WASHINGTON — A young mother once profiled by The Washington Post for her drive to make something of her life – despite heartbreaking hardships – was cut down by a bullet just 2 miles from where her sister was murdered in 2018.
Cyhneil Inkina Smith, 23, of Washington, D.C., was found shot to death around 3:19 a.m. Friday in a vehicle in the 300 block of 37th Street SE, near Fort Dupont Park. The Post reported that she’d been shot multiple times.
“DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services responded to the scene and found that the victim displayed no signs consistent with life,” according to a news release from the Metropolitan Police Department. “The decedent remained on the scene until transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.”
A reward of $25,000 has been offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in Smith’s death.
Smith was the subject of a Post story in September 2018 that highlighted her struggles to get an education while raising an infant son – and while mourning the loss of a stillborn baby and her sister.
Mecca India Tyshea Gravette, 23, was killed alongside Sukarno Turner, 25, on May 3, 2018, in the 3700 block of 1st Street SE. Like her sister, Gravette was found dead inside a car, police officials said.
On the day that the Post shadowed her, Smith had to bring her 9-month-old son, PrinceCannon, with her to class at the Amala Lives Institute because she could not find a babysitter.
“I’m a day behind on a brighter future if I call out,” Smith said. “It’s not even my future. It’s his future.”
Smith had dropped out of high school after she delivered a stillborn daughter, she told the Post. It was her older sister, Gravette, who continuously encouraged her to go back to school.
Four months later, she was enrolled in Amala Lives Institute but was soldiering through her classes without her biggest cheerleader. She told the newspaper she wanted to be a good example for her young son.
She had hopes of entering the hotel industry.
“I wake up every morning saying, ‘I got to go harder than I did yesterday,’” she said. “I’m not the 17-year-old me no more. It’s not about me no more.”
Smith ultimately graduated from the vocational school. Two years later, all her dreams would be shattered by a bullet.
According to the Post, Smith got on with a temp agency. She had worked the front desk at various hotels and, in her final job, worked with a cleaning service.
“She was trying to get her life back together,” recalled Carla Looney, who runs Self Maid Cleaners. "She was really a nice person. She was always laughing. The whole time we were cleaning houses, she was cracking jokes.
“I’m trying to figure out who would do this and why.”
Brandi Forte, founder of Amala Lives Institute, told the Post she believed the school could “save (Smith) from the madness out here.”
“I just know she had so much hope,” Forte said. “I think she just wanted a chance at life. She wanted to survive.”
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