This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class. The student credited above wrote this story as a class project.
Daryl Eugene Lamont Austin was the youngest of five children. He stood at 6 foot 3 inches and weighed 301 pounds. His nickname was “Big Baby.” As his mother Sheryl Jackson always said, “he had a smile out of this room.”
On Thursday, June 15, 2017, Austin’s sister, Jucoby Buchanan, received a call from another family member alerting her that a young man had been shot nearby in their Jacksonville, Florida neighborhood.
Worried, she called the police, but they didn’t have any information to give her. Unsure of what else to do, she picked up her mom, and together they went to the morgue.
Call it intuition – Jucoby says she just had a bad feeling about what happened.
Turns out she was right to be worried: her baby brother had been killed. He was only 25.
“I can’t think straight, all I can see is my brother,” said Buchanan. “It’s tearing me up.”
Daryl Austin was born on December 13, 1992. He was outgoing and fun-loving. He enjoyed dancing and rapping. “He liked to hang out on the phone,” his mother recalled fondly.
Austin enjoyed sports and had a love of basketball and football. He was always looking out for everyone, even though he was the youngest. He was a loving protector of his family and friends.
He fell into some trouble and ended up in prison, serving his sentence for three years before being released. Austin was only free for a year before he was killed. “He was my baby,” Jackson said. “I never thought this would happen, but it did.”
The exact circumstances of Daryl Austin’s death are unknown. He was visiting a home off 103rd Street with two other men when he was shot. He died at the scene.
A green SUV and a burgundy car were seen leaving after the shooting, and the SUV was later recovered by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
No arrests have ever been made.
The police told the family it was a drive-by shooting, possibly a case of mistaken identity. Austin’s family believes there are witnesses who know more than they have shared with the police.
“It’s a shame,” Jackson said. “People think they can go around killing people’s children.”
Losing Daryl meant the family lost its protector, and Sheryl Jackson lost her baby. “I hurt every day, I cry every day, I’ve been crying for two years. It’s tearing me up,” she said.
As the family has been trying to cope with the pain of their loss, they have not stopped seeking answers. Before the case was considered cold, Jackson said she used to call the investigating detective every day, sometimes multiple times a day. More recently, the family organized a walk with the local anti-crime group, MAD DADS. They went door to door, in the area where Austin was killed, asking residents if they had any information on his death.
According to a 2018 News4Jax article, in 2017, 120 homicides were being investigated by JSO. Of those 120, 85 remained open – including Daryl Austin.
“I just want justice for my son,” Jackson said. “If you hear anything, please come forward.”
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Daryl Austin, please call the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at (904) 630-0500. To remain anonymous and possibly be eligible for a $3,000 reward, call First Coast Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-TIPS.
RESEARCH AND IMPACT
Many families suffering with a cold case homicide voice their frustration with consistency of communication. Survivors often struggle with investigating agencies failing to return calls in a timely manner, if at all. Project: Cold Case recommends a few helpful tips to establish a relationship with the investigators to encourage better contact and exchanges.
Designate a contact person
Law enforcement often will only disseminate information through a single family contact. This helps avoid having multiple family members calling, tying up investigators and phone lines, while ensuring direct information is exchanged. Corresponding with the investigator through email could also help. Remember, consistency is key, and having a consistent point of contact is the first step.
Reaching out on important dates
The point of contact should consider calling law enforcement on, or around, important anniversary dates, holidays, or in a consistent interval (monthly, yearly, etc.). With the work load of investigators, ensuring that someone is following up on a loved one’s case keeps the agency aware that the family is engaged and persistent. If you struggle to get contact from law enforcement, consider utilizing email. This paper trail will help, if necessary, give a specific date in which you reached out. It’s easier to dismiss phone calls than letters.
Local media outlets
Reach out to your local media outlets and gauge their interest in airing stories on your loved one’s case. Let them know that the anniversary is coming up. Allow the media time to schedule interviews and promote the story, which could be weeks or months in advance of the actual air time.
If one outlet declines to cover the story, reach out to another. Most markets have multiple television stations and newspapers. That gives you multiple options and avenues should any one be closed.
Be mindful that being the contact person can be draining emotionally for a survivor that’s already juggling the grief of losing their loved one. Frustration and misplaced emotions can cloud their responsibility. Allow room for patience and the opportunity to vent and step away from the role if need be.
Remember, consistency is important when dealing with a cold case. Important for the families and for law enforcement. Be kind in your correspondence – that helps as well.
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