By Daniel Silliman
The 10-year-old boy lay on his left side, on the edge of a motel bed.
Jeremiah Slonaker lay there next to his mother, in a ground floor room of a Motel 6, with his eyes closed, and then his mother shot him.
The .380-caliber bullet entered through the back of his 10-year-old skull and exited his forehead. The force of the blast knocked him off the bed.
The woman, 36-year-old Donne Marie Slonaker, had loaded two bullets in the stolen pistol. With the second one, she shot herself. She put both her index fingers on the pistol's trigger, pressed the barrel hard into her right temple and fired.
"When we found her, she was still clutching the gun," said Scott Eskew, senior homicide detective at the Clayton County Police Department.
The scene in room 118, of the 7233 Davidson Parkway Stockbridge Motel 6, was immediately ruled a murder-suicide.
Eskew didn't know, though, why the woman from Centerville, Ga., drove 80 miles north in her red Ford Thunderbird, checked into this motel room and killed herself and her son.
In the weeks following the March 3 deaths, he tried to piece together the story explaining the tragedy, or at least answering some questions. What emerged from his investigation, Eskew said, was a picture of a sad, sick and depressed woman with a possessive love for her little boy.
Donne Marie Slonaker started drinking at the age of 14, and grew increasingly estranged from her family. At 19, she was diagnosed with a bipolar, manic depressive disorder. She suffered sever mood swings her entire adult life, and several old scars on her left wrist speak to repeated suicide attempts, according to Eskew.
"It's not really surprising, to some of the people who knew her that she took her own life," Eskew said. "But no one ever thought she'd hurt her son."
Jeremiah was born when Donne Marie was 26. She raised him as a single mother and he was known by his classmates, according to reports in the Macon Telegraph, as a funny boy who made people laugh.
Donne Marie tried to quit drinking, joining Alcoholics Anonymous, and she tried to get better, joining a number of self-help groups. She was working, here and there, on computers. Above all things, she loved her son and she wanted to protect him.
"She would never allow the child to be cared for by anybody but her," Eskew said. "A number of people, who knew them well, called it 'possessive love.' That was the phrase they used, 'possessive love.'"
About a year ago, Donne Marie Slonaker's mother, Marylorretta Ann Henry Slonaker died, and it was a devastating loss. Then her brother died, a short time later, and it seemed like she never really recovered.
In February, Jeremiah was withdrawn from his fifth-grade class. Donne Marie Slonaker said she was going to home-school the boy. Twenty days later, on March 2, she went to her neighbor's house, in Centerville. She checked her e-mail and she said, "If anything ever happens to me, take care of my dog and my cat."
Before leaving, she allegedly stole a semiautomatic, .380 pistol from the neighbor's dresser drawer, and then Donne Marie Slonaker and her son drove off.
They drove off in an old, red Thunderbird, which was in poor condition and cluttered with fast-food trash and paper garbage. They went north. There doesn't seem to be any reason why.
"There was no destination," the detective said, "other than that she knew that at the end of this she was going to die and her son was going to die."
Donne Marie stopped at Wal-Mart on the way out of Houston County. She bought a box of bullets. She stopped again at Wal-Mart in Macon, Ga., and spent $200 on handheld video games for her son. It may have been, Eskew said, "Mommy's last gift."
When Donne Marie Slonaker walked into the front office at Motel 6, it seemed like she was dragging a cloud of depression behind her. The clerk remembered her, how she seemed, even though he couldn't quite say why, telling police later that "there was just something depressing about her."
The sun was setting, it was Sunday night, and she asked for an isolated room. She didn't have any luggage, just her purse and a gun.
No one heard the shots that killed the sad woman and the little boy.
When the Slonakers didn't check out of room 118 on Monday at 11:30 a.m., the motel manager and maintenance man opened the door. The woman was sitting the bed, dead with the bullet caught in her tangled hair. The boy was on the floor, dead with his face down in the motel carpet.
The obituary said, "In lieu of flowers, the family requests your prayers."