Walking to remember Janette Roberson

REED CITY — Although she couldn't be in Reed City on Sunday, Lana Lockhart sent a message to those who came out to walk in honor of her sister, murder victim Janette Roberson.

"This small town should seek justice for her," Lockhart wrote in a letter read aloud by event organizer Jennifer Carlson before those in attendance walked through downtown Reed City to raise awareness for Roberson's case, which remains unsolved.

About 40 people showed up to the Reed City Depot on Sunday, the 31st anniversary of Roberson's death, some traveling from as far away as Grand Blanc and the Detroit area.

Of those who walked, about a dozen knew Roberson in some way. Reed City resident Desirae Mason was not one of them, despite being one of Roberson's nieces. Lockhart gave birth to Mason, now 30, later in the year Roberson was killed. Mason and her sister, Reed City resident Elana Cabender, both attended the event to represent their mother.

Throughout their childhood, Mason and Cabender said their family had a hard time talking about Roberson. It wasn't until they were older that they found out the reason her aunt wasn't around. About eight years ago, Cabender and her mother renewed the effort to push for a resolution to the case.

"No one was really interested in it for a very long time," Cabender said. "If you talk to anyone who's here, they'll say, 'Oh yeah, I remember that.' ... There has to be someone who knows something. Someone knows if someone was missing that day at the right time, or knows someone who was connected to her — they know something."

Seeing the case solved would be a relief to those who survive Roberson, Mason said.

"This has weighed really heavy on my family," Mason said. "Some closure would be nice. ...I know she was a wonderful person and she didn't get to live her life because she died so young."

Roberson, a mother of two, was 27 years when she was killed. Her body was found between 2 and 4 p.m. on Jan. 19, 1983, in the basement of the Gamble's store in downtown Reed City, which sat where Reed City Hardware is now. Years of investigation into the brutal homicide have left police without enough evidence to arrest or prosecute any suspects. DNA evidence, even when examined and cataloged with modern means, has never been matched to anyone, possibly because the killer has not committed another crime that would place his DNA profile in national crime databases.

The fear that Roberson's killer remains free in Reed City is real, and perhaps has helped to keep the case alive in citizens' minds, said event organizer Carrie Hudson.

Hudson said she ate breakfast at a local diner prior to the walk on Sunday, and throughout her meal she could hear people discussing the walk and the case.

"It is a fear. People do worry that he's still out there," Hudson said. "I think they would like to see it solved. I don't think people necessarily fear it (daily), but this was very brutal."

Originally from Reed City but now lives near Pontiac, Hudson was a Roberson's friend and neighbor, and the two became close friends. Before the walk, she shared a story of taking a baby bird to Roberson, who nursed it to health with an eye dropper and eventually released it back into the wild.

"She was a super nice woman," Hudson said. "When this idea first came about, this was all about bringing attention to the case, and the response from the community has been just amazing. We couldn't be happier at the moment. I think we got everything out of the walk that we were looking for."

Anyone with information about the murder can contact one of the following numbers and can remain anonymous.
  • Michigan State Police (989) 773-5951
  • Reed City Police Department (231) 832-3743
  • Silent Observer (toll free) 866-774-2345