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Detectives renew plea for information in mother's shooting death

Posted May 27, 2008

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— Wayne County sheriff's investigators have identified at least one person of interest in the slaying of a mother found dead inside her home nearly three months ago.

Lab results from evidence seized in the March 3 shooting death of Silvia Benitez Morales could still be months away, however, and tips and leads have been slow to come in.

That's why investigators are repeating their plea for information so the case can move forward. Both Morales' husband and people in the rural town of Fremont say an arrest is necessary for them to begin healing.

"We want the person caught," Javier Morales said. "It is very important to us that we know who did this."

Morales' 7-year-old daughter found her mother's body inside their home at 1273 Black Creek Road when she returned home from school. Morales' 3-year-old son was also in the house but was unharmed, authorities said.

Javier Morales was working at a nearby farm when his wife was killed. Authorities do not consider him a suspect.

Investigators say they are still unsure of a motive. Nothing was missing from the home. There was no forced entry, and they think Morales might have fought with her killer.

An autopsy found she had been shot in the head.

"No one has pointed to anything of why it would happen to these people," Wayne County sheriff's Capt. Tom Efler said.

Morales had no known enemies, authorities said. Those who knew her say she was a loving mother and wife, a hard worker and an active member of her church.

The slaying stunned the community, which is still looking for answers.

"We weren't the type to lock our doors when we were home, and that's changed," said Tony Ballance, who owns the farm where Morales' husband was working.

Friends said the family was in the process of buying their home, which they had been renting. The family has since moved, Javier Morales said, explaining that it's too difficult to live there.

Wayne County authorities are offering an $11,000 reward in the case, including $5,000 from an anonymous donor.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Wayne County Sheriff's Office at 919-731-1481 or Wayne County Crime Stoppers at 919-735-2255.

"(An arrest and conviction) will bring a sense of closure to this community to know that person is caught and can't take anything away from us again," Ballance said.


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