Bullets split the night behind the Blue Moon Package Store. The shots in the 2 a.m. darkness of April 14 — more than a dozen of them, and perhaps twice that many in all — rocketed up Mason Street from the back side of the liquor store.
Mason Street, lined with 40 or so houses, runs north and south a block east of Pio Nono Avenue, central Macon’s main drag. Mason Street begins down beside a Captain D’s at Harris Street, just up from Eisenhower Parkway, one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares, where the Westgate Mall was once a crown jewel of commerce.
Further north on Mason Street, where houses are worth $36,000 on average, it is intersected by Ell and Harris streets. A block north of Harris, it crosses Carroll Street behind the Blue Moon, at the spot gunfire erupted.
It was there, on a curbside at a vacant lot beneath an oak tree, that Marlon Jermaine “Bobo” Williams fell dead in the wee hours of that Saturday morning. The police do not believe Williams, who was a cook at downtown’s Rookery restaurant, had been an intended target. Rather, the police have said, Williams happened into the hail of bullets on his way home from a lotto mart.
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Another one of the bullets zipped through the bedroom where a 14-year-old girl was sleeping. Her house faces the side of Jaffary’s Food Court, the convenience store Williams had just left. A couple of doors away, where Mason Street crosses Anthony Road, not far from a Church’s Chicken, the fusillade woke a retired roofer named Willie King.
King, 74, figures whoever was doing the shooting was “nuts.”
“I stayed in bed,” he said.
The surrounding neighborhood there west of Interstate 75 comprises the southeastern corner of Unionville, which is one of Macon’s most violent-crime-torn communities. The side streets that parallel Mason are named for American presidents: Adams, Monroe, Lincoln.
Two blocks north of Willie King’s place at Anthony Road, Mason Street dead-ends at Ann Leonard’s back yard. Leonard, 75, a retired P.E. teacher, had grown up there on Vining Circle. The house had belonged to her parents.
A wooden privacy fence behind the place, shrouded by a 7-foot hedge of shrubs, serves as Mason Street’s northern terminus.
But one of the bullets, one that in an arc had screamed roughly 1,000 feet, the better part of a quarter mile from the gun that fired it, paid that barrier no mind. The bullet flew past the front steps of the St. Luke A.M.E. Church in back of Leonard’s house and straight through the glass in her kitchen window. She was found dead later that day on the kitchen floor, a bullet wound in her side, under her arm.
In her death and in Williams’ slaying, the killing bullets are thought to have come from a 7.62x39-millimeter cartridge, the most common ammunition for AK-47-style weapons.
Many of the lower-cost guns that fire such rounds are not very accurate.
But the rifles have one thing going for them: They look baaad.
And on the street, that can be what matters most to the troublemakers who tote them.
For blasting wildly, randomly and unleashing fury, they are an excellent choice, too, because the ammo they shoot can be had dirt-cheap.
A box with 20 rounds goes for about $7.
At a Tuesday news conference, Bibb County Sheriff David Davis spoke of Leonard’s death and the “foolishness” of it.
Of the city’s 500 or so homicides in the past quarter century, Leonard’s slaying is as improbable as they come, the longest of long shots.
Stray bullets have on occasion claimed victims here. But to die at the hands of an unseen killer, one more than 300 yards away?
“A retired schoolteacher minding her own business in her own house,” the sheriff said, “it shocks the conscience.”
‘He walked right past us’
The first sign of trouble came at Jaffary’s Food Court.
Footage from security cameras there shows that it was seconds before 2:20 a.m. when a man with a gun walked in. To the bandit’s left, between the front door and the beer coolers, a few people were playing video poker machines.
Jaffary’s, which sits next to Church’s Chicken at the corner of Pio Nono, used to be known as the Wash Pot and Grocery back when it also housed a coin-operated laundry. In the late 1990s, the Wash Pot was the leading seller of lottery tickets in all of Middle Georgia. During the first five years of the lottery, the store sold more than $5 million worth of tickets, more than three-fourths of them for the popular Cash 3 contest.
The sheriff on Tuesday described the place as “a casino that happens to be modeling itself as a convenience store.”
But Tameka Moore, Marlon Williams’ common-law wife, says Williams was not there to play the machines that night. He was there watching her play.
When the robber stalked in, Moore says it was as if the bandit was looking for someone in particular, someone who wasn’t there. But when he apparently didn’t spot the person he was hunting, the gunman robbed someone at a game machine in the corner.
“He walked right past us,” Moore, 40, said, adding that the bandit told the rest of the people inside to hit the floor.
Seconds later, Williams can be seen on camera ducking out of the store, heading east toward Mason Street, likely bound for his house on Lincoln Street a few blocks away.
Less than 30 seconds after that, video shows people taking cover from a barrage of gunfire in the middle of Mason Street, a barrage that Williams had unwittingly wandered into, investigators have said.
Moore wonders if the shooter or shooters outside might have been the robber’s getaway crew, that perhaps they were “covering” him, or that perhaps those firing mistook Williams for the person the bandit was after.
Detectives have not divulged much, but on Friday they arrested Devantae Lajerian Lundy, 23, and charged him with murder in the deaths of Leonard and Williams.
‘A fearless person’
As spent shell casings began littering Mason Street, Ann Leonard was in her kitchen three and a half blocks north.
A few hours earlier at 11:30 p.m., her younger brother, Ronald, had called. Leonard was planning to visit Atlanta the next day, where some of her relatives live. About midnight, her next-door neighbor, Yolanda Jackson, had spoken to Leonard, who lived alone.
