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If Agnes McFedries Kennedy had something she believed you liked, you may as well have considered it yours. Whether clothing or some trinket, the bubbly young mother of four and grandmother to two would not only make the other person take what she offered, but in the end leave them feeling they’d just done her a very big favor.
Always neat and well-groomed, “Aggie” also had an abounding sense of humor reflecting her beauty both inside and out; her genuine, almost perpetual smile lifted the spirits of everyone she met.
After graduating from Davenport Central High School, she’d gone on to Iowa State University where she earned her teaching degree. At Williams Junior High School in Davenport — where she began her teaching career — she quickly found her niche with underprivileged students and those who needed additional help.
She seemed to have an uncanny ability to understand things from other people’s perspectives — whether young teens or adults — and offered her assistance and encouragement whenever it seemed appropriate. Her kindly demeanor reflected a genuine interest in the welfare of others as well as a commitment to her work.
She left an indelible mark on hundreds of young students during the years she taught school, and continued to support the underdog long after she quit teaching.
By the age of 26, divorced and with three small children of her own, Kennedy had reached the point where she couldn’t afford to pay her bills and support herself and her children. She made what she called a moral compromise; she quit her job at the school and went to work in a “massage parlor,” which she acknowledged in a 2005 interview with a reporter from The Dispatch and Rock Island Argus (using the pseudonym “Anabelle”) was basically a front for prostitution.
The days moved quickly in December 2007, with Christmas fast approaching. There were still gifts to buy and wrap. Kennedy went to work on Saturday, December 22, never imagining how the day would end.
Later that night — just three days before Christmas — a couple returning home for the evening found the former teacher’s unresponsive body in an alley in the 1800 block between west 7th and 8th streets in Davenport. The call came in to police about 8:30 p.m.
Kennedy was transported to Davenport’s Genesis Medical Center (West Campus), where she was pronounced dead.
In a press release the following day, Davenport police Capt. David Struckman said:
“Due to the suspicious nature of the death and many unanswered questions, the death is being investigated as a homicide.”
Autopsy results showed Kennedy had been strangled.
Police continued to gather physical evidence all throughout the holiday weekend and interviewed those who knew Kennedy in attempts to determine her activities Saturday and Saturday night.
On Wednesday, January 30, 2008, Jesse James Stewart of 1831 W. 6th St. in Davenport was charged in U.S. District Court with distribution of crack cocaine. A federal judge ruled the 57-year-old Stewart be held while police investigated his possible role in Kennedy’s death.
Davenport police Sgt. Kevin Smull testified that Stewart had a predilection to beating prostitutes after giving them crack for sex or to clean his house. Smull also testified that other prostitutes told police Stewart had contact with Kennedy the day she died.
Stewart denied the allegation, telling police he’d been home watching movies with other prostitutes the day of Kennedy’s murder.
Police did not officially name Stewart as a suspect, but Smull told the court that police were still actively investigating Kennedy’s homicide and Stewart’s role in it.
On Sunday, September 28, 2008, Agnes Kennedy’s family and friends gathered in Fejervary Park to remember Kennedy on what would have been her 52nd birthday, and also remind the public they were still awaiting justice for her murder.
“Agnes had outrageous joy. She would come into the room and she had this smile and eyes that sparkled,” Kennedy’s sister, Kate Heuer, told WQAD News Channel 8 during the event. “She would always find humor and the happy side of everything.”
Heuer said it was hard for the family to lose her, but they needed to celebrate her because she was so important in their lives.
“She was a good person and hopefully someone out there will see this and come up with some answers that will help us out,” said Desiree McFedries, Kennedy’s daughter. “It’s been a long nine months without my mother, but she’s in a good place, heaven, so we’re just trying to get some answers solved.”
The family told WQAD that police had suspects, but not enough evidence to support a conviction just yet.
Family members read words from a poem Kennedy had written in her journal, and then released 52 balloons for the woman known to them as a mother, sister, and grandmother.
