Family of Cleveland grandmother believed to be gunned down over drug money still pleading for justice 20 years later

Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 8:27 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It’s been 20 years since a Cleveland community activist, mother, and grandmother was shot to death in her driveway. All these years later Frances Jones’ case is still cold.

“No day has gone past where I don’t think about my mother,” said Patricia Taylor, Jones’ daughter. “I miss my mother to death. You know they took something from me that I never can get back.”

The pain is still just as fresh for Taylor as it was when we interviewed her 20 years ago.

“They took her life,” Taylor told us in an interview in 2000.

“February 4, 2002, was the day everything changed for Patricia Taylor and her family. When Cleveland police arrived at the home on Sandusky Avenue a little before 8 that night. They found 62-year-old Frances Jones shot to death in her driveway. Her dinner was still warm. A hunting knife was found near her body and detectives found several sets of footprints in the snow in the backyard.

“It’s been a long time, a real long time,” Taylor said. “They killed my mother on February 4, 2002, and I think about her every day and I miss her. I miss her dearly.”

According to police reports, jones was confronted by burglars when she walked into her home. Detectives said the side door had been pried open, several rooms were left in disarray and some electronic items were stacked up in the basement like the suspects were planning to steal them. They did steal three guns.

For two decades now Taylor has been longing for her mother’s killer to be brought to justice.

“Yeah, they was gonna take more stuff that’s why they had stuff all packed up,” Taylor said.

Jones was a community activist and spent years fighting against crime and drugs. Something her grandson, Taylor’s son, was in prison for at the time. The family believes whoever broke into jones’ home was searching for his stash.

“I’m sure they was looking for probably for his money,” Taylor said.

On August 19 Investigates made a records request for any evidence associated with the case, we got our hands on everything from transcripts of interviews with the family connected crime reports, and photos of suspects. The evidence reveals whoever murdered jones very well could have been after Taylor’s son’s money. Jones’s husband Donald has the same theory.

“He had money here and he asked me to save it for him and his sister had been telling her friends that he had money here and that was the only reason why I figure that they did come here,” said Jones.

In an interview with Donald from 2007 he told police he knew his grandson had around $7,000 in a safe in his home, but based on interviews with his grandson, Mario Taylor that money was closer to $20,000 in cash. Police originally believed Jones was shot because she walked in on a group of people burglarizing her home, but detectives didn’t think it was just a random crime. Cleveland detectives determined it was very likely that Jones was shot simply because she would’ve been able to identify the suspects who were burglarizing her home. Police did believe that the suspects were likely looking for drug money or drugs hidden in the home. Court records show Taylor’s son, Mario Taylor, was in prison for selling drugs when his grandmother was murdered.

According to the case file, several family members knew Mario was hiding money at his grandparents’ home including his grandmother, the victim, Frances Jones. In an interview with police Jones’ husband, Donald Jones told officers his wife suspected the money to be drug money. He said he asked Mario to move the money out of the home 8 months before his wife’s murder.

“Somebody had been telling them that there was money here,” Donald said.

Donald said he didn’t know where his grandson moved the money until after his wife was killed, but it turned out he had moved it back to his mother’s house, Patricia Taylor, and then to his other grandfather’s home.

It probably wasn’t a coincidence that less than two months after her mother’s murder, Patricia Taylor found herself in a similar situation, a home invasion.

“They broke in my house too,” Taylor said. “There wasn’t nobody but me and my younger daughter in the house and she was upstairs, and I was down, and they broke in, one of them had a gun on me.”

Police records show the burglary happened at Taylor’s home on Southview Avenue on March 21st, 2002. According to the report, all three suspects were armed when they kicked in her door and pointed a handgun at her. Police said they then forced Taylor onto the couch and threw a jacket on her face and demanded she tells them where the cash and drugs were. She pleaded with the suspects not to shoot her and told them there was no cash or drugs in the house. One of the suspects went upstairs and forced Taylor’s 15-year-old daughter onto the bed covered her with a blanket and began to search the upstairs. Eventually, they left.

“It was scary, but I was so glad when I heard the older dude say man let’s get out of here don’t do nothing to her because ain’t nothing here,” Taylor said.

While combing through the evidence, police mentioned yet another burglary. This time it was at the home of Mario’s other grandfather which was supposedly where the money was moved next. Detectives started to connect the dots, everywhere the money goes, a burglary follows.

Detectives said a white panel van was seen in the area of Jones’ murder. It was also seen at the burglary at Taylor’s home.

It did seem like detectives were on to something and that they had several suspects and theories, but now it’s been years and Taylor hasn’t heard anything new.

“Every time I would call the homicide unit it would be a different person on my mother’s case, so I just quit calling altogether.”

19 News tried to get an interview with Cleveland police detectives on Jones’ case. After months of back-and-forth phone calls and emails with police saying they’d make it happen. Eventually, we were told police did not have anyone available to do an interview.

Instead, they sent a written statement that reads, “Preliminary information indicated that the case involved a burglary and the victim, 62-year-old Francis Jones, was killed. There have been leads developed in the case, but no witnesses have come forward to provide anything evidentiary in value. The case remains open and is currently being investigated within the Cleveland Police Homicide Unit’s Homicide Review Task Force. Investigators ask that anyone with information contact the Homicide Unit at 216-623-5464. Anonymous information can be provided by calling Crimestoppers at 216-25-CRIME.”

“It’s a different thing if she just passed away on her own but for somebody to take her life, they took a part of me and I will never get over it,” Taylor said.