Family and friends mourning Donmiguel “DJ” Nathaniel Wilson Jr. yesterday remembered a lanky, long-legged 6-year-old who was always ready for his next adventure, even if it was just playing with his little brother.
But the friends and family who laid DJ to rest in a cream-and-gold coffin yesterday morning found it hard to remember the vibrant boy who wanted to be a firefighter when he grew up. Instead, they were struck by the cruelty of a world in which a child could suffer such a torturous death.
DJ was found dead in a bathtub full of water in his Southeast home July 18. He was bound, gagged and covered in the tub with a blanket and a pillow. He died of head trauma, strangulation and drowning.
“To think anyone would even have wanted to spank that child is wrong. He was so good,” said Dolly Best, 40, a friend of the family. “No child deserves to be brutalized or tortured in such a brutal manner. Nobody deserves such a brutal death.”
“He was an energetic kid, very protective of his family,” said Tyrone Barber, 12, a close friend. “He was always excited, always playful. We liked playing football and hide-and-seek.”
Family members and friends — even those who didn’t personally know the boy — spent the service brushing away tears. Tyrone and his brother, Tevin, 11, sat in the front of the church with DJ’s family, giving and receiving hugs from the boy’s cousins and aunts.
Hundreds attended the funeral, held at First Rock Baptist Church in Southeast.
Julia Barber, 27, DJ’s mother, confessed to the killing during a police interrogation last week. She is undergoing evaluation at St. Elizabeths, the city’s psychiatric hospital, police authorities said. Charges have not been filed.
Miss Barber and DJ’s father, Donmiguel Wilson Sr., split several months ago, according to a family member. Before the killing, the two families had a poor relationship, and Miss Barber’s confession only makes things worse, said Edgardean Wheeler, 62, a family friend from Clinton.
DJ’s 11-month-old brother did not attend the funeral. He is in the custody of the city’s child-welfare system.
Clergy at the service attempted to turn the focus away from individual fault and onto the goodness of the Lord and faults of a “sick” society that ignores the safety of children.
“There is something wrong with a society that goes above and beyond for investments in the creation of capital appreciation, but does not invest in the children,” said Lazarus Thicklen. “We pray DJ’s life does not go in vain and that it will make people in this city care about the children of the District.”
“Some of us have already started shaking our fists at Julia,” the Rev. Harry Adams said of DJ’s mother, “but what we need to do is pray for her.”
Ward 8 D.C. Council member Marion Barry and Susan Newman, religious adviser to D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, represented the city at the funeral.