At her burial, less than a week after the popular Zumba instructor was killed in her house allegedly by a tenant, Marlene D. Colon was eulogized as “a bit naïve.” Scott Colbert, rabbi emeritus of Temple Emanu-El, who had known Colon for 35 years, said it was “that naivete that took her from us.”
In addition to family members, friends and students of Colon’s who gathered at the cemetery, nearly 150 people joined on Zoom to remember the 73-year-old. “We’re working to understand why you were taken from us so abruptly,” said son Jonathan Colon.
So are the Sandy Springs police who responded to a 911 call at her house April 5. “We believe the suspect is the person that made the 911 call, but the dispatcher didn’t understand what was being said, and that’s the reason officers were dispatched to the home to an unknown disturbance,” according to Sgt. Salvador Ortega, public information officer for the Sandy Springs police.
In the statement, police reported that when “officers arrived, they encountered the woman suspect in the garage holding an object and challenging officers. After a brief struggle with officers, she was subdued and taken into custody,” according to police.
The murder suspect the police arrested was denied bond in her first court appearance in the Superior Court of Fulton County two days later. According to court documents, Judge Jannquell Peters assigned a public defender to represent the defendant Chelci Chisholm. The suspect was booked into the Fulton County jail on charges of aggravated assault with intent to murder and obstruction, and is awaiting prosecution.
Sandy Springs police, who arrested Chisholm at the victim’s home, where she allegedly rented a room, told the AJT that the suspect is an Israeli. According to Chisholm’s Israeli driver’s license, provided by the police, she had lived in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa area and was born in 1962. The Consulate General of Israel had not been contacted by the police at press time. Alex Gandler, deputy consul general of Israel to the Southeast, said he would “not be able to provide any information regarding [the suspect] due to the privacy of her information.”
Ortega told the AJT that the type of weapon used has not been released by detectives as the investigation is ongoing. An autopsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of death, although Ortega said “the medical examiner ruled it a homicide.”
The Sandy Springs detectives say that Chisholm had only lived at Colon’s house one month. Notably, in the court document filed in Fulton County, Chisholm had given an address in Duluth where she had lived until a few years ago with an ex-boyfriend. The house has since been sold.
It was in that Duluth house in December 2017 that Chisholm allegedly attacked her boyfriend, with whom she owned the house. According to Gwinnett County documents, Chisholm was charged with misdemeanor battery and simple assault. Those court documents indicate that Chisholm forfeited her bond and did not appear at a bench trial scheduled in October 2018.
According to an AJT source who asked not to be identified the ex-boyfriend ultimately sold the house and gave Chisholm her portion. The same source told the AJT that Chisholm had American citizenship through a former husband, and that she had changed not only her last name, but also her first name. Attempts to speak directly with the ex-boyfriend were unsuccessful, as were attempts to reach the public defender assigned to Chisholm’s murder case.
Sandy Springs police are still actively investigating the April 5 incident despite having arrested a suspect in the case. “We are … running down every lead that we have,” Detective Sergey Voronkov told the AJT. Those leads include former tenants of Colon, who was known to open her house and “take people in,” Gary Mesnick, a cousin of hers, told the AJT.
According to Voronkov, either he or one of his colleagues planned to reach out to one tenant who lived in Colon’s home for a couple of months a decade ago. This former tenant, a professional masseuse, told the AJT anonymously that in lieu of paying Colon rent, she did various projects around Colon’s house as well as provided free massages. This woman no longer lives in the Atlanta area.
At the funeral, The Temple Senior Rabbi Peter Berg pointed out that Colon was “always looking out for everyone else. We’re not supposed to be here today. Death like this is not supposed to happen to someone we love, not to Marlene,” he said. He added that her death was “absolutely unspeakable.”
In addition to her well-known hospitality, Colon was a popular Zumba instructor and active in the Jewish community.
Celebrate Atlanta, one of the many volunteer groups in which Colon was active, is apparently considering purchasing and placing park benches in her memory in Sandy Springs. In an email the group’s organizer Dave Groveman sent to members, Colon was described as being “very helpful to members in putting on events. What members do not know is how instrumental she was in assisting with the online events during the pandemic.”
Colon is survived by two sons Loren and Jonathan and grandchildren Matthew and Julianne – all of whom spoke at the funeral.
Police are asking anyone with informationabout this incident to contact detectives at SVoronkov@SandySpringsGA.GOV or call 770-551-2562.