It's quiet here, with the wind cresting over the hills and slipping between the stones in Westview Cemetery.
Her stone is covered in birthday reminders: balloons, a bunny vase of purple flowers, a couple of angel statues -- things Robin Reeves loved in life, things that memorialize the mother in death.
Hannah Neville (center) and her half-brother, Joseph Standridge, wait for the 2004 candlelight memorial service for their mother, Robin Reeves, to begin.
Across town, the yellow house is just as silent. Even the rush of traffic passing on Gordon Street can't shake the stillness. It's been closed up for four years now, shuttered by a death that shattered a community.
The black ribbon remains on the front door, just as the questions that wrap around the February 2001 murder.
This week, friends and family of Robin Reeves will gather in front of the house at 214 Gordon Street to remember the mother of two.
It's a vigil they plan to hold every year until the case is solved.
A Valentine's baby
When Robin Lee Reeves was born Feb. 14, 1966, one of the first thoughts her mother had was simple: "Now, I will always have a Valentine."
Thirty-nine years later, Faye Reeves never imagined that thought wouldn't hold true.
"She was always independent, even from a little, bitty thing," Ms. Reeves said, sitting on the blue loveseat in the den of her home. "She was always happy.
"And spoiled. ... She was spoiled."
Over the years, that independent streak wedged Robin away from her family. She was living in Augusta, just after graduating from Augusta Tech, but "Mumsy" and Dad were never farther than a phone call away.
"She knew we were always here for her," Faye said. "She knew our hearts."
Eventually, Robin moved back to Thomson, living in a duplex off Cobb Street. She got married a couple of times, with the second marriage to Spalding Neville producing Hannah and the third to Robert Standridge producing Joseph.
And as Robin's life changed, so did her relationship with her mother.
"Especially in the last few years, we got to be friends," Faye said, taking a tissue to wipe her cheeks. "She would open up to me more than ever.
"And in the last few months, she wanted to share everything. It was almost as if she knew or sensed something was going to happen."
February 27, 2001
Robin Reeves had made up her mind: Her difficult divorce had been final for months and she was ready to take her name back.
So on a Tuesday morning, she went to the McDuffie County Courthouse.
"She called me and was so relieved," Faye Reeves said. "She said 'Mumsy, I'm Reeves again. Yippee! Yippee! Yippee!"
In the months before, Robin had moved into her uncle's house that sat basically in the front yard of her parent's Gordon Street house.
It was a place where she could get away from the chaos of her world: Since her divorce from Robert Standridge had been final, he'd been making harassing phone calls and stalking his ex-wife. Eventually, Mr. Standridge was sentenced to jail for both crimes and is still on probation.
"It was like she was home again," Faye Reeves said. "It was a place where we thought she would be safe and could get on with her life."
At lunchtime on that Tuesday, Robin took her income tax return to Cato's and did some shopping.
She left work at Augusta Tech around 4:30 p.m. and stopped by Pam "Pam-Pam" Hadden's to pick up Joseph. From there, Robin and Joseph went to the pancake supper in celebration of Fat Tuesday at the Holy Cross Episcopal Church on Fluker Street.
When she got there, Robin flittered from table to table, laughing and smiling as she talked with people. But as the night wore on, she grabbed a seat at a table and watched her son run around the church.
For Butch Evans, part of the night was spent cooking pancakes. When his work was done, he took a seat next to Robin. They had gone to high school together -- he was a year ahead of her, but the same age and enjoyed hanging out with her class.
The two old friends talked for the first time in years, catching up on each others' lives.
They talked about the impending birth of Butch's first child, the importance of faith and Robin's hopes for her "new" life.
"She told me she'd changed her name back to Reeves," Mr. Evans said. "And I was hoping she would finally get her life going in the right direction."
At 7:30, Robin took Joseph and left, telling her mom, "Now, mama, you call me when you get home so I'll know you got in alright."
It was the last time her friends and family would see her alive.
When Faye got home at 8:30 p.m., her call to Robin went unanswered, as did several more in the next few hours.
Faye thought the lights in Robin's house looked different as she looked out the front window of her house, but that's OK, she told herself, Robin had had a long day and was just inside asleep.
Around 9:30 p.m., Hannah's dad called Faye and said the 3‡-year-old wanted to tell her mom goodnight, but Robin wasn't answering the phone.
