RICHMOND -- They lit cigarettes and sipped diet soda Thursday to honor "Granny," the watchdog, sage, and wiseacre of an Iron Triangle apartment complex who would "give you her last dollar but not her last cigarette," one neighbor recalled.
A larger-than-life character to the residents of a 15-unit building in the 100 block of 20th Street, 64-year-old Bonnita Todd was shot to death Wednesday night as she sat on her bed in a hail of gunfire police say may have been fired by someone angry about her son's work as an auto mechanic.
Todd was inside her apartment with five adults, including her 42-year-old son, just before 11 p.m. when someone fired more than a dozen rounds from a high-powered rifle through the apartment's wall, police said. More than 20 holes could be counted on the wall next to Todd's bed.
Todd was hit multiple times in the torso and taken to a hospital, where she died, police said. She was Richmond's 11th homicide victim of 2013.
Detectives believe her freelance auto mechanic son was the target -- and the shooter may have been a disgruntled customer. The son was grazed by the gunfire but wasn't seriously injured, police said. No one else was hurt.
"This looks like a tragic killing of an unintended victim," said Richmond police Capt. Mark Gagan.
Todd, a Sacramento native who did not work because of a disability, was known to hold court on a cushioned crate outside her front door, a 2-liter soda with a straw in one hand and a cigarette in the other, neighbors said.
She could be quirky: A green curtain in her window meant she was sleeping and not to be bothered. Otherwise, she was there to offer counseling, a laugh, or what was in her pantry.
"She had the best advice. She saved my marriage numerous times," said next-door neighbor Cymande Russell. "I couldn't have asked for a better neighbor. If I needed an onion, I could go to her house."
Mother's Day was particularly hard for Russell, whose two sons were killed in the past four years. "Granny," who Russell said helped her bury both of her sons, brightened her day.
"Don't cry," she remembers Todd saying; "(your boys) are in heaven watching over you."
The neighbors intend to plant vegetables in what will be known as "Granny's Garden," a garden box next to Todd's apartment that she was meaning to revive but never did.
Gagan said the department is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect.
Police ask that anyone with information call 510-232-TIPS or Detective Danny Wellhausen at 510-620-6860.
Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rdERH. Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 and follow him at Twitter.com/roberthrogers. Contact David DeBolt at firstname.lastname@example.org.