Ruth Brooks spoke of a jealous boyfriend. Now both are dead, and questions remain.
CLEARWATER - He proposed to her on Valentine's Day.
She said yes.
After all, she loved him. He was her heart.
But recently, Ruth Brooks began to have second thoughts. George Dixon was becoming too controlling.
"She told me he was being very jealous," said Melissa Davis, Brooks' cousin. "But I didn't see that. All I saw was a very nice couple."
Brooks, 22, and Dixon, 28, were discovered dead in their Homer Villas apartment last Saturday. Their 8-month-old daughter, Niesha, was also found there; she was not hurt and is staying with relatives.
Brooks was shot, and investigators have not released how Dixon died. Police have not said whether the deaths were a murder-suicide.
"I don't read the paper or watch the news because I don't want to see it," said Brooks' mother, Gladys Moody. "There are so many different versions. Nobody knows what happened, except for an 8-month-old baby."
Brooks' nickname was Lil Nikki. She grew up in Clearwater and attended Pinellas County schools.
She and her mother worked at Encore Senior Village, Brooks on nights, her mother on days.
When Brooks wasn't working, she was with her four children, Precious Patterson, 5, Quinisha Scott, 4, Raniesha Turner, 3, and Niesha, the baby.
"She worked very hard," said her sister, Mary Moody, 25. "Whatever she wanted to accomplish, she did. She was very giving. If she went to buy her children something, she would buy someone else's children something, too."
While Brooks was the youngest of seven children, her family often referred to her as the mama.
"She kept me and her grandmother straight," Gladys Moody said.
Brooks met Dixon about a year ago. Three months later, she was pregnant. He was from Port St. Lucie. He had been in trouble with the law, mainly because of drugs.
Most recently, he was arrested in January 2003, after Clearwater police said they found cocaine stuffed in the front seat of the van in which he was sitting.
Dixon had talked recently, though, about turning his life around. He began attending church with Brooks.
He told her family he wanted to settle down and marry her.
Attempts to reach Dixon's family were unsuccessful.
But Freddie Dixon, a friend of George Dixon's, said he talked to him about religion and opening his own detailing business.
Freddie Dixon, no relation to George Dixon, said George, who went by Nick, had never spoken about problems with Brooks.
Police have said the couple were having domestic problems. Dixon accused Brooks of still having a thing for her old flame, Davis said. He wanted her to spend more time with him and less with her family.
"He never touched her," Davis said. "I had asked her all those questions. When I think back, I wish I would have probed a little bit more. I didn't think anything of it. She said she loved him and was going to try to be with him."
Davis wonders whether she missed the signs of abuse. She recalled a recent service at Faith, Hope and Love Church of God in Clearwater.
"She stood up and said, "I want to thank God for being in a service one more time,' " Davis said. "We all clapped. We said, "Praise God.' It was really stunning because she doesn't stand up in church and say anything."
Looking back, Davis said her cousin must have known something was going to happen to her. Perhaps that's why she stood up in church and thanked God for being in her life.
"This is a good lesson for all of us," Davis said. "If you meet somebody, make sure you know who that person is before you really get involved with them."
Brooks' family gathered Thursday at her mother's house, where Gladys Moody paced.
"It's prayer time," she said. "Everybody needs to come together. We need peace. We need love. It's all about God. We got to have that togetherness. If it wasn't for God on my side, I wouldn't be able to stand right now."
The family made a T-shirt for a vigil Friday night for Brooks.
There is a picture of Brooks on the front with the words "Lil Nikki," and her dates: July 27, 1981, to March 20, 2004. The words "sunrise to sunset" are printed below. On the back is a picture of her children.
Gladys Moody only has two of the T-shirts, but she plans to have more made.
"Everybody loved Nikki," she said. "She was the sweetest, kindest person you ever want to meet."