Bryan Christopher Bell, 18, Chad Lamont Williams, 18, and 17-year-old Antwaun Ryral Sims have all been charged with murder.
Officials say they are no strangers to crime. All three have records. Police say they chose their victim randomly.
Kennedy, the aunt of Republican gubernatorial candidate Leo Daughtry, was last seen alive Monday night, eating at a Hardee's Restaurant within walking distance of her home on 312 Raleigh St. in Newton Grove.
The medical examiner says Kennedy died of asphyxiation when her car was set on fire with her inside the trunk, 10 miles from her home.
Investigators say money was missing from Kennedy's purse.
"It was very unusual, very violent and very brutal and the first one we have had in this area that I am familiar with," said Maj. John Hayes of the Sampson County Sheriff's Department.
Family and friends remembered Kennedy inside a standing room only funeral home at Newton Grove.
"She would cook dinner and sit in with you," said Mattie Bell, a friend of Kennedy. "She was like a family member and one of the sweetest people I have ever known."
"I was totally devastated by the news of her death," said Daughtry. He says his family is "holding up. I think her son is in shock somewhat. He couldn't believe what happened. Had she had a stroke or a heart attack, it would have been much easier than to have someone murdered like this."
"Ms. Kennedy has been a neighbor of ours for 40 years," said Diane Ellington. "I don't know anybody who would not like her or have any reason to hurt her in any way." Daughtry filed for the gubernatorial race Tuesday, but he has put those plans on hold to be with his family and mourn. Residents of this community still cannot believe what has happened in their small town.
"It's just heartbreaking to know that we live the best life we can, but yet in the end, this is what comes out," Bell said. -->
Officials say they expect additional charges to be filed against the three young men. andJulie Moos
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