KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ten days before her longtime boyfriend killed her, Kasandra Perkins told a close friend life was good.
She and Jovan Belcher, a Kansas City Chiefs linebacker and former University of Maine football star, had had their rocky times in the past. Yet things had gotten better. Not only could friends see it, but Perkins told Shelby VanCompernolle as much last month.
The holidays were coming, and the couple’s baby girl, Zoey, who was not yet 3 months old, was so fun and loving. The couple’s relationship, which Belcher’s mother told police had been troubled in recent months, felt stronger.
“She was like, ‘We’re so happy, we’re doing great,’?” VanCompernolle, 21, of Independence, Mo., remembered her friend saying when she stopped by before taking Zoey to her 2-month checkup. “She said, ‘We’re the happiest we’ve been in a long time.’?”
That’s why the news of what happened Saturday morning inside the couple’s home has hit close friends so hard.
The couple argued when Perkins came home about 1 a.m. from a concert, a friend of hers said, because Belcher was mad she’d stayed out so late. And then several hours later, Belcher, 25, shot Perkins, 22, many times while his mom and baby also were home. Then he drove to Arrowhead Stadium, where he killed himself in front of general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel after thanking them for everything they’d done for him.
Friends say they didn’t see this tragic end coming. No warning.
Many people knew that Belcher owned guns and enjoyed shooting. But they’d never known him to be violent. Not even close.
Friends say they also knew the couple had experienced some rough patches, but what relationship doesn’t, they ask.
“They’re like every couple, they argued,” said Kelsie Hoberg, 23, VanCompernolle’s older sister and also a close friend of Perkins. “Nothing we thought was ever super-unhealthy. … I don’t know how it got to where it did — why he thought he needed to get a gun.”
For friends, what’s important now is the young woman they called Kasi. People need to know about her, they insist, and how she hoped to be a teacher one day. How if friends were having a bad time, she’d ask them out to lunch or sit and listen to their problems.
The young woman also volunteered in the community as part of the Chiefs Women’s Organization, and Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said Sunday she was well known and loved and considered a part of the team’s family. Cornerback Brandon Flowers added: “Kasandra was like a sister to us.”
And as more details about the tragedy are likely to come, friends say what can’t get lost is how Perkins loved her life as a mother. A life that ended just as it was beginning.
“I don’t want her to get overshadowed by who he was,” VanCompernolle said. “I know he was a Chiefs player and a lot of people know him, but she deserves recognition, too.”
Perkins grew up in Texas.
A 2009 graduate of Anderson High School in Austin, Perkins has many family members still living in Texas — her parents, cousins, aunts. Many have declined to talk about the tragedy.
Someone answering the phone at the home of a Perkins family member in Austin Sunday evening said they couldn’t talk, but said, “We’ll have answers for you tomorrow.”
One of Perkins’ cousins, Whitney Golden Charles, had a role in bringing her to Kansas City. The cousin is married to Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles and, according to several sources, introduced Kasandra to Jovan in the fall of 2009.
Perkins had come to Kansas City to visit her cousin, friends say, and attended a holiday dinner for Chiefs players and their families. Belcher was there, VanCompernolle said. When part of the group later went to the movies, Perkins reportedly ended up sitting next to Belcher.
In February 2010, family members have said, the two started dating. A few months later, Perkins moved to Kansas City to be with him.
She loved living here, friends say, and met many good friends.
In the fall of 2010, she met Hoberg in class at Blue River Community College. The two started hanging out. Then Perkins met Hoberg’s sister, and they became close. The sisters introduced her to other friends.
Before long, the sisters said, there was a tight group of six who would hang out, go to movies or grab Mexican food at La Fuente, where they would talk and share stories over margaritas.
The sisters spent time with Perkins and Belcher together. The young couple ended up spending a lot of time with the sisters and their extended family, attending birthday parties, a family bonfire and pool get-togethers.
Perkins and Belcher often showed their loving side, kissing and hugging and joking around.
“She talked about getting engaged, getting married,” VanCompernolle said. “Before she got pregnant, she talked about how they wanted kids.
“… They both were madly in love with each other. Never would have expected anything like this.”
A bouquet of flowers sat Sunday afternoon at the doorstep of the home along Crysler Avenue where the couple lived for more than a year.
Several of Belcher’s relatives were inside, but they declined to comment and had posted “no trespassing,” signs on the front lawn.
Neighbors though, described a typical young family.
Kayetta Grant waved as Perkins took frequent walks through the neighborhood.
At the house, Perkins put out decorations for the Fourth of July, Halloween and most recently Christmas.
“I didn’t notice anything bizarre or unusual,” Grant said.
Other neighbors said the young couple appeared happy, especially since their daughter’s birth. Belcher’s mother was especially excited about her new granddaughter and had frequently visited the city to help Perkins take care of the child, said one family who lives nearby and knew the couple well. The family didn’t want be identified because of their relationship with the couple.
Internet pages created in memory of Perkins and one in memory of both her and Belcher have thousands of “likes.” Personal Facebook pages contain memories and heartbreak.
One of Perkins’ friends from Anderson High School in Texas wrote:
“Trying to hold in the tears right now. I love you so much. … You were such a comical person, people loved you in school. You were always a happy person, which made you even more beautiful. My heart goes out to your family right now.
“They’re in my prayers, especially little Zoey. Rest in peace Kasandra Michelle Perkins.”
Also on the Internet are countless pictures of Perkins’ life, most from the nearly three years she spent in Kansas City. The day Zoey was born. Dates with Belcher. And nights on the town with friends.
One photo shows Perkins with sisters VanCompernolle and Hoberg and the others in their group. Five of the six friends had babies in the past year. They vowed to raise their children together, have play dates.
Now Perkins is gone and Zoey’s future uncertain.
On Saturday, hours after the friends heard of the tragedy, they again met at their favorite Mexican restaurant, sitting at the same table where the group last gathered with Perkins.
Over margaritas, they thought of their friend and shared stories. And still, they couldn’t get over everything that had happened.
“We were just sitting there staring at each other,” VanCompernolle said Sunday. “Nobody knew what to say because we still don’t believe it.”
(The Kansas City Star’s Christine Vendel and Tod Palmer contributed to this report.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services