Story by Amanda Barney -- For the Riverland News
“And as we wind on down the road, our shadows taller than our soul, there walks a lady we all know. Who shines white light and wants to show, how everything still turns to gold. And if you listen very hard the tune will come to you at last. When all is one and one is all to be a rock and not to roll, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.”
— Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”
It’s been almost a year since Marion County Sheriff’s Deputies found 50-year-old Linda Cage in front of her house in the Westward Acres North Community in Dunnellon, 200 yards away from the driveway where she was shot and killed at close range.
Her truck was found a few blocks away destroyed by fire. Investigators believed someone may have torched the truck to destroy evidence, but officials cannot prove it.
About two weeks passed as friends and family held a memorial at the Dunnellon Little League, where more than five dozen people gathered to mourn.
“It’s been really hard without her, everybody really misses her,” said Cage’s daughter, Brandi Cage-Milam.
Cage was a mother of three and grandmother of eight. She taught Brandi’s son, who has autism, and ran bases with him in the Challenger League at Dunnellon Little League every Friday night.
“Nicholas was Linda’s life, she got really involved with him and loved him to death,” Cage-Milam said. “Anything to do with special needs, she was up right there ready to do it. She was also really big into the
Cage and Cage-Milam used to take Nicholas to the park and share memories and talk with each other.
Recently, Cage-Milam went to court against her father fighting for custody of Nicholas. They have to go through the PPR
Nicholas’s challenger team was going to be renamed the Angels in honor of Cage by Mark McCormick, the team’s head coach, and a dear friend and neighbor. However, the League did not pass it for this previous year.
“In the 2013 season, it will be dedicated to her. It was hard this year looking over and not seeing her, but she was in spirit with the team,” McCormick said.
Margie Rosenthal Frank knew Cage since the second grade and grew to become best friends with her.
“Throughout the years, we have stayed in touch. I actually just went to her 50th birthday party,” Frank said. “She was like a loving angel, she was just a really sweet and fun person and I’ll never forget the memories we shared.”
“I remember on Linda’s 50th birthday, she was going down the water slide and she got stuck and couldn’t get up, it was so funny,” McCormick recalled.
According to Detective Rhonda Stroup, the lead investigator on the case, authorities haven’t found anything new that they hadn’t found in the past. No new leads have presented themselves, she said, while no new evidence has popped up either. They did find out that this was not just a random act.
“I feel sorry for the family,” Detective Stroup said. “It is very frustrating that it is taking this long, but I am trying everything in my power to find the guy who murdered this woman and one day there will be justice.”
A $1,000 reward is still being offered for anyone who reports any evidence: witnessed, seen or heard about Cage’s death.
“She was always happy and always smiling,” Cage-Milam said. “There is nothing she wouldn’t do for her kids and especially grandchildren. She was just an awesome woman, I wish I could just describe more as to the woman she was because words just don’t describe her.”
On Cage’s Facebook page, many of her friends and family posted on her wall describing their feeling about how she is missed and still loved.
In a post July 21, Jessica Shurlock wrote: “Dear Linda (Mamma), I know you are in a better place now, but you are TRUELY missed here. I wish and feel guilty for not seeing you before you left and went to heaven. Your daughter has & will always be my best friend. I may not see her all the time, talk to her every day, or can always make it to things she needs me for! But I'm always here for her, and her family. And on Aug 3rd, I'm making one promise, to always remember you and dedicate that day to you. You were always like a mother to me. I love you, and miss you ‘mamma.’
“P.S. I know you hear this I'm writing, and I also want to make another promise ... I will always be here for Brandi, to the best that I can! Love always & forever.”
The family will be hosting a barbecue called “Celebration of Life” on Aug. 3 in dedication of Cage.
“She was more than my mom, she was my best friend and now it’s like I have nobody to talk to or get advice from,” Cage-Milam said. “Somebody had to see or hear something and we are waiting for the day they step up and say it. I am praying that somebody helps bring justice to not only a friend, but a mother, sister and grandmother of many!”