"I can't imagine why anybody would kill Earl," a shaken Linda Barker said.
Barker, who worked with Earl L. McKeever in the 1970s at the Center for Independent Living, a self-help organization for the handicapped, had just learned that McKeever, 38, paralyzed from the waist down with only limited use of his arms, was stabbed to death in his apartment.
His body was found Saturday. The killer had started a fire in an apparent attempt to destroy evidence.
"McKeever was stabbed such a large number of times--somebody felt a lot of passion," Patrolman Marc Garcia said.
The one-bedroom apartment had been ransacked and some personal items taken, Garcia said. The killer also stole McKeever's van, which was equipped with a wheelchair lift. The vehicle was later found in Oakland.
"(The crime) isn't the pattern of a typical robbery," Garcia said, speculating that McKeever might have known his assailant. There were no signs of forced entry, the officer said.
Barker described the victim as "a really, really sweet guy, a warm and caring person. His whole face would light up when he smiled."