WASHINGTON - Thirteen years ago, the murder of a young woman on a Southeast D.C. street devastated her close-knit family. Kendra Smith had just graduated from college and was raising her young daughter when she was shot and killed.
You probably have never heard of Smith, but you may have heard of her mother. She has not given up hope that her daughter's murder will be solved.
When Smith was shot and killed in September 2004, it made little news in the city of Washington. A search of the internet turns up nothing except an obituary, a reward poster and a memorial website in Kendra's name.
But if you were paying attention, you would have noticed her mother. Deborah Evans-Bailey spoke at the Millions More Movement in October 2005. She also spoke at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
"When my baby was killed, I just did what eagles do – I swooped,” Evans-Bailey said. “I'm taking care. I'm being a part of the solution and not the problem.”
She turned into a fighter by testifying at city council hearings and bringing attention to her daughter’s murder whenever she could. She is still waiting for justice.
"I miss her smile,” said Evans-Bailey. “I miss watching her grow into the beautiful young lady that she is.”
Smith grew up on D Street in Southeast D.C. She went to Banneker High School in the District and attended Temple University in Philadelphia.
"She was witty, she had a good heart, she loved children,” her mother said.
But on the evening of Sept. 6, 2004, Smith’s life was cut short when someone opened fire on the car she was sitting in right outside her front door.
"At this time, we are unsure if she was the actual target or not,” said D.C. Police Lt. Anthony Haythe. “We can't say for sure at this time. There are conflicting accounts as to what occurred prior to the murder and after. Those accounts since the case is open, I can't get into those particular accounts that we have heard.”
This much we know – Smith was in the passenger seat of a car driven by a neighborhood friend who was not hit by the gunfire. FOX 5 made several attempts to speak with the man to get his account, but he never responded.
On that September day, Smith’s mother, sister and daughter were inside their house on D Street when suddenly they heard gunfire at around 10:30 p.m. They did not think too much about it at that time because gunfire was common in this neighborhood. But then the phone rang.
“I answered and someone said you need to come to Burbank. I think your daughter just got shot,” Evans-Bailey recalled.
She threw on some clothes and ran out of the house with her daughter, Courtney.
"When I saw her with my own eyes, I just pretty much lost it,” Evans-Bailey said.
Seeing Smith on a stretcher, Courtney Evans went to her sister’s side.
"The only thing I could get out of [her] was she was saying, ‘I,’” said Courtney. “I don’t know if she was trying to say I love you or what her last words were trying to say. But I will never forget those eyes when she was looking, how she looked at me. I will never forget that.”
Kendra died the next day.
Evans-Bailey still does not know what happened that night. She eventually spoke with the man who was driving the car, but he claimed not to know who was doing the shooting or why.
At one point early in the investigation, Evans-Bailey said police thought they could close the case and had a suspect, but the detectives never offered proof. But there is a new detective on the case who is exploring several leads.
"We are exploring other individuals whose names have come up as part of the investigation as well,” said Lt. Haythe.
After all this time, Evans-Bailey said she has some hope the case will eventually be solved.
“She is dearly missed, not just by me, but by many,” the mother said. “But her spirit, it definitely it lives.”
Smith was a young mother when she was killed. Her daughter just turned 14 years old.
If you know anything about the murder of Kendra Smith or the man she was with that night, you are asked to contact D.C. police. There is a $25,000 reward in this case.