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Girl's Death Haunts Dorsey

November 06, 1994|BRETT MAHONEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Anitra Jolie Watson had transferred to Dorsey High School just last spring, but the 17-year-old's slaying last weekend nevertheless has wrenched many students.

Capricorn Clark, 16, was Watson's "play sister," she said. They resembled one another and shared the same birthday. In school on Monday, after the discovery of Watson's body, the girls' chemistry teacher three times mistakenly called Capricorn "Jolie," Watson's nickname. It scared her.

"It made me think that that could have been me," Clark said.

Watson's body was discovered shot execution style in an unoccupied Inglewood-area duplex. The cheerleader was last seen Oct. 28 after the Dorsey football game, driving her white Nissan Pulsar, behind three men in a dark Buick Regal, police said. No motive has been determined. The City Council on Thursday offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Standing just outside the football field where Watson once practiced with the cheerleading squad, a handful of her friends looked through their recently taken photos that showed them clowning with a smiling Watson. They remembered her as vivacious and, despite her petite frame, as "always eating something."

Even before this slaying, some Dorsey students were haunted by nightmares of attending their friends' funerals. In little more than a year there have been a number of shootings on or near the campus or involving Dorsey students.

Only a few weeks ago, on Oct. 19, a teen-ager, who was not a Dorsey student, was shot to death after an argument broke out during a pickup basketball game at the nearby Rancho Cienega Sports Center.

Last June, two popular Dorsey High students, Jose Tizcareno, 17, and Jose Alvarez, 18, were slain in the cross-fire between black and Latino gangs in Venice.

In September, 1993, a 15-year-old boy, an innocent bystander to an argument, was shot and critically wounded while waiting on line to register for classes at Dorsey.

Most victims were in the "wrong place at the wrong time," police said, but this explanation was insufficient for those still having bad dreams.

"Why did this happen?" "How could it happen to someone so young?" "Isn't this unfair?" "Could that have been me?" are the questions most frequently asked by students when one of their own is taken by random violence, according to Sandra Cox, Dorsey's school psychologist.

Cox said she is honest with students. She tells them life offers no guarantees.

"Life is a gamble but you can minimize your risks. You don't have to be a sitting duck, sitting in front of a house, in a group with everyone wearing the same color, in a neighborhood known for drive-bys," she said.

To help students explore their fear and grief, a crisis team of four additional school psychologists was imported into Dorsey from surrounding schools Monday.

Counseling was offered throughout the day, and during the next few weeks Cox will follow up with students who were particularly disturbed by Watson's death.

Assistant Principal Beverley Clarkson said the school encourages the students to express their thoughts and feelings about the deaths.

When Tizcareno and Alvarez were killed, their classmates organized a memorial service in the school library at which they read poetry about their friends.

Two security guards patrol the 1,800-student campus during the day, cooperating with the Los Angeles Police Department to ensure that students can get to and from school without incident, Clarkson said.

"We are trying to make Dorsey a safe haven for students," Clarkson said.

"It is an isolated case when violence actually happens on campus. Unfortunately schools are not immune from bizarre craziness," she said.

Clark, Watson's close friend, agreed but it did not ease her sadness.

"I cried when I walked past the picture of Jolie and the other cheerleaders in the B wing. I couldn't help it," she said.

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