JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The mother of a 23-year-old man who was found dead in his Murray Hill apartment in 2012 said she had almost lost faith that an arrest would ever be made.
But then investigators called her Thursday night to say they had charged 25-year-old Cecil Ford with her son's murder.
“I'm free,” Janice Brown said. “I can live.”
Brown's son, Lance Morene, was found dead Nov. 9, 2012, after neighbors reported hearing several gunshots.
Police initially searched for two men seen leaving the area but turned up nothing at the time that could lead to an arrest.
At a vigil last year on the third anniversary of Morene's death, Brown said she hadn't given up hope, but Friday, she admitted that she was starting to.
“A burden, a pain -- it's just released. All I can do is say, 'Lord, I thank you. Lord, I thank you. I thought you had given up on me,'” Brown said. “When a mother loses a child, you take a part of them with you.”
Brown said her grandchildren are also hurting.
Investigators announced Friday that in April 2016, during an unrelated murder investigation, detectives contacted a witness who had information about Morene's murder. That tip led them to identify Ford as the man who shot Morene during an armed robbery, police said.
They obtained a warrant for his arrest Wednesday and took him into custody Thursday.
Brown said she hopes Ford spends the rest of his life behind bars and that she is thankful to Sheriff Mike Williams and the officers who worked the case for bringing her closure.
“You gave me my life back. You gave me my joy,” Brown said. “I love my baby. I miss him so much.”
Sitting next to her son’s picture and across from a Christmas tree with decorations on it that her son made as a child, Brown said this Christmas will be her best one since before his death.
“You just wish you could hold them. You just wish you could tell them you love them. I didn't get a chance to say goodbye,” Brown said. “I just feel like, Merry Christmas, son. God gave me Christmas. This is my Christmas right here.”
Investigators said it appears Ford, who is charged with second-degree murder, went to Morene's home that night to rob him and that it's likely the two were acquainted in some way.
They also said more arrests could be coming in the case and asked anyone with additional information to call JSO at 904-630-0500 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-866-845-TIPS.