WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Robert Jones’s girlfriend ran downstairs and started pounding on the apartment door to wake up Vanessa Jones.
Vanessa opened. Something was wrong.
She ran upstairs to her son’s apartment.
Robert was on the ground behind the door. He wasn’t moving.
“What happened?” Vanessa shouted at her son’s girlfriend. “What happened?”
She asked that question 11 years ago. She still doesn’t have an answer.
Vanessa Jones raised three boys. She said it was a handful.
Robert was the middle child and by far the biggest.
“Size 18 foot,” Vanessa laughed while looking at a picture of him. “He was like a gentle giant.”
It wasn’t just his shoe size. Robert was a big guy.
“He looks like Biggie,” she said. “He looks like Biggie Smalls.”
That’s how Robert got the nickname Biggie. Plus, he would rap with a friend. Vanessa said he was good at it like his namesake and even recorded a few songs.
She’ll always remember the boy that wanted to hang out with her. They had movie nights every week. Vanessa said she’d always fall asleep halfway through but Robert never seemed to mind.
Vanessa said every year on her birthday, Robert would bake her a cake from scratch.
“He was very protective of me,” she said.
One day in 2007, he walked into Vanessa’s apartment with news.
“His face lit up when he told me was going to be a father,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘oh my God.'”
“He was so happy,” she added.
Knock at the Door
In Oct. 2008, Robert’s daughter was a year old. He was living with her and her mother in a third-floor apartment on Diamond Hill Road in Woonsocket.
Vanessa lived on the second floor with her significant other. She said on the night of Oct. 28, she was relaxing on the porch when she spotted something unusual for the area: three kids standing outside in a circle with their faces covered with hoodies.
She felt unsafe, so she went back inside and fell asleep.
“It seemed like as soon as I went to sleep, I got that knock on the door,” Vanessa said.
She ran upstairs to find Robert on the ground.
“I felt for a pulse on his arm or on his wrist and it was faint,” she said. “I’m pulling him. I’m like, ‘Rob get up. Mr. Rob, get up. Get up.’ And he wasn’t moving.”
Vanessa didn’t hear it, but Robert had been shot. He died at the hospital.
“I just want to know why,” she said. “Why my son?”
Woonsocket police believed Robert was killed because of a dispute over drugs.
Vanessa disagrees. She said Robert wasn’t involved with drugs.
Authorities made an arrest soon after the murder but the charges were dropped.
They didn’t give up.
Archived Eyewitness News video from 2011 shows detectives going door to door informing residents about a new tip line to help solve Robert’s murder and the murder of another Woonsocket man, Brandon Smith. That case remains unsolved as well.
In 2012, detectives put up a billboard in the city featuring Robert’s face and asking for anonymous tips.
That year, Capt. Edward Lee said they got new information.
“We have developed quite a bit of info since the use of the billboard,” Lee said in 2012. “It has been very helpful. No arrests yet, but we’re working on it.”
That work continues to this day.
Now, they’ve added the investigation to a deck of cold case playing cards. Each card highlights an unsolved homicide or missing person case in Rhode Island.
Robert is the 4 of clubs.
“Just give my family closure,” Vanessa pleaded to anyone who knows what happened.
Then she turned her attention to her son’s killer: “You know what you did. You’re a coward. To go in my son’s house and take him away from me? You had no right to do that. No right.”
Anyone with information is urged to call 1-877-RI-SOLVE.