The stove was on.
Flames were eating away at the upstairs of Yvonne Jackson’s two-story duplex unit on Patterson Street.
Firefighters found her dead in an upstairs bedroom. The 41-year-old woman had been burned, but she also had been shot in the head.
Jackson’s death was one of 24 homicides investigated in Macon and Bibb County in 2012.
The cases included the deaths of three children allegedly killed by family members.
Another case was ruled a justifiable homicide after detectives found a man was shot by a homeowner in self-defense.
The slayings were spread across the city and county, touching neighborhoods both accustomed to violent crime and those shocked that a neighbor could be killed just down the street.
Jackson’s murder is one of four cases that hasn’t yet resulted in an arrest -- three in the city limits and one in unincorporated Bibb County.
It’s not been for a lack of effort by police or from her family applying pressure that her killer has not been brought to justice.
Macon police Maj. Charles Stone said solving the case has proven especially difficult because detectives haven’t been able to ferret out leads using criminal history records or Jackson’s connections with other people.
In the months following the March 30 slaying, Jackson’s mother, Ruby Jean Stephens-Mosley, called police many times asking for information about the case, said Allen Stephens, one of Jackson’s cousins.
Although Stephens-Mosley, 60, died in October from complications associated with an illness, Stephens said she “grieved herself to death.”
She had been in remission, up and on her feet, when Jackson died.
But as the months went on, her condition worsened.
“This case not only took my cousin’s life, it took my aunt’s life as well,” Stephens said.
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Of the homicides in 2012, 21 people were killed in the Macon city limits and three were slain in unincorporated Bibb County.
While the number in Macon nearly doubled from 2011, when 13 people were killed in a dozen incidents, 2011 was a record low year.
The city has averaged about 21 homicides each year for the past 19 years that records have been kept. The most were recorded in 1994 when the city had 33 killings, according to police statistics.
Homicides in unincorporated Bibb County decreased by one in 2012. The sheriff’s office has averaged about three homicides a year since 2006. The most were recorded in 2007, when there were eight.
In Macon, police noted that the motives behind some of the slayings they investigated in 2012 differed from those they typically see.
“It’s not like we had 21 cases where 21 people were having problems with 21 other people and they got mad and killed each other,” said police Capt. Michael Schlageter. “It wasn’t like you made me mad and I shot you.”
Cases with other-than-typical motives included Jackson’s and the suffocation deaths of Gail Spencer and Christine Cook. Both women lived in a neighborhood nestled off Riverside Drive and Pierce Avenue.
Spencer, a 58-year-old legal secretary, was suffocated in her Stinsonville Road home Oct. 5 as part of an embezzlement scheme allegedly perpetrated by a co-worker and three others.
Cook, 87, was killed inside her General Lee Road home less than two weeks later. Police have said they found Cook’s jewelry box ransacked. A man who had done yardwork for her in the past is charged with murder in her death.
In Jackson’s case, she was a woman who went to work and church, but pretty much kept to herself, Schlageter said.
Many of the 2012 homicides happened in someone’s home.
Police made strides to be proactive in 2011 and 2012, preventing nightclubs from staying open after hours, taking weapons off the streets and tasking officers with patrolling neighborhoods to increase their visibility, Stone said.
While police can address problems that might spawn violent crimes at businesses, it’s impossible, of course, to keep watch over every home in town, Schlageter said. The number of homicides each year is “unpredictable.”
Macon police had an 86 percent homicide solve rate in 2012, well above the 65 percent national average for 2011, Schlageter said.
Stone said he’s been impressed by detectives’ hard work.
“They are able to take little bits of information and run with it and follow up on leads,” he said. “For a small group of dedicated folks here, they did a real good job.”
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The four unsolved homicides have something in common: Authorities believe they could solve the cases if someone came forward, including the June 19 shooting of Shar’Bora Yan’Kita Shy’rell Daniels in Bibb County.
Bibb sheriff’s Capt. Mike Smallwood said someone knows who fired the shot that passed through the walls of the Brookhaven Road house and struck the 18-year-old as she sat on her brother’s bed.
“We just haven’t found that person yet who can tell us,” he said. “We’re still working on it.”
In the city, police haven’t made arrests in the July 14 beating of Albert Jelks III that led to his death five days later or the Aug. 4 fatal shooting of Robbie Moye Jr.
Jelks, 51, was found unconscious in the parking lot outside The Sleep Shop, 3252 Vineville Ave., where he worked.
Moye, 23, of Singleton Street died when he was taken off life support a day after being shot in the head at a Unionville park at May and Zinnia avenues.
“That’s just two found bodies and no one has come forward,” Schlageter said of the Jelks and Moye cases.
Police want to talk with anyone who knows if someone had a grudge against Jelks or Moye, and anyone who might have heard rumors or someone talking about the killings.
In Jackson’s case, police want to talk with a man spotted carrying bags and walking in an alley between Napier Avenue and Patterson Street on the morning of the fire.
It would be helpful to talk with the man, anyone who saw him -- or knows his identity, Schlageter said.
Police also want to talk with anyone who saw Jackson in the 24 hours before her death.
None of the unsolved homicides from 2011 or 2012 are considered cold cases.
“We don’t solve them all,” Stone said, “But we keep trying.”
* * *
Allen Stephens remembers the Friday when he and other family members went to his cousin’s burning duplex, located off Napier Avenue.
“We were just thinking it had been a house fire,” he said.
Soon, authorities broke the news that the Army veteran of Desert Storm and divorced mother of three had been slain.
The family wanted to see what was left of Jackson’s body and go into her apartment, but they couldn’t because of the ongoing investigation.
For Stephens, it was hard to believe that his joke-cracking cousin who loved shoes could be dead.
Her death became real when he viewed her body, after the autopsy, to make a family identification.
“It was enough. ... I knew it was her,” he said.
In the months that followed, police told Jackson’s family that a lot of evidence had been destroyed in the fire, but they still had leads.
Stephens doesn’t want police to forget his cousin -- or stop looking for her killer.
“I don’t want them to give up,” he said.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.