Patriarch's Death Still Haunts Lakeland Family
November 3, 1983
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.
The retired father of four — although he always said five including his stepdaughter — had a knack for fixing things, especially old cars, his son, Willie Jenkins, said.
And 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, Lakeland police said.
About 2 a.m., now-retired Lakeland police Sgt. Ron Bowling drove past Jenkins’ house while on patrol. He told detectives he saw Jenkins working underneath the car.
About four hours later, police said, a neighbor found Jenkins lying dead in the carport. He had been shot four times in the chest, thigh, hand and foot.
At the time, detectives said it appeared there was a struggle near Jenkins’ car.
There were bloodstains on the car and along a short path going into the carport, where his body was found, police said.
Officers conducted interviews and searched for a suspect, but didn’t find much. Now, 31 years later, Lakeland police detectives are still trying to figure out what exactly happened that night.
And as decades pass, solving the case is only getting harder.
“They did stuff so different back then,” Lakeland police Detective Scott Kercher said. “Now we take 200 pictures at a homicide. Back then they had maybe 20 Polaroids and that’s it.
“They didn’t collect evidence to preserve it for DNA because no one knew what DNA was. It’s frustrating.”
As part of a continuing series in partnership with the Lakeland Police Department, The Ledger is profiling many of the department’s 37 cold cases and unsolved homicides.
The detectives say they hope that by revisiting the files, and with a little help from the community, they might be able to solve more of the cases, and in turn, bring closure to many more families.
Willie Jenkins recently celebrated 30 years working as an officer with the Kansas City Police Department — the past eight of which he has worked as a homicide detective.
He said he planned on going into law enforcement before his dad was killed. And now working as a detective, Jenkins said his personal tragedy helps push him to work a little harder for every family.
He knows how it feels to have a loved one killed. And how it feels to wonder what actually happened that day. And how it feels to carry on with life without closure.
“I’ve always tried to bring some kind of closure to the families on the cases that I work,” Jenkins said. “Everybody wants to know what happened. I’ve always wanted to know what happened to my dad and wanted to have some closure.
“You never give up,” he said. “You hope that somewhere out there somebody will remember something that somebody said.”
When Ursela Taylor remembers her grandfather, she thinks of his smile.
She remembers his laugh and his kind spirit.
The way he was always willing to help someone in need.
And how no matter what, his family always came first.
Taylor was in elementary school when Jenkins was killed, but she remembers him well.
She said he was always there to help her family if they needed it.
He would drive Taylor and her sister to elementary school almost every morning.
“He would always do as much as he could to help us,” she said.
Jenkins’ wife died about a year before his death, but Taylor said he never lost his kind heart.
Willie Jenkins said his father was quiet and kept to himself most days. He retired as a mine worker from the International Minerals and Chemical Corp. and lived alone in the quiet house on Tenth Street.
He filled his spare time by watching his grandkids and fixing things around the house, his son said.
“He didn’t believe in letting anybody else do the work for him,” Willie Jenkins said.
Jenkins said he can’t imagine why someone would hurt his father.
And he’s hoping someone, after almost 31 years, will finally come forward with information to help detectives.
“Till this day I still wonder who did it and why they would leave my grandfather the way they left him,” Taylor said. “It’s always been in the back of my mind. Will it be solved?”
Stephanie Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-802-7550.