By Macy Jenkins

NORTH HIGHLANDS (CBS13) – Devastation traveled quickly around the Highlands High School neighborhood after an 86-year-old woman was beaten to death on the school’s track. It happened early Wednesday morning, almost two hours before students arrived on campus.

“Shocked sort of in disbelief that this could happen,” said Vicki Butler, a close friend of the woman.

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The victim’s 61-year-old friend was also attacked but managed to escape. Investigators with Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department are searching for the suspect and don’t believe he knew the two women. He’s described as a black male in his 30s, clean shaven, medium complexion, 5’6” tall, 150-160 pounds, with short curly hair.

Vicki Butler told CBS13 the victim was her friend Fusako Petrus.

“Just a sweet, sweet woman and a good friend,” Butler said.

Originally from Japan, Petrus has lived in Sacramento for several years. Since her husband passed away, she has lived alone near the school and never had children. Butler said that Petrus was like a second mother to her wife.

“My wife cried for an hour this morning,” Butler said. “She helped raise her, you know, I mean they were just very close family friends.”

Detectives say Petrus and her friend were approached by a man around 6 a.m. Sgt. Tony Turnbull with Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department says the suspect attacked the 86-year old with his hands and feet. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

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“The ladies, we’ve seen them walking up and down the streets,” said James Butler, who lives near the school. “They tossed a football back over the fence to use when we played football. I mean the whole neighborhood knows them!”

His 15-year-old daughter Sydney Bates is a sophomore at Highlands High.

“We had to get escorts to go to the bathroom cause everyone was worried,” she explained.

The school day went on as usual inside while investigators combed the field outside for evidence.

“It was uncomfortable knowing that something happened at our school,” Bates said. “It was just really weird.”

Neighbors told CBS13 that investigators went door to door asking for surveillance video from the morning hours. But after searching the streets with canines throughout the day, the suspect is still at large.

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“I hope they find this person,” Butler said. “Get him off the streets cause obviously he’s dangerous!”