This Page is Jennifer Ross Update 2:
January 7, 2006
- No Suspects as Yet In Jennifer Ross
- But, Finally an Article is Written
about Black Crime in Savannah -
See Comment Below
Posted on Sat, Jan. 07, 2006
- Debutante slaying shows ugly side of picturesque Savannah
Associated Press, Savannah, Georgia
In manicured bushes on Orleans Square,
where a fountain bubbles beneath gnarled oaks, two bouquets of roses lay
near the spot where a debutante fell to a mugger's bullet before dawn on
A robber shot 19-year-old Jennifer Ross a few hours after she danced
with her father at Savannah's Christmas Cotillion, her formal
introduction as a woman of society in Georgia's oldest city. She died
New Year's Day at the hospital where her father is a senior executive.
The shooting in Savannah's downtown historic district has outraged the
local elite, with a group of prominent business leaders demanding a
fierce crackdown on crime.
It has also put a spotlight on something residents of antebellum homes
on the city's famous squares know too well, but visitors often are
surprised to learn - Savannah's most picturesque places mask an
underbelly of crime.
"It's such a peaceful city with the Spanish moss hanging down. It's
alluring is what it is," said Dian Brownfield, a former president of the
city's Downtown Neighborhood Association. "I think people just can't
imagine any violence happening in a city like Savannah."
The murder of Ross, who had been studying international business at
Mercer University in Macon, was the 29th slaying reported by
Savannah-Chatham County police in the past year. None of the others
provoked such an outcry.
In the week after Ross' death, influential business owners, bankers and
real estate brokers met at the Chamber of Commerce demanding action.
Angry e-mails swamped the mayor's inbox. Officials swiftly ordered
sheriff's deputies, normally limited to guarding the courthouse and
county jail, to augment police patrols on the streets. No one has been
arrested in the killing.
During Ross' funeral at St. John's Episcopal Church on Thursday, the
pews filled quickly and more than 100 mourners stood silently around the
steps outside until pallbearers carried her casket out.
"It's just so senseless," said Ross' uncle, Adger Ross. "I think
Jennifer represents the everyman scenario, it could have been any of us.
Here we had a 19-year-old girl, the world was at her fingertips."
Others say the Ross family's social standing fired up a wealthy and
powerful constituency rarely touched by violence. Ross' father, Rusty
Ross, is a senior vice president and attorney for Memorial Health
University Medical Center.
"Where the hell have they been all this time?" was the immediate
response of Mayor Otis Johnson as the City Council met last week.
Johnson, Savannah's second black mayor, has made curbing crime a
priority since taking office two years ago. He's held town meetings,
publicly accused other black leaders of apathy, and issued a 2005
task-force report criticizing police for setting low crime-fighting
goals and having too many officers behind desks, not on the streets.
Local business leaders, the mayor says, remained largely silent until
"They're too intelligent to be clueless," Johnson said. "They had more
important things to commit their time to. Now it has come home to roost
in their backyard."
Interim Police Chief Willie Lovett, in his first week in charge after
Chief Dan Flynn retired last year, has proposed aggressive patrols of
public housing projects bordering the city's historic district.
Meanwhile, he's trying to fill more than 50 vacancies in his 580-officer
Few murders occur in the downtown district, which draws about 6 million
tourists a year who marvel at Savannah's 19th Century mansions and
But street robberies are common. After dark, the district's
magnolia-lined sidewalks become a magnet for muggers, often armed with
guns. Savannah had 656 robberies in 2004, more than half the 1,105
violent crimes the city reported to the FBI that year.
More people get robbed in the historic district than any part of
Savannah, according to Daniel Lockwood, a criminal justice professor at
Savannah State University who studies local crime patterns by mapping
What makes the city's most celebrated area so dangerous, Lockwood says,
is it's location. The historic district, roughly 2.5 square miles, is
bordered by housing projects and low-income neighborhoods.
"You could almost say the historic district is surrounded by places
where people live who are more likely than others to commit violent
crime," Lockwood said.
Savannah posted a higher murder rate, 17.7 slayings per 100,000
residents in 2004, than any of Georgia's seven metropolitan cities other
than Atlanta. Its rate was more than double that of Charleston, S.C.,
another historic Southern city of similar size.
Other slayings have haunted Savannah's historic district. A mugger
fatally shot Gail Vasilkioti, 56, of New York in the back outside an inn
while she was vacationing in September 1999. Her killer was sentenced to
life in prison in 2003.
In 2004, Army Capt. Scott T. Corwin, 27, was gunned down on the street
next to Monterey Square near his downtown apartment. Residents who
rushed to his aid remain frustrated that his killer was never caught.
They continue to see lesser crimes right outside their homes.
"There is male prostitution on our square probably every night," said
Mills Flemming, whose home sits on Monterey Square. "When the bars let
out at 3 a.m., drunk people usually walk in, hollering and screaming.
Sometimes fights break out."
Anthony Hernandez, who rents an apartment on the square, was mugged at
gunpoint downtown a month after he watched Corwin dying in the street.
"I often feel safer walking around San Juan, which is a drug haven, at
night than I do in Savannah," said Hernandez, a financial analyst whose
family is from Puerto Rico. "I had a gun pulled on me, in my face, all
for $48 and a cell phone. It was at 8:30 at night."
The Christmas Cotillion that Ross attended Dec. 23 on Savannah's
downtown riverfront "should have been a highlight of her life," her
uncle said, remembering his niece in her white gown being presented to
Afterward, Ross kept the celebration going with friends at City Market,
a popular downtown cluster of restaurants, bars and nightclubs. In the
wee hours of Christmas Eve, Ross and three friends headed off in search
of a taxi.
At about 3 a.m., after passing through nearby Orleans Square, three men
emerged from the shadows. One struck Ross' friend Bret Finley in the
head and demanded his wallet at gunpoint. Finley, 20, told police he
heard two shots. The attackers ran. Ross lay in the street, shot.
Her condition seemed to improve over the next week. Ross recovered
enough to talk with family and give a police interview. Then she died
suddenly New Year's Day after an artery wall weakened by the bullet
ruptured, said David Simons, a family spokesman.
"We certainly got an extra week with my niece due. In hindsight, it was
a godsend," Ross' uncle said. "It was an opportunity to express love
that too often we don't get around to."
Comment: This article appeared in
three Georgia and three South Carolina Newspapers, but nowhere outside
of the area where the killing took place. The reader will notice that
the killer is referred to as a mugger and a robber, but his race is not
given. If the killer had been any race but Black, one can be sure that
this would have been mentioned. One lesson that can be learned from this
murder is that you should not go wandering around a city where so many
Blacks live looking for a taxi. Stay where you are and call a taxi;
taxis are radio dispatched. You can even ask the driver to come in to
the restaurant, bar or hotel where you are and announce that he has
arrived. You must take every precaution possible in the current violent
society that we live in, especially when Blacks live in the area.