Victims and the Families Left Behind
Here are the stories behind some of Lakeland’s unsolved murders. We’ll be adding more stories here during 2014.
Karen Badger & Robert April
Opening the brown cardboard boxes is like traveling back in time. Inside is a lot of empty space and a few small files filled with yellowing paper and faded ink. The cases are two of the Lakeland Police Department’s oldest unsolved homicides.
Almost 16 years ago – two days before Christmas 1998 – that one bullet hit 23-year-old Johnnie Morris in the head, killing him by the time police arrived.
It was just before dawn on a Thursday almost 31 years ago. Shad Jenkins, 65, had his car jacked up under the carport next to his house at 1137 W. 10th St. in Lakeland. It wasn’t uncommon for him to stay up into the early morning hours working on his latest project. That’s what he was doing that night, Nov. 3, 1983.
Jimmy Hughes Jean
Jimmy Hughes Jean, 26, was shot about 4 p.m. on Nov. 22, 2010, during a fight on the 800 block of West Fifth Street, Lakeland police said.
Lakeland police found Fredrick “Skip” Henderson dead from a single gunshot wound to his back shortly after midnight on April 27, 1991, in the yard of a house at 1224 N. Virginia Ave.
During the past 11 years, Julia Waters has heard numerous stories about why someone shot her 36-year-old son to death.
Lakeland police said Evans was sitting on a bucket outside an apartment at 512 W. Magnolia St. about 7:30 p.m. when two men attempted to rob him.
The small city he moved from, Springfield, Mass., has a history of violent crime that was only getting worse, his daughter Priscilla Copeland said. Walters wanted to get away from that. He wanted to live somewhere safe.
It was shortly before 3 a.m. June 4, 2007, when at least two men broke into Davis’ house at 2934 Kathryn Ave. They came in through the kitchen wearing masks and grabbed her from her bedroom, she said. She tried to yell for help, but they covered her mouth.
They were almost perfect for one another, Sheila Drake said, and she’s lucky God gave her the past two decades to spend with such a loving man, a good-hearted and supportive husband. She just wishes they had more time together.
Linda Cook Thames remembers every detail of the night she found out her 30-year-old son Eric had been shot and killed. “He was a hard-working young man, and he had a lot going for him,” she said. “He wasn’t an angel, but he was my angel. He was my pride and joy.”
More than six years later, even the smallest thing can bring up memories of January 4, 2008: the day the Curtis family lost a brother, a son, an uncle, a best friend.“People always tell you to remember the good things, but when you try to you have that big spot right there that takes you back,” James Curtis said.
Erin Taylor went through a rough patch after moving to Lakeland at 16 to live with an aunt, but had been turning her life around. She went back to school, got a diploma and a job and was going to church. Then, at 22, she was found dead in her apartment. She had been shot in the head.
Fadi ‘Vinny’ Abu-Khdair
Every day, Donna Jaber Abu-Khdair looks at her three children and wishes they would’ve had a chance to know their father. Fadi “Vinny” Abu-Khdair was shot to death late on Feb. 9, 2005, while working alone at the BP gas station and convenience store he owned.