WASHINGTON -- The man with the gun burst into the apartment and opened fire. The first victim was a young woman, dead at 21. The second victim was her 25-year-old roommate. But it was the third victim who would cause the most anguished screams when the bodies were discovered. Shot in the head, he was a 6-month-old boy.
The killing of Carlton Stringer Jr. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was the first of nearly 100 such killings of young children in 2012, a year that included the deaths of 20 Sandy Hook Elementary School pupils in Newtown, Conn.
The Newtown killings horrified the nation and provoked angry debates over access to the most lethal firearms. A year later today, the anger and grief caused by the deaths continue to be felt.
So, too, do the ripples from the other killings, of which there were at least 71 -- bringing the year's total to at least 91, according to a Washington Post analysis. The list, which focused on children 10 years of age and under who were victims of a deliberate shooting, was compiled in a search of news databases, federal crime statistics and websites that track violence against children.
Taken together, the killings reflect some of the country's most unyielding problems. Mental illness, so central to the Newtown killings, also played a role in more than half of the other 71. Stray bullets from neighborhood gun battles or drive-by shootings killed 22 children. Drugs, typically methamphetamine, were a factor in six others.
Perhaps most striking was how many children knew their killers. Seventeen were shot by their mothers, according to police; another 17 by their fathers.
Like Newtown, every one of these killings has provoked a special kind of despair among the survivors -- parents, relatives, friends, neighbors, police officers, teachers, pastors. And as in Newtown, all of these people have continued to mourn, regret, reflect on and agonize over the deaths as their first anniversaries have come and gone.
In all, four children were deliberately shot to death in January. In February came another six. One was Chaniya Wynn of Cleveland. The 1-year-old and her mother were killed in an abandoned garage by the mother's ex-boyfriend, who then killed himself. Chaniya's aunt, Cherie Jackson, remembers arriving at the garage just as police and the coroner were leaving. She came with 10 cans of spray paint.
"I wanted it to look like they were loved," she said. "RIP my baby sister. RIP my baby niece," she spray-painted on the garage. "I love you so much."
She stepped back. Soon, others were grabbing spray-paint cans. First, they covered the garage's outside walls, then the inside. The windowless building stood for a year before the local neighborhood association flattened it.
In March, seven more children were shot to death, including, in Utah, 5-year-old Eliza Parker and her mother, Adria. The killer, police said, was the mother's boyfriend, Landon Jorgensen, a gun-rights defender who often posted angry views on the website ConcealedCarryForum.com.
After he was identified, the site's founder came to his defense.
Nathan Collier said he wanted to see the evidence; he was sure the Utah small-town cops had bungled the case. "Something stinks here," he wrote, "and despite my emotional roller coaster, I'm not ready to condemn."
Now, he admits he was wrong, that Jorgensen did shoot and kill the child. "I hope he's rotting in hell," Mr. Collier says. But his opinion on guns is unchanged. "It absolutely strengthens my position," he says. "There are evil people among us, and the only way to combat an evil man is a good man equally armed."
In April, three more died, including 2-year-old Kamya Robinson in Bakersfield, Calif. She was playing outside with her twin sister when a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting hit her. After the killing, Kamya's mother moved away with her other children in hopes of a better life. "Bye Bakersfield," Katie Wimbley wrote on her Facebook page. Another day, she wrote: "I'm happy I got my children out the ghetto, the hood and all that. Thank [you], Lord, for the blessings."
But at the one-year anniversary, she was writing again: "This has been the wors[t] year of my life. Mama miss[es] [you] like crazy. I keep a smile, [but] its fake. I try to make sure that I stay positive with my life, but to [know] that [you] are not here with me breaks me down day by day. ... I remember this day like it was yesterday."
In May, eight more children were shot to death. One was Briana Allen, 5, who died when a battle broke out between warring gangs in her New Orleans neighborhood. She was celebrating at her cousin's birthday party when a neighbor screamed, "They got guns!" A dozen blasts followed. Briana was hit in the stomach. Shrapnel hit her cousin, Ka'Nard Allen, 10, in his leg and neck.
