The sister of a slain newlywed shares her feelings about the killing on the Longleaf Trail near Bond Swamp in Twiggs County. Sandy Williams erected a shrine in the woods in memory of Danielle Kelly Thompson. Video by Liz Fabian.
Shortly after Danielle Kelly Thompson slipped a diamond engagement ring on her finger last winter, she excitedly texted a photo to her sister.
“Who have you done married?” Sandy Williams asked her baby sister.
“You fool, I’m not married. I’m just engaged,” she responded.
Williams had heard about her sister’s romance but had not gotten to know Thompson’s new beau, Marcus Donnell Hoskins.
About two weeks after the wedding, she got her first good look at her brother-in-law while Thompson’s oldest daughter was recovering from emergency brain surgery at a hospital near Atlanta.
“The day I met him in the hospital, he stood in the hall and he would rock back and forth,” Williams recalled. “I thought, ‘This person is going to hurt my sister.’ I had that gut feeling.”
Four days later, Hoskins led investigators to the bullet-ridden body of the 37-year-old mother of four.
She was lying dead on the Longleaf Trail at Bond Swamp off the Cochran Short Route in Twiggs County.
Hoskins had called Jones County investigators Jan. 31 to report the killing.
Capt. Earl Humphries was headed to court, but wanted to talk to the man he’d known most of his 28-year career in law enforcement.
“Normally, we have to jump through a few hoops to get them to tell you what they did, but we didn’t have to in this case,” Humphries said. “He was no angel, but if he got into something, he would usually tell you.”
The veteran investigator said the burly, nearly 6-foot-tall man seemed remorseful and cried about what he had done.
‘I done killed my wife’
Before calling the law, Hoskins walked into his grandmother’s house where he grew up on Bethune Avenue off Shurling Drive, near the Bibb County line.
Virginia Rivers was lying in bed when her grandson walked through the screened front porch.
“I done killed my wife,” he told his mother, Rolean London.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” London said, “You’ve got to be crazy, as much as you loved Danielle.”
His 85-year-old grandmother flashed back to all the times her granddaughter-in-law visited.
“It just hurts me so bad,” said Rivers, who raised “Mug,” as the family calls him.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to survive,” Rivers said. “I wish I could get in a plane and never stop riding, because it hurts.”
The grandson who cut her grass and trimmed the bushes had let her down before.
In addition to civil cases in Jones County, he was charged with multiple counts of forgery in Bibb County in the mid-’80s and served several months in prison.
Robbery charges and attempted armed robbery in Bibb County landed him back behind bars in 1992.
After other skirmishes with criminal activity, he went back to prison for five years in 2007 for aggravated assault on a peace officer and fleeing or eluding officers in Ben Hill County.
“Lord have mercy, I’ve been up against so much ups and downs,” said Rivers, who seemed weary last week after running errands and sending Hoskins a little spending money to buy snacks.
“Sometimes I’ll pick up the phone and he’ll say, ‘Love you, love all y’all,’” she said.
Rivers has not been able to face her grandson in jail.
Marcus Hoskins' mother and grandmother remember the day he confessed to killing his newlywed bride. Video by Liz Fabian.
‘A part of us is gone’
Williams wishes she could hear her sister’s voice again.
“I sit here every day and cry. I’m waiting for my sister to call and she doesn’t call, and it’s tearing me apart,” she said.
Sixteen years separated the girls, but they were close.
Williams wanted a sister and had to wait through four brothers to get her.
It wasn’t until their divorced mother remarried that little Danielle came along.
Williams’ stepfather, Hurley Kelly, wasn’t supposed to be able to have children, which made Gail Kelly’s second daughter even more special.
“She was spoiled,” Williams said with a smile. “She says she wasn’t, but she was.”
When Williams got her engagement ring in 1984, she bought 8-year-old Danielle a new blue plaid dress.
Williams’ closet was always open to her.
“You’re not going to wear this, so I’ll borrow it for a while,” she would say while removing favorites from her big sister’s clothes.
In the months before her death, a black and gold sleeveless shirt caught Thompson’s eye.
“I felt so bad and so guilty that I didn’t give it to her,” Williams said.
So she buried her in it.
Williams looks at her sister’s picture every night before she sleeps and first thing every morning.
“When he killed her, a part of us is gone,” she said.
