A white porcelain cross with "God Bless You" in the center hangs by a silver thread on the screen-door handle. At the foot of the door, a card dangles from a vase with yellow mini roses and chrysanthemums. Another card joins bouquets of carnations, red roses, hydrangeas and assorted spring flowers.
Michael Miller, a rising seventh-grader, kneels on the cement doorstep and signs the card carrying the message, "You were a friend to all of us." Then he sits down, wraps his arms around his knees and sobs. Michael and his mom, Toni Miller, stopped by Monday night to remember his former classmate, 12-year-old Corey Summers.
The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office is investigating the death of Summers and his mother, Denise R. Dibari, 33. Their bodies were found Saturday afternoon in an upstairs bedroom of their townhouse.
"It appears the mother took her son's life before taking her own," said Kraig Troxell, spokesman for the Sheriff's Office. "We're not confirming how she did it."
A next-door neighbor, Fiona Miller, said she spoke with Dibari's sister, Diana, who told her that the single mother used a gun to end their lives.
Authorities were called to Dibari's Sterling townhouse Saturday after family members expressed concern about her stability. They called the Sheriff's Office while driving to the home, saying they had learned she was depressed, Troxell said. They arrived at 112 St. Charles Square about 1:10 p.m., approximately the same time as the deputies.
"We're not sure if it happened Friday night, possibly, or Saturday," Troxel said. Corey's father, who lives in the region, has been notified.
Michael said he and Corey were among a group of boys who ate lunch together. They both attended Sully Elementary School before spending this past year in sixth grade at Sterling Middle School.
He described his friend who was far more to him than a victim of a senseless tragedy.
Michael said Corey liked to play basketball, even though he wasn't very tall. Toni Miller nodded, recalling a time when she dropped Corey off at his home. "His backpack was bigger than he was," she said, with a weak smile and tears streaking her face.
Fiona Miller, the next-door neighbor, said Corey and her son, Kyle Miller, were best friends. Corey, a dark, curly-haired boy who turned 12 last month, played the saxophone and enjoyed video games. She said he loved animals, even though he didnÕt have any of his own.
His other interests included basketball and bowling, she said. Two basketballs and a football were lined up next to the doorstep Monday.
Fiona Miller said Corey was a straight-A student. Wayde Byard, spokesman for the county school district, said CoreyÕs guidance counselor was called into Sterling Middle School this week to help students in need of grief counseling. A crisis team was on standby.
Biro Samari and her 10-year-old daughter, Mandeep Sandeu, stood outside the Pembrooke of Loudoun townhouses Monday evening talking to another St. Charles Square resident Sandy Vargas. Mandeep said she and Corey often rode bikes together. Samari said the two would sit on the boulder-type rocks on the green in the middle of the court. She said the neighborhood felt noticeably quiet with Corey missing. "We feel like we saw him all the time. We feel so sad," she said.
Vargas described Corey as very sweet, polite and happy-go-lucky. "When he came home, kids beelined to his house," she said. "He fit in. He was very loved."
Another neighbor, Gerri Nole, said Corey was especially nice to the younger children. "He'd let them chase him around," she said.
Danielle McGuinn said her little girl keeps asking, "Where is my friend?"
"I didn't know how to explain it to my 4-year-old," she said. "It was just something you can't explain to anyone, no matter the age. It's very traumatic."
Fiona Miller said her son spent the night with Corey on one occasion. He also went with Corey and his mom to Kings Dominion. "Kyle was always over there."
After a moment of reflection, her voice rose as she said, "Oh my gosh, that could have been my son in there, too. That's unbelievable."
Toni Miller, like many of Dibari's neighbors, said she did not know the mother. "She must have been really hurting."
Fiona Miller said Dibari kept to herself. "I only saw her out on her porch a couple of times in three-and-a-half years," she said. She described Dibari, who worked at Shoppers Food Warehouse, as a protective mother who kept a tight rein on her son.