So Faye walked down her driveway -- without her key to Robin's house -- and peeked in the front door. There was Joseph's bedroom door, slightly ajar -- just the way his mom always left it. And there was Robin's purse, undisturbed and on the floor, just like always.
"I didn't want to wake Robin up, so I went back home," Faye said.
Throughout the night, she'd glance at Robin's house out the front window, and it was the same.
February 28, 2001
The next morning started with a simple phone call. Faye called Augusta Tech to needle her daughter: "I was going to tell her, 'You told me to call you when I got home, but where were you all night?'"
But Robin never showed up for work, a friend said, and folks were starting to worry.
"Right then, my heart just started pounding," Faye said.
She dressed and walked back down to the house. She unlocked the front door and tried to push it open, but a safety chain blocked her progress.
So she went inside through a door off the screened porch, through the kitchen, through the dining room and around the corner.
And there was her daughter, lying crumpled on the hall floor of the house that everyone thought she'd be safe in.
"It was like part of me just died," Mrs. Reeves said.
She knelt beside her daughter, touched her arm and told her how much she loved her.
Robin was just four steps from Joseph's door. On the wall above where she lay, hung the pictures of family members, the 1926 Thomson High School diploma of Ollie Mae Jones, newspaper clippings about the plane crash death of Cadet Billy Wayne Jones and other keepsakes.
Robin was wearing the same clothes she'd had on the night before at church -- something Mrs. Reeves said tells her plenty about when the killer or killers struck: "Anyone who knew her will tell you the first thing Robin did when she came in was throw on a sweat suit."
And on the purple paisley comforter that covered Robin's bed sat the clothes from Cato's.
"I guess she was planning to try them on the night before," Mrs. Reeves said.
Faye knew she needed to call 911, and she really tried.
"I pounded that phone," she said. "My fingers just would not hit the right keys."
So she did the first thing that popped into her mind: she ran outside trying to find some help. She tried to flag down cars, but no one stopped.
Until Ray Cummings.
On his way home from the night shift at Temple that morning, Mr. Cummings saw a frantic woman running toward the street.
"The look she had on her face is something I'll never forget," he said.
He knew he had to stop.
"I'm a Christian and I believe in helping people," said Mr. Cummings, who attends Springfield Baptist Church, less than a mile from the crime scene. "That's the way I've been all my life. It's just by the grace of God that I stopped."
He never quite understood what Faye Reeves was trying to scream, but figured it out enough to call 911 and walk inside the house.
He saw Robin's body; Faye grabbed the baby, and they went back out in the front yard where Mr. Cummings stayed for more than an hour until police and friends had arrived.
"You just don't know how she was screaming," he said, pausing to catch his thoughts. "I still hear that."
Reality races in
The phone in Mike Love's office at Regions Bank on Hill Street rang about 9:15. It was Pam-Pam and something, she said, was terribly wrong at Robin's. Fire trucks, police and ambulances were there.
Mr. Love had known Robin for years, ever since he and a buddy rode their bikes to the Reeves' house on Harrison Road.
They'd lived in the same duplex on Cobb Street in the early 1980's -- him on one side, Robin and a friend on the other.
She'd helped him move to Ginger Hill Road in 1984.
"She came to visit when we moved and she got cold and borrowed three or four of my sweaters," he said. "She swore she'd return them. I haven't seen them since."
But she continued to lean on him as friend. He kept her checkbook balanced, helped with other day-to-day chores and became the godfather to Robin's children.
"It's an honor," he said. "It will always be. I'd take them right now if I had to."
So when the call came in that Wednesday, he asked a friend, Renee Wright, to accompany him to Robin's house.
"You know that feeling -- you just don't want to go by yourself," he said.
On the way, he thought something may have happened to Joseph.
Then he saw Faye.
"When I got to the house and I saw Faye standing beside the house by herself, I knew it was Robin," he said.
Flood of friends
News travels fast in McDuffie County, and by the time Faye Reeves was talked into going back to her house that day, people had started coming to offer their support. Her yard quickly filled with cars; her house quickly filled with friends.
Cancer had taken Mrs. Reeves' husband, Joseph, and brother, James, within 24 months of the morning her daughter was found.
But she was buoyed by friends and family that day, people she still leans on to this day.
