A suspicious death investigation is underway in Medford, Massachusetts, after a woman was found dead behind her home, officials said.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan held a press conference late Monday night and confirmed authorities were on scene all day Monday at an Emery Street residence for the active and ongoing investigation.
The DA identified the victim as Barbara Hovey Novaes, 61, of Medford.
According to Ryan, Novaes' son -- who is in his 20s -- called Medford police around 6:45 a.m. Monday to report his mom missing. He told police he had last seen his mom Sunday afternoon at the home they shared in Medford, and he believed she was going to get her nails done. He also reported that the front door of their home was open when he woke up Monday, and that he found his mom's keys, phone, and purse, and her car was still in the driveway.
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Medford police responded to the home and immediately began investigating, Ryan said. Around 8:30 a.m., a Medford police officer found Novaes' body inside a recycling container in an enclosed area under the porch in the backyard.
There were no obvious signs of trauma, but based on the circumstances and the location of Novaes' body, officials are investigating this as a suspicious death. The medical examiner's office was on scene earlier Monday, and officials are currently awaiting results of an autopsy to determine how Novaes died and whether or not this is a homicide.
Ryan said the last known time anyone saw or spoke to Novaes was around 4:30 p.m. Sunday. The district attorney noted the investigation is in its early stages and information is limited at this time.
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Investigators are asking anyone who may have been in the Emery Street neighborhood Sunday night or early Monday to contact them. Detectives are also looking to speak with anyone who may have video that would show the Emery Street area and down onto Winthrop Street. Anyone with relevant video or information is asked to contact the Medford Police Department at 781-395-1212.
When asked if police ever had contact with Novaes in the past, the district attorney said there had been prior contact with the Medford Police Department for a variety of reasons. Ryan did not elaborate.
Ryan would also not confirm a picture of Novaes that had been circulating on social media Monday, in a Facebook post that was widely shared from a woman saying her mom was missing from Medford.
Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn was also at the press conference Monday night alongside the district attorney and police chief, saying she did not know Novaes personally but that she had positively impacted many people.
"I'm here just to let people know that Barbara Hovey Novaes was a beloved member of the Medford community and a very active parishioner at Grace Church," the mayor said. "I didn't know her personally but I know many who she has touched their lives, and we want to make sure everybody knows that Medford will have support for anybody that needs it."
Emery Street is currently closed and will remain closed for the next several hours, Ryan said around 9:30 p.m. Monday.
"This street is very quiet so it was very out of the usual, to say the least," one man said.
Crime tape was blocking off the home Monday, which is just blocks away from the Tufts University campus. College students who live nearby say they didn't know what was going on but noticed more officers showing up on their street as the day went on.
Officials say there will continue to be an increased police presence in the area for the time being. The district attorney said residents should exercise the same caution they are urged to exercise all the time, including keeping doors locked and being aware of who is around the house.
Medford Police Chief Jack Buckley thanked the community for their patience and support, reiterating there will continue to be increased patrols in the neighborhood for the next several days until they determine more. The chief also acknowledged the exceptional work of the Medford Police Department in a "tragic situation."
The investigation is active and ongoing.