JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A woman's body was discovered Thursday afternoon inside a home in the close-knit Marietta neighborhood, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said.
Officers were called about 1:20 p.m. Thursday to Doris Lane, near the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Jones Road. Police said a woman, 44, was found dead inside a house.
According to the Sheriff's Office, her death is being investigated as a homicide.
The woman's name was not released, but multiple neighbors and a friend have identified her as Velvet Burns, a wife, and a mother. Rachel Fuller said she and Burns had been friends since 1978.
"I don't know if words can express what Velvet was -- a very loving mother, very into her children's lives," Fuller said. "It's heart-wrenching."
When asked why she stopped by the crime scene, Fuller said, "Because she's my friend and I love her."
One neighbor, who said she had known Burns since the 1990s, said Burns would often come over and help her with her husband who was battling medical issues.
“She was a super person. I loved her dearly. She helped me so much with my husband and everything. She was just super," the neighbor said Friday. "I was very upset because I knew something serious had happened and I’ve been upset ever since."
The typically quiet neighborhood remained an active crime scene into Thursday night and Friday, with police tape surrounding the brown and tan colored home on Doris Lane. On Friday, detectives could be seen in the front yard as evidence technicians went through the entire property, including a camper on the lot. Crime scene vans were also parked outside the home.
Neighbor Hope Simmons told News4Jax on Thursday night that pretty much everyone she's talked to is on edge, especially since there are many families with young children in the neighborhood.
"My stomach has been in knots pretty much ever since I found out, you know, everything that’s been going on, so it’s very unsettling," she said. "There’s never been anything like this to happen on this street. Pretty much everybody knows everyone around here. Everybody looks out for everyone. And there’s never been anything."
A check of the Sheriff's Office crime map confirms the neighborhood is fairly quiet, with only a battery and a theft recently reported. According to calls for service, JSO had only been called once since January 2016 -- for a suspicious person reported March 1 -- to the Doris Lane home where the woman was found dead. Though about four years ago, there was a conflict in the neighborhood about how to manage peacocks.
At last check, there was no suspect information in the woman's death, which has one mother, who has lived on Doris Lane for several years, afraid for her family's safety.
"We live two houses up from it and my mother is sick and she watches my children for me and I'm afraid for her and my children," said the woman, who wished to remain unnamed. "What had happened? Who did it? What's going on? You've got people with kids around this neighborhood and it's scary."
According to neighbors, a dark-colored SUV was spotted driving past the home two days in a row. Neighbors said the last time was early Thursday morning when the SUV drove away from the area with its headlights off. Police have not confirmed whether the SUV could be related to the case.
Anyone with information about the murder investigation is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500 or email JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS (8477).
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