Marguerite LaJoy Washington came to her adoptive mother Margaret Washington at 3 months old, and from the beginning she was the family's princess.
"She was my shadow," said Washington, a former nursing instructor. "She grew up in my church, in my sorority, at Charity School of Nursing, with my nursing alumni group. Wherever I was, she was there. It allowed her to be exposed to positive things, positive values and allowed her to get maturity much earlier than the average child."
LaJoy, as she was affectionately known, started ballet at the age of 5, was devoted to Girl Scouts and later became a Junior Saintsation for the New Orleans Saints. She graduated from Eleanor McMain Secondary School in 2012, where she had the second-highest physics average and was known as "Bubbles" for her upbeat attitude. LaJoy was the reigning Queen of the New Orleans Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Eager to start college and study pediatrics, LaJoy began taking summer classes at Dillard University shortly after graduating. In the fall, she moved into dorms at Dillard, but she still called her mom daily, asking her mother to bring her different clothes and belongings from the house.
On Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, LaJoy ordered Chinese food with her roommate. She had only taken a bite when she got a phone call and told her roommate she would be right back. LaJoy never returned to the dorm.
When a police officer and chaplain arrived on Washington's doorstep the next morning, she immediately feared something had happened to her older son. When the authorities asked if Washington had a daughter, she stood in disbelief and then started to sob. The natural order of things had been swept away.
LaJoy had gone to her new boyfriend's house, and they were watching TV and eating food from Taco Bell, when they heard a knock on the window, Washington said. LaJoy's boyfriend went to the window, and gunfire broke out.
The boy survived. LaJoy did not.
"Why my child?" Washington asked. "You should have gotten the one you were aiming for, and my child was lost in the process. I know that it's not right, but it's how I feel. My Christian values say we shouldn't question death, but my human part says, 'Why not?'"
Washington's sorority sister, Chanda Burks, had lost her son Jared recently and told Washington about the mother's group. Washington attended her first meeting in October 2012, less then two weeks after LaJoy's death.
"I sat there crying pretty much through the whole thing," Washington said. "I just felt a calming spirit. These are people that understand where I am and what I am going through. My ability to continue is just strengthened each time I go and I want to be there to help another mother because I know the process. It has just been so rewarding and comforting."
Two men are in jail awaiting trial for her daughter's murder. The trial was delayed in mid-October, but more than 100 members of her church were planning to attend. For Washington, a trial and conviction would represent an opportunity for closure.
"Too many cases are just allowed to fester and fester, year in and year out, and that is not good for the family," Washington said. "I don't want to see anybody die, but a life has been indiscriminately taken, so they need to serve some time."