On Wednesday, a man was charged with the violent murder and attempted rape of a 76-year-old homeless woman in a California parking lot on New Year's Day.
The victim has been identified as Betty Jane Willis, a former soul singer in the 1960s best known for her songs "Someday You'll Need My Love," "Act Naturally," and "Take My Heart."
Willis was sleeping in a shopping mall parking lot in Santa Ana around 4.15 a.m. on Monday morning when Rosendo Xo Pec, a 22-year-old homeless man, sexually assaulted her, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.
“The attack happened near a homeless encampment,” Santa Ana Police Corporal Anthony Bertagna told the Orange County Patch.
As Willis began to scream, Pec is accused of choking her and punching her multiple times in the head to prevent her from calling for help, the DA press release stated.
A witness called 911 when they heard Willis screaming for help, and officers arrived on the scene to find Pec on top of the victim with his pants down.
Pec then reportedly ran from the police and tried to jump a nearby wall but officers quickly detained and arrested him close to the crime scene.
Willis was unresponsive when the police arrived and was later pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of her death has not yet been released, pending an autopsy.
Pec has been charged with one count of murder, with the special circumstance allegation that he killed the victim during a rape, reported the Los Angeles Times. If Pec is convicted, he will face a maximum life sentence with no chance of parole.
According to Hollywood.com, Willis recorded tracks produced by Rock and Roll Hall of fame-inducted musician Leon Russell in the 1960s. She also featured as the lead vocalist on “RevoLution” by Rachel and The Revolvers for Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys.
At the time of her death, Willis’ relatives were "working diligently to get her off the streets," Cpl. Bertagna told the Patch.