For weeks, Larcine Fleming has worn around her neck a dog tag with a photograph of her youngest son whom she calls “John John.”
No one has heard from 53-year-old John Lewis Fleming III of Jones Avenue for nearly two months.
Friday morning, the Fleming family learned Bibb County sheriff’s deputies believe the man known as “J3” was murdered.
“That’s my baby’s life,” Larcine Fleming said softly as she sat on the porch of the family home in east Macon.
Only nine of her dozen children are still alive, she said.
John Fleming’s body has not been found but a Warner Robins man is now in custody and charged with his murder.
Raymond Eugene Leverett, 36, of Silver Circle in Warner Robins, was booked into the Bibb County Law Enforcement Center at about 7:30 p.m. Thursday, according to jail records.
Members of the U.S. Marshal’s Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force and Warner Robins police assisted deputies in making the arrest at Leverett’s home.
John Fleming’s niece was not surprised.
“I knew from day one that he did that,” Courtney Ates said. “Uncle didn’t have no enemies.”
Leverett had been a frequent visitor to the Flemings’ white house in the Fort Hawkins neighborhood.
He was working on John Fleming’s black Caprice Classic that’s still parked in the driveway.
“He messed up everything,” Ates said. “He’s a shade tree mechanic.”
Leverett owed her uncle some money having to do with the car, she said.
The original missing person’s report issued by the sheriff’s office stated Fleming failed to pick up his girlfriend at her hair appointment on Sept. 18 and had not communicated with his family as he typically does everyday.
Days after Fleming disappeared, Bibb County sheriff’s deputies released photos of his white, four-door sedan.
Sheriff’s investigators recovered the car in early October off Waterville Road near Macon’s downtown industrial sector.
Bibb County sheriff’s commander of the criminal investigations division Capt. Shermaine Jones said information uncovered in the investigation has moved the case from “missing to murder.”
“Evidence has built up,” Jones said Friday morning.
Physical evidence found in Fleming’s car and cell phone records are part of what has turned the missing person’s case into a homicide investigation, sheriff’s investigators said.
The arrest warrant for Leverett, whose name is spelled Leverette on the warrant but without the ending “e” in the jail file, accuses him of being in the same place as Fleming on the day he went missing and later lying about being there.
Jail records show Leverett also was arrested Oct. 12 for giving false statements.
Leverett was “picked up walking from the location” where Fleming’s car was located, the murder warrant stated.
He is accused of changing his clothes and lying about what he was wearing that day.
Investigators also say Leverett reset his phone to factory settings.
The warrant also states investigators have reason to believe a gun linked to Leverett was in Fleming’s vehicle the date he went missing.
More arrests are possible as investigators search for a motive in the case and try to determine what happened to Fleming.
“There are still a lot of things to have to connect dots to,” Jones said.
As the phone kept ringing at the Fleming house Friday morning, family members gathered once they heard news of the arrest.
Courtney Ates wants the killer to know what was taken from them.
“This is a big family. You ain’t hurt one person, not just two or three. You took a lot from a lot of people,” she said.
Friday marked the 17th anniversary of the fatal shooting of Larcine Fleming’s grandson Keith Hill who was gunned down on Emery Highway in an unsolved homicide from 2001.
The news of John Fleming’s apparent death has dredged up all kinds of emotions for the family.
“This is like a tragedy,” Ates said. “It’s piling up on top of stuff.”
Larcine Fleming lost another child to natural causes earlier this year.
“Two losses in one year. It’s really tragic,” said Ates, who tried to keep her elderly grandmother from getting too upset. “All I want her to have is peace.”
Telegraph writer Joe Kovac Jr. contributed to this report.