Mother of 3 slain on walk at lunch
Antioch woman attacked in Concord
Henry K. Lee, Ryan Kim, Suzanne Espinosa Solis, Chronicle Staff Writers
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
David Hughes, a Concord police officer, searches for evidence with his dog Aries in a wooded area off Cowell Road in Concord. Chronicle photo by Lance Iversen
A 49-year-old woman who left her workplace to take a lunchtime stroll along a trail in Concord Tuesday was found fatally injured hours later after a co-worker reported her missing.
The homicide -- the second in Concord this year -- prompted a full-scale aerial and ground search Tuesday evening for her attacker.
Concord police Sgt. Stephen Price declined to identify the victim or give any details of the assault.
Acquaintances told The Chronicle that the victim was Kathleen Aiello of Antioch, a popular mother of three who had recently remarried. It was unclear if she used her new husband's name.
An acquaintance who spoke with the victim's relatives said that Aiello had been on her cell phone and screamed when she was attacked.
Aiello worked at the nearby headquarters of Systron Donner Inertial Division on Systron Drive, off Monument Boulevard.
According to police, she left her office to take a break at about 12:40 p.m.
Just after 3 p.m., when Aiello still had not returned to work, her co- workers notified police. Within a short time, police found the woman critically injured just off the Contra Costa Canal Regional Trail, a paved path that runs along the Contra Costa Canal and is popular with bikers, pedestrians and equestrians.
Police declined to specify what kind of injuries she had, but she was rushed to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, where she died at 4:54 p.m.
Police set up a perimeter around the path area, which is part of the East Bay Regional Park District, whose police joined the investigation Tuesday night.
As night fell, an East Bay Regional Park police helicopter and police officers cruised around the surrounding neighborhood looking for clues. They cordoned off the building where Aiello worked.
As police investigated the slaying, residents of Aiello's Antioch neighborhood mourned the loss of a consummate homemaker and gourmet cook who enjoyed working in her yard. She remarried two months ago, according to neighbors.
"She loved life, and she really accomplished a lot in her life," said friend Dorothy Archuleta. "Her house was gorgeous. Everyone knew her and loved her."
Archuleta said she was shocked by the slaying. "I can't even believe it. It's totally shocking. It's never hit this close to home before."
Melanie Buff described the woman as a "great person, very happy."
"She was not only beautiful on the outside, but on the inside. She would do anything for you," Buff said.
Buff said Aiello had two sons and a daughter and had taken many of her children's friends under her wing.
"She was like a second mom to some of the teenage kids," Buff said.
Aiello was always quick with a helping hand and kind word for neighbors. A youthful mother, she seemed 10 years younger than her age, Buff said.
Aiello was especially happy in recent months after her marriage to the son of a co-worker.
"She was just so excited about her new marriage," Buff said.
The slaying also unnerved residents of the Concord neighborhood where it occurred.
"It's kind of scary," said one Cowell Road resident, Dana Hahlbeck, 17, who noted that the area is not known for violence.
Hahlbeck said two police officers, who were stationed near his home, had told him the woman had been shot.
The path near where Aiello was found runs parallel to Cowell Road, a two- lane thoroughfare that cuts through Concord and has modest, ranch-style homes whose backyards abut the open-space area.
The Contra Costa County coroner's office took custody of the body and planned an autopsy to determine the cause of death, police said.
Concord police are asking for the public's help. Anyone who was on the canal path between Cowell and Tioga roads on Tuesday between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
is asked to contact Detective Mike Finney at (925) 671-3092.
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2003 San Francisco Chronicle