Friend, supervisor remembers Sandy homicide victim Masako Kenley for her warm smiles, caring nature

Masako Yamada Kenley. Photo: GoFundMe

SANDY, Utah, July 5, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Murder victim Masako Kenley had been scheduled to work Monday, and not because her friend and boss, Post Office supervisor Jill Jensen, had originally scheduled her to work the federal holiday.

No, Kenley was scheduled to work because she had specifically asked to fill in for a co-worker who really wanted the day off.

“She was always thinking of others,” Jensen told Gephardt Daily. “Masako wanted to volunteer for one of the women I had put on the schedule. She asked Friday if she could come in for one of the girls, and I said yes.”

Early Friday afternoon would be the last time Jensen would see 53-year-old Kenley. And Jensen’s employee and friend would never make it to a scheduled restaurant dinner with another friend.

“It’s all so unbelievable,” Jensen said of Kenley’s death.

The Sandy City Police Department would announce on Sunday evening that Kenley’s body had been found near the Jordan River at about 8900 South and 700 West. By Monday at noon, officers would reveal the arrest of 75-year-old William Richard O’Reilly on murder charges.

Jensen said that in her 26-year career, she had never heard of O’Reilly, but many of her post office friends recognized the former postal employee’s name immediately.

“They said, ‘Oh, that’s creepy Bill,'” Jensen said. O’Reilly reportedly had been obsessed with Kenley.

(O’Reilly, like all suspects, should be considered innocent unless he is found guilty by the legal system.)

Jensen says she knows from personal experience — working with Kenley for the last two or three years of her friend’s two-decade career — that Masako was always ready to talk, to listen, to help.

“Even before she came to my area to work, she always tried to help us when she didn’t need to,” Jensen said. “I also run the express department for the state of Utah, and sometimes she would come distribute things so we could get them out faster, or she would get hampers we needed to open, and she would be happy to bring them in for us.”

Jensen said Kenley’s friendly nature sometimes got her in trouble.

“She would talk a lot, and we would say, ‘OK, back to work.'” Jensen recalled, laughing. “She actually got in trouble a lot for talking. And she always had that smile. She was full of smiles. She was like a teenager with her phone. Anytime I called her, she wouldn’t ignore the call, like some workers do. She would never ignore or avoid anyone.”

Which is why Jensen was shocked to learn on Saturday that Kenley had failed to show up for a shift at another facility.

“On Saturdays, windows open at 10,” Jensen said. “Another clerk of mine contacted me to say Masako was missing.”

Kenley had left the Redwood Road facility at 2 p.m. Friday, and was headed to the warehouse, then home, she told Jensen.

“I understand they went to the warehouse to check for Masako, and I also drove over to see if her car was there,” Jensen said. “There were no cars in the parking lot. So I came back and tried to call her.”

Jensen then called an emergency contact number, but found it had been disconnected. A while later, someone sent Jensen a message about all that had been happening regarding Kenley, the married mother of four.

Kenley had failed to show up Friday for her planned restaurant dinner with a friend, and also had not come home. Jensen called Kenley’s husband, and learned that a growing number of friends, neighbors and family members had been searching for the missing woman.

Jensen said she went to a volunteer event on Sunday, “to help them know the post office would help with whatever they needed. I took flyers, and went back and hung them up around the office. I called my bosses. It’s kind of like you are stuck. You don’t know what to do. That’s where I was. That’s the way I felt.”

The unthinkable was confirmed Sunday night, when police announced that Kenley’s body had been recovered. And on Monday at noon, an officer announced the suspect’s arrest. O’Reilly, whose name was recognized by many postal workers, had been booked into jail for Kenley’s murder.

“He did work with her,” Jensen said of O’Reilly. “They met through their jobs. Everyone used to call him ‘Creepy Bill.'”

Many who had known him before his retirement recalled that he made people uneasy, Jensen said.

Jensen said her wish for Kenley now is that people remember her for “her beautiful smile and spirit,” she said. “She was always so nice and so helpful. She didn’t want to make anyone upset. Maybe she was trying to do that with him (O’Reilly), trying to fix things before anything happened. I don’t know that, but it’s crossed my mind.”

Jensen has been contacted by at least one group wanting to do a fundraiser for the Kenley family, which is also raising funeral expense funds with a GoFundMe page.

Jill Jensen’s Facebook tribute to her employee, friend. Used with permission.

Jensen said she has added a frame to her Facebook photo in remembrance of Kenley, as have many of her postal coworkers.

And it’s not because they feel like they have to. It’s because, in the spirit of Masako and how she lived her life, they want to help.

“We are one big family here,” Jensen said. “And we want to be here for Masako’s family and support them in any way we can.”

Masako Kenley. Photo: Sandy City Police Department

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