By Alex Toth
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class.
Mindi Dawson Skeith will never forget driving her brother to Tulsa Welding School on his first day. She will never forget how his face lit up when a counselor asked him what he wanted in life.
Taurus Dawson sat to his sister’s left side, a smile on his face, and said he wanted to live a long life. He wanted a house with a garage. He wanted a wife and kids.
“He had plans, he had goals,” Skeith said. “And he’ll never reach them.”
Dawson was murdered just before midnight on Sept. 5, 2013. But by the time police arrived at the scene, the person who shot him in the head had fled.
The only thing police found were stray shell casings, which officers have determined were not the shooter’s.
Rose Priscilla Baker, Dawson’s mother, believes that justice is inescapable for the person who murdered her son.
“They may have escaped the law,” she said. “But they have not escaped God.”
Dawson was shot as he walked to his car in the 400 block of Leland Street, just minutes away from his home at the 600 block on Fitzgerald Street.
There are witnesses, and the detective has identified a person of interest according to Richelle Starling of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. However, JSO would not give any further information as to who that person could be with the investigation still ongoing.
According to Baker, Dawson wasn’t the shooter’s intended target. She says that the killer was after his cousin, Marvin Hartley. Hartley was shot in the leg on the night Dawson was killed. He was murdered four years later, on August 18, 2017, in the same neighborhood. Whoever killed him has not been found either.
Baker remembers her son as a bit of a loner as a child, but one who always looked out for other people.
“He always loved his family and he loved the young people,” said Baker. “He loved his brothers and sisters and they loved him, and they miss him. We all miss him.”
One of these sisters is Skeith, Dawson’s only sibling to share the same mother and father. They were born and raised in Jacksonville.
The siblings were only a year apart, and Skeith says they shared a very close bond. “Our father wasn’t as involved in our lives as he needed to be, so Taurus was like the man in our house,” Skeith said.
Dawson and Skeith had a stepfather, but Skeith still sees her brother as her guardian and her best friend. She recalls a time during her childhood when her brother saved her life.
The siblings were on a trip to the beach, and Skeith was caught by the undercurrent and went under. “I was screaming, but no one would help me,” Skeith says. “I remember looking up and my brother was there. He pulled me up from the water and got me back to the shore.”
Skeith remembers taking Saturday trips with her brother, where they’d take the city bus to a music store on Normandy Boulevard called Coconuts.
“We would spend hours looking at and buying music,” Skeith said. Music played a big part in Dawson’s life. When he needed his space, he would turn to music for comfort.
“When he became a teenager I bought him a boom box, and that was like his constant companion,” said Baker. “Everywhere he went you’d see him with his boom box.”
His mother and sister both say Dawson was a hard worker.
He graduated from high school at the Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology in Jacksonville. He even went an extra year to make sure he got a diploma instead of a certificate.
After high school, Dawson didn’t want a college degree, so he got a trade certificate instead. He attended and graduated from Tulsa Welding School in Jacksonville.
“We were so proud of him when he accomplished that,” said Baker. “There were some obstacles but he was able to overcome them.”
Despite the fact that the police have not yet found her son’s killer, Baker knows they are trying their hardest to serve justice.
“There are so many murders in this city, and I know the police are overwhelmed,” she said. “I’m not frustrated with the police. I’m frustrated with the young people, with the violence.”
Skeith, on the other hand, is more upset with how the situation has been handled.
“I know the detective would call my mom a lot, but I don’t know what he was actually doing to find the person,” she said. She says the detective hasn’t even met with the family in person since the day Dawson was killed.
Even though he was taken from her too soon, Baker has come to terms with the fact that her son is gone. “I know he is at peace,” she said. “He’s not amongst the violence anymore. He’s not amongst the madness in this city.”
After her son’s murder, Baker turned to her faith for guidance. “Family and friends are gonna leave you but you can lean on Jesus,” she said. “Whether it comes through violence or sickness, one day we all gotta die.”
For anyone else who has lost a loved one too soon, Baker had these words to say, “Cry your tears. Don’t let anybody tell you how long you should cry, but just know that they’re at peace.”
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