Cold Case: The unsolved murder of Rochelle Norman and her unborn baby, 21 years later

Today faint memories, cherished photos and a red wagon are all these daughters have left of their mom.

BEAUMONT — Almost exactly 21 years ago on November 18th, 1997, the day started off fairly normal for Joyce James. Her daughter, Roquisha Rochelle Norman, was nine months pregnant, and they were excited to welcome a third baby girl into their family.

“I would always call her at 12 o’clock to check on her to see how she was doing, well this day she didn’t answer the phone,” James said.

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James and Norman had plans after Norman’s doctor’s appointment, but when she never answered the phone, James got worried. She asked her friend to drop her by the house to make sure everything was okay.

When James got to that house on Primrose Street, she found her 22-year-old daughter strangled and shot, taken from this world along with her unborn baby.

“I went in and she was in her bedroom on the floor, she was cold, she was gone and her baby was gone,” said James.

James suddenly found herself with two young granddaughters to raise, five-year old Khristian Norman, and one-and-a-half-year old Jo’Esha Curtis.

“It’s just hard when you 50 something years old, and you’re left with two children to raise and you want to raise them the right way and you want to show them the right things by yourself,” she said.

James said there were a lot of tough nights ahead for the three of them.

“Many a nights they would come into my room crying and saying they wanted their momma and all I could tell them was I want your momma, too.”

Joyce said they relied heavily on God to pull them through the difficult time. He gave them the strength, she said, but the journey has been difficult.

Now, over two decades later, Norman’s killer is still out there.

Officer Haley Morrow with the Beaumont Police Department said sometimes homicide investigations unfold quickly. Others, like Norman's, take some time, but they never give up.

“It was a very brutal murder, her 1-and-a half-year old daughter Jo’Esha was present at the time," Morrow said. "The type of rage that was displayed during her murder is something that someone needs to be held accountable for."

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Morrow said they have new detectives working the case now. She said it only takes one small piece of evidence—one tip—one tiny breakthrough to solve the case.

“1997 was a long time ago. A lot of things have changed since then we’ve got a lot of new technology," Morrow said. "Our hope is by sharing Roquisha’s story that it will spark a memory with someone."

Morrow said they hope that someone will come forward and they can finally bring closure to James and her granddaughters.

Khristian Norman says she remembers the day her mom was taken from her.

“She told me not to leave school to stay there and wait and she was going to pick me up, she never arrived, she never showed up,” said Norman.

Norman said instead, a neighbor came to pick her up that day.

“I remember going down the street and seeing blue and red lights and people standing in the front yard of the house and she told me not to look.”

Today, faint memories, cherished photos, and a red wagon are all Norman has left of her mom. While Norman holds on to the sweet memories she has, she also can’t forget the bitter ones.

“I do remember being five-years-old and picking my mom’s headstone out and what I wanted on there for my little sister.”

Norman said she didn’t get the childhood most kids get to have, her mom’s killer took that away from her.

"Being a young woman and not having your mother is really hard, graduating from high school, I just graduated from college, I’m teaching now, these are things that every woman will want their mom there for," she said. "One day I will get married, my wedding, she’s not going to be there I will never be able to capture these moments with her."

Norman’s sister Jo’Esha Curtis was too young to even remember her mom before she was taken.

“You see your best friends grow up with their parents, their mother, their father and I didn’t have that. I had my grandmother and my sister, and that bond is forever gone,” she said.

Curtis said she feels lucky to have found that mother-daughter bond in her grandmother and her sister, but the stories they tell are all she has.

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“You cannot get back those memories that I’ve lost he took memory and time,” she said.

Curtis will never get that time back with her mother, but if she had one last moment with her, she knows exactly what she would do.

“I would just give her a hug, no talking, just hugs,” she said.

Curtis said she has moments where she looks back and wonders what life would be like if her mom were there; a first date, finding that perfect dress, walking across the stage at graduation, the birth of her daughter, all things a child just wants their mom for.

It’s hard for Curtis, Norman, and James to wrap their head around why someone would take these moments from them.

“We have a lot of questions like why, you spent so much time energy and effort to take memories and taking a loved one and taking a mother, a grandmother now from a loving family, she didn’t deserve it,” Curtis said.

Despite the questions and the long, painful journey they’ve had in the search for Norman’s killer, James said they won’t give up until justice is served.

“I can’t go around wanting evil or wanting something to happen to whoever did it cause then they would have me and they aren’t going to get me because I gave it to the lord and I put my faith and trust in the lord,” James said.

The person found guilty of Roquisha Norman and her unborn daughter’s homicide faces a capital murder charge—and life in prison.

The Beaumont Police Department wants to remind people that tips can be made anonymously.

Anyone with any information can leave an anonymous tip with the Beaumont Police Department or crime stoppers at (409) 833-TIPS.