The Magazine

HORROR IN THE COURT

Jan 26, 1998, Vol. 3, No. 19 • By TUCKER CARLSON
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One Friday morning in June 1992, six-week-old Nakya Scott woke up in an apartment in southeast Washington, D.C., and began to cry. Nakya's mother, 19- year-old Latrena Pixley, gave the girl a drink of water, but the crying continued. Frustrated, Pixley put the baby back into her crib. As Pixley later told police, "This is when I put the blanket over her face. I just killed her."


In fact, it wasn't that simple. Nakya Scott's murder took a long time. While her 2-year-old son played with his toys in the other room, Pixley smothered the girl for half an hour, pulling the blanket away periodically, then pressing it down again on the child's face. Autopsy photos show Nakya's lips mashed against her gums from the force of her mother's hand.


Once she finished killing her daughter, Pixley stuffed the little girl's body into a plastic trash bag, threw it into a dumpster outside her apartment building, and went back upstairs to sit in her bedroom. Her boyfriend (who is not Nakya's father) came home that afternoon. The two had dinner, then went to a relative's house to play cards. They stayed until after 2:00 a.m.


The next morning, Pixley had breakfast and watched television. Sometime before noon she woke her sleeping boyfriend and told him what she had done to the baby. Pixley's boyfriend checked the dumpster. "I can't believe that you did that," he said when he returned. Then he called the police.


Much has been written about what happened next. The following June, Pixley pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Judge George W. Mitchell of the D.C. Superior Court sentenced her to probation and ordered her to spend weekends in the city jail for three years. A few months later, Mitchell reduced Pixley's jail time, and she took a clerical job at a vocational training center in Washington. In the spring of 1995, it was discovered that Pixley had been stealing Social Security numbers from office personnel files, applying for credit cards in the names of co-workers, and using the cards to buy VCRs and stereo equipment. Pixley was fired and later convicted in federal court of mail fraud. But she had no problem landing a new job. (Nor did her mood seem darkened by her brushes with the law. In July 1995, she wrote a bubbly fan letter to Ebony magazine praising Aretha Franklin. "I have her whole collection of music on tapes and CDs," said Pixley. "I sing them all the time. Aretha, keep up the good work and keep singing. I love it." ) Jerome Miller, the head of the city's child welfare agency, hired Pixley as a receptionist in his office. "This agency is about offering care, concern, and help," Miller said.


In January 1996, Pixley had another child, Cornelious, her fourth by four boyfriends. (Pixley's oldest child, now 8, has lived with relatives since infancy; the second, the boy who was playing when Pixley killed Nakya, is in a foster home.) Pixley might have drifted off into obscurity from there, had she not been interviewed that month by a local television reporter doing a story about young mothers on welfare. The story that aired said nothing about Pixley's murder conviction. But it did catch the attention of an assistant U. S. attorney who remembered Pixley and was infuriated to see her on television with another child. A brief media storm followed, during which Pixley's creditcard scam was reported in the papers. Before long, Pixley wound up back in George Mitchell's court for violating the terms of her probation.


Under heightened public scrutiny, Mitchell sent Pixley back to jail in May, only to release her eight months later to a group home in Washington called Hannah House. Pixley, however, never bothered to show up at Hannah House, and the judge was forced to send her back to the lockup. He released her for good in November 1997.


During her time behind bars, Pixley left Cornelious with a casual acquaintance, a 25-year-old intern at the Public Defenders Service named Laura Blankman. Blankman, who is now a police trainee in the Washington suburbs, has cared for the boy, at her own expense, since he was four months old. Eventually, she filed papers to adopt him. Pixley accused Blankman of trying to "steal" Cornelious and challenged the adoption in court. In December, Michael D. Mason, a circuit-court judge in Montgomery County, Maryland, awarded full custody of the child to Pixley, explaining that Cornelious would be best off in a black household (Blankman is white) and in the care of his biological mother.


Judge Mason's decision made the front page of the Washington Post and was widely denounced as outrageous. Laura Blankman is appealing the decision, partly on grounds that there is no evidence that trans-racial adoption harms children. Cornelious, now a 2-year-old, is scheduled to be returned to his mother in a matter of weeks.