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By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
A nephew went over to pick up his aunt for Christmas dinner. Instead, he had to pick up the phone to call police. Police think it may have been a holiday burglary that turned deadly.
Palatka police won't know when the murder actually occurred until the medical examiner's report comes back. But her neighbor and friend says she thinks she may have a guess.
The Christmas cards and bows are still taped to the window of 58-year old Myrtle McKinney's apartment. But it's been joined by blue evidence tape--a sign of what's inside.
"She was a very loving woman," says neighbor and friend Christina Jackson. "I mean, anytime she could help you, she would."
Jackson says McKinney gave plenty of help and even some remedies for morning sickness before her son Dietrich was born last month. Jackson last saw McKinney Friday. But when she went over Sunday about 8 A.M., she heard the TV blaring.
"It was loud enough that I could hear it through the door, so i knew it was on," says Jackson.
But when she checked an hour later, it was off.
Palatka police say another neighbor was the last to see McKinney alive on Saturday. But her body wasn't discovered until Christmas afternoon. McKinney's nephew came to pick her up. But her door was locked, and when the apartment manager opened it up, it had been ransacked.
"When they saw the condition of the apartment, they immediately knew something was wrong," says Palatka Assistant Chief of Police James Griffith. "That's the reason they backed out."
Griffith says the Forest Glen apartments is usually a nice neighborhood with a prime location. The hospital is just a short distance away and Saint John's River Community College is just a half mile up on State Road 20.
Police were questioning neighbors Wednesday night to see if they saw anything suspicious. Griffith says there had been some burglaries in Forest Glen in the last few months. But detectives hadn't been able to determine if anything was missing yet from McKinney's apartment.
"A tragic event like this taking place any day of the year is bad," says Griffith. "But on Christmas, it's very disheartening to everyone."
Jackson says she was up all Tuesday night, in disbelief that her friend and neighbor is gone.
"Whoever did this, I just pray that God have mercy on your soul," says Jackson. "I just hope he has mercy on your soul, because you are going to need it."
Griffith says the lock on the front door does not appear to be forced. But he would not release many other details about the crime scene. He hopes to have the medical examiner's report later this week.
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