ESCONDIDO — Police Chief Craig Carter announced Thursday that two arrests were made in the case of Catherine Kennedy, a 55-year-old woman that was killed earlier this month by a stray bullet while driving home from a church event.
Police said a 24-year-old male and a 16-year-old male were arrested for murder on Wednesday. The 24-year-old is being arraigned at the Vista County Court House Friday. On Monday, the 16-year-old will be arraigned at the juvenile courthouse. Police believe the 24-year-old was the sole shooter, according to a press release.
The arrests come a day after Kevin Kennedy, Catherine’s widower, and more than a hundred people gathered in front of City Hall on Tuesday to pay respects to Catherine in a candlelight vigil.
“We would like to commend the Escondido Police Department on these arrests and ask that you respect our privacy as we continue through the grieving process in light of this new information,” said Kevin in a statement.
According to Escondido Police, Catherine was driving on East Grand Avenue a little after 9 p.m. on March 7 when a bullet hit her in the head.
She was still alive when emergency personnel transported her to Palomar Hospital where she later died.
Witnesses had described a situation where two men were firing at each other from opposite sides of the street. However, as the investigation has progressed, police now believe there was only one person firing a weapon.
Carter said on Tuesday that it was too early in the investigation to speculate on what the suspect might have been shooting at that night.
He also said the public had provided a lot of tips.
Carter also said the department had reallocated extra resources to help in the investigation.
“We have combined units, so we have some units that handle specific areas, specialized units…so basically, doubled the force,” he said.
It is suspected that the shooter is a gang member based on witness reports at the scene and graffiti that was discovered in the area, according to Carter, though he wouldn’t say which gang might be involved.
May Kennedy, Kevin’s sister, stood facing traffic during the vigil with a sign that read: “In the U.S. 325 million people; 300 million guns; why?”
“We’ve got too many guns, we’ve got too many drugs. Too many guns get in the wrong hands of too many people,” Mary said.
“The idea this was a random shot into a car, killing someone — I mean, that’s just a sign there’s just too many guns being bought. They’re too available; the access to guns is too easy.”
Mary said religion was Catherine and Kevin’s bond.
The two had met at the Church of St. Timothy in Escondido, where Kevin is a staff member and where Catherine volunteered to work with youth, trying to give them an option other than to join a gang, Mary explained.
“She really was this person that sincerely cared about people; sincerely cared about life,” Mary said.
Mary said there was no playbook on coping with her loss.
Kevin and Catherine were both very devout, Mary said. “They found each other with the same commitment to their religion. And the idea they could only share it for less than three years is very touching.”
Kevin, speaking after the vigil, said July would be their third wedding anniversary.
“She was one of the most beautiful people you would ever want to meet — inside, outside — that says everything,” Kevin said.
“I think that God is God, and I’m not God, and I don’t second-guess God, and I don’t even try to come up with reasons…I think it’s rather facile and stupid to try to come up with reasons for something like this,” he said.
He said he’s been receiving lots of support from the people at St. Timothy’s and from his own and Cathy’s family, too.
“What is the meaning of life? The meaning of life is giving yourself and loving service to other people. That’s what we all believe. And that’s what, I think, she put that into action, to an extent, that very few other people do,” Kevin said.
“I miss the fun we had together,” he added. “We did a lot of stuff together. It’s lonely. I miss her laugh. I miss her spirit. Her companionship…we were growing together. She was pushing me to grow, and I was pushing her to grown.”
Marie Mendoza, Catherine’s mother, fought through tears as she spoke at the vigil.
She told of how Catherine was a single mother for at least 20 years and who found a second life with Kevin, hiking together and going motorcycle riding.
“And they were very happy,” she said.
Mendoza said that she couldn’t forgive whoever was responsible for her daughter’s death, that she couldn’t “turn the other cheek.”
“If they’re out there, I ask them, if they see a priest then forgive them, let God forgive them. They might be saved. Don’t go on like this. There’s so many other children that will die because of gun violence and because of the drugs,” she said.
“Keep your children close to you. Teach them right from wrong, and if they go stray, try to bring them back,” Mendoza added.
With the investigation still ongoing, police are asking for anyone else with information on the case to call (760) 839-4926 or anonymously at (760) 743-8477.