I’m the type of airplane traveler who will make some polite chit chat, and that’s about it.
If you’re sitting next to me, you’ll get a stick of gum, weather speculation and the side of my head as I look out the window or pull out my Kindle.
Last week, when the slight woman sat down next to me, complaining about the flight delay, I sympathized with her for a few minutes, popped in my ear buds and turned on season three of “Stranger Things.”
Twenty minutes in, I was startled by the woman, sniffling quietly, thumbing through photos on her phone. They were of a striking young woman, sometimes posing with a younger girl.
“My daughter was murdered,” the woman cried softly.
Startled out of my Netflix reverie, I ripped out the buds and grasped her hand. For the next 90 minutes, I learned about 8-22-18 and the life and death of Kendra Simpson.
She was just 29, the mother of an 11-year-old girl, when she was gunned down in a carjacking on the Detroit streets in the early morning hours of Aug. 22, 2018, according to Karen Simpson, her mother and my flight companion.
Kendra, who had just started working at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, was dropping a co-worker off at 1:40 a.m., when suddenly there was a burst of gunfire.
Kendra’s body was found just outside her Buick LaCrosse, with four bullets in her back and legs, Karen said.
Three other people with her in the vehicle escaped and were not injured, she said.
“There was one young lady and two young men in the car. One of the young men had just been released from prison and he had just started at Chrysler. She was helping him get back and forth to work because he didn’t have transportation,” Karen said.
Shortly after Kendra and two others dropped him off at home that night, he came running back to the car, and said they had to get out of here. Before they could back up, a car pulled up and blocked the Buick.
Just seconds later, Kendra, who was on the passenger side of her car, was dead.
“The young lady who was driving her car got her three fingers shot off and the other two people have minor injures,” Karen said. “The police report states that Kendra was found face down, facing north in the alley, with four gunshot wounds to her back with an AK-47.
Karen believes someone knows something or saw something that night. A possible suspect was wearing a mask and driving a black Ford Crown Victoria.
While she waits for a lead, Karen is raising Kendra’s daughter. Karen is 62 and about to retire from her job with public schools.
“We have no answers. If anybody knows anything, seen anything or heard anything, please come forward,” Karen said.
As the plane started its descent into Detroit, Karen squeezed my hand. She hoped that telling me her story, along with a television interview she was scheduled to do last week, would warm up the cold case. And that she may find some peace and justice around Christmas time and in time for a new year.
“God put me in the right seat today,” she said.
Let’s hope so.
Debbie Rogers is editor of the Sentinel-Tribune. Send letters to email@example.com.
To report any information in this case, call Crime Stoppers of Michigan at 800-SPEAK-UP.