Leonard’s TV was on. Some in her family wonder if she might have been awakened a couple of hours later by her dog, a mutt named Tappy.
“She’s crazy about animals,” her sister-in-law, Carline Leonard, said.
Carline Leonard, 73, the widow of Ann Leonard’s brother, Alfred, said Tappy was known to “complain.”
She thinks Ann might have gone to the kitchen to pacify the dog.
“He was demanding,” Carline Leonard said.
It is also possible that Ann heard shooting from down the road and went in the kitchen to peek that way.
“She was a fearless person,” Carline Leonard said.
Sometimes Ann's friends worried about her returning home late at night, parking her Nissan Murano in the back yard under a metal-roofed carport.
Linda Bivins, one of Ann’s closest friends, a former educator herself, says Ann kept a tidy back yard and was a meticulous landscaper. From ground level, her fence and hedges at least partially blocked a not-so-appealing view to the south.
One day when they were out on the lawn, Bivins, 66, once told Ann, “I didn’t know you were backed up to this.”
Ann had recently told Bivins about hearing gunshots nearby.
“It’s getting really, really bad,” Ann had said.
‘God’s gonna shine the light’
A decade ago when Oprah Winfrey visited Macon, Marlon Williams was a cook at the Fish N’ Pig restaurant on Lake Tobesofkee when the star dropped by for dinner.
Williams, a father of four who graduated from Central High School in 1993, also worked as a landscaper. Years ago, he drove a bread truck for the old bakery on Montpelier Avenue and worked in the kitchen at Polly’s Corner Cafe. More recently he was a cook at the Rookery on Cherry Street and at the famed H&H Restaurant.
“Just a supremely talented guy,” Matthew Newton, general manager of the Rookery, said of Williams. “You have to be pretty skilled at what you do, and Bobo was one of the best around. … He always came in with a great attitude. He was one of those guys who kept his calm even in a high-stress environment.”
Moore, his common-law wife of more than a decade, said soul food was Williams’ specialty. His baked chicken and dressing were her favorites.
“Bobo was a hard worker, a good father,” she said. “He wouldn’t harm a fly. He was a very positive guy.”
On Thursday, while Moore planned a vigil at the site of Williams’ death and also prepared for his Saturday funeral, she wondered about his killer.
“I’ll be glad when they get them, whoever did this,” she said. “I know God’s gonna shine the light on who did it.”
Seventeen hours passed before anyone knew Ann Leonard was dead.
Her friends and family called and knocked on her door. She didn’t answer. Finally, about 7:30 Saturday evening, firefighters shoved their way in through her back door and found her body.
Leonard’s steep-roofed, brick-veneer home with a chimney flanking its front entry, was built in 1955. It had been her home as a teen, and after her parents died, Leonard, who never married or had children, moved back in.
A 1954 newspaper ad described Vining Circle, where three-bedroom houses were listed for $8,500, as an “exclusive and restricted neighborhood … Macon’s finest section for colored.” At the time, the street and those in much of surrounding Unionville were unpaved.
Vining Circle, now home to about three dozen houses, is a horseshoe. Both ends of it touch Pio Nono Avenue just south of Cirrus Academy, the former Hamilton Elementary School, a block below Mercer University Drive.
Leonard’s father had been a steward on ships in the Great Lakes that hauled iron ore to make steel. She played saxophone in the marching band at Ballard-Hudson High School. She went on to graduated from Fort Valley State College and became a P.E. teacher in Jones County and then in Macon. She also studied at the Barbizon School of Modeling.
“Ann was strikingly beautiful,” her friend, Linda Bivins, said.
Leonard enjoyed planning parties and playing games with the children of her nieces and nephews, tumbling on the floor and rolling around with them.
Carline Leonard, her sister-in-law, said Ann was “a youthful 75-year-old. … You would think she was 35.”
The field days she planned at Brookdale Elementary were legendary, Bivins said, recalling relay races and tug-of-wars that some of their former pupils still remember.
In 1996, Ann was interviewed for a newspaper story about children and cussing. Young people, it seemed, were using foul language more and more and a Telegraph reporter asked her about it.
“I guess kids pick it up in their neighborhoods and from their parents sometimes,” Ann said. “We don’t talk that way at school, and we’re real adamant about it.”
Five days after Ann’s death, Bivins was trying to think of what to say at her Saturday funeral. Bivins had known Ann for more than 40 years. Bivins was still moved at how Ann, when she was teaching, always kept a supply of deodorant and a stash of clean clothes for schoolchildren who lived in homes where their clothes didn’t always get washed.
The two also shared inside jokes about the funny things kids used to say in class.
“But she didn’t put up a lot of foolishness,” Bivins recalled. “She was very disciplined. And the kids loved, loved, loved going to P.E.”
Bivins, meanwhile, struggled to make sense of her friend’s death.
“For somebody like Ann, who has given so much to so many children, for her to die like she had to die, it’s just incredible,” Bivins said, “I’m numb and devastated.”
Late Friday when Bivins heard there had been an arrest in the shooting, she pondered what Ann might have to say about the young man in jail.
“All this running around and shooting up, I don’t know what Ann would say,” Bivins said. “But she still had a sense that we needed to do something to save some of these children. If not all of them, at least some of them.”
Bivins thought some more.
“I think,” she went on, “that Ann would say, ‘Don’t give up on the children.’ ”