RODEO -- What was a patch of dirt at the entrance of St. Patrick School is now a tribute to one of the school's most beloved teachers, who was stabbed to death in October in her Hercules home.
A prayer grotto for Susie Ko -- unveiled after morning Mass on Sunday -- was blessed by the Rev. Larry Young before churchgoers, members of the Ko family and the Eagle Scout who spent 500 hours building it.
Young said the grotto, which includes a statue of Mary, serves as a reminder of the dedication of teachers, especially Ko.
After the brief blessing, a teary-eyed Simon Ko, Susie Ko's son, touched the wooden grotto and posed for pictures with his father, Kelvin Ko, and aunt Alice Chiu in front of a portrait of his mother.
The church and school have been a second home for the Ko family. The mother of four taught there for 12 years, and the family has attended services there for more than 30 years.
"It reminds us that we're not alone in missing her and that she really influenced a lot of lives," Simon Ko said. "She's still very much alive, not only in our hearts."
Casey O'Neal, 15, of Hercules, built the grotto in his family's garage for his Eagle Scout project, which also included installing a fountain. O'Neal never had Ko as a teacher but remembered her as a warm and uplifting presence on campus.
"She was always telling (us) what a good job (we) were doing," O'Neal said.
On Oct. 5, authorities found Ko, 55,
A West Covina couple was arrested five days later in Washington state, ending a monthlong crime spree, according to authorities.
On Aug. 28, police say, Tania Washington, 25, helped her husband, Darnell Washington, escape from a San Bernardino County jail, where he was awaiting trial on robbery charges. While on the run, Darnell Washington shot and wounded a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputy, according to police.
The Washingtons are facing nine felony counts, including murder and special circumstances that make them eligible for a death penalty prosecution, though the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office has not announced whether it will pursue the death penalty.
The couple pleaded not guilty Friday. They remain in jail without bail and return to court March 1 to schedule a preliminary hearing.
Contact David DeBolt at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.