Kathy Wilson is affectionately remembered as the lady who was always sprucing up her tiny Fishtown block of some 10 or so homes along Earl Street, right across from a neighborhood soccer field.
Wilson, 54, known by many as “Kat,” lived alone with her two dogs. She was her block captain, and made impressions on many with her friendly touch and quick turns toward caustic humor.
On Monday, Philadelphia authorities say, her longtime housekeeper and an accomplice bludgeoned her to death with a wrench, looted her house and got away with around $20,000.
But not for long. Authorities have charged Jane Johnson, 47, of Fishtown, and James Cheever, 50, of Kensington, with murder, robbery, criminal conspiracy and other offenses.
When officers entered Wilson’s house, a thick odor of gas emanated from the stove. There wasn’t, however, an active flame, and investigators are now looking into whether the two suspects had tried to set the property ablaze.
On Monday, police said, Johnson walked into the 26th District Police District Headquarters on Girard Avenue and said her boyfriend, Cheever, had held her captive. The reason, she told police, was because he had just murdered Wilson and didn’t want Johnson telling anyone.
But upon further interrogation by the Philadelphia Police Department’s Homicide Unit, Johnson’s story unraveled. She helped kill Wilson, she later told investigators, because she and Cheever had learned that Wilson had a trove of cash, thought to be left behind by Wilson’s late husband.
Cheever had on occasion helped Wilson out with work around the house, police said, so when the duo arrived to her house, Wilson didn’t hesitate to let them in.
Lifetime Fishtown resident Walter Pomero adds a teddy bear to the stoop at the home of Kathryn Wilson who was found slain in her home on Earl Street. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)In the days since the homicide, the shallow brick steps in front of Wilson’s row home has served as a makeshift memorial complete with candles, flowers and a photograph of Wilson wearing an “Aunts are special” sweatshirt with a note attached. “You were loony, and I loved that about you,” someone named Sharon wrote on the note. “You will not be forgotten.”
A seemingly mundane observation that provoked questions for some neighbors, in retrospect, turned out to be a telltale sign.
“It was funny because Kat would take her mail out right away, and the mail was piling up there for the last three days,” said neighbor William Pomero. “Thinking back now, it’s just unreal, hard to believe.”
The astonishment was shared by William Pomero’s brother, Walt, who used to work the polls with Wilson on election days.
“In May and November, I’m really going to miss her. It’s really gonna hurt me, it’s really gonna hurt me,” Walt Pomero said. “She was either walking to the store, or out here doing something. It’s just really hard to believe.”
“She wouldn’t take nothing from nobody,” William Pomero said. “She was a mouthy woman. She would tell it like it was.”
The Pomeros said they aren’t the only ones distressed after the incident.
“You can’t trust anybody anymore. You can’t trust a soul. I keep my door locked now and I got a dog,” Walt said, before his brother chimed in: “People are putting surveillance cameras up and everything else around here.”