Mary Bonneville was a woman of routine. Around 4:30 p.m. every day, she’d walk from her Key Largo house on Ponce de Leon Boulevard to the Veterans of Foreign Wars post, about 100 yards away on U.S. 1.
There, she would drink her beer, smoke her cigarettes and play the slots at the bar for a few hours before going right back home.
“She always played Show me the Money. She drank her beer. Played her dollar hand. She loved it,” her friend from the bar, Stephanie Matlock, said Sunday afternoon.
Saturday night around 9:40 p.m., firefighters found Bonneville’s body inside her burning home. Monroe County Sheriff’s Office detectives don’t believe she perished in the blaze.
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Wounds found on her body lead police to classify her death as “suspicious” and that she likely was killed before the fire started.
“She had visible wounds on her body that do not appear to have been caused by the fire,” Deputy Becky Herrin, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office media relations officer, said. The county medical examiner is conducting an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
Bonneville was 70. Both her neighbors and her friends at the VFW wonder if someone noticed her routine, and if that somehow resulted in her being attacked inside her home.
“Whoever it was, [it] was either a stray or a local at the bar. That’s the only bar that she goes to, the VFW,” said her next- door neighbor Robin, who would only provide her first name. “I don’t think you could drag her to any other bar.”
Toni Minnix, manager of the VFW bar, said Bonneville left every night around 8:30 p.m.
“Same thing [Saturday] night,” Minnix said. “Yep. 8:30 she left, and then [police] say they get the call at 9:40.”
That’s when two deputies arrived at Bonneville’s house. A passerby walking to the Circle K convenience store called 911 after he smelled smoke and saw the flames, but got no response when he banged on Bonneville’s door. Deputies went to the back of the home when they arrived and found the doors wide open. But they couldn’t get inside because the smoke was too thick and the flames too intense, Herrin said.
Vance Kondon and his wife live next to Bonneville’s home. They were ready to settle in for the night when they noticed all the flashing lights.
At first, Kondon thought something was going on at the nearby Fish House Restaurant on U.S. 1. Then he noticed smoke coming over his fence. He said the fire was put out shortly after trucks from the Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department arrived. He heard Bonneville had died, but he did not find out until Sunday that police now consider the death suspicious.
“Wow, I had no idea,” Kondon said. “That’s really unusual because it’s usually very quite here.”
Unlike Bonneville’s friends at the bar, her neighbors didn’t know her very well. They said she largely kept to herself.
“We see some other cars there every once and a while, but generally, she’s the only one there,” Kondon said. “Right after the hurricane, me and my son went over there and offered to help, see if there was any stuff she wanted cut down. She was like ‘nope, we got it.’ ”
Kondon didn’t notice anything unusual before the fire. Bonneville’s Chevrolet pickup truck was in the driveway, which signaled to him that she was home and had not left the house.
“Her truck was there, so generally, we’re accustomed to that if the truck is there, she should be there,” Kondon said. “And that’s what I told the sheriff’s deputies.”
Likewise, neighbor Kim Prather lives on Barcelona Road, which runs parallel at an angle to Ponce de Leon, with a clear view of Bonneville’s home. In the two years she’s lived there, Prather said she barely saw Bonneville. “We kind of saw her come and go in her truck,” Prather said. “That was about it.”
With police saying that foul play may have been involved with Bonneville’s death, residents of the quiet neighborhood off the oceanside of U.S. 1 are uneasy.
“It makes you think, that’s for sure,” Prather said. “It makes you want to be a little more careful. This is a pretty quiet, safe neighborhood.”
Bonneville’s friends are more concerned about finding out what happened to her, and making sure that if it was foul play, the person or people responsible are caught and prosecuted.
“She’s the type who would tell it like it is, but everybody loved her. Everybody loved her. But no enemies whatsoever,” Matlock said.
“She would do anything and everything for you. It’s just really, really hard,” she said. “Out of all people, they pick someone who is elderly, lives alone, fragile. She wouldn’t harm anybody. I just hope they find out who did this. That’s all we want. Justice for her.”
David Goodhue: 305-440-3204
This article originally ran on flkeysnews.com.