Ronald Lee Kidwell is known by his family and neighbors as a white supremacist, and one who has targeted people of color in past assaults — including rape.
And so they were unsurprised to learn that Kidwell was arrested this month for the murder of a local black woman, MeShon Cooper, who was found dead inside his Kansas home.
“This was a hate crime,” said his neighbor Kathleen Brown. “One hundred percent a hate crime.”
Kidwell would drape himself in the Confederate flag, said his daughter, Crystal Foster. He would send her photos of the swastika tattoo on his left arm. He bragged to her about his membership in the Ku Klux Klan and told Brown about the Aryan Nations white supremacist group.
He once threatened to kill his daughter and her three children “if I ever spoke to a person of color,” Foster said.
Foster, who was placed in foster care as an infant, also said her father has “been a monster his whole life...the true definition of evil.”
“He pretends to be ‘colored people’s’ friends and then he harms them,” Foster said, emphasizing that she was using Kidwell’s language rather than her own.
He has spent 15 years in prison on various assault charges.
In a 2011 case, he was charged with second-degree assault in Clay County when he hit a sleeping black woman on the head with a hammer, demanded she take her pants off and sexually assaulted her, according to police records. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years, according to court records.
“Kidwell stated that he has been diagnosed with HIV and did not use a condom during the sexual activity,” police wrote.
Now Kidwell sits in jail on $1 million bond, charged with second-degree murder for Cooper’s death.
The 43-year-old mother visited Kidwell’s home on the day she was murdered, but it wasn’t the first that she had spent time there.
Meshon Cooper, who also lived in Shawnee, had visited Kidwell at his home about 10 days before her disappearance, said Brown, his neighbor. After Cooper left that day, Brown said, Kidwell referred to her as a “black bitch” and used a racial epithet.
On July 6, Cooper was back at Kidwell’s house, and he went out to get beer, Brown said. While he was gone, Brown and Cooper struck up a conversation at Brown’s house. Cooper talked at length about her family and how her brother was “her light.” She told Brown she was going to teach her how to make soul food.
“If I would have known he was going to harm her in any way, I would have never let her leave my house,” Brown said.
Cooper has a 25-year-old son, her only child, according to her nephew DaRon Cooper. The two lived together.
After being diagnosed with lupus, an incurable autoimmune disease, Cooper underwent a successful kidney transplant.
“She fought off a lot of different things, a lot of different diseases,” DaRon Cooper said, “so for someone to come in and take a life like this, it’s shocking and it hurts.”
Though she qualified for disability, Short said, she liked to be around people so she took a part-time job at a Subway in town.
A GoFundMe account to benefit Cooper’s son had raised more than its initial $2,000 goal as of Tuesday afternoon.