- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — It began as child’s play — a tug of war between two young girls over a rubber ball at a Memorial Day gathering.

But when one of the girls reached for a steak knife, the holiday turned to tragedy.

The 9-year-old — a skinny fourth-grader identified by the city only as Shanice K. — was in custody Tuesday, accused of fatally stabbing an 11-year-old playmate, Queen Washington. A family court judge ordered Shanice detained until a hearing today, when she is expected to be charged with manslaughter.

At a brief hearing, Shanice at first gazed around impassively. But her eyes welled up as her mother hugged her and began weeping uncontrollably, saying, “Oh, my baby.”

The mother left the courthouse without speaking to reporters. Defense attorney Nicole Barnum declined to discuss the specifics of the case, calling it “a tragedy for both families.”

If convicted of manslaughter as a juvenile, the girl could get 18 months.

Police said Shanice confessed shortly after the Monday stabbing. They also said they could not remember a younger suspect being arrested for a killing in the city.

Queen’s grieving family members told reporters gathered outside her home Monday that the fifth-grader was a straight-A student who loved books, dancing and playing double Dutch jump-rope.

She was the “star of the family,” said Earl Washington, her grandfather. “She was going places.”

Relatives said the girls’ mothers were best friends and that Queen had been invited to Shanice’s home in the East New York section of Brooklyn for a holiday barbecue. The girls were playing together when Shanice’s mother stepped out of her apartment to borrow something from a neighbor, police said.

By the time the mother returned, her daughter had plunged the steak knife into Queen’s chest, police said. Queen stumbled into the hallway and collapsed. A series of panicked 911 calls followed.

A friend of Shanice’s family who was at court Tuesday to support the mother denied reports that the girl had a troubled past.

“She has no history of violence,” said the woman, who gave her name as Shirley.

According to FBI national crime statistics available online, a dozen children ages 9 to 12 killed someone in 2003.

In 2001, Lionel Tate, 14, became the youngest person in modern U.S. history to be sentenced to life in prison, after being convicted of killing 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick in Florida. He was 12 at the time.

He won a new trial on appeal and went free in January 2004.

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