August 14, 2014 11:18:37 AM
Authorities say a Lowndes County woman discovered dead inside of her home following a Monday morning fire was murdered.
The state medical examiner ruled the death of Gwen Roberson a homicide following an autopsy Wednesday. The 46-year-old's body was found inside of her Downs Road mobile home at about 3 a.m. Monday.
Emergency crews responded to the residence after neighbors reported hearing an explosion and seeing the mobile home burst into flames. Lowndes County district 2 volunteer fire crews extinguished the fire. Roberson was found inside.
She was found in her kitchen, according to Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant. There was a door within several feet of her body. The body was sent to Jackson for an autopsy, where it was determined that Roberson did not die from smoke inhalation or from the fire, according to Merchant.
The coroner declined to release the cause of death, citing an ongoing investigation.
Roberson had spent Sunday evening at her aunt's home, which is on Highway 373.
Nancy Cunningham, 65, is Roberson's aunt. In an interview Wednesday, she told The Dispatch that Roberson left her home at about 10 p.m. Sunday. (Merchant said she departed between 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.) Cunningham said she asked Roberson why she was leaving so late.
"I got to feed my cats," Roberson responded, according to Cunningham.
Roberson, who liked to plant tomatoes in flower pots, lived alone with four cats and three kittens. She had no car.
She left her aunt's home on a bicycle. According to Yahoomaps.com, it is approximately one mile from Cunningham's home to Roberson's, which was at 369 Downs Road.
Cunningham said Roberson, who often visited, had made a habit of calling to let her know when she made it home. Her niece never called Sunday night.
Anyone with information is asked to call Columbus Crime Stoppers 1-800-530-7151, the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department 662-328-6788, or 911.
The State Fire Marshal's Office is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. Columbus Crime Stoppers will reward information up $1,000.
Dispatch reporter Slim Smith contributed to this story.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
1. Mississippi menagerie: Steens resident converts old home into public attraction COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. Juneteenth festival marches on COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY