ELKHART — The Elkhart County Prosecutor’s office has not filed formal charges against a person who was arrested Sunday on suspicion of murder.
Norma Jean Hopper, 76, was found dead inside her residence on Michael Drive around 10 a.m. Friday. A blue 1998 Chevrolet Lumina was taken from the house that morning. Her death was considered suspicious and was later confirmed as a homicide.
On Sunday, the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department, in conjunction with the Goshen Police Department and the South Bend Metro Homicide Unit arrested an individual for the murder.
Authorities have not released the name of the suspect. Ed Windbigler, chief investigator with the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office, said a 17-year-old was arrested Sunday. A probable cause hearing was held Monday and the teen is being held without a bond. Vicki Becker, chief deputy prosecutor, said the file is under review and formal charges have not been made. Under Indiana Code 35-33-7-3, a prosecuting attorney has up to 72 hours, with the exception of weekends and legal holidays, to file formal charges before an initial hearing if a person is in custody before formal charges have been made.
The name of the suspect has been withheld because the person is a juvenile, said Becker. If formal charges of murder are filed, the name of the suspect will be released.
According to the Elkhart County Jail website, 17-year-old Jose Alejandro Bailey was arrested on preliminary charges of murder and booked in the Elkhart County Jail Sunday evening. Officials from the prosecutor’s office and sheriff’s department would not comment when asked if Bailey was booked in connection with Hopper’s death.
Gaylene Beaird, Hopper’s niece, said on Monday that her mother had checked on Hopper Thursday evening. It was Beaird who walked into the house and found her aunt’s body Friday morning.
“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.
More details from the investigation are being withheld while the case remains under review in the prosecutor’s office.