Today, Erika Peters and her young sons, Erik Harper and Dakota Peters, will be laid to rest. The wake and funeral services will be starting at 9:30 a.m. at Mount Calvary Holy Church at 610 Rhode Island Avenue NE. On March 21, they were stabbed to death in their apartment. Police have arrested Peters’ live-in boyfriend Joseph Randolph Mays for the murders.
In this week’s cover story, we chronicle the events of March 21, the police response, and Mays’ mysterious life. We also ask three questions still unanswered about the murders. The only thing that is clear is that the residents of Carver Terrace had tried to offer support to the family, and knew them well.
Peters’ sons were fixtures in the grass-less courtyard in front of their building. The courtyard served as the neighborhood’s all-purpose field for kickball and other playground games.
Erik’s favorite song was “Take You Down” by Chris Brown. Dakota loved football. Eric could be courteous and respectful toward his neighbors, always opening the door and offering greetings. Dakota could be shy. Erik would wake up early and stand outside tossing his football to himself. Both boys played football for Rosedale.
There is already a legend going around Carver Terrace that Erik used to jump out of his second-floor window onto the muddy courtyard to escape Mays’ punishments.
At night, the boys would come home and sometimes bump into Randy Kittrell, 27, a neighbor who has ambitions of becoming a working musician. He’d joke with them, giving them nicknames—”Bubble Eye” for Dakota, and “T.I.” for Eric, named after the boy’s favorite rapper. “Don’t I walk like him,” Erik would say, mimicking T.I.’s strut.
Carver Terrace is filled with hardworking residents. I’ve seen them come home late from work still in their uniforms. They also live in an area with its share of crime. There’s a police camera just down the block from the Peters apartment. The teddy bear memorial to the Peters family isn’t the only one on their street. Still, residents try their best to look out for each other.
Sometimes, the boys sought refuge in a neighbor’s apartment. If Erika needed anything, she knew she could go to her neighbor across the hall.
On Monday night, more than a dozen kids were outside playing kickball in the courtyard. A mother watched over the action from an upstairs window. She pleaded with her kids to come inside. They begged for one more inning. This went on for awhile. The game was too much fun.
They all seemed to know Erik and Dakota. They all got quiet when their names came up. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Fenty and Lanier held a press conference in Carver Terrace. There have been two vigils. There are still a lot of grownup questions left unanswered.
The kids just wanted some play time.
*photo by Darrow Montgomery.