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Day 27: Wanda Alston
Photo from the Wanda Alston Foundation
*** IMPORTANT ***
This article mentions blood, violence, stabbing, knife attack, and distressing imagery.
Please continue with caution.
One woman was enjoying her day at home. On that particular day she didn’t have to worry about going to work until the afternoon. Her mornings were free but she liked to keep busy so often she would work from home. Her fiancée was at work and wasn’t expected to be home for another few hours so the woman was home alone.
After having a nice lunch, the woman just finished washing her dishes when she heard the doorbell ring. She put the last dish away before drying her hands and making her way over to the door. She had been expecting a package for a few days now and it seemed as if it had finally arrived. She peeked out the door and sure enough, there was her package. She opened the door and picked up the box just as the postal van was backing out of her driveway. Like the kind soul that she was, she waved to the driver who returned the friendly gesture before driving off. She smiled to herself at the positive interaction then went back inside and closed the door behind her.
She made her way back to the kitchen where she put the package on the counter. She retrieved a knife which she used to slice open the tape and opened it up. She retrieved the contents of the package and set it to the side while she disposed of the box.
Just as she finished, she heard a knock on her door. She thought it was a bit odd since she wasn’t expecting anyone. She assumed that a neighbour needed her help with something or perhaps a friend had paid her a surprise visit.
She went over to the door and peeked out the window. It was a neighbour but not one she was well acquainted with. Even so, she opened up the door to see if he needed help with anything. When she greeted him she noticed that he was acting odd. She knew why. She recognized his behaviour. It was the same behaviour she had experienced back when she was a cocaine user.
Worried, she asked the man what she could help him with. He said that he just wanted to borrow some money and he would be on his way. He promised to pay her back as soon as he could but she knew better. She wanted to help him but she knew that being a source of money for him wouldn’t do him any good. It would just teach him that he could ask her for money whenever he needed it. She politely declined but did say that she could help him find a rehab center and support group.
He grew agitated at the suggestion. He explained to her that the system already failed him. He couldn’t rely on getting help but she told him that she could. She worked with helping drug users and that she could help him but he didn’t believe it. That just seemed too good to be true and he wasn’t interested in sobriety. He just wanted some cash to pay for his next his so he asked her again, this time more forcefully. Again she said no and explained how she wanted to help but that wasn’t the way to go about it. He really needed to seek out a rehab facility. He couldn’t come to her for cash which she made very clear.
He quickly got angry when she refused to give him cash. He promised to repay her but she wouldn’t budge. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could take it. He had been on cocaine for days now and needed another hit. He was desperate for it. He couldn’t wait any longer for his next hit and he was going to do anything to get it. His addiction told him what he had to do in order to satisfy his need. It controlled him and he was powerless to stop it. He had no control over what happened next.
Since the woman couldn’t talk any sense into him, she decided that the best thing to do was leave the man be. She offered to help him but he refused. At least he would know where to get help when he was ready for it. She couldn’t force him to do anything and she didn’t know him well enough to keep trying to talk to him. The best thing she could do now was to say goodbye and leave him to his own devices.
She was just about to shut the door when the man slammed his hand on it and pushed back. He pleaded with her. He just needed a little bit of money and then he would be on his way. She shook her head and told him that he wasn’t thinking right. It was the addiction talking and that he needed to seek professional help. She couldn’t do anything for him but when he was ready she would help him find a support group. That was all.
She tried using more force to close the door but still the man pushed back. He was not about to take no for a final answer. He couldn’t. He really, really needed cash or anything he could sell. He wasn’t about to let this stop him. He couldn’t. He took a deep breath and with all of his strength, he pushed the door open.
The woman wasn’t expecting this so the force caused her to stumble backwards into her home. She looked up at the man who had forced his way in and was utterly shocked. She raised her voice at him. How dare he force his way into her own home. If he didn’t leave immediately, she told him she would have no choice but to call the police. This was breaking and entering and it was against the law but the man didn’t listen.
Adrenaline was coursing through his veins. He didn’t have control over himself anymore. The only thing he was thinking about was finding some cash so he could buy some more drugs. It was the only thing he cared about. He didn’t think about potential consequences of his actions. None of that mattered in the heat of the moment.
He pulled out a pocket knife that he always had on him and flicked it open. The woman saw it and began talking to him and attempted to defuse the situation before it got out of hand. She spoke in a calm voice so she didn’t aggravate him but it was too late for her. The man had already made up his mind.
He charged at her with the knife in hand and tackled her to the ground. The woman screamed as she fell to the ground. The man landed on top of her and began jabbing the knife at her. She managed to dodge the first few blows. She held out her arms and tried to grab the knife but the man was full of rage and adrenaline. He was nearly unstoppable.
He kept the knife away from her grasp while attempting to strike her. He did manage to get a few cuts on her arms and would have thought that would have been enough to stop her but it didn’t. He underestimated her. Even though he had caught her off guard, she jumped into defense mode quickly and did her best to fight him off. She tried to scratch his face or anywhere she could reach to try and slow him down but she missed. He was too quick.
He stabbed the knife in her chest. With the amount of force behind the stab, the blade nearly went all the way into her chest. The woman let out a gasp of surprise. She was stunned. The pain spread throughout her chest but she couldn’t let that stop her, not if she wanted to live. She had to do her best to ignore the pain and fight back.
