RICHMOND, Va. -- A loving mother, a trusted friend, and a cancer survivor. Karon Williams, the lifelong Cliff Avenue resident, was all of these things. Her life was cut short January 15, 2017, when someone shot and killed the 57-year-old woman inside her Brookland Park home.
The killer, who police said never stepped inside the home, has not yet been caught.
Richmond Police Detective Joe Fultz has been investigating the case for more than a year.
It all started early one Sunday morning, when someone started banging on the side door of the home Williams shared with her cousin.
"They got up to go investigate the noise," Fultz said. "Ms. Williams gets up and heads to the door."
Seconds later, the person outside the home tried to kick down the door.
The door held, a fact Fultz said may have cost Williams her life.
"The person might have gotten in, from kicking the door," he said. "[Instead he] went around, got upset, and came in and just fired."
The killer fired two shots. One bullet flew into Karon Williams' bedroom window, hitting Williams' back and striking her kidney.
The killer then ran either through the front gate or the secluded alley behind the home and disappeared.
"Again, you gotta think about it, because this is between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., it's pitch dark, there's no one out," Fultz said.
Someone called 911. Paramedics arrived and rushed Williams to the hospital. But her frail body that had used most of its strength in a recent battle with cancer was no match for the bullet. Williams died that afternoon.
Neighbors and loved ones were floored.
"People don't realize when they kill someone how many people they affect," Fultz said. "Not just the person, but they affect their family, their friends, their community."
While Fultz said there had been some drug issues in the neighborhood, violent crime was rare.
"This is a settled neighborhood, older people here, families have been here as you said for years," Fultz said.
But neighbors do not agree.
They said the street has changed over the years, and not for the better.
"We don't let the kids come out like we use to," neighbor Shirley Robinson said. "I don't even sit on the porch at night anymore, I used to, but I don't do it no more."
Why would anyone want to kill Karon Williams?
The question of motive in the fatal shooting of Karon Williams has not yet been answered.
Was the fatal bullet fired by a frustrated burglar?
Why would someone target her home?
These questions, and others, initially puzzled investigators, Williams' family, and friends. But detectives vowed to get answers, and they knew they were up against the clock.
Three weeks into their investigation, police said the case took an unexpected turn. The only living eyewitness to the crime -- suddenly died.
Karon Williams' cousin Lowery Baltrip was the only other person inside the home the morning Williams was killed.
She spoke to CBS 6 shortly after her cousin's death.
"We don't know who this was, they think it's just a random thing," she said at the time.
While she did not get a good look at the killer, detectives said Baltrip's recollection was crucial to helping them piece together what happened.
Her unexpected, but natural, death weeks after the shooting caused the investigation to stall.
"She was it, she was the only one there with Ms. Williams at the time of the incident," Fultz said. "We don't have any more leads at this point."
But while Baltrip`s death was a setback, Fultz said the investigation had already convinced him of something, Karon Williams's murder was likely a case of mistaken identity.
"It could be the person was aggravated, they couldn't get in the house, or it could be that they're at the wrong house," Fultz said.
Williams' home and the house next door look identical. Investigators believe that around the time of the shooting, drugs were being dealt at that other house.
"I think it was meant for that home, and what was going on, and some of the things that were taking place," Fultz said. "And they come to Karon's house and of course poor Karon pays the price."
But in another blow to the investigation, the young woman who had been living in the house next to Karon's home died of a drug overdose in March 2017.
Fultz doesn't believe she or her family had anything to do with Williams' death, but said a man she had been living with may have been the intended target.
How much has the passage of time hurt the chances of catching the killer?
Some crime shows on television will lead you to believe that cases not solved in the first 48 hours are nearly impossible to crack.
But Detective Fultz said in his 18 years working homicide, he has learned one thing: not every cold case follows the same timetable.
"You can still end up solving a case six months later, a year later, with the right evidence, you know, some good circumstantial, some good witnesses show up," he said. "You start to be more concerned the more time goes on and the family definitely does. Mostly they want to know what happened to their loved one, why would someone come and do this."
Detective Fultz said that they did pull a boot print off the door near Karon Williams' bedroom window, but at this stage of the investigation it was not much help. Williams' friends said they hoped the killer had a conscience, and would come forward.
Fultz said he believed that someone in this neighborhood has crucial information about what happened to Karon Williams, but even if this renewed plea leads to an arrest, or a confession, friends said it would not completely heal the pain of losing a woman whose kindness, big heart, and smile were always on display.