Rosemary McCoy could hardly believe it when she learned that Vonda was dead. The last time she saw Vonda, she had been alive and well, standing outside of the American Legion Hall demanding to Ronnie that he take her home. She had been upset when she saw Ronnie with Lucindy. That’s what she told police investigators just hours after they found Vonda’s body.
“I’ve known Vonda for nineteen or twenty years. We were friends,” said Rosemary, who still found it hard to believe that her friend was gone.
“When is the last time you saw her?” asked the investigator.
“We went out together to the American Legion Hall. We went out last Sunday and had fun, so we decided to go out together last night. It was a girl thing, you know?”
“Did you go with any men?” asked the investigator. “No, it was just us girls. My brother picked us up and dropped us off at the club. It looked like it was going to be a fun night until Vonda saw Ronnie dancing with Lucindy.”
“Well, she went over to him and grabbed him and started talking to him, not really arguing, but I could tell from the look on her face that it was really close to arguing,” she said.
“Did anything else happen between them?”
“No, at least not until we got outside. Outside, I told Vonda that my brother had come to pick us up, but she wouldn’t come. She said Ronnie was going to take her home. I said, ‘Vonda, it don’t look like he’s going to take you home; he’s with Lucindy,’” said Rosemary.
Rosemary knew that there might be a confrontation that night when she heard Vonda tell Lucindy to back off because Ronnie would definitely take her home.
Scenes like these were not unusual for Vonda and Ronnie. Other times when Ronnie went out with another woman and was faced with the prospect of angering Vonda, he ended up taking her home much to the annoyance of her competition. For Vonda, it was a reaffirmation that Ronnie was her man and that those who tried to invade her territory with him would always be the losers. Whenever she threw down the gauntlet, he responded in her favor every time.
“Come on, Vonda, I’ll get you home,” said Rosemary.
“Can you believe this shit?” Vonda said, pacing back and forth, imagining Lucindy with her arms around Ronnie and laughing at her. It was too much to even think about.
“Don’t let it get next to you girl, let’s go,” said Rosemary.
“He gon’ dump me right out here in the Hall parking lot in front of everybody?”
She told Rosemary to leave. Reluctantly, Rosemary left the American Legion Hall looking at Vonda as she clung to her belief that Ronnie would ultimately succumb to her demand and take her home. Lucindy would then see which of the two of them had a claim on his heart. When she challenged him in the past, she always won the standoff. She was sure she’d win this standoff, too. He always took her home. Always.
Sunday night was different.
“You are going to take me home,” she said to Ronnie.
“I told you, I’m not taking you home. You better catch you a ride or something.”
“I ain’t riding with nobody. You are going to take me,” Vonda said, folding her arms and rolling her eyes.
“Look, I have told you.”
Vonda looked at Lucindy, who was standing by, and could see the look of conquest in her eye. She turned to Lucindy and in a chilly voice, said, “You may as well get back and get in the car because this Negro is going to take me home tonight.”
It was the moment of decision. Vonda was prepared to tear into Lucindy if she stepped up or got in the way. Anger surrounded them like a thick fog. Vonda was angry enough to vent her rage on the vulnerable target in front of her. With her anger building by the second, Lucindy sensed Vonda would overpower her on sheer rage alone.
Lucindy backed away. There was no need for a confrontation. She knew Ronnie would be hers for the rest of the night.
A few minutes later, Ronnie drove off with Lucindy.
Vonda stared at the two of them in the car as it drove away. It was unbelievable that he would come to her house and seduce her one night and then speed off with another woman three days later, and do it in front of the whole world.
“He better not bring his stanky ass, back up in my house,” said Vonda, breathing heavily and pacing quickly on the rough pavement as Rosemary tried to calm her down.
Suddenly, she stopped pacing and stood still, and took a deep breath. On second thought, there was no real need for her to be disturbed. This was the scene he wanted to play in their little game of romantic “catch me if you can.” She was supposed to see that other women wanted Ronnie and then welcome him back into her arms. Having made his point, Ronnie would drop Lucindy off and then find a way back to get her. He would not allow her to walk home alone.
“I should have made her get in the car. I should have told her that we came together, and we’ll leave together. Maybe I should have just pulled her into the car,” said Rosemary, blaming herself.
“When did you realize that something was wrong?” asked the investigator.
“This morning. Ronnie called me and asked me had I seen Vonda. He said he was looking for her. Then his sister, Gail, called me. I started to get worried. If she walked down Powell Avenue anything could have happened. People be all boozed up, driving wild and stuff. I should have made her get in the car. That’s what I should have done.”
She thought about the wild way that drunks drive on Powell Avenue, either leaving the Hall or Nelson’s Drive-in. She feared that maybe someone had sideswiped her and knocked her into one of the wide, deep ditches that ran along both sides of the street. When she learned that Vonda was missing, her first instinct was to borrow her brother’s car and search along Powell Avenue, especially in the ditches. Then the call came that she was found dead.
Rosemary could not stop the tears from falling, wondering whether Vonda would be alive had she been more insistent. She knew Vonda’s weaknesses, her stubbornness, and obstinance when it came to Ronnie. She blamed herself. Her mind flashed back to their high school days, their friendships, visits, and good times.
Vonda did not deserve to be raped, murdered, stripped naked, and dumped in the mud.
Who could have done such a horrible deed? Who could be so cold? It wasn’t Ronnie, that’s for sure. He argued with Vonda a lot and cheated on her, too, but they were like oil and water most of the time, always at odds, but each found the other physically irresistible.
She had no idea that an assailant walked the street who raped at will and even murdered for sport.
Even as she gave her account to the police, the assailant reveled in his deed and praised himself for committing the perfect murder. Everyone suspected everyone else, but no one would ever guess his identity.
As Rosemary cried until she ran out of tears, the assailant showed no emotion but watched medical funeral home workers lift the body off the ground, place it in a black bag and push the gurney into the rear of the Miller Funeral Home hearse.
He smiled at his perfect crime. There would be plenty of suspects, but he wasn’t on anyone’s radar.