Police are increasing patrols in Medford, Massachusetts, as they continue to investigate the suspicious death of a woman who was found behind her home on Monday.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said that Barbara Hovey Novaes, 61, of Medford, was first reported missing by her son around 6:45 a.m. Monday.
He told police he had last seen his mom Sunday afternoon at the home they shared on Emery Street in Medford, and he believed she was leaving for a nail appointment. 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 to investigate, and an officer found Novaes' body around 8:30 a.m. inside a recycling container in an enclosed area under the porch in the backyard, Ryan said.
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. Officials are currently awaiting autopsy results to determine how Novaes died and whether or not this is a homicide.
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. The Medford Police Department can be reached at 781-395-1212.
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The district attorney said the Medford Police Department had past contact with Novaes for a variety of reasons but 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.
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.
"Right around noon time you had this caution tape wrapped around the premises," neighbor Patrick Milewski said. "This street is very quiet so it was very out of the usual, to say the least."
One neighbor told NBC10 Boston on Tuesday that this happened to one of the kindest women she's ever known and that it never should have happened.
Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn said at a press conference Monday night that Novaes was a beloved member of the Medford community who touched many people's lives, though she said she did not know Novaes personally.
Novaes is being remembered by many as caring, compassionate and kind -- not only in Medford where she lived, but also in Everett where she worked.
The Vice-Chairman of the Everett School Committee said Novaes positively impacted both Massachusetts communities in such a way that it won't be forgotten.
"Barbara was truly the model of kindness, compassion, and caring. She truly cared about others and always went out of her way to show that. Barbara always had a friendly smile and warm welcome to anyone she came in contact with. When you think of individuals who left a handprint on bettering others lives, Barbara fit that better then most," Michael McLaughlin, former city councilor, said in a statement to NBC10 Boston on Tuesday, noting his thoughts and prayers are with Novaes' children, family, work family and friends during this extremely difficult and unimaginable time.
"She was always willing to lend a hand when help was needed or stand up for a cause she truly believed in. At most community events you would be hard missed not to find her in the crowd supporting the community," McLaughlin continued. "Barbara was truly someone that showed what it means to give back and never ask for anything in return. She was truly about others and not her self."
Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria echoed McLaughlin's sentiments, remembering Novaes as an amazing woman with whom his family had a close relationship.
"She was very loving and caring to my family, especially my daughter Caroline whom she formed a special bond with over the years," DeMarie said. "We all mourn her tragic loss at this time and pray that her family finds the strength to endure at this terrible time."
The Everett mayor also asked residents to join him in sending the city's love and support to Novaes' family, elaborating on her connection to the city.
"Barbara was a stellar employee of the Everett Bank (co-op) here in Everett for many years. More than just an employee, Barbara treated every person she encountered with kindness and compassion. She was simply a wonderful person who always had a nice thing to say and was always eager to help and support whomever needed it," the mayor said. "Barbara may not have been an Everett resident but she was truly an Everett 'person.'"
A prayer service for Novaes will be held Thursday night at Grace Episcopal Church where she was an active parishioner.
Investigators are still working to figure out who may be involved in this horrific incident. Meantime, officials say there will continue to be an increased police presence in the area. 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 residents will see more patrols for the next several days until they determine more.
The investigation into Novaes' death is active and ongoing.