Originally created 03/09/02

Investigation, custody battle drag on



Faye Reeves of Thomson is waiting for two things - the arrest of her daughter's killer and a judge's decision on custody of her 2-year-old grandson.

"I think if I could just have the murder solved and know what really happened, that would help me in some way," she said.

On Feb. 27 of last year, Mrs. Reeves and her 35-year-old daughter, Robin, attended a church pancake supper. Afterward, Ms. Reeves left with her then-16-month-old son, Joseph, and Mrs. Reeves stayed behind to help clean up. As she was leaving, Ms. Reeves told her mother to call her when she got home to let her know she had arrived safely.

At home, Mrs. Reeves telephoned her daughter but got no answer, even though the lights were on in her house next door and her car was out front. She called several more times with no answer.

"I thought she was just tired and had fallen asleep," she said.

The lights stayed on all night.

The next morning, Mrs. Reeves called Augusta Technical Institute in Thomson, where Ms. Reeves worked as a secretary, and learned that she had not shown up for work.

Frightened, she dressed and rushed next door. She opened the front door with her key but could not get in because the safety chain was in place. She heard Joseph crying. She entered through another door and found her daughter slashed to death in the hallway. Joseph was in his crib in an adjoining bedroom.

"I tried to call 911, but my fingers wouldn't hit the right numbers, so I ran into the street and tried to get somebody to stop," Mrs. Reeves said.

Thomson resident Ray Cummings stopped and called 911, she said.

"He stayed with me," she said. "He was so nice. Other people passed me by, but he didn't."

There was immediate speculation throughout McDuffie County that Ms. Reeves' former husband, Robert Standridge, was responsible because he had harassed and stalked her in the months before her death, according to police and court records. But after questioning him twice, police said he had an alibi.

Ms. Reeves and Mr. Standridge were divorced in September 2000. He was indicted on aggravated stalking and harassing phone call charges two months later. She had her maiden name restored the day before she was killed.

Mr. Standridge and members of his family contend that investigators never looked for another suspect in the case.

"They messed up the investigation," said Tim Standridge, Robert's father. "They were looking in the wrong places."

Last summer, Mr. Standridge came to The Augusta Chronicle and gave an editor a list of things he said he had learned while trying to gain custody of Joseph.

"The judge's descretion (sic) held above the constitution. Don't you ever believe you are innocent until proven guilty in McDuffie County," he wrote.

After the slaying, people tied black ribbons on their mailboxes as symbols of the unsolved case, and police established a reward fund that now totals $12,235. The case remains unsolved, but the investigation is not over.

"We consider this one of our priority cases," said Mike Seigler, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's agent in charge of the Thomson office. "We're not putting it aside by any means, and we've made considerable progress."

The night she was killed, Ms. Reeves' then-3-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Hannah Neville, was spending the night with her father, Spalding Neville, in Augusta.

Mr. Neville said he is reminded of his former wife constantly through Hannah's behavior and mannerisms.

"I think about Robin every day," he said. "The only thing that's allowed us to get through this is the support of family and friends and our trust in God that things will work out."

Mrs. Reeves said she believes the killer will be arrested. Meanwhile, the pain of losing her daughter has eased very little during the past year.

"It's just so sad to know that these two children have been deprived of their mother," she said. "Of course, she was my only child, but whoever killed Robin did more than just kill her. It affected so many different people."

Two weeks after finding her daughter's body, Mrs. Reeves petitioned in McDuffie County Superior Court for custody of Joseph. She was granted temporary custody in November after Mr. Standridge was convicted of the aggravated stalking of his former wife and sentenced to 10 to 14 months in a detention center. He is now serving that sentence at Cadwell Detention Center in south Georgia.

Mr. Standridge's sister Sylvia Evans also petitioned the court for custody of Joseph.

Two weeks ago, after two days of hearings in McDuffie County Superior Court, Senior Judge Stephen Boswell of Jonesboro, Ga., gave the attorneys 10 days to submit briefs, after which he will decide the custody issue.

Mrs. Reeves calls the wait "nerve-wracking."

"It's just been so long and drawn out and stressful," she said.

Meanwhile, she grieves.

"Robin was a beautiful person," she said. "She was a sweet and caring person. She always thought of others. She loved her children very, very much. And she was so creative and talented in so many ways, And if she were here to help with these children they would just be blossoming."

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylviaco@augustachronicle.com.