In her last hours alive, Gwen Cole called her children, her ex-husband and her sister.
She was worried about her son. Alfonso Rose was her second-born, her baby.
He’d been involved in a shoot-out that afternoon about two miles from the east Macon home where Cole had lived since 2000. Police officers had come looking for him.
Just before 10 p.m. Feb. 4, 2008, Cole was on the phone with Rose’s father when someone else came to her door asking for their son.
Rose wasn’t there. She told the man to leave.
A family member says she didn’t open the door.
Moments later, the house on Bradstone Circle was sprayed with gunfire. Authorities estimated that as many as 70 shots were fired from an assault rifle.
The 55-year-old widow was shot multiple times but survived a ride to a hospital and was able to tell police what had happened. She died the next morning.
More than seven years later, murder charges still are pending against Benjamin Finney, 38, and Marlon S. Jackson, 36, the men accused in Cole’s death.
The Georgia Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a pretrial appeal Friday.
A murder trial won’t be held until the court issues its ruling, which might not come till next spring.
Although frustrated, Cole’s family is waiting for justice patiently.
Looking back on the escalating events that led to his mother’s death, Rose said “there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about it.”
He was helping clean up from a Super Bowl party Feb. 3 when Finney arrived and accused him of being part of a robbery.
To this day, Rose denies having anything to do with robbing Finney.
“It was a misunderstanding from the beginning,” he said.
He said Finney gave him a “crazy” look, struck him with a pistol and pushed him backward over a weight bench.
Before leaving, he snatched a necklace from Rose’s neck.
The next day, Finney called from a restricted number and said he knew “where my mama lives,” Rose said.
Jackson and another man also accused Rose of shooting up a house.
That afternoon, Rose drove to a friend’s house on Hawkinsville Avenue in east Macon.
He said he remembers that as he was getting off the interstate, something told him to turn around and go back home.
“That’s what sticks with me the most.”
Driving up to his friend’s house, Rose saw Finney, Jackson and others in the yard and tried to keep on driving. Finney ran out, trying to cut him off, and pointed a gun at him, he said.
A shootout ensued. No one was injured.
After hearing that Rose had been involved in a shooting, Cole and her sister, Sonja Russell, rode over to Hawkinsville Avenue to try to find out what had happened.
Rose said he last talked with his mother about 8 p.m. She’d called and given him a police detective’s number.
He called and arranged to turn himself in to authorities the next day, he said.
Cole’s daughter, LaTanya Rose, said her mother heard sometime that day of a plan to shoot at her house.
Talking on the phone, she asked if her mom was going to stay somewhere else until things cooled down.
She said, “I’m not running. This is my home,” LaTanya said.
‘FAMILY WAS IMPORTANT’
Born and raised in east Macon, Cole was the oldest of six siblings.
She was still in high school when her mother had a stroke.
Cole took up the slack, helping prepare meals and care for the other children, Russell said.
After graduating from Ballard-Hudson High School, she married in 1971. Within a year LaTanya was born.
She gave birth to Alfonso Rose nine years later.
A few years later, she became a dietitian and worked at area nursing homes.
Battling rheumatoid arthritis and later lupus, she retired from her last job as a dietitian at the Georgia War Veterans Home in Milledgeville.
Russell described her sister as a “people person” who “kept you laughing.”
She looked after elderly people in her neighborhood and was an active volunteer at her church.
Even after having surgery on both knees, she was an avid gardener.
“She loved her flowers,” LaTanya said.
LaTanya, who joined the Navy after high school, had a standing conversation with Cole each night at 7 p.m.
“Family was important to her,” Russell said.
‘I JUST SCREAMED’
The company that monitored Cole’s security system called Russell about 9:50 p.m. Feb. 4 saying an alarm was going off.
Russell called another sister who lived near Cole and asked her to have her husband go check it out.
When her brother-in-law arrived, he saw police cars and a fire truck.
Rose said he was taking a shower when someone banged on the bathroom door saying his mother’s house had been shot up.
LaTanya, living in Virginia, got calls from the police and her aunts.
“I just screamed and said ‘no’ and threw the phone across the floor,” she said.
After talking with police, Cole lost consciousness about an hour after the shooting.
She underwent surgery and died the next morning.
TRIAL IN 2016
Finney and Jackson were indicted on federal charges in June 2008.
Finney was sentenced to 70 months in prison after pleading guilty to possession of cocaine and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Jackson was sentenced to 28 months after he pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Both men, described by prosecutors as drug dealers, were charged with murder in Cole’s death in 2012 and indicted in 2013.
They’ve both been in jail since their 2012 arrests.
Jackson requested a bond at a Thursday hearing, but was denied.
His lawyer, Larry Fouche, has said his client denies any involvement in Cole’s death.
Attempts to reach Finney’s lawyer for comment last week were unsuccessful.
During the Thursday hearing, Fouche told the judge the evidence against Jackson involves video statements from federal inmates that appear to be “suspect by the way they’re done, the way they talk.” The prosecution has said Jackson talked about the killing while he was in prison, and fellow inmates have come forward.
Fouche said police found the fingerprint of another person on a plastic bag containing the murder weapon, but authorities let him go.
The gun was used in 2010 by another man, but police let him go as well, he said.
Wiretap recordings involved in the pretrial appeal that the Georgia Supreme Court is considering refer to a gun, but it’s not the one involved in the case, Fouche said.
Prosecutor Sandra Matson argued against a bond in the case, saying she anticipates being prepared to begin the trial in January, assuming the state’s high court has issued a ruling.
She said authorities have recently found that Jackson has had an illegal cellphone at the jail, and they conducted a wiretap to record his calls.
Jackson talked about guns involved in the case, Matson said.
PRAYING FOR PEACE
Several religious items -- a figurine of the Last Supper, a container of holy water, a large picture of Jesus on the cross and others -- were displayed in Cole’s living room and kitchen when bullets tore through the house.
The items were spared, except for a corner of the picture.
Russell said she considers that outcome a sign of God’s hand guiding the police investigation and prosecution.
“I knew that God had this. We had to be patient,” she said.
In the nearly eight years her mother has been gone, LaTanya said one of the hardest things to cope with has been not talking with her each night at 7.
She found herself becoming anxious as the hour came each day.
Also, anytime someone would ring the doorbell, she was afraid.
“I couldn’t answer my front door for years,” she said.
With help from counseling, she’s relying on her faith as she grieves and awaits whatever closure a trial might bring.
Although the court process has been frustrating, she said she wants prosecutors to do whatever it takes to prevent a potential conviction one day being reversed on appeal.
“I’m praying for my peace now,” she said. “I can’t wait on them to give me peace.”
Looking back, Rose said he didn’t think at the time that Finney and Jackson, two men who’d once been his friends, could harm his mother.
He said he’s frustrated at the slow pace of the court proceedings.
The events leading to his mother’s death remain fresh in his mind.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about the situation and what happened, that I don’t think about my mom,” he said. “She was a great mama to me, the best I could ever ask for.”
He said he misses talking with her and eating her sweet potato pie.
“When they took my mama, they took a big part of the family. They took the heart of our family,” he said. “If I could take everything back, I would.”
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398 or find her on Twitter @awomackmacon.