WARNER ROBINS — Chuckie Mauk never had a first kiss, never learned to drive a car, never married and never raised a family.
The gregarious, blue-eyed 13-year-old who loved baseball and motorcycles was shot and killed about 8:15 p.m. Feb. 17, 1986, in a parking lot around the corner from his Burns Drive home in Warner Robins. He had gone to the Giant Food store, now Video Warehouse, off Russell Parkway to get some candy for school the next day. He was found face down in a pool of blood near his bicycle in the parking lot between the intersection of Burns Drive and Russell Parkway and the fence line separating the residential neighborhood from a bowling alley. A restaurant once stood nearby.
The case remains unsolved.
“Falling in love and getting married and having children, driving, a first kiss ... someone took this all away,” said his mother, Cathy Miller of Warner Robins. “They took it away from Chuckie. They took it away from my family, and I miss that.”
Today marks the 24th anniversary of his murder.
Miller, 59, a surgical coordinator for a Warner Robins obstetrician and gynecologist, said she often wonders what Chuckie would be like today. Would he have a family like so many of his childhood friends she often runs into, she wondered.
Chuckie would have been 37. He probably would have dropped the “ie” off his name, already wanting to be called only “Chuck” as he moved into his teenage years, his mother said.
“But he’ll always be Chuckie to me,” she said.
Miller said she made a promise to Chuckie that she intends to keep. It’s the one way she said she can still be a mother to him.
“As long as his murder was unsolved, I would be his voice,” she said of her promise. “There is someone out there who knows what happened that night.”
She wants to keep Chuckie’s story out before the public in hopes of bringing his killer to justice. But after 24 years, recounting what happened cannot help but open old wounds.
“It’s just something I have to do as his momma,” she said. “I’ve already done the hardest thing in the world to bury my son. Anything else I can do, even though it hurts, I can do it.”
So Miller relives once again that cool Monday night when a neighborhood girl raced to their home on Burns Drive to say Chuckie was lying by his bicycle. Miller remembers running with her husband and youngest son in what seemed like slow motion. Her husband, Pete, reached his lifeless body first and stopped her from coming closer.
His brother, Greg Miller, 31, who owns a used car lot, also remembers. He was in the second grade.
A street light near what once was Roy and Rose’s restaurant illuminated the parking lot where a large crowd had gathered. There was an ambulance, police vehicles. Cathy Miller recalled the family being ushered to a spot alongside the fence as authorities set up a police perimeter.
At first, it appeared Chuckie was the victim of a hit-and-run until he was turned over, Miller said. A single bullet had entered the back of his head, severed the brain stem and exited through the nose. He died instantly.
Another woman, 45, of Warner Robins, also distinctively remembers that night. She and her brother may have been the last people to see Chuckie alive. With his killer still at-large, the woman said she did not want her name published to protect herself and her family from potential harm.
The woman, who was 21 then, said she was driving home along Burns Drive headed toward Russell Parkway after visiting a friend. She had her brother, then 13, and a friend of Chuckie’s, with her. They both saw Chuckie on his bicycle talking to a man inside an older white car.
As she concentrated on her driving, her brother looked back and saw Chuckie lying on the pavement. The white car was still there, the woman said. She said she figured Chuckie was playing around and fell off his bicycle. Worried about the lateness of the hour, the woman said she continued home. She has often questioned herself for not stopping. Then again, would she and her brother have been shot? She said she has often asked herself that. She recalled that she had the radio on and would not have heard the single shot.
The woman also recalled being taken to the crime scene several times, and she remembered being hypnotized two or three times for the development of an artist’s sketch of the man Chuckie was talking with. The sketch was later age enhanced. She also remembers how afraid she was. Would the man come after her, she recalled thinking. As she retold her story, the woman said she felt the old familiar fear begin to creep over her again.
“You’re scared, but you want to do everything you can to help,” she said. “I just can’t imagine being a mom and having to live all these years not knowing what happened to your child ... not being able to rest and know his killer has been found.”
Various theories have circulated in the community over the years, Miller said. Did Chuckie see a drug deal? Was he shot by a child predator as he attempted to flee? But the answers have not come, she said.
“We haven’t ruled out anything,” said Houston County sheriff’s Sgt. Ronnie Harlowe, who with Lt. Jon Holland, is investigating the slaying. “It’s an open case.”
Over the years, a $5,000 reward has been offered for the arrest and conviction of the killer. Nancy Grace, a Macon native, has aired Chuckie’s story on her nationally broadcast show on CNN’s Headline News. Other media outlets also have published or aired stories.
Every time Chuckie’s story is shared, his mom said she hopes that will be the time something breaks open the case or that his killer steps forward and comes clean.
“You’re talking about your child,” Miller said. “It’s something I go to sleep with and I wake up with. It never goes away.”
Anyone with information about the case, even if they think what they have to share couldn’t be important, is encouraged to contact sheriff’s investigators at 542-2085, Harlowe said.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.