girl used to run up to kiss their grandmother “just so she could get the lipstick.”
Some of the most touching comments were those of Brittney Jackson, 7, who said her cousin Andre will “always be in my heart.”
“I want you to know I will make good grades for you. I know you’re having fun up in heaven,” she said as sobs resonated through the church.
“I hope they find the person who did this to you and put them in jail for life,” she said as the crowd then applauded.
The comment came at the same time that Mr. Blount was turning himself into police.
According to court records:
Mr. Blount, of 1630 Fuller St. NW, has a pending reckless driving charge issued on May 12, 1999. He is scheduled to be in traffic court on that charge on Feb. 25.
On Dec. 12, 1998, he was charged with failing to have a driver’s license, but city attorneys dropped the charge. At that time, Mr. Blount listed his home as 611 Edgewood Terrace NE.
Mr. Johnson was charged on Dec. 7, 1993, with unauthorized use of an automobile, but prosecutors declined to pursue the charges.
On Jan. 12, 1997, he was charged with second-degree theft, misdemeanor destruction of property and destruction of property over $300. Prosecutors did not pursue any of the charges.
On Christmas Day in 1997, he was charged with simple assault, but the charge was dismissed on April 14, 1998. On Nov. 17, 1998, he was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine, but prosecutors declined to pursue the case.
Natasha and Andre were buried at Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Northeast.
Jim Keary and Clarence Williams contributed to this report.