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A Crash, Then Questions

A late-night car crash in southeast Washington kills two Alexandria women.

When Shareese Bowen and Courtlandt Stasiewicz left Alexandria the evening of April 18, they were in search of a good time. But their fun turned tragic, leaving both girls dead — and endless questions in their wake.

According to the Washington Metropolitan Police, they drove with two other people in a 1995 Chevrolet Berretta to the 2300 block of Pitts Place — a notorious drug strip in southeast D.C. The two girls entered an apartment building, then left to return to the car.

But a fight broke out in the courtyard of the building, and police say that gunfire could be heard although no one was hit. Bowen and Stasiewicz barely escaped, returning to the car and fleeing the scene at a high rate of speed. On Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, just a few miles away, the Berretta veered out of control and crashed into a telephone pole.

Both girls died at the scene. Now, in the aftermath, family and friends are questioning why it had to happen.

SHAREESE BOWEN, 20, was a native of Arlington. She was a cheerleader at Wakefield High School, where she graduated in 2003. People who knew her say that her smile and her quick sense of humor were her most noticeable features.

“She liked to have fun, and we would always tease each other,” said Marlon Caughman, manager of the Noodles and Company where Bowen worked. “She was really skinny but she loved to eat. I used to call her Olive Oil.”

Other friends nicknamed her “Reeses Cup” because of her voracious appetite. Joyce Brandon, her roomate at the Fields Apartments on Duke Street, said that Bowen stayed busy with school and work.

“She worked really hard to maintain school and work, and I don’t think she ever missed a day,” Brandon said. “You would never see her emotions on her face because she was always smiling.”

Brandon said that she has many questions about the events leading to her death. She said that Bowen and Stasiewicz had been friends for only a few weeks, and she wonders why they ventured into southeast Washington past midnight.

“Only she can tell her own story, and she’s not here to do that now,” Brandon said. “She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Mary Bowen, Shareese’s grandmother, said that she was an outstanding student at Strayer University, where she studied Information Technology. She was looking forward to graduating in August and taking a job working with her stepfather.

“She was supposed to go out there and interview this week,” Bowen said. “Now she won’t get a chance.”

Bowen was close with her granddaughter, having raised the girl after her mother died when she was 12. She stayed with her grandmother the night before the accident, chatting late into the evening. It would be the last time they would see each other.

“We talked about life and death,” Bowen said. “I had just lost a friend, and I was feeling sad about it. Shareese told me not to be afraid of death.”

COURTLANDT STASIEWICZ, 18, was a native of Alexandria. She went to St. Rita Catholic School and Bishop Ireton High School before transferring to T.C. Williams High School — ultimately ending up at the city’s interim education program at the Stonewall Jackson Building on Quaker Lane.

At her funeral on Monday, a mass of Christian Burial held at St. Rita Parish, friends described Stasiewicz as a free spirit with a quick smile and a gracious heart.

“She got in and out of trouble because she was just a kid trying to find herself,” said Tim Sprague. “It could have been any of us in that car.”

Danny O’Brien said that Stasiewicz had a cheerful disposition that kept others laughing. He said that she was popular at Bishop Ireton, where students held a candlelight vigil in Stasiewicz’s honor last week.

“She was always very optimistic,” O’Brien said. “And she was quick to crack a joke.”

Many of her friends commented on her sense of humor, saying that Stasiewicz had an easy smile that put others at ease. They commented on her athletic ability on the track field and her eclectic taste in music, adding that she was close to her family.

“The last time I saw her she was picking up her sister from school,” said Jorel Joseph. “She was genuinely a nice person.”

“She will be missed,” said Sarah Tanner. “No one can replace her.”

During the funeral, Father Denis Donahue remembered Stasiewicz’s smile, her quick wit and her discerning nature. He recalled her time on student council and on the honor role. He implored the young people in the audience to take a lesson from Stasiewicz’s death.

“We are, all of us, a mixture of light and goodness — but also of shadows,” Donahue said. “We will remember Courtlandt.”