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Woman passed by where daughter found

The school bus assistant found out later that the slaying victim's body was that of her 15-year-old daughter.


© St. Petersburg Times, published December 12, 2000

TAMPA -- As a school bus assistant Carla Wilson passed by Oberry Street on E 21st Avenue every afternoon.

Last Thursday, the bus passed by as police responded there to investigate a murder: A young woman's naked body had been left in the alley next to Connie's soul food restaurant.

"I saw the scene with all the police officers and the yellow tape, and I just got so emotional," Wilson recalled Monday. "I remember saying, "Oh my Lord, I feel so bad for that family.' Death is bad any time, but especially this time of the year."

The bus driver slowed down, but Wilson told him to drive on.

"In a way, I'm so glad we didn't stop," she said. "That would've been too much for me."

Hours later, police told Wilson that the girl left in the alley was her own 15-year-old daughter, Laquetta Chael White. At first, Wilson refused to believe them.

"I kept saying, "No, that wasn't my baby. My baby's supposed to be at the dentist,' " she said.

Thursday morning, Wilson, 37, left for work from the family's house at 5606 Terra Ceia in East Tampa, she said. Laquetta had a dentist's appointment in the middle of the day on Davis Islands and would be taking the bus. Other family members later told police that Laquetta left the house just before 9 a.m. wearing a red T-shirt decorated with dragons in an Asian print, white capri pants and a white, blue and aqua windbreaker.

She never made it to the dentist's office.

Wilson went straight from work to a hair appointment. At 7 p.m., her oldest son paged her and told her that the police wanted to talk with her. A detective met her at the hair salon and told her Laquetta was found dead. Four days later, Wilson still can't believe someone would hurt her daughter.

"She had some problems, but she really was a typical teenager," Wilson said. "Everybody liked her. When you see kids like that get hurt, you think that's what is supposed to happen to them. But not her. She never thought anything could happen to her."

Laquetta started the school year at Blake High School but was sent to James Alternative School after officials found a switchblade in her bag, Wilson said.

But the Wednesday night before her death, "she was actually being the little girl I wanted her to be," Wilson said. Mother and daughter goaded each other into a dance contest and the two laughed. Detectives aren't releasing much information on the case. After the body was found Thursday, police told reporters the dead woman was in her 30s and did not correct that misconception until Monday, when they released the victim's identity. Although Laquetta's body was nude, detectives have not said whether she was sexually assaulted, nor will they say how they believe she died. The official cause of death is still under investigation by the medical examiner.

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