LEESBURG, Fla. — The son of a 92-year-old Leesburg woman who was found buried in a shallow grave Wednesday said his mother would hire and feed strangers to help around her house.
She lived alone, and her Wayne Solomon worries her generous nature may have ultimately led to her death.
Rubye Harrison James, 92, was last seen Monday.
She was found Wednesday in a shallow grave near her abandoned vehicle at Crosby Street and Snow Place, Lake County Lt. John Herrell said.
Investigators said James' body was pulled from the grave late Wednesday.
Deputies said her death was a homicide, but the cause of death has not yet been released.
"It's really hard," said Janice Lecky, James' relative. "Everybody has to die, but no one wants to die this way."
Solomon was still trying to understand how something like this could happen to his mother.
"Knowing she had been hurt was the hardest part," he said.
Deputies conducted a well-being check on James Wednesday after someone reported that she hadn’t been seen at her Edgewood Road home.
Her car was found abandoned about 5 miles from her home, and as deputies investigated the scene, a K-9 found a shallow grave containing human remains in a nearby wooded area, Herrell said.
"She's a loving person, a very kind person. She lived life to the fullest, and she didn't deserve this. That's all I can say," Lecky said.
Rubye James' family is going into her home. Sheriff's office confirmed today the remains in the shallow grave were the 92-year-old @WFTV pic.twitter.com/gr32UYVI0S— Samantha Manning (@SamanthaWFTV) February 9, 2017
When investigators arrived at her home, Herrell said James was not there, and her car was missing.
Carlean Crawford, who said she’s been friends with James for more than 13 years, told Channel 9 that she knew something wasn’t right when she didn’t hear from her.
“She's up every morning at 3 o’clock in the morning, doing her devotional service. And then after that, she’ll call me when I get ready to go to work at 6,” Crawford said. “And this was the first morning that she didn't call.”
Crawford visited James' home but said her key wouldn't unlock the front door.
Hear from the missing woman's friend below:
“And her flowers [were] knocked over in the corner,” Crawford said. “And she loves her flowers, so I (knew) something was wrong.”
She also said James’ belongings seemed out of place.
“I looked and I [saw] a shoe, one of her [shoes], on the porch with her glasses,” she said. “Right then, I knew something was wrong, because that’s not like Mother James. She’s very neat, and she keep everything organized.”
"We will still be around to see that justice is served," Lecky said.
James was a retired educator.
"Over 50 years with the Lake and Sumter counties. She was a reading specialist and a learning specialist," Lecky said.
Family and friends told Channel 9 that James was a sharp dresser and maybe someone targeted her and thought she was well-off.
"It had to be somebody she knew. It had to be," Lecky said.
Solomon just wanted investigators to find the person, or persons, responsible so he could ask them why they would hurt his mother.
"They looked at her as an easy mark, I guess,"he said. "Jesus says I gotta love them, but in another sense, I kind of hope they get everything they got coming to them.
"And that's bad on my part, but I'm human."
Anyone with information about James’ disappearance is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 352-343-2101.
Deputies just confirmed, the body found in the shallow grave is 92 y/o Rubye James. #WFTV pic.twitter.com/uiIQ32zz1c— Myrt Price (@MPriceWFTV) February 9, 2017
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