A 22-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of killing a 76-year-old woman in the early morning hours of Jan. 1.
Police were summoned to the parking lot of a small strip mall in Santa Ana, California, at 4:14 a.m. that morning by a caller who reported hearing cries of distress, according to a Santa Ana Police Department news release obtained by KTLA.
Police arrived to find Betty Jane Willis unresponsive on the ground. She was pronounced dead nearly 20 minutes later after firefighters' lifesaving efforts proved unsuccessful.
Rosendo Xo Pec, 22, has been charged in Willis' death. Pec was allegedly attempting to flee the scene when officers arrived. He was booked on suspicion of homicide, according to KTLA.
According to The Orange County Register, Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said Willis was homeless and did not know her attacker.
"At this point, we believe it was a possible robbery gone bad," Bertagna added.
Pec's forehead is bloodied in his booking photo, but it is unclear when or how he received his injuries.
No further details are currently available regarding events leading up to the killing or the cause of death.
Willis was one of a growing number of California seniors who find themselves on the streets in their golden years, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Throughout the state, the number of impoverished residents older than 65 increased by 85 percent between 1999 and 2014. According to the report, that put the number of California elderly residents living in poverty at well over half a million people. This number more than doubles the population growth rate of the elderly in the state.
Elderly women are particularly susceptible to the hazards of not being able to support themselves as their ages advance.
Individual stories differ, but the road to poverty has various routes, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Some women of that generation did not work outside the home long enough to qualify for Social Security. Others made poor financial decisions or investments or left the decision making entirely up to a mate who made either unwise or self-serving choices.
Still others witnessed their savings and retirement accounts fall victim to the recession and earlier market downturns.
Add to that the fact that people are living longer -- well into their 80s and beyond -- and the additional costs of chronic health conditions can push many elderly people out into the streets, especially if they don't have family to fall back on.