When Kathleen Nevi heard about a fatal shooting Sunday in Renton, her first thought was about her son. She knew he spent a lot of time in the area.
“Whenever stuff went on in Renton, he’d always say, ‘Mom, I’m OK,’ ” Nevi said. “But he didn’t call me this time.”
Her 27-year-old son, Rylee Russell Marks, was killed in the shooting at a homeless encampment, said Renton police spokesman David Leibman.
The shooting occurred in a large, remote parcel of property west of Southwest Second Street and Hardie Avenue Southwest, police said in a statement. The suspect, who was identified Friday as 30-year-old Kelcey M. Gornowich, shot Marks in the chest after an argument, according to Renton police.
She left the camp after the shooting and police haven’t been able to locate her, the statement said. Gornowich has not been charged, but police said they have probable cause to arrest her.
Police said Gornowich frequently changes her hairstyle and clothes and usually spends time at transient camps in the Renton area. Officers are asking anyone who sees her to call 911.
“I’m sure other parents have been through this, but I’m feeling like I’m losing it,” Nevi said. “I’m weak. I want her to turn herself in … We just really need some answers. I just want it to be over.”
Leibman said Marks was living in the camp when he was shot, though Nevi said he frequently moved his tent. For a while, she said, he was staying in the woods near the Cedar River, which runs east of downtown Renton.
Marks grew up living with his mom and her husband in Fairwood, an unincorporated King County community bordering Renton. When he was younger, he liked to play baseball and soccer, and he loved spicy foods, Nevi said. He walked almost everywhere, wearing out a new pair of shoes nearly every month.
The 27-year-old was born with cerebral palsy, which affected his speech as a kid and left parts of his body paralyzed. Nevi said his right hand was atrophied and he walked with a limp. He also developed scoliosis as a teenager.
Because he struggled with learning disabilities, he received special-education services.
“He had a hard time fitting in with the kids at school,” Nevi said. “Around 14 [years old], he started running away.”
He stopped going to school in the 10th grade. Nevi said that whenever he left home he’d often take buses up to his father’s house in Blaine, Whatcom County, but sometimes she said she couldn’t track him down.
Then Marks met a group of people at a skate park in downtown Renton. They quickly became his closest friends, Nevi said.
“They just enveloped him,” she said.
Crysta Toles, who met Marks at the Renton skate park when they were teenagers, said the main thing she remembers about him is his sense of humor.
“He was always such a goofball,” Toles, 27, said. “There were times when he let our group of friends just shave his head … He would stop at nothing to make us laugh.”
As the years passed, the group of friends grew apart as they landed jobs and had kids, Nevi said. Marks occasionally helped his stepfather — Nevi’s husband — at the warehouse he worked at, but the job never stuck.
“He was all about fun,” Nevi said.
Even though Nevi said he always had a place to stay at her Fairwood home, she started to see him less and less. Last year, he didn’t come home for the holidays.
“He was slowly inching away from us,” she said. “He still talked to us, but didn’t come home. I’m not sure why.”
Ade Williams, one of Marks’ friends from Renton, said he and Marks spent almost every day together.
“We were homeless together,” said Williams, 30. “He would always wake me up in the morning and joke around. That’s my brother, always joking around.”
Marks also befriended several community members, including John Crick, the manager of Renton’s Carco Theatre. Crick said he met Marks about a year ago when Marks used to camp behind the theater. During the winter, Crick sometimes found him shivering outside and offered him coffee, blankets and clothes.
“We would just talk about life. He was always super chill. Never gave me any flak,” Crick said. “This affected me a lot more than I could’ve imagined it would have. I instantly started crying.”
The family is in the process of planning Marks’ funeral, Nevi said.
“We’re going to have a service somewhere in Renton, so his friends can come and celebrate his life,” she said. “Rylee would have liked that big party.”