This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class.
Penelope White says the days are empty without her son in the world.
It’s difficult to eat or sleep and she finds the days cascading into one another as she maneuvers through a life where the light feels dimmed.
“He was a very independent child, and wise beyond his years,” Penelope said. “It was almost as if he had been here before.”
Penelope has fond memories of her son Jeremiah cooking on the grill for the Fourth of July. He loved to cook, and he would make sure everyone knew it. He would walk around the table and make everyone try the food he made. His talents were not going to go unappreciated.
The mother-son duo had an inseparable bond, especially when in the kitchen. Penelope spent hours in the kitchen with Jeremiah cooking up new recipes to impress the family at the next barbeque.
Steak and chicken fried rice.
That was the last meal that Penelope taught her son how to make.
They were just weeks away from perfecting the meal when he was suddenly taken by multiple gunshot wounds to the back in Jacksonville, Florida.
Jeremiah was only 20 years old when he was murdered.
His body was found on Sunday, December 18, 2016, exactly one week before Christmas. Police were called around 8:00 am to Talladega Road and Spellman Road.
Residents in the area said they heard gunshots the night before but didn’t see anything when they looked outside. One neighbor said that it was just the norm around the area.
A $3,000 Crime Stoppers reward was offered, but no one reached out with any further information.
Jeremiah did not have an easy life growing up. It was difficult before he was even born.
His mother lived in the projects in Atlanta where crime was very prevalent during her pregnancy. When she went into labor with Jeremiah, the ambulance did not want to drive to her apartment due to the high crime rates in the area.
Penelope cried throughout the night in pain, wishing she could bring her son into a better world.
Jeremiah was born on Father’s Day but had no active father in his life. He grew up in poverty with his six other siblings in Atlanta and when they moved to Florida. Penelope did everything so that her children weren’t impacted by their surroundings. She created a positive, safe, and loving environment in their home.
“We would play some music and jump around. We had a good time!” Penelope said with a hearty laugh.
They moved to Jacksonville in 2005, where Jeremiah spent time in juvenile detention for 18 months.
Despite the hardships he faced, Jeremiah never let them define his character.
He was a gentle and caring soul who would feed and clothe his nieces and nephews. He was known throughout his community for being someone that people could depend on. His older sister Antoniya said that she doesn’t believe the world will ever get another Jeremiah.
“We used to always fight a lot. He was one under me so me and him would always butt heads,” Antoniya recalled.
“But when we got older, we got a little bit closer, and we’d always talk a lot. And I’d go see him whenever he was in town. I miss him a lot now, I miss him every day. I wish he was here to meet the kids I had after him.”
Penelope described Jeremiah as the glue that kept the family together.
He and his siblings grew up without a father, so Jeremiah took it upon himself to look out for his younger siblings and be that father figure for them. He would push everyone to be and do their best.
When Jeremiah died, Penelope described it as an unimaginable pain felt throughout the family. She believes everything changed the day her son died, and that the family still hasn’t truly recovered from his death.
Penelope believes that Jeremiah has a higher purpose, one that transcends the good works he could ever perform just on earth.
On the day of Jeremiah’s funeral, Penelope was approached by an elderly woman who handed her a couple of cooked meals she had made for Jeremiah. Confused, Penelope asked how she knew her son.
The woman said that one day when she was struggling to lift her groceries to her apartment, Jeremiah offered to help carry them for her. She stated that people pass by her every day, often overlooking as she struggles to make it upstairs, but not Jeremiah. He offered to help her out, and when she asked if he wanted money, he told her no. He just wanted to help a person in need, because it was the right thing to do.
The woman insisted on getting Jeremiah something for helping her out, so he calmly replied that he would like a sandwich with a water bottle. The elderly woman hurried as fast as she could to get Jeremiah his food and drink, and then after a calm wave, he was off.
The elderly woman was just one of the many people who Jeremiah’s light managed to touch. He was here for the people of his community.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office may not know who his killers are, but Jeremiah White is a fire whose flames will continue to blaze.
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Jeremiah White, please call the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at (904) 630-0500. To remain anonymous and possibly be eligible for a $3,000 reward, call First Coast Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-TIPS.
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