Patrice was a mum to son, Pistol Black, and a hairdresser who owned her own salon. She lived in Cumming, Georgia.
On April 15th 2004, Pistol (her son) and Patrice had a slight disagreement because Pistol was in a hurry to get to school and talk to his girlfriend at the time. Patrice then dropped him off at school, told Pistol that she loved him and would see him later in the afternoon. Pistol replied by saying he loved her as well. That was the last time Pistol saw, or spoke, to his mother.
Patrice went to her salon as usual. However, between 11:37am and 11:50am, Patrice disappeared.
Early on, investigators built a timeline to figure out what happened on the morning of Patrice’s disappearance. From her appointment book, they were able to determine that her first client was Pam Sheppard who arrived at 8:50am for her 9am appointment. Pam said that Patrice seemed distracted, and was not very attentive to her. Pam left the salon at 11:05am.
At 11:10am, Paul Cantor arrived for his haircut. Paul left at 11:27am.
At 11:35am, Patrice received a phone call from a customer who was wanting to change her appointment. The customer said that Patrice was somewhat short on the phone, which was unusual for her. This call lasted for about 2 minutes.
The police determined that a call came in at 11:50am, but Patrice did not answer it. Based on this information, the police concluded that Patrice disappeared between 11:37am and 11:50am – just 13 minutes.
When police arrived at the salon, there was nothing out of place. No blood, drag marks or furniture had been moved around. Patrice’s purse and car keys were laying on the counter, and her lunch was on the counter next to the microwave – as if she was about to warm it up. The cash register, however, was found open with money missing from it.
Initially, investigators were unsure if Patrice had been the victim of a kidnapping, as there was very little out of place at the salon. One thing that was unusual, though, was that Patrice’s car, a black Chevy Tahoe, was parked in front of the salon facing a west-ward direction. The reason this is out of place, is because according to customers and loved ones, Patrice always parked her car to the side of the building, so that she was closest to the side door of her salon.
One theory as to why her car was found like this is that the assailant convinced her to move her car, to help get theirs jump-started, but then used the opportunity to abduct her instead. This has never been proven, and still remains a theory.
At 11:45am that morning, two independent witnesses saw another car in front of the salon.
Tammy Fincher, the first witness, saw Patrice’s car, and then spotted a Chevy Lumina which was pulled directly into the salon. The Chevy Lumina had a Georgia Quail Wildlife tag, and the front door to the salon was open. Tammy saw two women around the Lumina: a taller, dark-haired lady who is presumed to be Patrice near the salon’s door, and an older lady on the passenger’s side. Tammy was unsure if one had tripped or fallen down, or was pushing the other one down, but they had hands on each other and she was certain it did not look normal.
The other witness was driving past the salon at approximately the same time, however he believes the car was a Ford Taurus, or possibly a Malibu. This witness also reported seeing a man with shoulder-length hair standing next to the car.
The police believe that both of these witnesses are credible because they describe the same thing, and they are totally independent of each other.
The first person who was questioned in Patrice’s disappearance was her husband, Rob. Rob and Patrice married when Pistol was 8 years old. Pistol recalls that Rob was nice to him for the first year, and really tried to be involved in his life. After the first year, however, Rob became a totally different person and would try to make Pistol feel as though he wasn’t good enough, and walk past his room saying crude things to him.
To start with, Patrice was very happy with her marriage to Rob. Her friend, Nancy, said that Patrice felt as though she was meant to be with him. Nancy also says that Rob was very protective of Patrice, and would “hover” whenever he was around her. Rob was also very jealous of Patrice’s relationships with her friends. Rob wanted Patrice all to himself, and couldn’t understand why Patrice was giving Pistol so much attention. Rob thought that because Patrice was giving Pistol attention, he wasn’t getting any attention from her.
Patrice and Rob also fought often. Overtime, friends say that Patrice was not happy in her relationship. Pistol witnessed these fights often, and said that if they were ever arguing about him, Patrice would not back down.
Rob, on the other hand, has denied that he and Patrice ever argued. Rob claims that Pistol was jealous of their relationship, and that Patrice would not discipline Pistol properly causing him to “run wild.” Rob claimed that he did not see any future in Pistol when he lived with him.
A few weeks before her disappearance, Pistol says that Patrice had spoken to him about divorcing Rob, saying that she had been unhappy for several years. Rob said that she had never mentioned divorce to him, and that although there were sometimes issues he chose to forget them, and focus on spending their lives together.
