Friends and loved ones held a candlelight vigil for a Mokena woman who seemingly vanished after working a shift as a bartender in Joliet over the weekend and was then found dead.
The Will County Sheriff's office said a 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee belonging to Kaitlyn Kearns, 24, was found in a rural part of Kankakee County during an overnight search. There, they say the 24-year-old's body was found at the scene with a single gunshot wound to the head.
Police said Kearns "was the intended target of this homicide," adding that authorities don't believe there is any threat to the public.
Those who attended the vigil Thursday night held a prayer circle and toasted the young life cut short.
"This is the effect my sister had," Kearns' brother Matt said, adding that she "pulled people together."
The vigil was held outside Woody's Bar, one of Kaitlyn Kearns' three places of employment.
Her ex-boyfriend, Daniel Brandt, told NBC 5 he remembered her as a "kind, gentle person" who was outgoing and always having fun.
"I appreciate everyone showing up," he said. "It means a lot to all of us."
An autopsy was being conducted along with further toxicology and lab results, police said.
"It's very upsetting thing to think that someone could do this to someone like Katie," Kearns' cousin, Kyle Ballard, said. "She not a bad person at all. She is very good, very innocent."
Kearns' best friend, Marie Roche, said she remains in disbelief.
"I am still waiting to wake up and be told this is all just a nightmare," Roche said. "This still doesn't feel real."
Will County sheriff's police on Thursday morning raided a Joliet clubhouse on a search warrant issued in connection with the death of Kearns. The clubhouse is home to the Outlaws motorcycle gang.
Will County investigators are not saying what connection there may be between Kearns and the Outlaws, and the family isn't speculating either.
"Someone who could do this, I hope they get what's coming," Ballard said, "because it's very unfair to us. It's very unfair to Katie, for someone to be able to do harm like this. It's very upsetting."
Kearns was last seen after midnight early Monday morning at Woody's Bar, located in the 1000 block of East Washington Street, friends said.
She never made it home – where she lives with her father and sister – from her shift, Kearns’ friends said, and had not contacted anyone or posted on social media since.
Calls to her phone went straight to voicemail, they added, and she didn’t show up to shifts at Woody’s or her other job at a restaurant in Orland Park on Monday or Tuesday.
Police said Kearns was reported missing Tuesday.
Friends added that it was out of character for Kearns to go missing, as she’s often in communication with friends and family and has a dog that she likely wouldn’t abandon.