Phillip Lynch Sr. and his wife, Anita, were both attacked July 9 inside their house on Teton Street. Anita Lynch, 70, was released from the hospital a couple of weeks ago.

Police say a 16-year-old who was close to the couple committed the assault and then drove their car to Baton Rouge.

 Kenner Police Lt. Brian McGregor said that Lynch's death was ruled a homicide by blunt force trauma following an autopsy Friday.

As a result, he said, the teenager, who was initially jailed on lesser offenses, would be rebooked on a count of murder.  

Officials have not released the name of the suspect because he is a minor, but Lynch's family has identified the teen as Vincenzo "Jake" Randazzo Jr., someone the victims had grown to regard as a son or grandson.

Randazzo's family couldn't be reached for comment.

According to Phillip Lynch's daughter, Christy Lynch Chauvin, Randazzo lived near the couple and would spend time with them.

Randazzo once stole a gun from the Lynch home, and after his father made him return the weapon, he agreed to perform odd jobs for the couple as a type of informal community service, Chauvin said.

Through the arrangement, Randazzo and Phillip Lynch developed a close relationship.

Randazzo had disappeared lately but returned to the Lynch home July 9, Chauvin said. She added that Phillip Lynch was so glad to see Randazzo that he opened his arms wide and said, "Oh, the prodigal son returns!"

Police suspect Randazzo may have asked Lynch for a ride to Baton Rouge and been refused, prompting the attack.

A blood-covered Anita Lynch sought help from a neighbor, who called 911.

Police in Baton Rouge later found Randazzo with Lynch's car after he wrecked it. He was initially booked at the Rivarde juvenile detention facility in Jefferson Parish on counts of attempted murder, burglary and car theft. 

Prosecutors originally had until next week to decide whether Randazzo's case should be transferred to an adult court or remain in the juvenile justice system, but it is expected that timeline will be extended by a month now that the youth has been rebooked on a murder count, Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office spokesman Paul Purpura said.

Phillip Lynch remained at University Medical Center in New Orleans until Thursday, when he was released to a nursing home, Chauvin said.

At times using an improvised sign language, he joked with hospital staff and was looking forward to beginning physical and speech therapy soon. He had even indicated that he felt he could get out of bed and walk around, Chauvin said.

However, he went into cardiac arrest about 5 a.m. Friday and died.

"His body gave out before his spirit did," said Chauvin, 62. "I am so proud of how he fought to regain his life."

 

Chauvin said that Lynch grew up in St. Louis before his family moved to New Orleans so his mother could develop properties on the West Bank. He attended Loyola University and met his first wife, Chauvin's late mother, before he served in the Korean War with the U.S. Air Force, his daughter said.

Chauvin said her father was a football fanatic, playing for a semi-professional team in Kenner and rooting for the New Orleans Saints. He passed his love for the game on to his daughter, who is a well-known blogger for WhoDatWarriors.com.

After his time in the Air Force, Lynch sold single-engine planes and went into real estate, Chauvin said. He belonged to the New Orleans Athletic Club for most of his life, playing racquetball and handball well into his 80s.

Eventually, Lynch lost his mobility and needed a scooter and walker to get around. But Chauvin said he never lost his zeal for closing sales. He would acquire engines, cars and motors; fix them up; and resell them, she said.

"He was the most positive, goal-oriented man," Chauvin said. "He would say, 'I'm going to accomplish this today,' work around his difficulties, and continue to do what he enjoyed in life."

Besides Anita, his wife since 1999, survivors include three daughters and two sons. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

News of the attack outraged many people in Kenner, and a blood drive held last month in their benefit drew heavy participation. Chauvin said her family was grateful for the support.

"It was truly touching the way the community came together and mourned this tragedy of an elderly couple being attacked when they thought they were helping someone," Chauvin said.