Originally created 01/30/06

Daughter's debut ended with tragedy



SAVANNAH, Ga. - It was supposed to be a new beginning.

Coren Ross had prepared herself to send her "baby" off to adulthood. She had already watched her daughter Jennifer graduate from Savannah Country Day School and go off to Mercer University.

But it was really the Dec. 23 Christmas Cotillion where she would truly let go of her youngest child.

Jennifer Ross was 19 but still called her mother "mommy."

Her mother was prepared to let go. She wasn't prepared to say goodbye.

The Ross family had planned Jennifer's debut since she was a toddler. They wanted her to have the same social network and resources they had, Mrs. Ross said.

This summer, Jennifer Ross and her father took dance lessons to prepare. They spent hours practicing in the living room.

"It was very much about Jenn and her daddy," Mrs. Ross said.

After the Dec. 23 cotillion, Mrs. Ross sent her daughter off to have fun. Jennifer Ross hit the town with friends.

A little after 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve, the police called the Rosses.

Jennifer Ross had been shot.

"The thing that killed Jennifer was not being a debutante out on the town after a big party," Mrs. Ross said. "It was that she was raised to believe she was safe in her city.

"All college students think they are 10-feet tall and bulletproof."

The Rosses spent the next week at their daughter's bedside at Memorial Health University Medical Center. Mrs. Ross found solace in writing e-mails to friends and family.

In a Jan. 1 diary entry, Mrs. Ross finds hope in her daughter's move to a new hospital room.

Jennifer Ross died at about 7:15 p.m. the same day.

Mrs. Ross takes comfort in her memories and knowing her daughter will live on through the crime-fighting initiatives and scholarships her death spurred. Mercer is setting up a full scholarship for a Chi Omega sophomore.

NEW LEADS

Detectives have the car used in the Jennifer Ross homicide and a "new break" in the case.On Friday, Maj. James Barnwell, the commander of the Criminal Investigations Division, said detectives had positively linked a gray Ford Taurus to the shooting. Police seized the car from a Wheaton Street auto-repair business Jan 12.

Police are questioning the driver. The man is being held at the Chatham County jail on theft charges, Maj. Barnwell said. Detectives would not identify the man. "We are not yet prepared to name anyone as a suspect in this case," police spokesman Sgt. Mike Wilson said. "But detectives are still actively working the case and have received a new break in the case.

"Sgt. Wilson would not elaborate but said the information might help bring closure to the case.

- Morris News Service