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The Journal Gazette

Neighbors want answers in slaying

Quiet subdivision rocked by death of woman, 59, in home

– The day after Debra Jones was found slain in her house in a tranquil subdivision, her neighbors wanted answers – especially to one question.

"I'd like to know if it was random or if it was somebody she knew," said Jones' next-door neighbor, Patti Knuth. "If it's random, and you're just picking a house, that's when it can be scary."

Officer Chris Felton, a Fort Wayne police spokesman, could not answer that question Saturday, but authorities were able to confirm how Jones, a 59-year-old woman who lived alone, was killed. An autopsy showed that she bled to death because someone used a sharp object to injure her neck, according to the Allen County Coroner's Office.

Her death was the 30th homicide in the county this year, tying the total for 2012. By this time last year, 23 deaths in the county had been ruled homicides.

Born in Hicksville, Ohio, Jones served as the director of home health care at Lutheran Life Villages in Fort Wayne, worked for Mary Kay Cosmetics and belonged to the St. Vincent de Paul Parish, according to an obituary.

The discovery of Jones' body in her home at 5518 Myanna Lane, near St. Joe Center and Maplecrest roads, came after her relatives became worried because they could not reach her. On Friday afternoon, Jones' daughter went into the house to check on her mother. She encountered her mother's body on the floor and a significant amount of blood, Felton said.

Felton said detectives do not have any suspects and have not determined a motive. He did not know if police found evidence of a break-in or if anything had been stolen from the home.

Felton could not say what sort of weapon was used to harm Jones, and as far as he knew, no weapons were found at the scene. He said that judging by police reports, no neighbors saw or heard anything unusual.

Police have not shared much information about the case, a fact that irks Karen Foster, who was walking her dog Saturday along Myanna Lane.

"I hope they let us all know what really actually happened, so you don't have to be concerned," she said.

Despite the uncertainty, Foster did not believe the homicide was random.

"I don't think anybody's coming around killing people around here," she said. "We've never had anything like this ever happen."

Mindy Long, who works as a nurse at a nearby home, agreed with Foster.

"I think it's more of a personal vendetta," Long, 21, said. "It's a terrible, terrible thing."

Long and Foster did not know Jones, but her next-door neighbor, Patti Knuth, was friendly with her and spoke to her on several occasions.

"We'd see each other out in the yard and stand and chitchat," she said. "She was a very sweet lady."

Knuth said Jones moved into the neighborhood in 2009.

She described her as a quiet woman who kept normal hours. She said Jones was divorced and that her daughter and son, both adults, were often seen at the house.

Brandon Porter, who lives across the street, said the news of Jones' death shocked him.

The 16-year-old said the subdivision is typically safe but that his family is now taking extra precautions.

"We're locking our garage door pretty much all day, and we've never done that before," he said.