BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A simple, protective act of brotherly love—walking his little sister home from the bus stop—is now an appalling tragedy.
Two young people died in south Bakersfield Wednesday afternoon.
These are Kern County’s 52nd and 53rd pedestrian fatalities in 2021.
19-year-old JJ Malone, a recent graduate of Golden Valley High School, had just met his sister, 10-year-old Caylee Brown, at the school bus drop-off when a westbound silver sedan veered across the eastbound lanes of Panama Lane, jumped the curb and mowed them down right on the sidewalk.
The car took out a utility box, sideswiped a telephone pole, crushed JJ’s bicycle and smashed into a tree.
Police arrested 46-year-old Lisa Gwen Core on a litany of charges, including first-degree murder.
Also killed in the crash was a 3-year-old German Shepherd-pit mix, believed to be JJ’s dog. A good Samaritan rushed the dog to Kern County Animal Services, where it took its last breath.
But those details are the furthest thing on the minds of Caylee’s 5th-grade classmates at Granite Pointe Elementary. Greenfield School District Ramon Hendrix was there Thursday morning with counselors to help the girl’s 25 classmates deal with her shocking and sudden loss.
“I can tell you, it’s a difficult day in Greenfield whenever you lose one of your shining stars,” said Ramon Hendrix, Greenfield Union School District superintendent. “It is a difficult day. She was a fifth-grade student who was described as bright and intelligent, soft-spoken and reserved. Great kid, and we are going to miss her.”
First cousins Jada and Kelsey Villatoro said Caylee and Jeffrey James, known to all as JJ, were as close to them as siblings.
“She loved animals so much,” Kelsey said of her cousin Caylee. “She wanted to be a dolphin trainer when she got older. … And my cousin JJ – he was so sweet, so kind. He was a protector. He would drop everything and be there if you needed him.”
“He knew how to light up a room,” Jada said of her cousin JJ. “Whenever anyone was sad, JJ always knew how to make them laugh.”
A memorial of balloons and candles was growing by the minute at the scene of the crash. Annie Sams of Bakersfield, a hospice nurse at Hoffmann Hospice, lives in the area. She brought a Teddy bear.
“Just as a mom, I’m just really feeling for this family and I just wanted to come and show some support. I can’t imagine,” Sams said. “I held on to my children a little bit tighter last night.”
Granite Pointe principal Gloria Batshoun told me that all the siblings in Caylee and JJ’s family attended the school. So this is a devastating loss for a Bakersfield grade school that goes far, far beyond one devastated classroom of 5th graders.
A member of the victim’s family has set up a Go Fund Me Account to help with funeral and other expenses.