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Jennifer Kocsis loved karaoke. Friends say she would go to sing it anywhere, anytime.
On Saturday morning, not long after 1 a.m., she sang a duet with a longtime friend. It was Kenny Rogers, "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer."
It was the last song she'd ever sing.
Hours later, behind an abandoned elementary school in Gary, Ind., a group of kids discovered a dead woman, partially clothed and badly beaten.
Police identified her as Kocsis. They’re testing to see if the 37-year-old former music teacher and respite care worker for the disabled had been sexually assaulted.
"There’s no words that describe... how something this horrible, this tragic could have happened to someone this sweet. This loving,” said Ron Sutton, who may have been the last person other than her killer to see Kocsis alive.
Sutton is the regular karaoke deejay at Pepe’s restaurant on Ridge Road in Griffith, Ind. He's been a friend of Kocsis for 15 years.
Sutton recalls that Kocsis popped into Pepe’s about 1 a.m. Saturday by herself to squeeze in some karaoke before closing time. She sang a Kenny Rogers duet with Sutton before walking out an hour later with another customer.
“She said, 'I’m going. I’ll see you later. I’m going to give this guy a ride home because he lives on Elmer Street,' which is a couple of blocks away from her. She said it in a way she must have known this guy," Sutton recalled.
Police want to question the man seen leaving the bar with Kocsis. Sutton said the man was not a regular and that he'd made sexual passes at customers earlier that night.
"I was like her last line of defense and I feel like I let her down... If I simply would have asked her if she knew this guy we would have had a different outcome," he lamented.
Customers describe the man seen leaving with Kocsis as a black male who stood about 6 feet tall and weighed about 240 pounds. They say he had a full build with a light beard that was peppered with gray hair.
He was wearing a white cap, a white zip-up sweatshirt with a blue "V" on the front.
"We have to hope that it’s the person everyone thinks it was, because then they (police) have leads,” said Pamela Howell, who used to work with Kocsis.
She describes Kocsis as the most loving and kindest person she's ever known.
"She’s 37. It’s not the way it should have happened. She didn’t get to have family or kids," she said.
"I think, 'Coulda, woulda, shoulda,'" said Laura Covarrubias, a friend and former co-worker of Kocsis. "Why couldn't one person be there... to stop her from giving this guy a ride home."
Kocsis's visitation is scheduled for Thursday. Her friends say she leaves them with an untold number of good memories, including one of her very last Facebook posts.
She wrote: "Live all the days of your life."
Friends have started a reward fund to help find Kocsis' killer. Those who wish to contribute may do so by sending a PayPal payment to LiveEveryDay@paypal.com. A website is also being developed at Justice4Jen.com.