The man pulled the blade out of her chest only to bring it back down again. It went deep again and blood spilled from the wound. With each new injury more blood spilled from the woman’s body. It poured onto the floor and the man’s hand. It made the knife slippery.
At one point, the handle even slipped from his grasp and that made him pause. That pause was just long enough for the woman to use what energy she had left to push the man off her. He stumbled at the surprise shove and fell to the floor. This allowed the woman to roll over on her front despite the massive amount of pain she was in.
She tried to crawl away from her attacker but he recovered quickly. He was back on his feet in no time and pounced once more on the woman. He stabbed her with even more force this time as rage consumed him. He stabbed her until she stopped screaming. He continued until she no longer made any noise and her body went limp.
When she grew quiet, he finally began to calm down. He stood up with the bloody knife in his hand and looked down at the woman. Soon realization set in. He had just killed someone. He stuffed the knife into his pocket and turned to leave. On the way, he saw the woman’s car keys and purse on a table. He grabbed them then ran out of the house as the woman bled out. She passed away on the floor shortly after.
Her name was Wanda Alston and she was 45 years old.
After Wanda’s death, the District police shut down the block with police tape for over six hours while they investigated the crime scene. During their investigation, the police took note of Wanda’s missing car along with her purse.
The following day, they got a tip from a witness who had claimed to have seen Wanda’s car. It was a 2000 Nissan Sentra and the witness said that they saw that exact car parked in a driveway only two doors away. They had claimed to have seen the man who lived in the home driving the car.
The police went to investigate and found the suspect a few blocks away from the house where Wanda’s car was discovered. There was a brief chase but the police managed to apprehend the suspect and took him into custody at around 3 P.M. During his arraignment, the suspect was denied bond.
He was found to be in the possession of not only Wanda’s car and keys but her credit cards too. He was a cocaine user and had been high on it for several days before the murder. He admitted to using the cards to buy gas for people’s cars in exchange for cash which he would then use to support his addiction.
The suspect was unemployed 38 year old William Parrot. He was charged with armed, first degree murder. He was sentenced to 24 years behind bars and must serve at least 20 before he can be considered for release.
Wanda Alston was described by people as being a strong activist and woman, a fighter, and a vocal lesbian. When it came to her being a leader, she was admired by everyone in D.C’s LGBTQ+ community. Keith Boykin, the president of the National Black Justice Coalition said that "Wanda was one of the toughest, most determined people I have ever met in my life".
She was born in Newport News, Virginia in the year 1950. After high school she joined the Air Force and the military provided her a pathway for education and a better life.
In the early 80s she received her bachelor’s degree from Southeastern University before moving in with her brother in D.C in 1985.
In D.C she became addicted to cocaine but she was able to sober up in 1990. It is because of this addiction that she supported drug recovery programs in her area.
In the 90s, she was part of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and later became a part of its National Board of Directors.
In 1992 Wanda was the executive assistant to the president of NOW, Patricia Ireland. Later she became the special projects director.
In 1995 she was the co-loader of the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.
She helped to organize 4 national marches and Washington and 1 in San Francisco and even organized events for the Human Rights Campaign.
In 1998 Wanda helped found the National Stonewall Democrats.
In 1999 she joined the Williams administration as the liaison to the U.S Census Bureau. After she became the director of operations for the Office of Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice.
In 2001 she was named Williams special assistant for lesbian and gay affairs.
In 2004, Williams appointed her to a Cabinet-level position. She was a delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention and went to work on John Kerry's presidential campaign.
Before her death she was working on preparing for the mayor’s first LGBTQ+ summit which was scheduled for the 30th of April.
About a year prior to her death, Wanda met 37 year old Stacey Long who she proposed to a few months later. The two had planned to have a wedding ceremony in June.
“A Life Remembered”. Sean Bugg and Randy Shulman. Metro Weekly, 23 March 2005, https://www.metroweekly.com/2005/03/a-life-remembered/.
“Arrest Made in Alston Slaying”. Del Quentin Wilber, Allan Lengel and Clarence Williams. Washington Post, 17 March 2005, https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A43577-2005Mar17.html.
“Confessed killer of gay activist gets 24 years”. The Washington Times, 29 July 2005, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2005/jul/29/20050729-102058-9097r/.
“D.C.’s Gay Leader Stabbed to Death”. Stefen Styrsky. Gay City News, 30 March 2005, https://www.gaycitynews.com/d-c-s-gay-leader-stabbed-to-death/.
“Longtime gay rights activist Wanda Alston killed”. Advocate, 18 March 2005, https://www.advocate.com/news/2005/03/18/longtime-gay-rights-activist-wanda-alston-killed-15456.
“Man charged with killing gay rights activist Wanda Alston”. Advocate, 18 March 2005, https://www.advocate.com/news/2005/03/18/man-charged-killing-gay-rights-activist-wanda-alston-15466.
“Murder Rocks D.C. Community”. Bob Roehr. Windy City Times, 1 April 2005, http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Murder-Rocks-DC-Community/7840.html.
“Wanda Alston”. Wanda Alston Foundation, http://www.wandaalstonfoundation.org/wanda-alston-2/.
“Wanda R. Alston”. Daily Press, powered by Legacy, https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/dailypress/obituary.aspx?n=wanda-r-alston&pid=3314127.
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