Woman’s death leaves questions for family

Police arrested a person in connection to an Elkhart woman's homicide.
Posted on Dec. 24, 2012 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Dec. 24, 2012 at 1:46 p.m.

ELKHART — Norma Hopper was not one to go out much. The 76-year-old woman usually kept to herself, her family says, mostly because of health issues. But she was always willing to help anyone in need.

“She would never even speak bad of anyone,” said Hopper’s niece, Gaylene Beaird. “She was the type of person who, before you asked for help, she would be there willing to help you.”

It’s in part because of her aunt’s kind nature that Beaird has so many questions about Hopper’s death.

Hopper was found dead Friday around 10:30 a.m. inside her home,at 45640 Michael Drive. A blue 1998 Chevrolet Lumina was taken from the house that morning. Following an autopsy Saturday, the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department said the woman’s death was a homicide.

The car was located and a person was arrested for the murder of Hopper. The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department was assisted by the Goshen Police Department and the South Bend Metro Homicide Unit during the investigation.

Police have not released the name of the suspect. The investigation was forwarded to the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s office, pending formal charges. Chief investigator Ed Windbigler said a 17-year-old was arrested Sunday. A probable cause hearing took place Monday and the teen is being held without bond. There will be a review later this week to see if charges should be filed.

He would not confirm the suspect’s name until charges are filed.

According to the Sheriff’s Department’s website, Luis Alejandro Bailey, 17, of Goshen, was booked in the Elkhart County Jail around 8 p.m. Sunday on a preliminary charge of murder. Officials did not comment when asked if Bailey was booked in connection with Hopper’s death.

Beaird said her mother had checked on Hopper Thursday night. It was Beaird who walked into the house and found her aunt’s body.

“It was very brutal,” she said. “I had to close my eyes for a moment and not see, and I won’t forgive him for that. Ever.” Beaird said it appeared her aunt was beaten to death and had head injuries.

Elkhart County Coroner John White could not speak about Hopper’s cause of death because of the pending investigation. Because she stayed inside her home most of the time, Hopper dedicated much of her time to doing arts and crafts, Beaird said.

Hopper lived many years of her life in Minnesota, working for Northwest Airlines, formerly known as North Central Airlines.

She was not married and she didn’t have children. But she was in constant contact with her family. Beaird said they were planning on spending the holidays together.

Now, the family is in agony as it waits for more answers to become available.

“No amount of anything will make this go away,” Beaird said. “We’re here just trying to make sense of all of that.”

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