On the night of Jan. 23, a 14-year-old girl, Jahkema Princess Hansen, was shot to death in Washington, D.C., apparently execution-style and apparently by an adult, because she had been a witness to another slaying in an ongoing drug dealers’ war. Princess, whose photograph ran in the newspapers after the slaying, was a pretty girl. It was another sad story, all too common in Washington and other large cities with large underclasses, of children getting caught in gangland crossfire.

The slaying of Princess occurred in Washington’s Sursum Corda townhouse complex. Sursum Corda had been built during the 1960s by high-minded Catholic activists (the name is Latin for “lift up your hearts”) as an amenity-filled experiment in affordable low-income co-op housing. Soon enough, however, it turned into an extension of Washington, D.C.’s public-housing system, and nearly 100 percent of its residents these days aren’t the working poor but recipients of some form of public assistance. Sursum Corda is also, like most housing projects, a taxpayer-subsidized open-air drug market and safe haven and shooting range for the young thugs who deal the illegal substances. The last of the Catholic nun-social workers who once lived in Sursum Corda moved out during the early 1990s after her apartment was burglarized and she heard that her stolen possessions were being sold in a Sursum Corda courtyard. That’s gratitude for you.

I was feeling sorry for Princess until I read a Jan. 27 column about her death, “After the Killing, a Mother Waits in Anguish,” by Marc Fisher, the WaPo’s gritty-urban Jimmy Breslin wannabe and all-around bleeding heart. Fisher, as might be expected, blamed the sad circumstances surrounding Princess’s death on–us, the D.C. taxpayers! The D.C. government, it seemed, wouldn’t fork over the $2,000 it would cost to give Princess a decent funeral. It didn’t help, furthermore, when Fisher revealed that Princess’s mother, Judyann Hansen, was on welfare and apparently hadn’t worked a day in her life (Fisher described Judyann Hansen as “a wanderer in search of love and stability”), and that she had five kids by various fathers, including two adult sons currently serving time for dealing crack cocaine. Still, I thought: The city ought to do the right thing and pay for the funeral of a child crime-witness, and Mayor Anthony Williams ought to honor the bereaved mother with a visit. After all, as Fisher reported, Princess had “loved math, basketball and music” and wanted to be a lawyer when she grew up. Judyann Hansen–and Fisher–scolded the D.C. police for not protecting Princess better.

Then–thanks to many e-mails to Fisher and some better reporting by the WaPo’s front-page staff–it emerged that Princess hadn’t exactly been the math-loving, law-career-aspiring little angel that Fisher made her out to be. Indeed, she hardly ever went to school, spending most of her time hanging out with the very drug dealers who were allegedly responsible for her death. Not a good way to prep for the LSAT. The police had offered Princess protection as a material witness to a murder, but she had refused to cooperate with their investigation, making it impossible for them to do much for her. And Judyann Hansen, although she complained about the cops’ treatment of Princess, wasn’t much of a protector to the girl herself. On the Friday night of Princess’s murder, Judyann Hansen was whooping it up at a club, having left the girl all by herself at home. Her mother gone, Princess slipped out to another Sursum Corda townhouse where she and a 12-year-old child were sprayed with bullets by an assassin at 11:15 p.m. The numerous adults on the premises neither knew enough nor cared enough about Princess even to point out her body to the paramedics whom they called to aid the wounded 12-year-old; the medics stumbled across the corpse accidentally.

Fisher’s response was another lugubrious column, “Sullying the Grave of a Slain Child,” on Jan. 29. The city by this time had decided to pony up for the funeral, and Williams was paying a call–but that wasn’t enough for Fisher. People were saying all those nasty things about Princess and her mother, he complained (some of the meanies were were actually Princess’s fed-up relatives and neighbors). Mayoral spokesman Tony Bullock had told a reporter, according to Fisher, that “Princess Hansen had a 11/2-year-old baby, that her mother had a parade of drug dealers coming through her house and that the mother had refused to cooperate with police.” The toddler, Fisher pointed out huffily, wasn’t Princess’s but belonged to a hitherto unmentioned sixth Hansen child, an adult woman. Fisher did quietly drop, without any mea culpa, his previous angelic assessment of Princess and agreed that she had been “running wild” before her death and that her mother might not have taken sufficient “responsibility” for her. But again, it’s all the D.C. government’s fault.

Yesterday, Feb. 2, Fisher made a third attempt to rehabilitate the Hansen household, “Vilified on All Sides, Slain Girl’s Family Clings to Its Pride.” He dragged into the melee Frank Wade, the father of the two jailbirds and Judyann Hansen’s off-again-on-again boyfriend (although never husband) for these many years. Wade sounds like a decent fellow who works for a living and tried, at least sometimes, to be a father to Princess, who wasn’t his natural daughter. I wish he’d tried a little harder: marrying Judyann Hansen to create some household stability; disciplining and affording a male role model for his children; and pitching in financially so the family could afford a safer place to live would have been starters. For her part, Judyann Hansen was complaining that people were criticizing her for having been out clubbing while her daughter was shot. Said Hansen, according to Fisher: “My girlfriends came over and said, ‘With all you’ve been through, you need a break,’ so we went out.” Oh.

For my part, I’m with mayoral spokesman Tony Bullock, who told Fisher: “What the mayor is trying to say is there’s a level at which people need to be responsible for themselves and their children…and stop blaming the government.”