The frail 78-year-old woman, aided by a relative, walked gingerly to the podium Friday to face reporters, her eyes bloodshot from a week's worth of tears.
"My heart is broken," said the woman, whose granddaughter, Denice Roberts, died in her arms Aug. 10 after a burglar fleeing from their modest Fayette County home shot the 44-year-old in the head. "Whoever did this took not only my granddaughter's life, but my reason for living."
The victim, who had cerebral palsy, and her grandmother returned to their residence on Bohannon Road in north Fayette around 11:30 a.m. to find at least one intruder inside, said Fayette sheriff's spokesman Brent Rowan. Deputies believe they are looking for more than one suspect, Rowan said, but aren't certain.
After opening the front door and seeing someone inside, the two women immediately retreated to the porch.
The burglar, or burglars, fled out the back door into a light-colored, four-door sedan, Rowan said. Before the vehicle exited the driveway, the deadly shot was fired.
Fayette deputies asked that the grandmother's name not be disclosed; the woman is fearful because the shooter is still at large.
She did not get a good look at the intruder. Investigators have since canvassed the surrounding neighborhood, setting up a roadblock Friday morning, but so far have collected few clues outside of an undisclosed item dropped by a burglar as the suspect fled, Rowan said.
The department's determination to apprehend the culprits was evident at Friday's news conference when the sheriff's spokesman, reflecting on the victim's funeral, fought back tears.
"There was a little plaque honoring her for 35 years perfect attendance for never missing Sunday school," said Rowan, his voice cracking. "It's our duty to protect these people. ... There was just no rhyme or reason [to the shooting]."
No one knows that better than Denice Roberts' grandmother.
"We needed each other," she said. "She was my best friend, and I'm lost without her. Help us find justice."
Deputies requested anyone with information to notify the sheriff's office at 770-461-6353 or 770-716-4777. An undisclosed reward has been offered.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.