Linda D. Olenski's love for her son stretches across time and a continent. So does her determination to see his killer brought to justice.
One year ago Wednesday, the California woman's 32-year-old son, Christopher M. Rudow, a corporate trainer with GEICO in Amherst, was found beaten to death in his Buffalo apartment.
"We are not going to let this go. We understand that cities are hurting for money, and resources with police are very low, but there is a murderer out there living amongst the people of Buffalo," Olenski said.
Police say the killer used "blunt force" to end Rudow's life. Olenski says she wants to know what would provoke someone to commit such a vicious act.
"I need to know why. I won't have any peace until I know," the mother said in a telephone interview with The Buffalo News from her home in Merced, Calif.
Whoever killed her son, she says, ended the life of a bona fide hero.
Before moving to Long Island to attend Hofstra University, Rudow had saved a woman's life and helped police in his hometown of Willows capture a fugitive, his mother recalled.
"We had a Mother's Day parade in Willows every year, and a woman pulling a float stepped from her truck, thinking she'd put it in park, but she hadn't. A gust of wind knocked her down as she stepped from the truck, and she fell under it," Olenski said.
"Chris was in the float ahead of hers and jumped off and pulled her out before the wheels ran her over. He then ran after the truck and put it in park before anything was hit," Olenski said.
That was when he was 16. About a year earlier, a man wanted for the killing of a girl in Oregon was spotted in Willows after a segment detailing the slaying had aired on "America's Most Wanted" TV show.
Rudow, who worked at the town pool, had been introduced to the man by his boss, after the drifter had come looking for work. Rudow, described as outgoing, had spoken with the man, who was trying to establish himself in the community.
When Rudow's boss realized the man was a fugitive, she contacted police and put them in touch with Rudow, who was able to help them find the man, Olenski said.
Now the mother hopes the same positive outcome will occur in her son's slaying.
Olenski says her son lived alone in the Lofts at Elk Terminal, had many friends and was known for his love of music and dedication at work.
"When I came to Buffalo to bring him home, his fellow workers at GEICO rented a banquet room at a restaurant for a service, and there was standing room only," she said.
The youngest of four siblings, Rudow was raised by his mother.
"I raised Chris by myself for 17 years, and not only was he my son, but he was my best friend," she said. "Everybody tells me it gets better as time passes, but it gets worse. There isn't a day, an hour, a minute or a second that Chris is not on my mind."
And while she no longer lives in Willows, in Northern California, she said she frequently makes the three-hour drive from Merced to her former hometown to visit her son's grave.
"I went this past weekend to take down the Christmas decorations I'd put on a tree beside his grave. I spent time with him. His gravestone has musical notes carved into it. He loved music and had a beautiful singing voice," she said.
It is those memories, she says, that bolster her hope that whoever killed her son will be caught.
"It remains under investigation," Michael J. DeGeorge, Buffalo police spokesman, said of the slaying.
Anyone with information on it, he said, should contact Buffalo police at the department's tip line, 847-2255, which also is the Text-A-Tip number.