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Votes

When a Child Is Lost to Murder

Erica Heather Smith, 14, lived in Ashburn.

Her parents said she loved music and sang beautifully. She sang church solos and loved preaching. She would come downstairs in her home and tell her mother, "God told me to pray for you," and then she would go on preaching and praying. Erica had great grades. She played soccer and basketball. In addition to being a cheerleader, she coached young cheerleaders. She was a likable, lovable child who trusted everybody.

She was found in a shallow grave in Sterling Aug. 9, 2002, 11 days after her disappearance. Authorities have not disclosed the cause of death. A $14,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of her killers.

Eric Van Nederynen, 15, lived in Sterling.

His mother described him as loving and compassionate with others, spirit-filled, a Boy Scout, a Christian, a gifted musician who could play several instruments, a young man who loved wildlife, a giggler and a real joy. A youth leader once said that if all of Eric’s instruments were taken away, he would play the curb.

Eric died after being shot twice Sept. 15, 2000.

Naquan Supreme Perry was linked to the death of Van Nederynen as well as a homicide in Union County, N.J., and seriously injuring another victim. Perry, 20, was killed Oct. 27, 2000, after he fired upon New Jersey officers who were trying to arrest him.

Donald "Nick" Shomaker, 15, lived in Ashburn.

His mother said Nick was most comfortable in a pair of sweat pants and a T-shirt. He liked the feel of soft material and bubble baths. He played basketball with friends and roughhoused with his brothers. He was caring and friendly. She remembers his laughter and hugs.

Matthew Lathram was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and six felony and drug charges. He was sentenced to 65 years in jail with all but 25 years suspended.

Patrick Hornbaker, 32, lived in Purcellville.

His mother and sister described him as a simple country boy who would always help others, a wonderful older brother who planned to walk his sister down the aisle on her wedding day later that year. His sister defined him as "my big brother, my overprotective best friend, a father figure." She said that as a youngster, he would get in trouble and get caught every time. He had grown out of that stage, attended church regularly and took college courses.

Patrick was found shot at the home he shared with his mother May 21, 2001. A $10,000 reward is available for information leading to the arrest of his killer.

Jessica and Brittany Strosnider, 3 and 2, lived in Stephens City, Va.

Their mother said Jess was very, very smart. With a smile, she described Brittany as ornery. Thirteen months apart, they acted like twins. They were very close to each other. Like any normal 2 and 3 year olds, they liked to be loved. The children died of gunshot wounds to the head March 10, 1991, shot by father, Todd Strosnider, who then turned the gun on himself.