Police have charged a 38-year-old neighbor of Washington, D.C., mayoral aide and longtime gay rights activist Wanda Alston with her murder. William Parrot Jr. is scheduled to be arraigned Friday on an armed murder charge in D.C. superior court. Parrot was arrested at about 3 p.m. Thursday a short distance from where Alston's missing car was located about three hours earlier, several blocks away from Alston's northeast Washington home, where she was found dead shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Police said Parrot lives two houses away from Alston. An anonymous tip led police to Alston's car, and a witness reported seeing Parrot driving the vehicle. In a news conference on Thursday, Capt. C.V. Morris of the District of Columbia police department said there is no indication that Alston's death was caused by a hate crime or was related to her work on lesbian and gay issues. When asked if the multiple stab wounds suggested anything about the motives for the killing, Morris said, "It could be a crime of passion, but it could be a stranger too." He said Alston was believed to be the type of individual who might fight back against an intruder. Police have not ruled out any motive, he added.
Alston, 45, was a high-ranking member of Washington, D.C., mayor Anthony A. Williams's cabinet. "I think we're all feeling a certain numbness from the shock of losing one of our friends and one of our colleagues," fellow cabinet member Ron Collins told WJLA-TV. Alston's partner, Stacey Long, found the body and then called police, said police chief Charles Ramsey. "We found a female lying facedown. Quite a bit of blood on the scene," Ramsey said. The chief added that there was no evidence of forced entry.
Alston was a well-known lesbian activist and was named in September to head the Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Affairs, after the mayor made the office a cabinet-level position. Before that, she served as the mayor's special assistant in that capacity. Alston served previously as director of operations for the office of the deputy mayor for public safety and justice. She joined the Williams administration in August 1999 as Williams's liaison to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Before joining the Williams administration, Alston worked for the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign as an events manager and later went on to establish a political consulting firm. In 1992, Alston served as the executive assistant to the president of the National Organization for Women, Patricia Ireland, and later as NOW's special projects director, helping to organize four national marches in Washington and one in San Francisco.
Alston later helped to found the National Stonewall Democrats and was still active in the organization's D.C. chapter. "Stonewall is saddened by the loss of our friend and one of our community's finest leaders," said Eric Stern, executive director of Stonewall. "Wanda Alston helped foster the creation of our national organization in 1998 and continued to increase the visibility of LGBT Americans, especially LGBT Americans of color, among the residents of the District of Columbia and among Democrats throughout the country." Last year Alston was elected by the District of Columbia Democratic State Committee to serve as a delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. There, Alston lobbied other delegates on issues important to residents of the District of Columbia and gay and lesbian Democrats.
Keith Boykin, president of the gay rights group National Black Justice Coalition, described Alston as an activist, a fighter, a strong black woman, and a vocal lesbian. "And yet she was still Wanda, my friend," Boykin said in a tribute to Wanda's life posted on his Web site. "Wanda was one of the toughest, most determined people I have ever met in my life."