‘I knew she was dead’
Thompson was raising four children, although her oldest, 20-year-old Tyler Daniel from her first marriage, was pretty much on his own.
Her Thompson children -- 12-year-old Cassie, 14-year-old Levi and 16-year-old Keely -- still depended on her.
The children had their doubts about Hoskins until they saw their mother was happy, their aunt said.
Thompson told her sister that he treated her well and helped her cook, took care of the yard and handed over his paycheck.
“I think that’s what hooked her, because she needed help,” Williams said.
After Thompson was laid off from her dream job of apprenticing as a Macon Memorial Park funeral director, she and Hoskins were personal care assistants for an elderly couple.
In the week before her death, they were consumed with caring for Keely, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Her first surgery came five days before her mother was slain.
Keely had five more operations.
For two months, no one told the girl about her mother’s death for fear it would hinder her recovery.
On the eve of the killing, Hoskins and other family members had been cleaning to rid the couple’s house of germs before Keely returned.
With his new wife with her old husband at the girl’s bedside, Hoskins paced the floor.
Meanwhile, Williams worried about the sick feeling she had in her stomach.
She was raised not to discriminate.
“It’s not race. My sister trusted you enough to marry you,” she thought.
The morning of Jan. 30, Thompson went outside the hospital with Hoskins to smoke a cigarette.
She left her purse, took her cellphone and debit card, and never came back.
Williams got a call later from her nephew when his mother wasn’t answering her phone.
“I knew she was dead,” she said.
‘She was an angel to us’
Rolean London just shakes her head trying to make sense of what happened to Thompson.
“He loved Danielle so much,” she said. “That’s the way I felt, that they just loved each other.”
The couple sometimes attended services with his mother at Camp Hope AME Church near her house.
“I still can’t believe it. I don’t know what happened,” she said.
Early in the investigation, Twiggs County Sheriff Darren Mitchum said Thompson was thinking about getting back together with her ex-husband for the sake of their children.
Jealousy is the only motive Hoskins’ mother can think of.
“He said, ‘I snapped.’ What is snapped?” she questioned.
His grandmother thinks he might have been on drugs.
“He was loving and all, but when he got out there on those drugs, he messed up a lot with drugs,” Rivers said.
She’d question the young man who used to play football before dropping out of Jones County High.
When asked if he was on drugs, he always denied it.
“And I said, ‘I can look in your eyes and there’s something wrong,’” she’d say.
Hoskins’ younger brother Michael Diadell took two bullets to the head in what investigators described as a drug deal gone bad.
In July 1998, he was found dead inside his truck with both doors open on a dirt road behind Lakeview Apartments in Bibb County.
Now his grandmother fears she will lose another grandson to lethal injection.
“I know he’s taken a life, but I hope they spare his life,” Rivers said.
Williams has no mercy.
“I want the death penalty because I want to see him pay,” she said. “That’s the only penalty I think is fair. He took a life, so he should pay with his life.”
Prosecutors are still considering capital punishment.
The case is on the Twiggs County trial calendar for Aug. 26, but could be delayed. Hoskins, 46, has pleaded not guilty.
“If we wind up going the death penalty route, that’s a whole new level of motions and procedures that have to be put in place before and during the trial,” said Brandon Faircloth, an assistant district attorney in the Dublin Judicial Circuit.
Williams is fighting to keep her sister’s memory alive.
“She was ... the kindest person you would ever meet,” said Williams, who asked a wildlife officer to take her to the precise spot in the woods where her sister died after noon on Jan. 30.
“I got cold chills and thought about how she laid out here all night by herself, in the woods, and it was cold and it was dark,” she said while recently visiting a memorial she’s placed at the crime scene.
Two angels sit on a slab surrounded by flowers and solar powered lights, since Thompson didn’t like the dark.
“In loving memory of Danielle Kelly Thompson” had been written in permanent red ink, but rain washed it off a concrete marker.
If only Williams could easily erase the last chapter of her sister’s love life.
The family decided against etching Hoskins into her headstone and left his name off her obituary.
Another memorial tribute is on the back window of Williams’ car.
A fallen cupid is face down with an arrow in its back.
The same image was tattooed across Thompson’s back years ago.
Almost prophetically, it seems to indicate someone doomed by a quest for love.
Williams thinks she understands why her sister wanted it etched across her back.
“She was an angel to us, but I think she was an angel who knew her time was short.”
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.