The last time Phillip Gay saw his next-door neighbor alive was around 4:30 p.m. last Friday.
At that time, he said, Jennifer Foster told him she was trying to find an address for her estranged boyfriend because she wanted to file a restraining order against him.
Police said Foster actually had a restraining order in effect against her ex, but it did nothing to protect the 37-year-old woman.
Around 6:20 a.m. Monday, police responding to a report of a break-in at 2052 Montrose St. found Foster and her 16-year-old daughter Nikea Goldsby strangled inside the residence. Police discovered Foster in a second-floor rear bedroom and Goldsby in a front room, their bodies starting to decompose.
"Our best guess is that they had been there maybe a day or two," said Capt. Thomas Lippo of the Homicide Division.
When officers arrived, they found the front door open, the back steel door ajar and a strong odor of gas permeating the two-story rowhouse, said Lippo. Whoever killed the pair also tried to burn down the property to cover up the murders, added the captain.
As of Tuesday afternoon, police were still searching for a man they identified as Ronnie Goldsby, 43, Foster’s estranged boyfriend and Nikea’s father, to question him in connection with the double homicide.
A series of deadly events apparently started to unfold for mother and daughter early Saturday.
According to Gay, 54, Foster called police "five or six times" that morning between 2 and 6 a.m. because she kept hearing his dog bark and feared her estranged boyfriend might have entered her backyard. "Every time [police] came out, they found nothing," said Gay.
Then, around 7 a.m. Saturday, Gay said he heard "thumping" come from Foster’s place. He said it sounded like someone hitting or banging a wall, but he heard no screaming or arguing.
Concerned, the neighbor got out of bed and rang Foster’s doorbell. When no one answered, Gay said he returned home and went back to sleep.
It wasn’t until Monday morning that another neighbor noticed the front door wide open and called police.
Police believe, and Gay also theorized, that the killer attacked Foster and her daughter Saturday morning — around the time he heard the noise from inside the home. The fact that the gas was on inside the woman’s home prompted Gay to think the killer either stayed the weekend or returned sometime after the murders, he said.
"There is no way they could have been alive in that house all weekend with the gas on," Gay said.
Foster and her estranged boyfriend shared the home on Montrose Street for several years before a recent breakup, according to the neighbor. Verbal disputes between the couple were a common occurrence, said Gay.
"He wasn’t wrapped too tightly," he said of Ronnie Goldsby.
The man seemed to have difficulty getting along with the other neighbors on the block and their children, noted Gay. "[The kids] would gang up on him and he would get real nasty with them. I mean real nasty. Things you shouldn’t say to children."
Carla Cunningham, 40, a resident of the 2300 block of Montrose, was an acquaintance of the victims. Along with a crowd of neighbors and reporters, she gathered behind the yellow police tape at 20th and Montrose streets hours after the gruesome discovery.
"She was just an ordinary person who took her daughter to church every Sunday. She was a religious woman and very, very nice," Cunningham said of Foster.
Goldsby, the teenage victim, was a familiar sight to Cunningham, as she waited for the bus each morning at 21st and Montrose streets.
"You hear about this kind of stuff all the time, but you never know when it’s going to come to your own doorstep," she said.