Documents say teen confessed to Elkhart Co. murder, family believes killing related to neighborhood theft

By: Sabrina Wu Email
By: Sabrina Wu Email

Recently released court documents say a witness told police that Luis Bailey came to his house early on December 21, the morning that 76-year-old Norma Jean Hopper of 54640 Michael Drive in Elkhart, was found dead from blunt force trauma in her own home. The witness said that Bailey told him he had killed an elderly woman and stolen her car. He said Bailey also told him the specific weapon he used to kill Hopper.

Court documents also say that Bailey's girlfriend, who lived near Hopper, told police that he had stayed over the night before the murder. She said he had left around 2 a.m., but called the next morning from his stepfather's phone, saying, "he needed to talk with her and that she may not want to be with him after he 'tells her something'."

Police arrested Bailey after they found Hopper's abandoned car in Michigan. They say that Bailey then told them details of how he entered Hopper's home, killed her, took her car and abandoned it in Michigan. Police say the details of how Bailey said he killed Hopper match forensic evidence at the crime scene.

Hopper's niece, Gaylene Beaird, told News Center 16 that she believes Hopper's murder had something to do with a theft that had taken place in Hopper's neighborhood before her death. She said the day Hopper's body was discovered, the family noticed a chair near her back window that did not belong to her. Beaird said she thought that might have been how Hopper's murderer got into the house and theorized that the reason might be because a car was needed after the theft. Beaird said money also was stolen from her aunt's home. The family reported the presence of the chair to the police.

Beaird said police told her the chair matched a set that belonged to neighbors who had been away for a couple of days and come home to find items missing.

Police records show that two days before Hopper's murder, the residents of two homes within walking distance of Hopper's house reported having patio or outdoor furniture stolen. News Center 16 talked with one of the homeowners who had reported a theft. She said a third homeowner, who lived on Michael Drive, also had outdoor furniture stolen.

At the time of this article's publication, News Center 16 only was able to reach an Elkhart County police captain, who said he could not comment on the case, because he was out of the office on vacation. Captain Jim Bradbury said he could not confirm or deny that the chair was used to enter Hopper's home or whether it belonged to one of the people in the neighborhood who had reported outdoor furniture stolen.

Luis Bailey is due in court on January 3 for an initial appearance.

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