PLANTATION (CBS4) – Kay Morrissey suffers flashbacks from the violence she and her family endured inside their Plantation home.
But the woman who calls herself a problem solver is not focused on the past, rather she is focused on providing a new life for her and her son.
Kay’s husband — Dr. Joseph Morrissey, a respected Nova Southeastern University professor — was murdered in April 2010.
Last week, a Broward County jury convicted Randy Tundidor Sr. of plotting and carrying out the murder. Tundidor was renting a home from the Morrissey’s and police said he and his family were being evicted.
“If I start thinking about it I don’t know how I’m even functioning,” Morrissey told CBS 4’s Carey Codd in an exclusive sit-down interview. “I really don’t know. I don’t know how my son functions but we will be ok.”
Prosecutors did not have physical evidence placing Tundidor Sr. at the scene of the slaying.
What they did have was testimony from Tundidor Sr.’s son, Randy Jr., who pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder to avoid the death penalty. He admitted to breaking into the Morrissey’s home; holding the pair at gun point; binding their hands and feet with plastic zip ties; rummaging their house for valuables; and forcing them to drive to an ATM to withdraw cash.
When they returned, Joseph was stabbed to death. Their house was set on fire with Kay and her son Patrick were inside.
Patrick was able to bring her scissors to remove her bindings and free her.
“He’s my hero,” Kay said. “I can’t really go into the details but he’s my hero. It’s like I look up to him.”
Kay Morrissey said she made a vow that night as all the violence occurred around her and her husband lay dying.
“The first thing I thought you’re gonna have to be strong,” she said. “Your husband’s hurt and your child is 5 years old and you’re going to have to do this.”
She’s had to rely on all of that strength, especially when Patrick asks questions about what happened to his father.
“Sometimes I literally feel like my heart is on the floor,” she explained. “(I) literally go down, pick it up and put it here because I don’t know what else to do. Just to give me the two seconds to respond to his questions — the ‘Why’s’ and the ‘What ifs.'”
Kay remembered a plane trip she took with her son a few months after the murder. She the profound nature of her son’s questions stunned her.
“When we get in the airplane he said, ‘Mom are we in the other side of the clouds? Is this heaven?'” she recalled.
She’s also had to handle the aftermath of her husband’s murder all alone.
“I lost my best friend at a time when you need your friend the most,” she said. “He’s not there to help you deal with all this.”
Kay had little to say about Randy Tundidor Sr. She plans to wait until after his sentencing later this year to speak about him. Tundidor could be sentenced to death and Kay does not wish to speak publicly about the punishment she believes he should receive.
But this petite, soft-spoken woman who is dedicated to her faith and to providing a good life for her son spoke volumes about her husband and the work he was doing.
The world “lost a great scientist,” she said, of a man working on cancer and Alzheimer’s research.
In his professional life, Joseph Morrissey conducted scientific research into a variety of topics ranging from leukemia diagnostics and hearing aids, to the effect of cellular phones on the human body, she said.
Kay said her son lost a doting father who loved to play sports with his son, read the Bible to him and took pride in his development.
Kay also feels she lost another child. She and Joe planned to adopt a little girl from Korea but the murder ended those plans.
“It’s very hard for me to talk about her,” she said. “We even had a name. It was Elizabeth and we called her Ellie and we talked about her.”
It is one of many plans and dreams Kay Morrissey had to put on hold because of a gruesome, violent, targeted attack that no one could have anticipated.
It is a pain and grief that are never-ending, she admitted.
“I am very lost,” she said. “I am very confused. I am very overwhelmed. I am very sad.”
She said she often relives those frightening moments that changed her life.
“Every day there’s noises that trigger things in our heads for both Patrick and I but we concentrate — or I concentrate — on making new memories for him,” she said.
Kay Morrissey wanted to return to her home — as a tribute to her husband. However, she said she had battles with her insurance company over repairing the home.
“My husband had no life insurance,” she said. “We lost our home that we were working so hard for. We don’t have a home. The house got burned and there have been so many issues with the insurance company, it’s just one thing after another.”
Through it all, Kay Morrissey says she and her son rely on their faith to deal with the overwhelming loss of such a good and caring man who provided for them and made their lives worth living.
“I feel like there is a mission for us,” she said, “because there is no way we could have survived this horrific thing and not have a mission from God.”