Houston & Peach

From the Telegraph archives: 2006 story on 20th anniversary of Mauk's death

There's a little plaque on the wall in Cathy Miller's office that helps anchor her in the tidal wave of grief that still sweeps over her on many days --- and especially on this day.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the death of her 13-year-old son Chuckie Mauk, who was shot in the back of the head while riding his bicycle from the neighborhood grocery store where he'd gone to get a pack of gum for school the next day.

The plaque says, "Faith is confidence in God when you don't understand."

"I look at it a lot because I still don't understand," the 55-year-old clerical coordinator for a Warner Robins obstetrician said as she shared her story from her office filled with reminders of her faith and mementos of her precious son.

It was a cool Monday night when a neighborhood girl raced to the family of four's home at 206 Burns Drive to report Chuckie was lying by his bike in a shopping center parking lot that was once anchored by a grocery store, bowling alley and restaurant at Burns Drive and Russell Parkway.

The shopping hub was a popular hangout among young people.

Miller said she figured Chuckie had fallen off his bicycle. But she became more alarmed as she raced to him. She recalled feeling like she was running in slow motion --- everything was in slow motion.

As she neared the end of her two-block dash, Miller saw a crowd of people surrounding the still body of her son. Her husband, Pete, Chuckie's stepfather, stopped her, pleading with her to look away.

Her gregarious seventh-grader --- who never met a stranger, loved baseball and football, enjoyed riding the bicycle and motorcycle he built himself, who was fearless on the ultralight airplane he flew on visits with his dad, and whose eyes were as blue as the sky --- was dead on the pavement.

"I knew ... because of all of the blood ... and he was so still," Miller said. "That was my last vision of him."

Capt. Robert Clark of the Houston County Sheriff's Office, who heads the criminal investigation division, was a deputy on patrol back then. He was one of the first police officers on the scene.

"The call came in as a hit-and-run," Clark said.

A couple out walking heard what they thought was a car backfiring and saw a white car moments later speeding out of the shopping center. The couple found Chuckie face down by his bicycle in a pool of blood.

When Harry Enckler, who was chief of investigations for the sheriff's office, arrived, he knew immediately that he wasn't dealing with a hit-and-run. There was just too much blood, he said.

When the boy's body was lifted into the ambulance and examined, Enckler's fears were confirmed. A single bullet had entered the back of the head, severed the brain stem and exited through the nose. "He was dead before he hit the ground," said Enckler, who's retired and lives near Gatlinburg, Tenn.

Other witnesses would report that Chuckie had been seen talking with a man in a white car before he was shot about 8:15 p.m. behind Roy and Rose's Restaurant, a few feet from the intersection of Burns Drive and Russell Parkway.

Neither the man nor the white car was ever located. No one could be found who actually saw the shooting. The bullet, which could have traveled a long way and easily landed on a roof and rolled into a gutter, was never found.

The killing, which shook the community to its core, remains unsolved today.

"You've got to find out who was in the white car," said Enckler, who pursued Chuckie's killer over the years without success. "That's the individual that has the key to this case, in my book."

Unsolved murder cases are never closed.

"There's something there," said Sgt. Ronnie Harlowe, the sheriff's investigator now assigned to the boy's killing. "We just have to keep looking. We just have to keep digging. Someone somewhere knows something and we'd like that person to come forward."

That's the hope driving Chuckie's mother, who is quick to share her story with anyone who is willing to listen.

"I can't let it go," Miller said. "I have to have answers. I've got to find out why it happened. He was my son. I owe it to him."

The more exposure, the greater the chance that someone will remember something, no matter how seemingly insignificant, that will give investigators the break they need and the answers to the questions that haunt a community touched by the boy's murder.

Miller found a friend in Nancy Grace, a Macon native who is scheduled to air Chuckie's story tonight on her nationally broadcast show on CNN's Headline News. "Nancy Grace" airs live at 8 p.m. and replays at 10 p.m. and 1 a.m.

Miller was asked what she would want to say to her son's killer. "Just come forward," she said. "Do the right thing. Give the family closure.

"Do the right thing for you. How hard this must be for you to carry this all these years. If it doesn't mean anything to you, God have mercy on your soul."

Anyone with any information related to the slaying is asked to contact the sheriff's office at (478) 542-2085 during business hours and (478) 542-2080 after hours.

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