The following was written by Christopher Kates mother.
Christopher Kates was my first-born child. He was born on July 16, 1977, in San Francisco. I later had two more children, Matthew and Monica, after remarrying a man with 3 children from a previous marriage. So Christopher had 5 brothers and sisters all together, and we all lived together for the first 13 years of his life. When my husband and I divorced, Christopher, Matthew and Monica and I lived together. As the oldest again, he was not only big brother to my younger children, but very much the role model and father figure that they didn’t have. He always looked out for me and his brother and sister. The day he died, which was on my 40th birthday, and it happened also to be “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day”, my daughter was with me at work and was assigned the task of writing about her hero. Monica wrote about her big brother, Christopher, just moments before we got the news that he had been killed.
Christopher was loved by so many people. He was very sensitive and caring and had so many friends. Girls really liked him because of his sensitivity and compassion, not to mention his very good looks! He loved his nieces and nephews and younger cousins, and they would all run to him whenever we went to family gatherings. He always played with them and was so gentle. He also loved animals more than the average kid. He caught a squirrel once in Carmel CA., just by holding out his hands and patiently waiting for it to come to him. When we used to go camping he would have squirrels and chipmunks all over him, in his lap and up his arms as he fed them. Everyone else would have to put the peanuts down and stay back. I believed they sensed his love for them.
He had dogs that he cherished and cared for, and a cat that used to lick his hair like he was her child when he laid on the floor to watch television. The cat disappeared the day he was killed. I once got a ticket because of a stray dog he had rescued. We named her “Girl” since that’s what she responded to. She was used to straying and eating out of the trash, so she wouldn’t stay put in our yard. One day the dog catcher came and was about to take her, and Christopher came running to me pleading for me to save his dog. I did, and it later cost me over $300 in fines! We were not very well off financially, but I just couldn’t help saving that dog for my little boy. He was about 10 or 11 at the time.
Christopher’s favorite pastime was visiting with people, young and old. He like to talk about life and philosophical views. He loved to talk about God. He always wanted to know more about the nature of God, who He was and who we are and why we’re here. Since he was very young, maybe around 12 years old he was like that. When he died, many of his friends came and told me that Chris was the only person they ever talked to about God. They were all tough guys, growing up in a poor neighborhood and pretending to be strong. But my son brought out the best and the “real” person inside his friends. The last time I saw him alive I was visiting him in Vallejo where he lived. (His brother and sister and I had just moved to Washington and he wanted to stay behind because he had a daughter in Vallejo). A young girl who lived next door sat down beside me and told me what a great and true friend my son had been to her. She said he was her “best friend”, and he gave her wonderful advice about loving her children and being good to their father who wasn’t there to help her. She couldn’t say enough about how much his friendship meant to her. He had a tender heart.
He loved to go to the mountains and camping. He loved to go fishing and exploring. He spent hours and hours with his friends as a child catching frogs, tadpoles, crabs, fish, etc. He loved life. He wanted to do everything there was to do. Some of his best friends were his friends’ fathers; he could talk with anyone. Until he died and so many people came to say goodbye at his service, I didn’t even have any idea how huge the circle of people who’s lives he had touched and who loved him was. It was incredible and it was overwhelming.
Christopher was more than just an 18-year-old who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was my life. He owned my heart. It was him who made me a mother. It was him who taught me unconditional love, both how to give and how to receive it. He taught me true love. He taught me sacrifice and to find joy in living and giving. He loved me with all his heart and made me know it every day. He knew what I did for him and his little brother and sister, he told me all the time. I didn’t like the music he listened to, I thought it was evil and caused children to believe the world was all bad. But one day he forced me to listen to a song by Tu Pac called ‘Dear Mama’. I didn’t want to hear it at first but he asked me to just listen to the words so I did. The song was about the love and appreciation that a son felt for his mother. He talked about how hard it was for her as a single mother to bring up a son. Christopher knew my soul. He saw ME, a person, not just his mother who provided. He often told me I was the best mother anyone could ever have, and I knew he had thought deeply about this. He loved me like no one else ever has. His love and his presence is missed so deeply every day. I long to see him and I feel so lost so often, like I’m still searching for my lost child. Sometimes I feel like a ghost myself, wandering the Earth looking for my lost love. I have experienced many deaths at a very young age in my life, and loss and grief and sadness enough for 6 lifetimes. But nothing has ever compared to the loss of my son.
He was shot at 1:08am outside of his apartment in Vallejo CA. He was in the middle of eating a hamburger and fries from Nations hamburgers. He had been busy all day and kept saying he was so hungry. He finally got something to eat and sat down to enjoy it. (I read the autopsy which listed the content of his stomach, something I probably shouldn’t have read. He hadn’t had a chance to eat much of his meal.) All we know is that he suddenly left what he was doing and walked outside for reasons I don’t know and can only speculate. He fought with somebody briefly, and they shot him at close range in the chest with a sawed off shotgun.
Nobody called the police. In that part of CA. gunshots are common, although I can’t believe a shot as loud as a shotgun would not have scared one of the neighbors into calling the police. His roommates claim to have heard nothing. His dead body was found in a pool of blood in the parking lot outside his apartment at 7:00am by the apartment’s maintenance man. No one has been arrested. His friends told the police that a girl he had recently started seeing was involved with a guy who is in a Samoan gang, and he had called my son several times in the days prior to the murder and told him that he was going to kill him. I have recently learned the reason for the police never questioning this person, which is due to the fact that he has a lawsuit against the Vallejo Police Dept. for a previous arrest for murder which they goofed up somehow and he got off the charges, and now was suing them. They were not allowed to question him.
The police also received an anonymous call giving the name of someone Christopher grew up with as the murderer. The detective believes this guy is involved but cannot force him to take a voice stress test, which he refuses to do. This guy lives across the street from the gangster who had threatened my son. I believe he is either involved or just knows what happened and refuses to speak up because of fear. In any case, the police are not very cooperative with me as far as returning my calls or giving me any information. They are currently doing nothing to investigate my son’s murder because they have no information to go on.
I have a 4 year old granddaughter who is the light of my life and the “spitting image” of her father, Christopher. I had her for the first 2 1/2 years after my son was killed but her mother recently decided she wanted her and took her back to Vallejo where her father was killed. I am afraid for her every single day, but unable to do much about it. I see her often for 5 weeks at a time, but it is not enough. It is hard to let go.
It has been 3 years now. He was killed on April 25, 1996. It still seems like it just happened sometimes. Writing this has been the most helpful thing I have done. I cannot say thank you enough for the opportunity your web site has given me to express myself and make a memorial for my son. I haven’t even buried his ashes yet, they still sit in the original box in my bedroom. This is the closest I have done to a memorial or burial place for my child. My heart is with every single parent on this list, as well as all those who have lost someone to homicide but haven’t seen the site or haven’t found a place to share their memories.
I don’t understand murder, I really don’t. But I pray that each one of us will find peace somehow, and if I can help any other person who is suffering from the loss of their child, I will do anything I can to help. I know that mostly all there is to do is listen, and how I needed someone to do that for me, but no one I knew could handle it. If I can help someone, if you know of someone who needs my understanding, please direct us to each other. I am willing to listen and love & pray.