'Can't be real,' friends say of woman's murder arrest
Posted June 17, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Friends of Joanna Madonna and Jose Manuel Perez were shocked Monday morning to learn that he was dead and she was charged with his murder.
A Wake County man on his Sunday morning walk found Perez's dead body along Old Bayleaf Road near Durham Road (N.C. Highway 98). Tom Newnam told authorities he walked the same route Saturday night and the body wasn't there.
Sheriff Donnie Harrison and investigators believe Perez was killed elsewhere and dumped on Old Bayleaf sometime Saturday after dark. They did not say what led them to Madonna as a suspect.
The couple shared a home 12412 Schoolhouse St. in Raleigh where, friends said, Madonna cared for Perez, a Vietnam veteran, along with her ailing father and three children, the youngest of them with autism.
A spokeswoman for the Wake County Public School System said Madonna had worked for the district, both as a substitute and a full-time teacher, over the past few years. She resigned her job teaching special education at Garner High School in March.
Despite all her responsibilities, she had good friends to confide in. Two of them sat beside her in court Monday, where she was arraigned on the murder charge and held without bail.
"I kept thinking, 'This can't be real,'" said Karen Matchunis. "It's not Joanna."
Matchunis said her friend would never have done anything that would take her away from her children.
Wake County sheriff's deputies arrested Madonna early Monday, less than 24 hours after her husband's body was found.
"It truly looked like somebody had thrown a white garbage bag out," Newnam said. His dog sniffed it and walked on, but Newman realized as he got closer that it was a body.
Investigators say they don't think the homicide was committed near where the body was found, but they have not released either a cause of death or a possible motive.