Terrace Estates residents recall 94-year-old’s joys of life

Man arrested for her murder drove her to activities, say family and friends

Residents of Ramona Terrace Estates mobile park say 94-year-old Mary Jean Eskridge, known also as Jean Eskridge Freeman, according to family members, was very active and was seen at events just before her death was reported on Tuesday, May 1.

They also say Gary Allen Thomas, who was arrested for her murder on Wednesday by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, drove her to many places, including church and dances held at the mobile park.

Eskridge’s family members said on Tuesday that Thomas, age 63 of Ramona, was kind of a caregiver for her as he drove her around, picked up groceries and checked in on her.

Eskridge was found in her home in Terrace Estates at 1212 H St. after fire department paramedics responded to a medical alert alarm at her home about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. After observing “obvious signs of trauma on the body,” paramedics called the sheriff’s department, Lt. Larry Nesbit with the department’s homicide detail reported.

Residents of Terrace Estates recall seeing Eskridge at the mobile park’s country western dance on Saturday, attending church at Cavalry Chapel on Sunday with Thomas, and playing cards at the Terrace Estates clubhouse on Monday. Eskridge’s son, Jay Eskridge, said she was scheduled to go to the Santa Ysabel casino on Wednesday. He said she loved going to the casinos.

“Jeanie was always very, very pleasant,” said Terrace Estates resident Janet Will. “She was kind of an inspirational lady. She always had this great smile and you could see she was just enjoying so much.”

Eskridge loved to dance, her family and friends said. She owned Jean’s Dance Studio in Spring Valley which is now run by her daughter, Suzanne Mollenhauer. Her son, Jay, said Eskridge taught dance until she was 85 years old.

At the Terrace Estates she was always seen at the Friday happy hour, where she danced as the band played, said residents.

“She would come to our practices on Thursdays just to hear us play,” said band member and Terrace resident George Newman. “She was always smiling. She just loved our music. We’re going to miss her.”

Newman said Thomas brought her to the dances and seemed very nice. Donna Azzolina, another resident at the Terrace Estates also said she saw Thomas at the happy hour dances with Eskridge and he seemed to take good care of her and would bring her food, but he never danced and didn’t socialize.

“He didn’t talk to people, he didn’t wave. He wasn’t sociable,” Azzolina said.

The family said Eskridge, originally from Spring Valley, has lived in the mobile home park for 35 years.

Nesbit said Thomas was arrested as a result of the investigation into the murder of Eskridge.

“We know that Ms. Eskridge and the suspect lived in the same mobile home park,” reads the statement from Nesbit. “However, as this investigation is ongoing, no further information will be released at this time.”

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the homicide detail at 858-974-2321/after hours at 858-565-5200 or Crime Stoppers at 888-580-TIPS (8477).

Related posts:

  1. Ramona man, 63, arrested in 94-year-old woman’s death
  2. Officials investigate death at Terrace Estates
  3. Officials investigate death at Terrace Estates
  4. Detectives investigate 94-year-old woman’s death as possible homicide
  5. Estates residents disappointed with lack of response from feds

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Posted by Karen Brainard on May 3 2012. Filed under News, Ramona, Sheriff/Fire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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