Despite the evil, believing in good
Today is Emily Willegal's funeral, a good 60 or 70 years too
Kimani Ward admits he took away her life, according to a
criminal complaint. Smashed her head with a tire iron, stole the
$11 in her pocket, sexually assaulted her and drove around with
the unconscious 24-year-old woman in the back of his pickup truck
like so much trash, then left her near an alley to die in
temperatures barely above zero, the complaint says.
Ward, 28, didn't know Emily. To him she was easy prey, a woman
walking alone on Milwaukee's east side around 3:30 a.m. at the
precise moment he happened to drive by, the complaint says.
I told my 16-year-old daughter about Emily and about being
careful. We like to pretend we can keep our children safe.
Last week the police kept saying Emily's death did not appear
to be random. Detectives were grilling boyfriends and former
boyfriends, trying to figure out which one did it.
The truth was that it couldn't have been more random. Kimani
Ward came along in his truck as Emily walked home from getting a
burger at a quick mart, the complaint against Ward says. He saw
her and he attacked her, the complaint says.
According to Assistant District Attorney Mark Williams, Ward
guarded his terrible secret for not even one day before telling
his girlfriend what he had done. She tells her hairdresser. Can
you imagine that conversation? Just a trim please, and, by the
way, my boyfriend beat a young woman to death. The hairdresser
I looked up Ward's criminal record. This high school dropout
has never been caught for a violent crime, but he's a felon
several times over for stealing cars and other things. There were
plea deals and early releases from prison. He saw a parole agent
just days before Emily's death, records show.
Judge Dennis Moroney, sending Ward to prison in 1998, told him,
"Every time we do something with you, try to give you the
message, you just kind of ignore it and say, 'Hey, I'm just going
to do what I want.' "
Police say they are now looking at Ward as a possible suspect
in other attacks on women on the east side. A search of his home
near 108th and Hampton last week turned up numerous pairs of
women's underwear, court records show.
Enough about this guy
As I said, today is Emily Willegal's funeral, up north in
Woodruff where she grew up. Her mother, Paisley Woodside, said
there will be a reading of Psalm 146, which Emily marked in her
"The Lord watches over the sojourners, he upholds the
widows and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked he brings to
ruin," it says in part.
The congregation will hear "I Will Remember You," the
Sarah McLachlan song. After Columbine, Emily and her friend told
each other they wanted this song at the funeral if either died
And there will be a laminated letter on display. It was sent to
Woodside by a Milwaukee man named Vince Cataldi who had friends in
common with Emily and often saw her at a particular east side bar.
He saw her there the last night of her life. As she was
leaving, she smiled at him, reached for his hand and said,
"Vince, I am Emily and we have never been properly introduced
even though I've seen you many times." The letter continues:
"I hope you find comfort knowing that Emily was always
interacting kindly with, and a positive influence on, all those
around her, even a 'near stranger' like me."
That this man took the time to share some of her
daughter's final words touched Woodside deeply. Even as a mother in
fresh grief over a slain daughter, she said she believes there's
more good than evil in the world.
A version of this story
appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Feb. 5, 2003.
the Evil, Believing in Good