Many questions remain about what happened the morning of Jan. 30 in the apartment of a Tucson mother who police said strangled her young son.
But for Kelly Cataline, aunt of 10-year-old Johnny Cataline, who died after he was removed from life support Thursday, there is also anger and sadness.
"Poor little Johnny. He was the sweetest child. He never spoke back. He was always singing," Cataline, who lives in Iowa, said of her nephew, a fourth-grader at Whitmore Elemen-tary School in the Tucson Unified School District.
Cataline's sister-in-law, Jean Alutaya Cataline, 49, remains in jail on $100,000 bond, charged with first-degree murder and child abuse in the death of her youngest son. Her older child, a 17-year-old high school senior, is in the care of a family approved by Child Protective Services.
The boys' father and Jean's husband, John Cataline 58, died unexpectedly Dec. 11 after suffering a heart attack while driving to work.
On Jan. 30, after a house guest had left for work and Jean's older son had gone to school, police said, she used an electrical cord to strangle Johnny, Kelly Cataline said.
Jean called 911 shortly after 10 a.m., "stating she had just strangled her child," according to a search-warrant affidavit. When Tucson police officers arrived at the family's apartment, at 2720 N. Swan Road, at East Glenn Street, they found Cataline "on the floor in a bedroom ... still on her cellphone."
"While officers were with Jean, she kept uttering, 'What did I do? What did I do?' " the document states.
They found Johnny on the floor, unconscious. The cord was on the bed, the affidavit stated.
Thursday morning, eight days after the attack, Johnny was removed from life support.
"I said goodbye to him on the phone. I don't know if he heard me. I know my brother was there waiting for him. He was with him," Kelly Cataline said. A single, working mother, Cataline had flown to Tucson in December for her brother's funeral and could not afford a second trip to be with her nephew in the hospital. She agreed to donate Johnny's organs, so "he did save two little boys."
Johnny's remains will be sent to Iowa, where he will be buried next to his father.
Kelly Cataline continues to worry about her older nephew, who plans to remain in Tucson to finish his senior year in high school before visiting his aunt in Iowa this summer.
"He's holding up really well. I kind of worry about him because he's holding up too well and it's going to catch up to him," Kelly Cataline said of her surviving nephew. "His whole world's been turned upside down in seven weeks. He's lost his whole immediate family."
Kelly Cataline said she and her brother were close and spoke on the telephone every week. John Cataline was in the Navy, stationed in Hawaii, when he met the Philippines-born Jean.
In recent years, Kelly Cataline said, her brother "was very concerned about Jean. He would always rush home from work because he didn't like leaving the kids alone with her too long. He said she had a short temper."
Contact reporter Kimberly Matas at email@example.com or at 573-4191.