A California man considered a person of interest in the murder of a former Kennewick woman has been sentenced to death.
Michael Charles Brown, 40, was sentenced recently on 17 counts, including murder, rape and robbery involving five victims. But Wendy Kyle, who spent much of her childhood in Kennewick and Finley, was not among them.
Kyle had moved to the Bakersfield, Calif., area about 1999 and died there when she was 24. A sheriff’s deputy pulled her from the flames as her small home burned in May 2001, but she was already dead.
She had been strangled and stabbed.
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No arrest has ever been made in her case, but two men remain people of interest to investigators, including Brown, said Ray Pruitt, spokesman for the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.
He said her murder was recently assigned to a new detective, who will take a fresh look at the case.
Brown was found guilty in January of murdering a woman in 2000 in Kern County, and this month was sent to death row. The case had been closed until DNA evidence linked Brown to the stabbing death of Ruby Meriweather. He also assaulted four prostitutes, who said he took them to secluded areas.
The other person of interest in Kyle’s case is James Michael Jimenez. The Bakersfield Californian newspaper reported that law enforcement began investigating Jimenez, who was 27 in 2001, after an informant described overhearing a man admit that he killed Kyle.
Jimenez was sentenced to four years in prison in 2013 after pleading no contest to assault with a deadly weapon other than a gun, according to the newspaper.
It’s hard to look at that man.
Marcia Pack, victim’s mother
Kyle’s mother, Marcia Pack of West Richland, said she is not ruling out either Brown or Jimenez as suspects after working with a private investigator and also a psychic to learn more about her daughter’s death.
She watched an online video of Brown’s sentencing.
“It’s hard to look at that man,” she said. He showed no remorse in the courtroom.
Her daughter knew Brown as the boyfriend of a close friend. The night of her death, Kyle was at a bar called The Mint with a friend who was a bartender there. That friend was dating Brown.
Kyle may have known the person or persons who killed her because her home showed no signs of being broken into, Pack said. Kyle would have trusted Brown because of the connection with her friend, said her mother.
“This has been an absolute nightmare for our family,” she said.
I am praying God will soften his heart.
Marcia Pack, victim’s mother
She’s relieved that Brown is permanently off the street, but does not want him executed. As long as he lives, there is a chance that he could talk about what he might know about what happened the night her daughter died.
“I am praying God will soften his heart,” she said.
Kyle was a student at the Finley School District’s River View High School, but moved to Bakersfield two years before her death.
She had a community of aunts, uncles, cousins there, and a grandmother with whom she lived before moving into the small house where she was killed.
“It was almost like she went home to be with family when she died,” her mother said.
Her last job was at a pet store. She was an animal lover and through the years owned a large snake — either a python or a boa constrictor — rats and her favorite, ferrets.
The homicide investigation has recently been assigned to a new detective and is continuing.
While she was living with her grandmother she set up an elaborate maze of tubes for her ferrets to play in, her mother said.
She was such a good artist that one of her teachers accused her of tracing a picture she drew. Her favorite subjects? Animals, particularly eagles and wolves.
She liked to pull pranks — letting a ferret run loose when her grandmother was not expecting it or coloring a white cat pink.
But she “would never raise her voice, would not hurt a fly,” her mother said. “She had a very, very sweet gentle disposition.”
As a child she rescued animals and would cry for days over animals that had been abused.
Pruitt said they haven’t given up on solving her murder. The investigation is active and ongoing, he said.