"I'll never forget the overwhelming love people showed," she said.
With word still spreading around town, Butch Evans took a tear-filled call from his wife, Kelly, who grew up attending church with the Reeves family.
"It's so hard to believe because she was so ready to take the next step in her life and then she was just gone," he said.
When he could, Mike Love picked up the phone and called his wife, Krista. She came over and they set about getting things in order for the coming days.
"It was ... It was a long day," Mr. Love said.
Cracking the case
Gary Nicholson has only been on the job as Agent-in-charge of the Thomson office of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation a few months.
But he's already read the thick case file on Robin Reeves.
He knows police canvassed the neighborhood in the hours, days and weeks following the crime to find information. He knows the police looked at a couple of suspects, including Mr. Standridge. They searched his car, but never brought charges and say he has an alibi for the night of the murder.
It's cases like Robin's -- unsolved homicides -- that become personal, especially to the lead agents. And they are cases that never make it to the back burner, they are too important, too serious to let sit.
"It's very frustrating for the investigators involved not being able to bring those that are guilty to justice," Agent Nicholson said.
GBI policy prohibits Agent Nicholson from discussing specifics of the Reeves case because it is an ongoing investigation.
"It has not been forgotten," he said. "We are still working on it."
And the agents are not alone.
Shortly after the murder, Mrs. Reeves and family friends resolved to find out who was responsible for the murder and keep Robin's memory alive in the public.
Their quest started with a simple black ribbon tied around Faye's mailbox. Then one on Robin's front door. Eventually, with the help of Richards' Florist and Judy Garrison, the black ribbons were popping up everywhere.
The first year was marked by a memorial service, as was each following year.
And in the meantime, the frustration has set in.
Mr. Love admits he feels like an end to the case is no closer than it was four years ago. Faye wishes someone would tell her something, anything. Even seven-year-old Hannah is starting to wonder if the case will ever be closed.
"If Mommy's case was solved, you know what I'd do? I'd celebrate every single day," she said last week.
And Ray Cummings, the man who called police the morning Robin was murdered, wants some closure too. He visits with Faye every so often, even though it's a trip that breaks his heart on every occasion.
"We end up crying every time we see each other," he said. "I can just remember that look (Faye) had in her eyes.
"...It's just heartbreaking to have such a beautiful person leave this earth in that way. And whoever did it, I hope their conscience is eating them every day because I know it is eating me and her every day."
Keeping the dead alive
Mr. Love still has trouble talking about the woman he called a friend for years.
"Robin used to call me at work all the time to help her balance her checkbook or whatever," he said. "Every day, I want to pick up the phone and it'll be her."
For Faye Reeves, the reminders are constant also. She's battled for custody of Hannah and Joseph since Robin's death and currently both fill her home with laughter, shouts and toys.
Little Hannah is her mom-made-over -- except for the blue eyes.
"She acts like Robin. She laughs like Robin and she even has some of the same little gestures," Mrs. Reeves said.
As for Joseph, the five-year-old long ago shed the braces he wore early in life.
"Now, he's running around like any other kid in the world and she's missed out on all that," Mr. Evans said.
The dark-haired little boy doesn't remember the woman that died just a few feet from his crib.
And that's something Mrs. Reeves and Mr. Love want to change. That's why they are asking friends to share memories at Sunday's memorial service.
"Until this is solved, we want everyone to remember," Mr. Love said.
And until it is solved, Mr. Love will continue to sit on his back porch and talk to his best friend.
"There's one star, I call it Robin," he said. "It's the brightest one you can see, and I don't think it ever moves. It's like it is watching over us."
And here in Thomson a cadre of friends and family are watching over Robin Reeves' memory and praying that a killer is caught.
"It's a void that will never be filled," said Faye Reeves. "As time goes on, things just build up inside. You want answers so bad. You get so frustrated.
"We just ... We need justice."
HELP FIND A KILLER
A reward of $15,000 is being offered for the apprehension and prosecution of the person(s) responsible for the murder of Robin Lee Reeves.
Anyone who may have information on Robin's death is asked to contact Special Agent Patrick Morgan (GBI Thomson Office) at 595-2575 or the Thomson Police Department at 595-2166.
The community memorial service for Robin Reeves is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. in front of her home on Gordon Street.