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Remembering “Mamma Linda”--murdered on the street

Arrest made in death of homeless woman
Posted at 6:55 PM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 21:55:59-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — She was a homeless woman beloved by the people she met on the streets. Eight months ago someone shot and killed her.

Now Tucson police say they have a killer in custody—and the people who knew his victim say they will never forget Mamma Linda.

Mamma Linda lived, and died on the street. She chose to live there, People she met there say she touched their hearts and minds. Now Tucson Police say they have found Mamma Linda’s killer.

The Cross at 18th Street at I-10 marks the last place Linda Mendibles slept. She was 70 and had lived most of those years on these streets. Her heart and spirit led the people she met to call her Mamma.

Bea Hamm knew her for 20 years as a friend who’d ask for coffee at the side door of the Kettle Restaurant:

“So we'd give her coffee and ask what she was doing. She said she was fine. She tried to give us a dollar or two every time. One of the other servers were like, no, no, no, you, you keep your dollar and stuff and she'd say she was hungry. So we'd get a little food from the buffet and stuff.”

Tucson Police knew her as part of the fabric of the Barrio Kroeger neighborhood. Officer Frank Magos knew Mamma Linda from his earliest days on the force.

“If you took the time to get to know her, listen to her life story, you'd come to realize that she was a tough woman. And early on in life things were very difficult and she didn't get a fair shake in life very early on. But at her core, she was a kind, caring person. And she was just as much a part of this community as anybody else that lives here.”

But October 20, the elderly woman Tucson Police learned to treat as a friend became someone they had to treat as a victim. Someone had shot Mamma Linda to death.

Now eight months later, police have arrested a 17 year old male and charged him with first degree murder. Police say Mamma Linda and the teen did not know each other. There was no sign he robbed the homeless woman. They say they may never know what led to the shooting.

Bea Hamm says she knows what a squeeze of a trigger took away. Someone who didn’t have a home in the conventional sense but who found a home in the hearts of the people she met.

“She'd come to the door and she would say “Oh, Chiquita”. She'd go like this to my cheeks (pinch them) and stuff and then she'd say, ‘Oh, I’m thirsty and I’d go get her coffee and she was pleasant. She was pleasant to talk to when we did talk to her. She was always smiling.”

Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9. With more than 30 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.