• Washington Post

Girl Pleads Guilty to Fatal Stabbing in Dispute Over Fast-Food Sauce

Family photo
Naima Liggon, 16, of Waldorf, Md., was fatally stabbed Aug. 27 outside a McDonald’s in D.C.

A 16-year-old girl pleaded guilty as a juvenile Monday to fatally stabbing another girl in D.C. last summer in a dispute that authorities said began with an argument over sweet-and-sour sauce outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Northwest Washington.

The death of 16-year-old Naima Liggon, of Waldorf, Md., garnered national headlines. Police said the stabbing, about 2 a.m. on Aug. 27, stemmed from a fight over a packet of the restaurant’s sauce after Liggon, her attacker and three other friends attended a late-night party together.

The defendant, also from Waldorf, was scheduled to go to trial Monday on a first-degree murder charge. But she made a deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter while armed and carrying a dangerous weapon. Juvenile court proceedings are not open to the public. The Washington Post was allowed to attend the girl’s hearings on the condition that her name not be published.

She is scheduled to be sentenced in D.C. Superior Court next month. As a juvenile, the maximum penalty she faces is confinement in a youth detention center until her 21st birthday.

Liggon’s mother, Joy Liggon, who watched Monday’s hearing remotely, said she had mixed feelings about the plea agreement. She said prosecutors consulted with the family, but she doesn’t think the family’s concerns “were incorporated into the decision.”

“I will say that I am glad this is coming to a close,” Liggon said in an interview. “But I don’t feel like this is justice.” She added: “We would have liked go to trial for first-degree murder. I felt that is what my daughter deserved. But I also understand that a guilty verdict is a guilty verdict.”

Liggon said the case became a “sensationalized fiasco about sweet-and-sour sauce, and at the end of the day, a teenager is gone.” Prosecutors said the initial dispute that led to the stabbing – the fight over the sauce – involved the defendant and another girl, not Liggon. “I know that was not her argument,” Liggon’s mother said. “It doesn’t look like our child was out in the street fighting over sweet-and-sour sauce. That was never the case.”

At Monday’s hearing, prosecutor Crystal Gaines provided new details of the fatal attack based on information from witnesses who authorities said were prepared to testify at a trial. Gaines said Liggon was trying to break up a fight between the defendant and another girl outside the restaurant before she was stabbed twice, in the heart and the abdomen.

The argument began inside a vehicle after the girls drove to the restaurant following a party, Gaines said. They went inside the McDonald’s and ordered food. When they returned to the vehicle, the defendant and another girl began arguing over sweet-and-sour sauce, Gaines said. The defendant snatched one of the sauce containers from the other girl, Gaines said, and the dispute continued outside the vehicle.

Gaines said Liggon stood between the defendant and the other girl, trying to keep them apart. As the defendant swung at the other girl, she struck Liggon. Gaines said Liggon and the other girl then began fighting with the defendant.

Minutes later, after the fighting ended, Gaines said, the defendant took out a folding knife and stabbed Liggon once in her abdomen as Liggon was returning to the vehicle. Then the defendant turned Liggon around to face her and stabbed her in her chest, according to Gaines. Police have said the knife was 71/2 inches long.

Liggon’s friends rushed her to a nearby hospital, where she died.

Defense attorney Madhuri Swarna argued that her client was defending herself at the time of the attack. “It was two against one,” she said. But Gaines said the defendant was the only person with a weapon.

After defense lawyers asked Judge Andrea L. Hertzfeld to release the girl into her parents’ custody or place her in a less restrictive facility while she awaits sentencing, Gaines and a court social worker objected. Gaines said the defendant got into a fight with another girl at a secure youth center a few months ago while being held after her arrest. A defense lawyer said the other girl had been “teasing” the defendant about her homicide case.

Hertzfeld ordered the girl to remain in secure detention until her sentencing. The judge also ordered another round of psychological and educational testing. “This young person clearly needs services,” Hertzfeld said. “There are some issues here.”