In the nearly nine months since Regan Jelks was slain while visiting Detroit, her family has awaited answers from anyone, anywhere.
They still are no closer to finding who ended the 24-year-old’s life.
“It’s been such a quiet and hush-hush thing,” said her mother, Michelle Hall. “The streets have just not talked about this.”
The lingering silence shrouding the case has prompted Crime Stoppers of Michigan to offer up to $2,500 for tips leading to an arrest and conviction.
As authorities seek suspects, Jelks’ loved ones now cling to hope the reward spurs at least one person to action.
“If they know anything, they need to come forward,” said her father, Noble Tony Jelks. “If someone is harboring this person and know they did this, then they’re just as guilty.
“They need to put themselves in our shoes. This could have happened to one of their kids.”
Last May, Jelks was not unlike other young people seeking a fun night out.
As she had many other times, the Ohio resident returned to Detroit, where some of her relatives lived, for a visit. Jelks and her older brother, Abrin Brown, planned to take their mother out for dinner on Mother’s Day.
That Saturday night, after playing cards at an aunt’s house, Jelks told Hall she wanted to go out with a longtime friend — a celebration for having endured finals at Kent State University, where the 24-year-old studied psychology while working full-time.
Hall, who was in touch with her daughter almost daily, considered asking Jelks to stay in but recognized the need to rejoice. “She was so stressed.”
Brown contends his sister and her friend had not previously frequented Club Venus in the 9000 block of Michigan Avenue on Detroit’s southwest side. But relatives doubted any harm would befall Jelks — an outgoing woman known for her bubbly personality and cheerfulness.
“I wasn’t worried, even remotely, something would happen,” said her father, who once lived in the area and has relocated to the South.
Her plan was to briefly sip a few drinks then head home, Brown said.
While arriving, Jelks and her friend encountered a car with several occupants in the parking spot beside their Ford Fusion, Hall learned.
When the pair returned at about 1:20 a.m., the car remained. As Jelks got in and her companion was about to ask a question, Hall said, “that’s when he noticed the guy with the gun.”
Police reported a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt had exited his vehicle and opened fire. “At that moment, her companion, who was a CPL holder, drew his gun and a shootout took place,” Crime Stoppers officials said in a statement.
Jelks’ friend was shot in his hand. But her wounds proved fatal.
Hall was so shocked and devastated, days passed before she could finalize a funeral. “Regan was a breath of fresh air,” she said. “She was such a jolly person. She didn’t deserve that.”
In the weeks and months after doves were released into the spring air to commemorate the life cut short, Hall struggled to comprehend the situation — losing nearly 25 pounds amid sleepless nights wracked with worry. She also was dismayed that some initial media coverage focused on an earlier tragedy involving her daughter.
In 2013, Jelks’ boyfriend was fatally shot in a confrontation with a police officer in Ohio, court records show. The officer reported the man, who lacked a valid driver’s license, had reached for a gun in her car, which he drove into a ditch after failing to avoid a road obstruction, according to a filing.
Jelks was eventually found guilty on two counts of complicity to improperly handle firearms in a motor vehicle, court documents show.
That incident, which prevented her from joining the Air Force as she hoped, was complex and did not reflect Jelks’ life, Hall said. “She wasn’t a bad kid. She’s wasn’t out in the street. She didn’t live the life. She was a good girl, a sweetheart.”
Jelks volunteered as a hospital “candy striper” in high school and while earning promotions in less than a year at her current job “was a motivator for the whole plant,” Hall said. “Her bosses told me she was such a life on the job.”
Her goal was to pursue a career in the mental health field “because she wanted to help people,” Brown said. “She loved kids, loved anybody.”
Though the slaying was senseless, Jelks’ father believes the scant community input shows “the way the culture is now. People don’t want to get involved and they don’t want to be considered a snitch.”
Although Detroit’s homicide rate declined in 2017, residents and officials alike recognize “this happens all of the time,” said Dindi Maloney, media and family relations specialist with Crime Stoppers of Michigan. “Unfortunately, the only thing we can do is try to work with the families and plead with the community to help us … so we can try to get a handle on the violence.”
That is why Jelks’ family spoke out at a recent press conference to prod the public. And though the constant uncertainty about the culprit hurts Hall, she sees no reason to end her quest.
“I can’t stop searching,” she said. “I just have to find justice for her. And justice would be found once he’s found and locked up.”
Anyone with information in this case can anonymously reach Crime Stoppers at 1-800 SPEAK-UP, go to www.1800speakup.org or text CSM and a tip to 274637