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Slain teenager was a runaway

August 24, 2005|By Pepper Ballard

HAGERSTOWN

pepperb@herald-mail.com

More than three weeks passed between the day 15-year-old Keisha Shardae Lane ran away from her Hagerstown foster family and the night she was shot dead on the streets of Severn, Md.

Keisha, who was killed Aug. 17 while standing with a group on a Severn street, was under the supervision of the Washington County Department of Social Services for most of her life, Director David A. Engle said Tuesday.

On July 25, after she had been with a new foster family for just three days, Keisha ran away, Engle said.

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"It was the loss of her family, that loss we were never able to fill for her, and she was seeking to fill that when she ran away. It's very, very sad," he said.

Engle said Keisha was reported missing to the Hagerstown Police Department. His department, he said, does not perform any independent investigations into missing children because it does not "have the expertise or the skill to conduct investigations or searches."

"I think everyone is just shocked and saddened ? all of us who worked with this child. It's just a tragedy. There's no other word to describe a 15-year-old child whose life was taken away so violently and so suddenly," he said.

At 11:10 p.m. on Aug. 17, Keisha was standing with Joshua David Doyle, 19, of Laurel, Md., and two others near a car in the area of Stillmeadows Drive and Robin Court in Severn when a dark-colored sedan pulled up. Three men, only described as black, got out from the vehicle and opened fire, hitting Keisha and Doyle, according to the Anne Arundel County Police Department. Keisha was pronounced dead at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. It wasn't until Friday that she was identified as the victim.

Her death was still under investigation Tuesday.

Engle said the department had information that Keisha had friends in the Baltimore area, but did not know her whereabouts.

Keisha was taken into the department's custody when she was 3 years old, after she reportedly was abused and neglected by family and caretakers, Engle said. When she was about 6 years old, she spent a little more than a year with her family, most of which was under the department's supervision, he said. But in November 1997, the department regained custody of her and continued trying to reunite her with her birth mother and other relatives.

At 10 years old, after attempts failed to reunite her with her family, Keisha was told she could be adopted, but Keisha said she did not want that, Engle said.

A family had been in line to adopt her, he said, but when she said that she wanted to learn to live on her own, social workers helped her gain the skills necessary to make that transition once she turned 18, he said.

"We see these kids so much as just innocent victims. We try to use love and care and attention and take that kind of approach with them. They have been victims or they wouldn't be in our care. We are never heavy-handed with them. We try to sit down with them and talk about realistic options," he said.

Wanda Freeman, who was Keisha's foster mother for about six years, wrote a letter to The Herald-Mail upon hearing the news of her death.

"She will forever be in our hearts and minds because she was one of the diamonds that the Lord blessed our family with," wrote Freeman, who lives in Denver.

Washington County Public Schools Public Information Officer Carol Mowen said Keisha had not been enrolled in the school system since 2002. Engle said Keisha received her education at foster group homes.

Norris P. West, director of communications for the Maryland Department of Human Resources, the parent agency of the Washington County Department of Social Services, wrote The Herald-Mail, saying that Keisha's death "is a grim reminder of why we need for the public to help us locate children who run away from foster care ? if they know the whereabouts of a runaway ? so we keep them safe."

Engle said her life and her death are a reminder of how child abuse is a big community problem.

He said, "She was a child who had great artistic abilities and we're not gonna have her here making this community a more beautiful place."

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