After browsing the ladies section at Burlington Coat Factory in Macon on Tuesday evening, Angela Young decided on an ivory and white pantsuit by A. Byer.
“The belt is cute,” she said, noting the patent leather. “Sophie would like that.”
Young, an employee at the Greyhound bus terminal on Spring Street, was visibly uneasy. The shopping trip, interrupted by a seemingly endless chain of incoming calls on her cell phone, was no midweek pastime for the middle-aged mother of four.
That night, Young was selecting an outfit for the unexpected burial of her eldest child.
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Sophia LaTessa Denmark, Young’s 27-year-old daughter, was found dead in a Pleasant Hill boarding home Feb. 21.
Her funeral service is today at 11:30 a.m. at Fulton Baptist Church, 506 Hawthorne St., in Macon.
Macon police are investigating her death as an apparent killing by strangulation.
There have been no arrests, but police said they have a person of interest.
In the unlikely setting of the Pio Nono Avenue department store, Young reflected on her daughter’s life.
“She was very spontaneous and uplifting to be around. She was very funny. I always felt that she should’ve been a comedian,” Young said, recalling last Halloween when Denmark dressed up as a male nurse and stuck an artificial beard to her chin.
“Ever since she came into the world, everyone wanted Sophia.”
As a child, Denmark lived on Hillcrest Avenue in central Macon, where she attended elementary and middle school. She completed two years at Central High School and later became enrolled in the Job Corps training program.
When Denmark was a pre-teen, her mother moved her family to Warner Robins. Freddie Denmark, her father, still lives in Macon.
Shannon Hill, Denmark’s 23-year-old sister, said the relocation launched a period of distance between the siblings.
“We were always close before then,” Hill said Tuesday, standing with her mother during their shopping trip.
As a young adult, Denmark would leave Warner Robins and move to Macon and Atlanta, Hill said, later returning to her hometown to live with friends and other relatives.
Young said her daughter, who was unemployed, recently had expressed an interest in attending cosmetology school at the American Professional Institute on Riverside Drive.
Young, who once worked as a makeup artist, recalled the last conversation she had with her.
“It was about two weeks ago. She called me and asked me to take her down there to the school. I told her to come meet me at work, at the bus station. But she never showed up,” Young said. “Everybody goes through hard times. She was talking about doing positive things with her life.”
Hill said her sister had a warm spirit that kept her surrounded by many people.
“She was friends with everybody,” she said. “This took us by surprise. We never thought anybody would take her life in this way.”
Hill and her mother went to the boarding house Monday to try to collect Denmark’s things but were told by police to come back later in the week.
“I didn’t really know where she stayed. She would call from different numbers,” Young said. “When we first rode up, it just didn’t look right. It looked really rough. She didn’t have to stay there.”
The white house at 2127 Walnut St. is in poor shape.
Wednesday afternoon, two large black television sets were in a corner on the dusty brick front porch, which was painted red. A front window was unsecured with a screen hanging partly out of the sill. The wooden door was worn with scratch marks and a loosely fitted door knob and lock.
Cigarette butts and other trash littered the side yard. Sheets hung as curtains in some windows and boards blocked the sunlight in others. Two old couches formed a sitting area in the rear of the house, where overgrown brush surrounded a shed.
Sgt. Wilton Collins said Denmark was renting a room on the left and a man named Eugene Talton, 63, was occupying one to the right. Another man, 48-year-old Eugene Jackson, also was staying at the house, he said.
Collins said both men had been booked into the Bibb County jail in the two days before a male visitor reported discovering Denmark lying facedown behind her bedroom door Saturday afternoon.
Various evidence collected from Denmark’s room has been sent to the crime lab for testing, Collins said, not saying whether there were signs of an altercation or struggle.
“We definitely have recovered some things. But it was a very unkempt room,” he said.
Separately, Talton and Jackson have been interviewed by authorities but are not being investigated in connection with her killing, he said.
Collins would not confirm any details of the relationship between Denmark and the person of interest in the case.
“Only younger men over there. I don’t bother nobody, nobody bothers me. I just say ‘hi’ and ‘bye,’ ” said a widow who has lived next door to 2127 Walnut St. since 1945.
“I mostly come and go. I don’t stick around to see what happens,” she said Wednesday, perched at her front door holding a cane.
The woman said the recent discovery of Denmark’s body hasn’t caused her to feel unsettled about her neighborhood.
“I’ve been here 64 years, where’s I’m going at this late date?” she said. “But it’s too bad.”
Henry McCarthy, who lives at 2147 Walnut St., said he had seen Denmark walking.
His home, four doors up from the boarding house, has a downhill view.
“This whole row, we keep to ourselves,” he said, sitting on his front porch with a friend and a roommate.
The seven houses bordering McCarthy’s residence to the west are Section 8 homes, he said, explaining frequent new occupants and difficulty getting to know neighbors.
He said he hasn’t heard much talk about Denmark’s killing.
“I don’t know that too many folks knew her around here,” he said.
To contact writer Ashley Tusan Joyner, call 744-4347.