They ended the day of remembrance with a candlelight walk to the spot where Kennedy was found nine months earlier. Said McFedries:
“Closure would be great, but we know she’s in a good place and she’s always in our hearts.”
In December 2008, Det. Scott Williams from the Quad Cities Crime Stoppers announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Kennedy’s killer. The Crime Stoppers board of directors provided the maximum of $1,000; the family would provide the other $9,000.
In February 2010, Judith A. Lange of 1624 W. 49th St. in Davenport was charged with extortion and harassment for repeated phone calls to one of Kennedy’s family members. A story in the Dispatch-Argus said Lange sought money, a car or a stove in exchange for information about Kennedy’s death.
According to Scott County court records, Lange repeatedly called the family member, even after being told the information she wanted payment for was incorrect. Lange would often yell at the family member during some of the calls.
The Dispatch-Argus reported on February 26, 2010:
Ms. Lange also made statements such as saying that she understood why Ms. Kennedy was killed — because of people like the family member.
Lange eventually was arrested and charged with trying to extort money from the family of a murder victim.
On June 8, 2011, former car salesman Chad Michael Lee Welsh was charged with strangling Angela Hennes — another Davenport woman who worked as a prostitute — in January 2007.
On Tuesday, April 17, 2012, a Scott County District Court jury found Welsh guilty of first-degree murder. Welsh had been linked to Hennes’ death through DNA tests after he was convicted of possessing child pornography and sent to prison.
Now, the Davenport killer is being eyed in Kennedy’s slaying as well as that of Yvonne “Bonnie” Nicholson, 32, of Rock Island, Illinois.
Davenport police Lt. Gene Wall told the Quad-City Times that the slaying of Hennes in some ways was similar to the other two women’s killings.
Two construction workers driving along a slough on South Concord Street in Davenport discovered Nicholson’s body on November 12, 2001.
Clothed in a sweatshirt, shorts and socks, Nicholson lay partially submerged in Mississippi River backwater near Credit Island about 75 feet from the road. She, too, had been strangled, and her killer was never caught.
Lt. Wall said Welsh previously wasn’t listed as a suspect in Kennedy’s slaying, and that police also had another “person of interest” in her case.
Agnes Anderson Lashbrooke McFedries was born Sept. 28, 1956, in Davenport, the daughter of John “Scotty” and Jean Conn McFedries.
She had impeccable penmanship and a special flare for art and decorating. Her greatest attribute, however, was her abiding generosity.
Agnes enjoyed baseball, long walks, music, the arts, reading, frequenting the John Lewis Coffee Shop, and helping people in need. She believed in God and shared pamphlets of faith with others. In earlier years, she also had been a member of the First Presbyterian Church Hand Bell Choir and played for several years.
Survivors included her children, Andrew McFedries, Desiree McFedries, Athena Kennedy and John Keenan McFedries; grandchildren, Camarion and Chrystopher; mother, Jean McFedries; father, Scotty McFedries; sister, Kate (Jeff) Heuer, brother, Norman (Dorothy) McFedries, all of Davenport, sister Jennifer Mayweather of Beverly Hills, Calif.; and many nieces and nephews.
Visitation was held Friday, Dec. 28, 2007 from 5-7 p.m. at the Halligan-McCabe-DeVries Funeral Home in Davenport. Funeral services celebrating her life were held Saturday, Dec. 29, 2007 at 11 a.m. at Third Missionary Baptist Church, 222 W. 14th St., Davenport.
Agnes Kennedy was buried in Pine Hill Cemetery, Davenport. Memorials were to be directed to the Third Missionary Baptist Church.
There is a $10,000 reward for a tip leading to the arrest and conviction of Agnes Kennedy’s killer. If you have any information about her death please contact Quad Cities Crime Stoppers at 309-762-9500 or the Davenport Police Department at (563) 326-7979.
Photo Slideshow of Aggie’s Life: All photos courtesy Desiree Lashbrooke McFedries.
Music: (You’ll Always Be) My Heart and Soul, performed by Stephen Bishop, courtesy Geffen Records