Hundreds of friends, neighbors and family members gathered to remember slain Hercules resident Susie Ko in a candlelight vigil Monday night.
Ko, 55, was found dead in her Ash Court home Friday as a result of an apparent homicide. Hercules police have not identified any crime suspects or a motive.
At her vigil, Ko was described as a kind and generous woman who loved to cook, eat and garden, and who pushed the people around her to do their very best.
“My sister was a simple person who did what she loved to do – church, community (service),” Ko’s younger brother Danny Tang said to a crowd of mourners.
Tang gulped back tears as he spoke about his family’s emigration from China to the United States in 1967. He said his parents worked tirelessly when he and Ko were growing up. During that time, Ko acted as a mother figure to her siblings. “My sister was more than a sister…she was there to make sure we did our homework and our chores,” Tang said.
Ko's impact on her community was evident in the number of people who attended the vigil – in the dozens of loving notes written on colorful paper bags illuminated by candles and the growing mountain of flower bouquets placed outside her taped-off home.
Ko's nephew said his aunt "was like a second mother" who inspired him to have a solid work ethic.
Briana Mager grew up in the house next door to Ko. Her grandparents vacationed with Ko and her husband. Mager said her most vivid memories of Ko are of her gardening. She said learning of her former neighbor's murder was "shocking and surreal."
At its peak, the vigil held about 500 people, said Hercules police public information Officer Connie Van Putten, who stood at the back of the vigil, overseeing a crowd that seemed to swell and shrink throughout the night.
Nearly 30 years ago, Ko was one of the first residents to move onto Ash Court, a sleepy part of the sleepy bedroom community of Hercules. Van Putten said the police had never been called to Ko’s or any other Ash Court home in recent memory.
The cul-de-sac street was generally peaceful until Friday at about 10:45 p.m., when Ko’s lifeless body was found in her two-story house by a neighbor. The neighbor visited the home as a favor to Ko’s husband, Kelvin, who at the time, said he was worried about his wife. Kelvin had been waiting at the airport for her to pick him up. He called, but she didn't answer.
The neighbor noticed that the side gate to Ko’s home was open, which was unusual, Van Putten said. When the neighbor looked through a window on the side of the house, she spotted Ko – she was lying in a pool of blood with apparent blunt force trauma to the head. According to a coroner’s report on Monday, Ko’s body also had at least one stab wound.
Ko’s 2011 sky blue Subaru Outback was missing, but it wasn’t apparent that anything else was taken from the house, which would indicate a home-break-in-gone-awry, the night of the murder, Van Putten said.
Police interviewed neighbors shortly after Ko was discovered, but no one reported seeing or hearing anything suspicious the night of the crime, Van Putten said. No one noticed the Outback being driven away, either.
“Everybody’s upset and traumatized,” which can cause them to blank out on details of a crime, said Van Putten, adding that police plan to re-interview possible witnesses.
Van Putten said that the modestly sized Hercules Police Department has done its best to catch Ko’s murder(s), but it has needed some help. The department invited the Federal Bureau of Investigation to aid in the investigation of Ko’s death.
“We don’t handle too many homicides here” in Hercules, Van Putten said. In the past 11 years, the city has had five murders.
“(The FBI) collected some items that might be of some evidential value,” Van Putten said. She did not say what the items were.
As a next step, Van Putten said Hercules police would walk Kelvin Ko through the house in an attempt to have him identify any missing items or other clues. Ko’s home has been blocked off to anyone not working on the investigation.
Van Putten said police are asking citizens to be on the lookout for Ko’s Outback, which hasn’t been located. The vehicle’s Idaho license plate could have been removed, so police are urging citizens to report any suspicious, or out of place, 2011 sky blue Subaru Outbacks regardless of the license plate information.
Van Putten said her hope is to bring justice to Ko’s loved ones. “We can’t bring her back, but hopefully we can bring some resolution,” Van Putten said.