EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. -- Police in Ridgeland, Mississippi say a college student shot and killed an Excelsior Springs woman as she was walking to her hotel. Authorities say Kristy Mitchell was returning from dinner at a nearby restaurant when a man drove up, rolled down his window and opened fire. The same suspect, Zehulum Lael James, is now charged in a separate deadly shooting that happened just an hour earlier in Jackson, Mississippi.
Mitchell's sudden death has hit the Excelsior Springs community hard.
"She was just a beautiful person, just so bubbly and we all liked her so much. Kristy had the biggest heart ever," said Kerry Pullman as she fought back tears.
"It is so surreal and just so very sad," said Jessica Lindaman, who's also a friend of Kristy Mitchell. A friend they, along with Kristy's family and co-workers, are now grieving and wishing they could see Kristy one more time.
Kristy worked at Excelsior Job Corps Center. Doug Mitchell, Kristy's husband of 31 years, said since Tuesday his longtime love had been in Ridgeland near Jackson on a business trip.
"I talked to her around five o'clock Thursday afternoon and she was going to get a bite to eat," Doug Mitchell, told FOX 4's Robert Townsend on Friday as he stood with teary eyes on his family's front porch.
An hour after talking to his wife, Mitchell says he learned from police that Kristy had been shot in her stomach after leaving her hotel and walking to a nearby restaurant to get some dinner. Paramedics rushed the Excelsior Springs mother to a hospital where she later died at the hospital while in surgery.
"My God we are all just in shock. I just can't wrap my brain around it," said Kerry Pullman.
"It's just so sad and hard to believe because she was such a great person. A person who especially cared and supported her grandkids. My heart feels so bad because it's going to be a big loss for her entire family," said Jessica Lindaman.
Police say witnesses were able to identify James as the man in the blue car who drove by and randomly shot and killed Kristy for no apparent reason. Police say during his alleged crime spree, James also fatally wounded a 58-year-old woman, ran over a man with car trying to flee from police and the suspect is also linked to three additional shooting incidents.
"Praying, lots of praying right now that's all we can do for her soul, her family and especially those beautiful, little grandchildren she loved so much. We will support all of them," says Kerry Pullman.
The "Help Bring Kristy Mitchell Home" memorial fund has been set up on GoFundMe to assist Mitchell's family with bringing her body back to Excelsior Springs and to help cover her funeral expenses.