June 22, 2020 | By Zachary Yearwood
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class. The student credited above wrote this story as a class project.
Veronica Edwards witnessed her son Deunta take his first breath in the world. Twenty-five years later, she would watch – in agony – as he took his last.
Deunta Blakemore was born on May 12, 1992, only 28 weeks into the pregnancy. Weighing less than two pounds at birth, doctors did not expect him to live longer than a few days.
At the time, premature babies often did not live, and doctors told his mother that there were several obstacles he wouldn’t overcome. Deunta defied the short life expectancy. Doctors believed he would live his life unable to walk.
Deunta beat those overwhelming odds. The baby born weighing one pound and eight ounces would grow to be a healthy man, standing six-foot, five inches, and weight 335 pounds.
“He was born a fighter,” Deunta’s aunt, Christina Jermany said.
Deunta was a gentle giant. He was friendly and respectful to everyone he met. He had never been in a fight, never been suspended from school, never even been pulled over for speeding.
“He was a big teddy bear that loved everyone,” Christina said. “He was the kind of person that would go around and hug everybody.”
When he had a friend, he had a friend for life. He was often shy at first, but when he opened up, he was incredibly funny with an infectious laugh.
Deunta loved fishing, video games, and several aspects of Japanese culture including anime and martial arts. He even had a collection of samurai swords. Most importantly, he loved his family.
“There were nights when I would get home late and I would see Deunta sitting down, playing video games with [his daughter] in his lap, reading a book or watching him. They would celebrate together whenever he did something in the game,” Veronica said.
During the early morning hours of January 30, 2018, Deunta was sitting in the passenger seat of a car outside his mother’s home. Deunta and his fiancé Crystal, their daughter Peyton, and Deunta’s older sister Kymyara and younger brother Justen all lived in the home.
Around 3 a.m., Deunta was shot.
Veronica was asleep when Kymyara burst into her room saying Deunta had been shot. She thought it was a joke. Her children loved to play pranks, but this was different.
“When I got outside, I saw Deunta sitting in the passenger seat and there wasn’t a lot of blood, so I was thinking ‘It’s okay, we’ll get through this,’” Veronica said.
Her son was just asleep, she thought. He couldn’t possibly be dead. Even when responders arrived and laid Deunta on the cold concrete wearing nothing but socks, Veronica refused to believe her son was gone.
“Please tell them to get him off the ground and put some clothes on,” she told everyone. Nothing about the moment felt real. It still had not hit her that she would not be able to speak to her son again.
It wasn’t until she saw his body at the viewing – the week after his death – that she fully realized Deunta was gone. Even then, she said it wasn’t him.
“That may be my son’s body, but that’s not Deunta. Deunta is in heaven now,” she said at the time.
Frustration, anger, and confusion were just a few of the emotions the family felt when they learned the investigation had gone cold. His fiancee Crystal said her “soul was ripped apart” by the news.
The family still hopes to find justice for Deunta and bring his killer to light.
Veronica is all too familiar with this type of pain. No parent should have to bury a child. But Deunta is the second she has lost. Veronica and her husband Gaylon lost one child prior, a daughter named Mercedes.
“[Deunta] gave his parents the daughter they lost,” Christina said. “That’s just the kind of person he was.”
Crystal and Deunta gave their daughter the middle name Mercedes to honor the child his parents had lost before and sister he never got to meet.
The couple met in college and it was love at first sight, Crystal described. They were best friends and had the kind of love most people dream of finding. The two were supposed to get married close to Deunta’s birthday in May 2018.
Gaylon did not attend Deunta’s funeral, but he was deeply impacted by his son’s death. Not long after Deunta was buried, Gaylon took the first steps towards sobriety from alcohol.
Deunta’s death did not just leave an impact on his family, but on everyone he knew. Neighbors, friends, and coworkers shared their condolences with the family. His supervisor at Tyson Foods reached out to the family to provide emotional support with nothing but praise for the 25-year-old.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him,” Veronica said. “It hurts knowing that my granddaughter is going to grow up without her father. She knows him from pictures, she’ll blow kisses at photos of him, but she won’t have any memories of him.”
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Deunta Blakemore, please contact the Pine Bluff Police Department at (870) 730-2090.
Research & Impact
Experts claim that a majority of cold cases are resolved due to a change in a relationship. Cases go cold for a reason and one of the best avenues to creating new leads is for those in the community to come forward with information. Whether a person was dating or friends with the potential suspect at the time, found religion, has a heavy conscience, overcame addiction – people change over time, and sometimes that’s all it takes for law enforcement to solve a cold case. Those individuals may now be willing to come forward. We hope to reach them.
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