by Tim Gilmore, 12/20/2021
Somebody seemed to have washed her hair.
A neighbor saw him walking with a garbage bag to the fence, tossing it over and into the weeds near the rusted bollards and dumped mattress and burnt mass of rusted cans and broken limbs blocking access between Dot Street and Rushing behind Prime Time Food Store. It was Saturday night, April 24, 2010.
“He did not act like somebody who’d killed his mother,” the preacher said, “not when he was crying in my arms.”
His grandfather, a retired New York City cop, couldn’t understand it. Any of it. Not why his 39 year old daughter was dead. Not why his 21 year old grandson would do it.
Nor how. “You can’t cut no head off with a steak knife,” Larry Ling said.
And because they sent Jumar to the state mental hospital didn’t mean he was crazy. Somebody else must have done it, maybe two people. You had to use something bigger. Maybe they had to send him to the bughouse because he couldn’t take being locked up in jail. Couldn’t stand what they’d accused him of.
Seemed like somebody had washed her hair.
The neighbor peeked in the garbage bag Jumar threw over the fence. The decapitated head of Jennifer Ling-Henry stared back.
She drove a school bus for a living. People called her Scooter and Nay Nay.
Jumar had blood under his fingernails and in his dreadlocks, scratches on his face. He tossed the bag an hour after his mother’s boyfriend talked to her on the phone. She said Jumar was with her.
It seemed that after the decapitation, he’d washed her hair.
On January 19, 2010, two friends went to 81 year old Vivian Dailey Williams’s little pink house at 9050 Devonshire Boulevard to check on her. She’d lived at the Sherwood Forest house, built in 1958, a heart shaped garden wall in the front yard, since 1975.
Twice a week she attended First Baptist Church of Oakland. She hadn’t been there or answered her phone in a week. Her friends reported her missing.
Police found her headless body wrapped in a white blanket against a fence in her back yard. They found her son, 54 year old Thomas Lester, Jr. inside the house. He’d used Mr. Clean antibacterial cleaner, “Summer Citrus” fragrance, rather inadequately. Investigators found bloody drag marks from the location of the murder to the back fence and blood spatters from floor to ceiling.
He hit her nine times in the head with a hammer, stabbed her with multiple knives, broke her back with a metal pipe, then cut off her head.
“She wasn’t very nice to me,” he said.
The jury deliberated for 30 minutes.
It was church members the next morning at Alexander Temple Community Church, in one side of an old brick fronted concrete block building on North Broad Street, who saw the blood and the scratches and called police. When he tried to flee from the interrogation room at police headquarters, they added three counts of battery to his docket.
He couldn’t explain why he’d stabbed her repeatedly. He couldn’t explain why he’d cut off her head. He couldn’t explain why he’d removed her eyes.
She’d only lived in the 572 square foot gold painted house, built in 1956, with the little white wooden pediment and columns, three blocks from Edward Waters College at 1561 West Sixth Street, for three months.
Jumar had started playing the drums when he was five. He toured with family members in gospel groups and participated in recording sessions in Savannah. His grandfather said he was always “a lovable child.”
May 24th notations made at the jail said Jumar was standing naked in his cell and having conversations with his murdered mother in “a trance-like state.”
4. When the Wind
Jumar Henry loved his mother; Thomas Lester, Jr. hated his. Three months apart, six miles apart, both men murdered and decapitated their mothers.
Schizophrenia flowered in New Town in Northwest Jacksonville just east of College Gardens. Rage and hatred struck in Sherwood Forest on the Northside.
“I am but mad north-northwest,” Hamlet tells Polonius. “When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.”