Goldie Robinson, 78, spent her life working hard, volunteering at church and raising a family.
Then, without warning, she vanished.
Alarmed that he couldn't reach her, Robinson's son drove to Volusia County from his home in Baltimore and found her mobile home ransacked. Just about everything she owned was gone, and so was she. A family with children — or maybe some homeless people — were living at her address.
Today, police found a decomposed body near Robinson's South Daytona home. They haven't identified the remains, but her son feared the worst.
"Something bad is wrong," Fred Roberts said shortly before the body was discovered. "It doesn't sound good at all."
Roberts, 58, has been trying to reach his mother for about two months. A neighbor who lives across the street, Kimberly "Yaya" Smith, 44, told him Robinson had married a wealthy older man named Rusty and was on vacation in the Carolinas, he told police. She even sent him a photo of the newlyweds, marked "Just married, July 19, 2010" in a text message, an investigator's report says.
Police found an elderly man asleep on Smith's living-room couch. He looked like the man in the newlywed picture. He said he moved in with Smith and her boyfriend, David Enos, who were taking care of him after a stroke, a police report states. The man said he had seen Robinson several weeks before, but he was not her husband.
There are no Florida records of any recent marriage for Robinson, officers found.
During a search of Smith's home, police came across a disabled woman in a rear bedroom who told them Smith had informally adopted her, helps her with her money and takes care of her, the report states.
Police found the body, covered in a way police would not describe, in woods behind the mobile home Smith and Enos shared. A medical examiner will identify the body.
"It's highly suspicious," said Lt. Ron Wright of the South Daytona police.
Smith is serving 364 days at the Orange County Jail on a violation-of-probation conviction after being picked up by authorities earlier this month. She declined to be interviewed by the Orlando Sentinel. A woman identifying herself as the wife of Smith's son said the family had no comment and hung up on a reporter. A message left for Enos was not returned.
Roberts said he and his elderly mother were not always on speaking terms, and in recent months he'd kept up on her condition by talking to Smith.
He felt reassured when he learned his mother had a friend to take her to the mall, Walmart and the grocery store and make sure she took her medications.
"It made my heart feel good because this lady was watching out after her," Roberts said.
After the long silence, however, Roberts sent a few friends to his mother's mobile home on Saturday to look for her. They found it locked up tight with Robinson nowhere to be found. Roberts, whose name is on the title to the home, drove to Florida and got police involved on Sunday.
Robinson always kept a tidy home. But when Roberts went inside by jimmying a window, he found a mess: a slept-on mattress on the floor, full ashtrays, the carpet torn up, he said. Robinson has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and high blood pressure and hasn't smoked in years, her son said.
Fresh groceries and children's toys also were inside, according to a police report.
"I can't describe the feeling I got when I walked in," Roberts said.
Most of his mother's personal possessions, including her clothes, were gone, as was one of her cars. A mink stole and her treasured knickknacks – ceramic angels and collectible eggs -- were among the missing items, Roberts said. Robinson also owned a minivan and had recently bought a gold-colored Hyundai Sonata — behavior her son says doesn't make sense.
Neighbors saw Smith and her son Samuel, 24, driving the van frequently, according to police. Officer found the body when they went to impound Robinson's vehicles to search for clues.
"Mom had no mansion," Roberts said. "She lived in a trailer. She had very little in a bank. She lived on $1,200 Social Security [monthly]. "[But] she had a few nice things that she had gathered up over the years. She worked her entire life."
Years ago in Baltimore, Robinson labored for a meat-packing company. After she moved to Florida in 1973 because a younger son had asthma, she worked as a Denny's waitress and later as a Denny's manager. For the past few years, she was a part-time ticket taker at a beachside movie house.
"She loved working with people," said Stacia Manuel, 33, of Alaska, Robinson's granddaughter.
The manager of the mobile-home park told police he last saw Robinson about July 1. On Aug. 18 he found Smith's son living in her unit. Smith told the manager that he was fixing up the home for Robinson while she was out of town, a police report states, but the manager told him to stay out.
Later, Smith told an investigator he was buying the home from Robinson, who would be back in December to finalize the transaction, the report states.
Kimberly Smith has a criminal conviction for fraudulent use of personal identification. She stole personal papers from a file cabinet at a home where she was staying and used them to rent an apartment in west Orange County, court papers show.
The violation of probation that landed her in jail included writing a bad check for $1,400 in 2006 to a landlord in Titusville, not paying probation costs as ordered and moving without notifying her probation officer.
State records also show a conviction for writing bad checks in Volusia County in 1999.
Robinson, a great-grandmother, is capable of living alone and likes being independent, her son and granddaughter said. However, she needed a breathing machine for her pulmonary disease and took blood-pressure medication. It's out of character for her to "just up and leave," Roberts said.
"She was a firecracker," her granddaughter said. "She was probably one of the strongest women I've ever known."
Ronnie Barton, pastor at First Baptist Church of South Daytona, said he grew concerned when Robinson stopped showing up for services on Wednesday and Sunday nights. Robinson also attended Bible study and volunteered as needed.
Robinson was "very personable, very friendly," the pastor said. "When Goldie's around, you're going to laugh — you're going to enjoy life".
Nobody other than Kimberly Smith seems to know about the well-to-do gentleman Robinson supposedly married — or why she vanished without a word. Police ask anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida at 1-888-277-8477.
"I hope Mom's laying on the beach somewhere drinking margaritas," Roberts said, his voice breaking. "But I don't think that's the case."
Susan Jacobson can be reached at email@example.com or 407-540-5981.