02/22/2012 12:22 pm ET Updated Apr 23, 2012

Football, Murder and Roses

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I worked at a group home for mentally disabled adults. A few of the patients were violent at times and I had to restrain them on occasion. I was pregnant with Devin at that time and one day a patient threatened to kick me in the belly and kill my baby. I was so frightened that I quit the next day and started looking for another job. I found work at a mortgage company called Marketing Home Finance and that is where I met Lilius Landrum. Lilius and I became very close and we confided in each other about everything. She had just moved back to Akron from Los Angeles to help take care of a family member. While she was on the west coast, she worked on the TV shows Give Me a Break and Family Matters. She was the double for actress Thelma Hopkins, the resemblance was uncanny. 

Lilius would spend her lunch time singing to my belly. She was in love with Devin even before he was born. We were always together; I picked her up every morning and took her home after work. Lilius was a very classy lady, always smartly dressed, well-spoken and had a quality that made her seem regal. What I really loved about her was that she came from money, but was never condescending or arrogant. She was humble and chose to live in a poor neighborhood, much different from the one she grew up in. She would volunteer at soup kitchens and was always looking to help those who were less fortunate. 

Lilius started seeing a younger man named Tony. He was "born again" and wanted to be a Minister. Lilius encouraged Tony to follow his dream, but realized that she would not be around to see him fulfill his goal. She had premonitions and had one about her own death. She had told me that she was breaking it off with Tony and was moving back to her mom's house where she would die. She didn't know how it would happen, but she said she didn't have much time left and wanted to be with her family when it happened. She also told me that I would write an article about her in the newspaper after she was gone.

About a month later, I was at home watching TV and the news was showing footage of the old apartment where Lilius had lived. I turned up the volume to hear what they were saying; it was something about a murder. The news anchor was telling the story of a gruesome act of violence. It started when neighbors had complained to the landlord about a mysterious odor. He alerted the police and detectives were sent to investigate. They found a very disturbing scene at the apartment of Lilius Landrum. Her place was practically empty except for the bags she had packed and placed at the front door. Inside they found a bloody torso; someone had decapitated Lilius and placed her head in a bucket that was hidden in the basement. Police said this was the worst crime scene in Akron's history. As it turned out, I helped to write an article about her for the Akron Beacon Journal. I miss Lilius.

Most people in Ohio love their football, and I had grown up not too far from Cleveland. It seemed that my life would be forever influenced by whether or not the Browns won on Sunday. If the team lost (which was most Sundays) I would have to hide from most of my family and friends until Wednesday or Thursday. Cleveland and surrounding areas were not fun places after a loss. In 1995 I thought I had caught a break. After a promising Super Bowl run was ruined, Art Modell the owner of the Browns announced that he was moving the team to Baltimore. I figured if there was no football team here, nobody would get angry after the inevitable losses. Boy was I wrong. Everyone in town was pissed off and some were wearing these T-shirts that said, "Muck Fodell." A law suit ensued and after the case went to court, a compromise was reached where The Cleveland Browns would become the Baltimore Ravens and the Browns would be resurrected in Cleveland three years later. That was not the end of my connection to the team.

Jacqueline just turned five on February 13th and we had a great time celebrating at Chuck E Cheese's. Devin's birthday was two weeks ago and we celebrated him turning sixteen playing laser tag. I never talk much about Devin's half-brother, Shawn. When I met Devin and Shawn's dad, Robert Simpson, Shawn's mother was in a coma. She died when Shawn was just five years old and I raised him as my own. Shawn had another step-brother from his mom's previous marriage, Jacinth Baker. 

I guess most people have heard the story of Jacinth's murder during a Super Bowl party in Atlanta. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was arrested on murder charges of Jacinth and his friend Richard Lollar. Ray wound up pleading guilty to obstruction of justice. It seems that the Browns were still causing me pain even though they were relocated to Baltimore.

Death also came to a longtime friend that I had a huge crush on. His name was Richard and he stuttered. Richard was so handsome; I even thought his stuttering was sexy. He knew that I thought it was sexy, so he was relaxed around me and didn't stutter much when we were together. We finally grew apart after a while and lost touch when I got married and had kids. I had often wondered what became of Richard and eventually I got some bad news. About a year before Lilius died, Richard had taken his own life. It was really weird the way it happened. He fell asleep on the floor of his garage with the car on and the door shut. His mom came home and she couldn't open the garage door because Richard had programmed the opener so only he could use it. She didn't have keys to the house; she could only enter through the garage. She gave up trying to open the garage and spent the night at her other son's house. The next day she managed to climb through a window and get into her house. Nobody had heard from Richard's mom after that. Her co-workers came to her house when she didn't show up at work for two days. The front door was open and they found Richard's mom dead on the couch. The story was that she fell asleep on the couch not knowing that the room was filled with carbon dioxide. She had died in her sleep.

I attended a double funeral with Richard in a closed casket and his mom right next to him in an open one. Emotions ran very high that day, there was much sadness at losing the two of them at one time and plenty of resentment by family members toward Richard for inadvertently killing his mother. I approached Richard's casket and said to him, "Richard, don't hesitate to visit me." Richard did visit me... until Lilius died.

When I left that day, I kept smelling roses. I figured it was from the funeral home until later when I was giving Devin a bath again I smelled roses. I noticed that the smell of roses would come and go all the time. I would be at work or at a friend's house and the room would be filled with the smell of roses. I began to realize that it was Richard that brought that scent of roses. Every time I would say, "Richard, come visit us, and just like that... everything smelled like beautiful roses. I would tell people about it and they wouldn't believe it until they smelled it with their own noses. Lilius really loved it; she would talk to Richard often.