From my new book “Stories of Pensacola’s Finest” coming soon…
“Now the world seems sad,” was the reaction of six-year-old Peter Drasutis. The wisdom of his words went beyond what even he imagined.
Little Peter was a neighbor of Junavis Smith. She was the kind lady that lived down the street. She always smiled and had a kind word for him. Then she was gone. After her horrendous death, the entire neighborhood was in shock. Peter was the one who best described it. Junavis Smith believed in family. She grew up in a small, southern culture where family is big. As a matter of fact, in Abbeville, Alabama, most everyone is considered family…even if they aren’t. That was Junavis Smith’s world. When she moved to Pensacola, she chose a quiet neighborhood to live in where people were friendly, much as they were back home. Her house was on a quiet street where children rode their bikes, the elementary school was a block away and the playground was at the end of the road – storybook stuff.
But it wasn’t. Junavis’ marriage ended in divorce, causing her to struggle to pay the bills. Her son Kayle was a follower who found himself in the world of drugs and alcohol. Her daughter Kimber had three children, and Junavis was instrumental in having all of them removed from Kimber’s custody. Further, she had to battle for custody of one of them. Good move.
On February 26, 1986, Kimber was arrested in Georgia. In that case, Kimber was facing charges of robbery and murder. At an apartment complex in Albany, Georgia, she put a gun up to the head of a man named John Wayne Johnson and pulled the trigger. For help, she turned to the woman who had always helped – her mother. Junavis Smith posted her bond. Kimber returned to Pensacola. The worst of it was who her daughter had recently married. David Pentecost was evil.
From the moment he met Junavis, he disliked her – maybe because his new wife was involved in a custody battle with her.
December 15, 1986, 11:00 PM
When the three of them – Kayle, Kimber and David – got together, things went from bad to really bad. Really, really bad. Kimber, who was a manipulator, didn’t care that her mother was acting in the best interest of her children. Even though her life had been full of crime, drugs, robbery, and murder, she wanted her son back. He was no more than a pawn to her. Armed with her brother who worshiped her and her newlywed husband who was addicted to drugs, she had the operatives to get what she wanted.
“I wish she was dead,” said Kimber in her influencing way.
“I will do it tonight,” Pentecost, her loving husband, said, “if you want me to.”
She smiled and said, “Would you?” She kissed him.
David and Kayle then drank a quart of liquid courage so they could commit the cowardly act. They left the house, Kayle in possession of a large hunting knife. They arrived at 3840 Lynn Ora Drive, the home of Junavis and her grandson, at 11:22 PM. The villains walked up to the front door and Kayle used his key to unlock it. Junavis was awakened by the noise of an intruder in her house. She quickly called 911.
“Pensacola 911,” said Telecommunicator Ed Biles at 11:23 PM, “What is your emergency?”
“Someone is breaking into my house!” said Junavis.
Ed got her name and address, then immediately dispatched officers to her location. He did not let her hang up the phone, staying on with her so she could provide him with up-to-the-second information.
“10-4. I’m enroute,” answered Officer Garland McKenzie. He was parked at the corner of 9th Avenue and Creighton Boulevard, watching the traffic. The night was cool, and the recent drizzle made the streets wet and slippery. The cruiser’s engine suddenly lurched into gear and was soon speeding toward the scene.
The radio crackled again. “Garland, speed it up.” Ed said with urgency in her voice. “It sounds like the intruder is coming closer!”
Garland accelerated to top speed with emergency red and blue lights activated. He instinctively knew the best route because he worked that area of town every day.
Garland was a native of Pensacola. He had grown up and attended local schools, so he knew many people in town. He was also a lay minister in his church, so he was widely respected. And…Garland’s one goal in life was to help people. He chose the right job.
Right behind Garland was Officer Paul Patroni. Paul, a quiet, muscular man, was often described as being “as strong as a truck.” Paul was one of those officers who didn’t often say anything, but when he did, he meant it. Often, when Paul said something, the other officers present with him would think, “Uh oh…Paul just said it. Time for a fight!” And…Paul always won the fight. He was a good guy to have on your side.
Also responding was Sgt. Perry Knowles. Perry, also a native of Pensacola, was a veteran officer that had been through more scrapes and fights than he cared to remember. He knew that a call of a burglary in progress was potentially a dangerous situation.
A matter of seconds after Junavis first spoke to Ed Biles, she said in a panicked voice, “Somebody is coming into my bedroom!” Ed relayed the newly discovered information to the responding units, which now numbered about eight or ten, both in uniform and plain clothes.
David might have been the older of the two criminals, but he was certainly urged on by the son of the victim. Kayle used his key to make entry into his own mother’s house to kill her. He also supplied the murder weapon. When the two got inside, David became hesitant.
“We came here to do a job, now do it!” Kayle told the older thug.
The next words Ed heard are a nightmare for any dispatcher. Ed heard Junavis yell, “David, get out of here! David, please don’t” Then screams were heard, and the phone went dead, just as the large knife was plunged three inches into the temple of Junavis Smith.
Ed broke in on the radio traffic and blurted, “I’m getting screams! All units be enroute!” But it was too late for Junavis.
In addition to emergency lights, Garland McKenzie and Paul Patroni turned on their sirens. It is a better thing to scare off a person harming someone than it is to catch him. At top speed they came into the quiet suburban neighborhood, turned onto Lynn Ora Drive, and raced to the victim’s aid. Garland ran to the front and Paul to the back. Perry Knowles arrived behind them. Together, Garland and Perry entered. The front door was ajar, and the Christmas wreath was no longer on it, but on the ground. Besides that, the house was quiet.
A thought suddenly struck Garland. Something looked familiar…he had it! He had been here before! A few years earlier, Junavis had called the police because she was having trouble with her son, Kayle. Garland came and spoke with him, and it seemed at the time to have an impact. After that, whenever Kayle would see Garland driving down the street, he would call out and wave. Garland had made a new friend – he thought.
In a swift, systematic manner, the two law officers cleared the house room by room. When they got to the master bedroom, the two veteran, tough-as-nails lawmen were shaken to their core.
They saw a person lying in a pool of her own blood. Garland stared for a moment. Could this be the same nice lady, Junavis Smith, that he met before? He couldn’t tell. She was unrecognizable. There were multiple stab wounds to her head and face – deep wounds, fatal wounds.
Regardless of what people say about police officers, the reason that they get into this line of work is to help people. They genuinely care. Garland immediately dropped to his knees and, looking into what used to be Junavis’ face, calmly said, “Can you tell me who did this?”
She struggled to speak through the blood which had overrun her throat and lungs. But she could only make a gurgling noise. Perry, who had called for an ambulance, “10-18,” dropped down and began a hopeless attempt at life-saving measures. Junavis was dead in a matter of seconds.
The world did seem sad that day.#oldpolicestories