"It don't hurt much because you are scared," Ka'Nard says of being shot. "You're not thinking about the hurt. It hurts more to fall off your bike, ... but then it burns, and you are scared something bad is going to happen. You just need to get to the hospital."
He doesn't like to talk about Briana. "Ka'Nard had to cross over her on the porch to get in the house," explains his mother, Tynia Allen. "She was laying there covered in blood."
"It wasn't no good," he says.
In June, nine more children died, including Taylor and Jordan Dejerinett of Montgomery, Ala. The 9-year-old twins were killed with their elderly baby-sitter when a stranger stopped them and took their car. It took two days to find the twins' bodies, abandoned beside a dirt road.
A week passed before police arrested a suspect. Taylor and Jordan's uncles were sitting in the front row when Deandra Marquis Lee, 22, was brought into the courtroom. He was wearing handcuffs and leg irons, and, as one uncle remembered, had a smile on his face.
"That just set me off," says Alceniour Moorer. "It was like something tore through my body." Mr. Moorer charged the man, followed by his brothers. "You're gonna die," one screamed.
Deputies grabbed the three uncles and held them overnight in a jail cell to calm them down. In the morning, they were freed, but their anger continues. "I know God said you are supposed to forgive," Mr. Moorer says of Mr. Lee, eventually charged with murder. "I can't."
In July, 10 more children were killed, including Jesse Ray Adams, a 3-year-old shot by his father while the father was on the phone with his estranged wife. The wife immediately called 911. "He made my son tell me that he was going to die," Christy Adams told the 911 operator.
At that moment, sheriff's Deputy Mason Paramore was racing toward the father's trailer in rural Pitt County, N.C. The sheriff's deputies charged into the trailer. Jesse and his father, C.J. Adams, lay on the bed with bullet wounds to the head, both barely alive. The boy was gasping for air, arching his back and whimpering. A hospital helicopter landed in the front yard. "Take the baby first," Deputy Paramore told the paramedics.
The mother was waiting nearby. He drove her to the hospital, steering with one hand as she clutched his other. She was still holding his hand as they ran into the hospital, where nurses told her Jesse had died. "Please let me rock him to sleep one last time," the mother asked.
The mother gave Deputy Paramore a picture of Jesse, something to help him forget the images from the trailer. "I want you to remember what Jesse really looked like," she said. He took the photo and hung it in his living room.
In August, nine children were killed, including Emma and Richard Rosovich Jr. Police said their mother shot them each three times after her boyfriend threatened to leave her.
In September, there were five children killed, including Khalil Singleton. The 8-year-old was playing with a friend in his grandmother's yard in Hilton Head, S.C., when a bullet from a Saturday afternoon gunfight killed him.
Soon Jill McAden, principal at Khalil's elementary school, was confronted with how to break the news to the rest of the students. Nine students lived on the same street as Khalil. She visited each of their houses that evening.
After the open-casket funeral, some students wondered whether Khalil was really dead or just sleeping and why his favorite book was in his coffin.
In October, three more children died, including Jorge Duran, a 3-year-old from Toledo shot by his father. The toddler's father first killed the child's mother, then grabbed him and ran to a nearby townhouse, where he fired more shots, including one that killed the boy. Police then killed the father.
In November, five children were killed, including 10-year-old Julia Schuster and her 6-year-old brother Luke in remote New Town, N.D. They died along with their grandmother and 13-year-old brother when a man kicked in the door of their clapboard home and opened fire.
The 21-year-old shooter had a history of getting into trouble and was high on methamphetamine.
Word of the killings spread quickly through the tiny town. Almost everyone knew the Schusters as well as the family of shooter Kalcie Eagle, who killed himself later that day.
"There was a lot of under-the-table talk," said the Rev. Marilyn Levine, who lived in the parsonage next to the home where the shootings occurred.
The question everyone had: How does someone kill a child?
The question, though, continues to resonate in New Town, N.D., and also in Newtown, Conn., where, on Dec. 14, 20 children were killed.
Those weren't the only deaths in December. Before Newtown, an 8-year-old was murdered by her father. After Newtown came one more -- a 4-year-old killed in the crossfire of a gang shooting -- bringing the total of dead children to at least 91 as 2012 ended.