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Note: Although this case has not officially been ruled as having gone cold, it is being included on the website with hopes that anyone with additional information might contact the Des Moines Police Department.
Johnita Clemons, a 34-year-old mother of two, was shot and killed inside her Francis Avenue residence in Des Moines on Tuesday, December 24, 2013.
At 9:35 p.m. officers responded to a call of shots fired at 1801 Francis Ave. on the city’s north side. The caller said three shots were fired, though police were unable to verify that number.
When officers arrived at the house, they found the woman inside, dead of gunshot wounds.
Clemons’ murder was the city’s 14th homicide in 2013.
Four witnesses were taken to the Des Moines police station for questioning, and the case remains under investigation.
In a press conference held Christmas Day, Des Moines Police Sgt. Jason Halifax said the department received a call at 9:36 p.m. from someone inside the residence.
A Des Moines Register article dated Dec. 25, 2013 said Clemons had been engaged since January, and that police had been dispatched to the Francis Avenue address six times in 2013 — once for a medical situation and five times for domestic disputes.
There were no other homicides that year in the immediate area around the house.
The Register said that according to Polk County assessor records, the home was owned by Larry Gatewood of Des Moines. Gatewood’s family said he would not comment on the shooting.
“Detectives questioned four witnesses overnight and “made significant progress,” Sgt. Jason Halifax, Des Moines police spokesman, said Dec. 25.
Des Moines police have an 86 percent solve-rate on crimes, well above the national average.
View the Dec. 25, 2013 Des Moines Police Department press conference with Sgt. Jason Halifax. (Courtesy Des Moines Register)
Clemons’ family spent Christmas trying to comfort each other and Clemons’ daughter, 14, and son, 11.
“All they wanted was their mom for Christmas. They just wanted their mom. What kid needs to have that wish for Christmas?” Clemons’ niece, Tanya Daniels, said in a WHOtv.com story airing Christmas Day. “Christmas Eve to lose their mom? It’s devastating for them.”
Clemons did not have any life insurance, and an account was set up at Affinity Credit Union to help Clemons’ children, WHO-TV reported.
Johnita Larie Clemons was born September 19, 1979, in Denver, Colorado, to Mary L. Broadus and John L. Clemons.
She was educated in the Mexico, Missouri school system, and graduated from Mexico High School in 1998.
Johnita was an employee of the Holiday Inn Airport and Conference Center as a front desk clerk, and her work ethic considered superb. She was also an employee of Burger King where she worked her way up to management. She’d been attending school part-time to become a Human Services Development Worker.
In addition to spending time with her children, Mikkah and Parieon, her favorite hobbies included helping out others, movie night with her children, playing games, playing dress-up with Mikkah and friends, and watching Parieon play basketball. She loved playing bogey man, loved her “sweets” and cooking up new dishes. As a little girl, she played a lot with making her own paper dolls and pasting them on perfume bottles. Her faith was a big part of her life, and she often visited different churches in her community.
Johnita was engaged to be married to her fiancé, Richard Ball, and was excited about planning her big day.
She was shot to death in her home on Christmas Eve, 2013. In her obituary, family said she would be truly missed by all who knew her.
Survivors included her daughter: Mikkah N. Lyke of Des Moines; her son, Parieon I. J. Davis of Des Moines; her siblings, Vickie Daniels, Larry Gatewood Sr., Bobby Miller, Michelle Washington-Knoxville, all of Des Moines, Joyce Majors of Detroit, MI, Denise Sigars (Prentice), Theodore Gatewood Jr., both of Denver, CO, Tracey Washington of Arizona and Tyrone Jones of Mexico, MO; great-uncle George Broadus of Des Moines; uncle James Broadus of Texarkana, AR; and aunt Irene Rumley of Des Moines; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, great-nieces and nephews, and great-great-nieces and nephews, as well as a huge host of friends.
Those preceding her in death included her parents: Mary L. Broadus and John L. Clemons; her grandparents, Josephine and Jessie Broadus; her daughter, Nautica T. Clemons; and her brothers, Craig Gatewood, Stacey Washington, Jerry Clemons and Kerry Clemons.
Visitation was held from 9 – 11 a.m. on Saturday, January 4, 2014, at Hamilton’s Funeral Home, 605 Lyon Street, Des Moines, with funeral services following at 11 a.m.
Johnita was buried at Glendale Cemetery in Des Moines.
Anyone with information regarding Johnita Clemons’ murder is asked to contact the Des Moines Police Department at (515) 283-4864.