Ava Jones Burnett’s mother was murdered by Burnett’s father in 1963. Burnett, who was 3 years old at the time of the murder, has written a book on the subject to help her and her family cope with their loss.
The book, Murder in the Children’s Eyes, tells the story of her parents, Mary and Roscoe Jones, who loved each other but were ultimately torn apart by unfaithfulness.
“My dad loved my mom, and when he met her, he was 10 years older than she was,” said Burnett, of Jacksonville.
Roscoe and Mary were married at a young age and had 10 children.
“My mom had an affair with her cousin and with several other men,” Burnett said. “My father loved her tremendously, and he did all he could to deal with it. That night he killed her, it was too much for him.”
The couple were in the bedroom arguing about Mary’s affair, and the dispute became more heated, Burnett said.
She and her nine brothers and sisters were sitting on the couch in the living room waiting for a television show to come on when their parents’ argument spiraled out of control.
“At first, she was running, and we knew something was going on because they were arguing too loud,” Burnett said. “We were living in a little bitty apartment [in Little Rock], and it was all happening right there.”
Burnett said her mother grabbed the baby and ran for the bathroom.
“My father told me that my mother looked [at my dad], and he looked at her, and he pointed a shotgun at her, and she said, ‘No,’ and he told us that she gave him a little smile because she knew how much he loved her, and she knew that he wouldn’t kill her, but he did,” Burnett said.
Roscoe killed Mary in the bathroom of the family’s Little Rock apartment on Oct. 12, 1963, as she held her youngest child in her arms.
Burnett said the story of her mother’s death was something her family never talked about, so she and her siblings never knew the whole story.
In preparation for writing the book, she interviewed her family and her father, who died four years ago.
“[My brother and I] looked up some of my mom’s friends [from] back in the day, and we went and spoke with them, and at first, they wouldn’t tell us anything. We had to make them feel comfortable with what they were telling us because we already kind of knew.
“My nieces and nephews knew grandpa killed grandma, but we couldn’t go into detail about it because we had a problem with it ourselves.”
Burnett said she didn’t realize the effect her book would have on others who weren’t directly connected to the story.
“Every birthday or holiday, [my family] gets together,” she said. “My brother-in-law told me recently, ‘Every time I turn around, y’all are getting together, and after reading that book, I see [why you do] now.’”
She and her siblings became their own family after her mother died and her father went to prison to serve an 18-month sentence. The children lived with their grandmother and great-grandmother until their father was released from prison.
“We’d tell each other, ‘When you feel bad, come to one of us, and we’ll talk about it,’” Burnett said. “[The book] has encouraged my family, and others, and shown them that even in bad situations, you can achieve whatever you need to achieve. It’s just a stepping stone.”
Before she wrote the book, Burnett said, she told people she worked with about her story, and her co-workers encouraged her to write about it.
“They would tell me, ‘You’re still alive; you’re not down and out. You’ve got a story to tell,’” Burnett said. “I just kept thinking about that, and [then] I lost my job. I was on my job for 13 years, and they closed the doors. I thought it was a good opportunity to start writing [the book].”
Writing the 46-page book was a process of more than two years because of the emotional toll the story took on Burnett.
“Sometimes I just had to shut it down and walk away, and I didn’t want to deal with it,” she said. “The book has given me some closure.”
Burnett’s book is available on www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com. She hopes others can benefit from reading her book.
“I want people to read it and learn from it,” Burnett said.