UPDATE: Elkhart County woman's death ruled homicide

The murder of a 76-year-old woman is sending shock waves through her Elkhart County neighborhood.

Norma Hopper lived in a blue house on Michael Drive, where the biggest problem used to be kids throwing snowballs at houses.

But, just after 10 a.m. Friday, Hopper's sister and niece found her dead inside the home.

A neighbor says they knew something was wrong when the car was missing in the early morning hours. They say there were no tire tracks, leading them to believe it was stolen before the snow fell.

Family members say Hopper had been brutally struck and stabbed.

"I don't think anyone deserves something like this," said neighbor Norma Belschner, who often borrowed puzzles from Hopper. "They have to be sick or sad. Something's wrong, because a normal person couldn't have done that."

Especially not to Hopper, whose sister describes her as "an angel in disguise."

Hopper spent most of her time inside her home, putting together dozens of puzzles or making crafts.

Her face was familiar on the block, where she was well-known for her smile.

"She was a very nice, loving lady," Belschner said. "Smiling all the time. And you walk through the block, she's always waving when you go by."

Hopper's waves are noticeably absent this weekend, at a time when many neighbors could use the comfort of that contagious smile.

Because police are still searching for the person responsible.

An autopsy conducted by Elkhart County Sheriff's Detectives and the county coroner's office revealed Saturday morning Hopper's death was a homicide.

Her family says they have no idea who would have done this or why, except to steal her vehicle. They say they saw a suspicious lawn chair near a back window.

Police are asking for the public's help in locating Hopper's missing 1998 blue Chevy Lumina 4-door car with Indiana license plate SPV314.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department at 574-533-4151.

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