Just a day after Patrice went missing, Rob changed all the locks on the doors to his house. He would not allow Pistol in to the house to retrieve his clothes or possessions. Pistol knocked on the doors and windows, but Rob just ignored him. Rob claims that he did this as a “safety measure.” He said he didn’t want Pistol in the house because he did not like him, he wanted Pistol to stay somewhere else so he would be safe, as well as “not wanting to put up with his stuff.”
After Patrice had vanished, Pistol went to live with his father, Don Black, on his farm.
As time passed, the hope of finding Patrice alive grew thinner and thinner.
Investigators were trying to go through everything to figure out what happened to Patrice.
One lead was serial killer Gary Michael Hilton.
Hilton was known to have been in Forsyth County, where Patrice’s salon was located, as he had been stopped for a traffic violation there. He was known to call people and con them out of money. In a statement to police, he said that his favourite place to hunt was a hair salon, and that he would go in around lunchtime and ask for money. Hilton also did not have an alibi for the day Patrice disappeared.
Despite this, investigators could not find any evidence to link him to Patrice’s disappearance. He is still considered a suspect.
Another suspect that arose was Jeremy Jones. Jones was arrested in Mobile, Alabama in 2005 for the murder of a women, and later went on to confess to 6 more murders.
Police say that although he was easy to talk to, he had a “demon” inside of him that made him sexually abuse and kill women.
Jeremy Jones did confess to the kidnapping of Patrice. He drew a diagram of where he parked his vehicle, and where her vehicle was parked – and it was accurate. Jones then said that he killed Patrice, and took her out to a bridge in Sweetwater Creek in Douglas County and dumped her into it.
Despite an extensive search, no trace of Patrice was ever found. This lead investigators to believe that Jones had made a false confession. Ultimately, Jones retracted his statement.
However, he has not been fully ruled out as a suspect. This is because Jones told the police things that were impossible to know unless he had been to the salon.
Sadly, on 6th December 2005, 20 months after Patrice’s disappearance, Elbert Clark and some friends who were working on Lebanon Baptist Church – just six miles from the Salon – noticed a white object laying next to a deceased deer. This white object would later go on to be identified as Patrice’s skull.
The area where Patrice’s remains were found was very rural and remote, and police have said that it would have been hard for someone to carry dead weight. Although they do consider the fact she may have walked there, or have been already dead when placed there.
When Pistol was told about the remains, he told investigators he believed Rob was involved in her murder. Pistol believed that Rob knew Patrice wanted a divorce, and that he was feeling incredibly jealous. The “If I can’t have her, nobody else will” mindset. Nancy, Patrice’s close friend, also told investigators to look at Rob. Nancy says that Patrice was always unhappy with Rob, and he would have had something to do with it.
Rob has always denied having anything to do with Patrice’s disappearance and death. He claims that it was physically impossible for him to have been involved, as the day she went missing he has a time-stamped receipt from a gas station, in Woodstock, which was around 45 minutes away from her salon. He has also said that he had no motivation to kill Patrice because she had no life insurance.
Investigators say that Rob has been investigated thoroughly, and whilst the time stamped receipt doesn’t rule out that he was involved, it reduces the chances greatly. They also looked at a “hire to kill” scenario, but they felt that it was “unlikely” he would have done this, and no evidence to suggest he did this was ever found.
Rob believes that someone who knew Patrice’s routine was responsible for her murder. Based on the lack of struggle at the scene, he believes it was someone she knew and it was probably more than one person. Rob also went on to say how he thinks Patrice was held captive for several days, being used as a “toy”, before being murdered. He also speculates that the killer used a wheelbarrow to dump her body.
To this day, police are still no closer to catching Patrice’s kidnapper and killer. They say that the blue car seen outside of the salon at around 11:45am that day will be the key in solving this case. It is also worth noting that Patrice’s wedding ring, a 1.5 carat pear-shaped diamond with two other 14-carat gold rings attached, is still missing.
There are certain details that the police will not make public, as they define it as “guilty knowledge information.” This means that the information will only be known between the killer and the police.
At the funeral home, Patrice was re-arranged so that Rob could say goodbye. Patrice was then cremated, and Rob kept her ashes. To this day, Pistol says he has never received his mother’s ashes or any of her personal belongings. Rob says “he has her. And that’s a good thing.”
Netflix’s show, Unsolved Mysteries, covers this case in more detail in Season 2, Episode “Thirteen Minutes”.
Unsolved, mystery, true crime, USA