DETROIT - Rosaline Rhonda Lee was a loving mother, sister, daughter and friend who became the victim of a murder that played out in Pontiac.
The killer is still on the loose. Lee's family and police are doing whatever possible to get the word out. Now, they're getting additional star power from Star Jones, who is a close personal friend of the family.
Star agreed -- without hesitation -- to sit down for an interview with the Local 4 Defenders. It's clear she is laser focused on tracking down the killer.
"If you knew her, and you did this horrible thing, turn yourself in," she said.
Lee's body was found Sunday, May 26, by fishermen floating in Pontiac's Turtle Lake.
Investigators tell the Defenders Lee was nude from the waist down, possibly sexually assaulted and strangled.
Her van was found about a mile from the lake. Her cellphone was found nearby. Her family members, including her sister Richelle, can't make sense of this tragedy.
"We had lost our sister, our daughter, friend, mother, but we want to know who did this terrible crime. We have got to find out," said Richelle.
Star Jones is using her contacts to get the word out because someone knows the truth and potential witnesses can help solve this case.
"If you were in that Pontiac lake area, did you see a white van? Did you have your cellphone with you when you saw that white van. If you could just relay that small bit of information to law enforcement," Jones said.
Police are working around the clock to put the pieces of this puzzle together.
What is known is that the hours before Lee's body was found, she was at her mother's house.
She left there about 3 a.m. and from there things take a bizarre twist.
At 3:20 a.m., the man she allegedly was meeting says he sees Lee quickly leaving the location they scheduled to meet. He calls Lee's cellphone and her mother throughout the morning saying he can't find Lee. It's unclear if he played a role in the murder but investigators and those close to Lee are confident she knew her killer.
"She was not the kind of person that would have allowed a stranger into her car. She was not the kind of person that would have been in a deserted or desolate area," said Jones.
Because of Jones, this investigation is getting national media exposure.
However, sadly there are thousands of women like Lee -- women beaten or tragically killed -- whose cases have been left unsolved. Their families have been left torn apart.
"Women are vulnerable. And a lot of times people don't see African American women in the same way. This was a valuable life deserving of the same level of attention that we sometimes give other women, other men, other children. It's important. Every life is important," Jones said.
But for Jones, this particular case is sending her on an emotional journey.
Before she was a TV star, she worked as a homicide prosecutor for many years, putting away the bad guys. Now, her loved ones are struggling for answers and hoping for justice, remembering a life cut short by murder.
"This is a young woman who left three babies -- a 9-month-old, a 6-year-old and a 12-year-old -- and they all have questions. And so does everyone else who loved an respected Rhonda," Jones said.
What happened to Lee has inspired Jones to help other women. She has created a sort of checklist she is calling "Rhonda's Rules," showing women how to get their affairs in order. So, if a tragedy strikes, family is protected.
View: Rhonda's Rules website
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