Mildred Jenkins stood inside the entryway of her home Wednesday afternoon and pointed across what was once her quiet cul-de-sac to the houses across the road.
“Dead. Dead. Dead,” Jenkins, 79, said of the three people she had known for years as neighbors and who, barely 24 hours before, were gunned down at their south Kansas City homes.
Jenkins spoke as a repairman repainted a new jamb to her front door, which was broken Tuesday by police who crashed into her house and nearly every other on the cul-de-sac in the minutes after the murders searching for an unknown killer.
“Unbelievable,” Jenkins said. “It’s all just unbelievable at this point. There are only 11 of us in the neighborhood. Nearly half of us have been wiped out.”
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Police on Wednesday released the names of the victims of Tuesday’s rampage: Susan Choucroun, 69; Lorene Hurst, 88; and her son, Darrel Hurst, 63.
Meantime, an elderly couple, George and Anna Taylor, both in their 80s, lay clinging to life in critical condition following brutal beatings.
What has happened to the victims only fed Burdette Stewart’s anger.
“There’s no excuses for this,” said Stewart, 88, a resident of the neighborhood at Woodbridge Lane and Wornall Road for 35 years. “This never should have happened. The only thing that keeps going through my mind is when are courts going to stand up to these animals? I’m sick and tired.”
Stewart was speaking of Brandon B. Howell, 34, who was charged Wednesday with three counts of first-degree murder and other related charges. In 2009, Howell was acquitted by a Jackson County jury of the murder of two Johnson County teen-agers, Tabitha Brewer and Nick Travis.
As neighbors struggled to come to grips with Tuesday’s bloodshed, they also faced what they had lost.
Early Wednesday, the Hurst family released a statement to the media requesting privacy. It read:
“We are unsure of all of the events that transpired that day, but we are comforted knowing that (Lorene and Darrel Hurst) were together. Our prayers go out to the other families and victims in the neighborhood as they are struggling to deal with their grief as well. Our hearts are broken, and we ask for our privacy during this difficult time.”
As Darrel Hurst’s wife, Kathy, was grieving with relatives and making funeral arrangements later Wednesday, she came by the house on Woodbridge Lane that belonged to her mother-in-law. Lorene Hurst and her son were believed to have been gunned down while they were outside at the front of the house. Susan Choucroun was also shot and killed while she was outside.
Kathy Hurst described her husband’s relationship with his mother as special. Darrel Hurst had come by the house, as he did regularly, just to visit and talk to his mother. They often did things together, like go for drives or on errands.
“They were good friends,” Kathy Hurst said, “not just mother and son.”
Although close to 90, Lorene Hurst was far from fragile. She liked to walk every morning at Ward Parkway Center. She loved to travel, including a trip while in her mid-80s to visit a granddaughter in Sweden. Kathy Hurst said that if it weren’t for the fact that it would muss her hair, Lorene Hurst had seriously contemplated taking the recent ALS bucket challenge.
“She was 88, but she was sharp as a tack,” said Jacob Morgan, 35, of Olathe, who is Darrel and Kathy Hurst’s son-in-law.
Neighbor Vicki Gruver, 74, called Lorene Hurst “just a lovely lady.”
“She was just very sweet and kind and would have given anything that anyone would have asked her for,” she said.
Married for 40 years, Darrel and Kathy Hurst have two grown children and multiple grandchildren.
“Darrel was all about family,” said Kathy Hurst. “Family came first above all else.”
A retiree from General Motors, Hurst worked for 32 years with the automaker first at the Leeds manufacturing plant and later at the Fairfax plant. After he retired, he continued to consult.
Larry Drummond, now living in Overland Park, has been a friend of Darrel Hurst’s since the fourth grade at Martin City Elementary School. They graduated from Grandview High School together in 1969. Drummond said Hurst began as a security guard at the Leeds plant before earning a business degree from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg.
“Darrel was one of the best people I’ve ever known,” said Drummond. “You know what? I never, ever saw Darrel mad. He never really raised his voice, or shouted at anybody. He was always cool, calm and collected. …
“I’m very, very angry,” he said by phone, choking with tears. “This is one of those things, you never expected. It was just senseless.”
Kathy Hurst said she thought it was important to note that, even in her mourning, she could not ignore how fortunate their life as a couple and family had been.
“We had,” she said, “the most blessed life. We always used to say, ‘If we were to die today, we would die happy.’”
Those who knew Susan Choucroun talked of a woman deeply committed to bettering the world. She and her husband, Charles Choucroun, were active in Congregation Ohev Sholom in Prairie Village.
Charles Choucroun is the owner of the Leawood Beauty Salon on Somerset Drive in Prairie Village. On Wednesday, calls to the shop were answered by a sad voice message saying the shop was closed until Sept. 10 because of Susan Choucroun’s death.
“Susan and I were good friends,” said Ohev Sholom Rabbi Scott White. “We had monthly lunch dates for years. I personally am devastated by her loss and will miss her deeply.”
At Community Christian Church, the Rev. Bob Hill and Susan Choucroun worked together for years with the social justice group More2.
“She was passionate. She was curious. She had had an interfaith sensibility that was undying,” Hill said. “She was a lifelong lover of Kansas City and all its people.”
The Choucrouns also were active in the Kehilath Israel Synagogue in Overland Park. She was among the directors and advisers to the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council. In a statement, the council expressed its grief over Choucroun’s death.
“She was a caring person,” said Sheila Sonnenschein, council convener. “She wanted others to know about her Jewish faith, and she wanted to know theirs.”
Choucroun had a master’s degree in gifted education with a specialization in Montessori, the council said, and was a teacher for 40 years. She also taught interdenominational Sunday school in several area churches.
“Susan was one of the most faithful friends any one could hope to have in one’s life,” said longtime friend Karalee Hawkins. “What a stellar life she has led.”
On Woodbridge Lane, neighbors said they were in shock. For two days, the cul-de-sac was filled with journalists, satellite trucks and police. Neighbors said they recognize that when the commotion passes, their small block will not only be left emptier, but far sadder.
“It’s going to take a long time,” said Mildred Jenkins, “before we recover from this.”