Goshen News, Goshen, IN

December 24, 2012

Niece: Murder victim helped others


ELKHART — Norma Hopper was the type of person who would offer help before she was even asked.

“She was probably one of the nicest people anybody would have met,” recalled her niece, Gaylene Beaird. Hopper was always making crafts, Beaird said, or she was working on a puzzle.

Beaird has those memories of her aunt. She also has grief.

Elkhart County police were called Friday to 54640 Michael Drive, Elkhart, where Beaird had found the 76-year-old Hopper dead in her home.

Authorities later determined Hopper’s death to be a homicide. Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers announced Sunday night that someone had been arrested and was in custody for Hopper’s murder. As of Monday afternoon, neither police nor Elkhart County prosecutors had released the name of the murder suspect.

Beaird said she and her mother had gone to check on Hopper; her mom grew concerned when Hopper’s answering machine wasn’t picking up. A neighbor said it was strange that Hopper’s car wasn’t there.

Beaird said she and her mother were speculating about “something simple we were going to find that had happened.”

“That wasn’t the case,” she said.

Police had asked for the public’s help in locating a Chevrolet Lumina missing from Hopper’s home. That vehicle was later recovered.

Beaird said Monday that authorities called her the night before to tell her an arrest had been made in the case. She said she didn’t know the name of the accused.

“I’m grateful to everybody who chimed in and helped and made a success of finding (the suspect),” Beaird said. Now she hopes the courts keep her aunt’s killer off the streets.

“As brutal as this was, I just can’t imagine how many other people were at risk,” she said.

On Christmas Eve, Beaird said her aunt would be buried Wednesday.

“It’s going to be a very tough holiday,” she said.