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Neighbor goes on trial in social worker's murder

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A 23-year-old College Park man accused of assaulting and strangling his neighbor, is set to stand trial on Monday, two years after the woman was found naked and dead in her apartment.

Leroy Mitchell Knox is charged with murdering Kimberly Jacobs, a 26-year-old social worker, in September 2006. Police and prosecutors alleged that he attacked and killed her within hours of being released from jail, when a domestic violence case against him was dismissed.

A friend and co-worker found Jacobs after the woman didn't show up to work on the morning of Sept. 26. The friend went to Jacob's Garden Walk Boulevard apartment, and found her face-down in a bathtub of water.

She was naked from the waist down and her green shirt was ripped open, showing her red bra. There were buttons scattered over the carpet, panties torn and discarded on the floor. In the kitchen, a rag was in the oven, which was set at 500 degrees, according to Clayton County Police Department detectives' reports.

An autopsy found that the woman hadn't drowned, but had been strangled. The approximate time of death was put at 5 p.m.

"The police investigation," Detective Charles Blissitt wrote in an arrest warrant application, "ruled that the victim had been strangled in her apartment, after which her body was placed face down in a bathtub."

Blissitt believes placing the dead body in the bathtub and attempting to set the place on fire were meant to cover up the crime.

Police immediately thought Jacobs probably knew her killer, because she'd opened the door to her apartment. The investigation quickly came to focus on Knox, when Blissitt found that Knox, who lived in the apartment above Jacobs', had used her phone at about 5:30 p.m., around the approximate time of death.

Knox had been released from the county jail that afternoon, court records show, when county prosecutors couldn't find his girlfriend to testify that he'd chased her around with a butcher knife. When Knox was released, he took the bus home to College Park and then went looking for his girlfriend, according to Blissitt's investigation.

He went to ask his neighbor, Jacobs, about his girlfriend, and called his girlfriend's grandmother from the dead woman's cell phone.

"Leroy Knox told her [the girlfriend's grandmother] he'd just been released from jail and he was calling to find out where her granddaughter was at, and further wanted to know where his clothes were," Blissitt reported.

The phone call put the man with a history of violence against women at the scene of an attack and a murder, and the detective put together what he believes is a very tight timeline.

Knox's attorneys have countered at court hearings that a phone call from a neighbor's apartment isn't exactly ominous evidence. Blissitt believes the timeline ties Knox to the woman's death.

A jury will be seated on Monday and hear the details of the case in Judge Albert Collier's courtroom. Knox faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison.