True Crime News Roundup: Indiana Mother Discovered Dead In SUV With Her Uninjured Newborn Son

Plus: Man sentenced for murdering prominent L.A. philanthropist; Florida woman accused of manslaughter after kidnapped daughter drowns; Colorado judge dismisses case against husband of Suzanne Morphew; hunt for high school student’s killer continues, reward increased.

On April 19, Alexis Morales [left], pictured here in a green shirt, was found dead in her SUV. Her 5-month-old son, Messiah Morales [right], was found with her and still alive.

On April 19, South Bend police officers located the body of Alexis Morales in her BMW SUV. Her 5-month-old son, Messiah Morales, was found with her and still alive.

Photo by: Elkhart County Sheriff's Office via Facebook

Elkhart County Sheriff's Office via Facebook

By: Aaron Rasmussen

A mother in Indiana is discovered dead alongside her uninjured baby son.

On April 19, South Bend police officers located the body of Alexis Morales in her BMW SUV. Her 5-month-old son, Messiah Morales, was found with her and still alive.

The newborn “was not injured but was transported to the hospital for observation” and is currently in the care of family, authorities said.

A week earlier, on the evening of April 12, the 27-year-old mother was last spotted leaving a South Bend park. According to law enforcement officials, she told friends she was returning to her home in New Paris.

A woman who lives in the neighborhood where the victim’s vehicle was later located — around a 10-minute drive from the park — told ABC 57 her husband first spotted the SUV on April 14.

“He asked me Thursday night after coming from a game ... ‘Did you see the BMW in the back?’ And I said, ‘No, I didn't.’ He was like, ‘Oh, it's just sitting there, I don't know whose it is.’”

The woman said she regrets not reporting the vehicle to police, explaining she hadn’t seen the news about the missing mother and son.

At a recent press conference, police said Morales’s death is being considered a homicide and detectives from the Violent Crimes Unit have “interviewed several individuals” in connection to the ongoing investigation.

Morales’s autopsy results are pending, and her baby is currently in the care of family.

Anyone with information about the case is requested to contact the South Bend Police Department Detective Bureau at (574) 235-9263 or Michiana Crime Stoppers at (574) 288-STOP.

A man out on parole for a robbery conviction when he killed a California philanthropist is sentenced to prison.

On April 19, a judge ordered Aariel Maynor to serve three life terms, or a minimum of 150 years, behind bars in connection to the slaying of 81-year-old Jacqueline Avant in her Beverly Hills residence late last fall.

In March, Maynor, 30, pleaded guilty in Los Angeles Superior Court to murder and other charges related to the deadly home invasion.

The parolee admitted that on Dec. 1, he was burglarizing the home Avant shared with her husband, prominent music executive Clarence Avant — who was known as the “Godfather of Black Music” — when she surprised him.

“He shot Jacqueline Avant in the back with a large-caliber weapon and attempted to kill her security guard,” Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila said in a court filing, the Associated Press reported. “If that was not enough, within an hour he decided to break into another home with the same firearm. This demonstrates a complete disregard for the life of all the victims in this case.”

Police captured the suspect near the second crime scene, a home in the Hollywood Hills, after he accidently shot himself in the foot while leaving the property.

“Today marks the end of a tragic case that rocked our community,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement. “Her murder sent shockwaves through our community, prompting fear, concern, and a tremendous sense of loss.”

A Florida mother is arrested in connection to the kidnapping and drowning of her little girl.

A mother in Florida is accused of manslaughter and other charges after she allegedly kidnapped her 5-year-old biological daughter from the child’s guardians and got into a police chase, authorities said.

According to an arrest report obtained by People, on March 31, Pamela Cabrera, 32, allegedly took Vanity Cabrera, who at the time was in the custody of an aunt and uncle.

When Jacksonville Sheriff's Office deputies located Pamela Cabrera and the child in an SUV, the police report states, the mother allegedly sped away.

With deputies in pursuit, Cabrera was allegedly driving erratically and eventually drove into a retention pond, submerging her vehicle, according to the report.

Cabrera was able to exit the vehicle, but her child remained trapped inside in the front seat.

“The suspect observed the officers in the water and was yelling, ‘Help me. Save me,’” but the mother “made no attempt to try and rescue her daughter," the report states.

The little girl was pronounced dead at the scene.

Cabrera faces multiple felony charges, including aggravated manslaughter of a child, vehicular homicide, battery on a law enforcement officer, battery on an emergency medical care provider, and aggravated felony fleeing or attempting to elude, causing death.

In a GoFundMe post, Whitney and Alex Baez wrote that although Vanity Cabrera was their niece, they “raised her like our own daughter.”

“Vanity was the most loving child, she was bright and beautiful, she could lighten up a room with just a smile,” the GoFundMe post reads. “Vanity loved dancing, going to the beach, and just simply being around the people she loved, she had such an infectious laugh that you couldn’t help but laugh with her.”

The couple claimed Pamela Cabrera “absolutely loved” her daughter and wrote that while what happened was “not a reflection of the type of mother Pamela was … in no way does this excuse the actions that occurred on that awful day.”

“Instead of judging her by this desperate attempt to be with Vanity, we should instead bring light to the seriousness of mental health and how not receiving the proper treatment can cause us to make decisions we otherwise wouldn't,” they explained.

A judge in Colorado dismisses the case against Barry Morphew, whose wife, Suzanne, vanished nearly two years ago.

On April 19, a judge in Fremont County, Colorado, granted a motion filed by prosecutors to dismiss without prejudice the case against Barry Morphew, the man taken into custody in connection to the disappearance of his 49-year-old wife, Suzanne Morphew, on Mother’s Day in 2020.

Last year, authorities charged Barry Morphew with first-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence, and attempting to influence a public servant. He pleaded not guilty and his trial was set to begin in days.

According to People, the motion states that prosecutors “have a good faith reason to believe further investigation into this matter is essential to answering the most consequential question presented by this case.”

“In typical homicide cases, the fact of the victim's death is rarely at issue,” prosecutors note in the motion, according to CNN, “but in a case such as this, the most influential fact of consequence is whether or not Ms. Morphew is deceased.”

According to prosecutors, “significant snow” in the area has hampered searchers efforts but they believe “[they] are close to locating the deceased victim's body.”

Iris Eytan, the attorney who represents Barry Morphew, told People her client had nothing to do with his wife’s disappearance or possible death and that although prosecutors could refile charges against him, she doesn’t believe they will.

“What they said in their motion to dismiss was that they need a body; after two years' time, that's what they think they need now, after they put Mr. Morphew through this hell,” Eytan said.

She added: “They might find Suzanne, but I'll tell you what — it's not gonna be linked to Mr. Morphew.”

After Suzanne Morphew vanished, investigators located her bicycle and helmet on the side of a road near the couple’s Mayville home, but neither she nor her body have been found.

Officials increase the reward in the case of a teenage girl whose body was dumped by a Los Angeles freeway.

The County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors on April 19 voted to up the reward for information leading to the arrest of whoever is responsible for the shooting death of 16-year-old high school student Tioni Theus.

The board, along with the city of L.A. and the state of California, are now offering a total reward of $120,000 in the case, ABC 7 reported.

On Jan. 7, 2022, Theus told a family member she was going to attend a party. The following day, the teenager was discovered dead near the 110 Freeway in South Los Angeles. She had been shot in the neck.

At a recent news conference, Rashida Kincy recalled her cousin was a “vibrant young lady that was just cut from so much that was ahead of her.'”

“This has been a tragedy to my family, to the community,” she said.

Another cousin told the Los Angeles Times the victim loved to laugh.

“She was a bundle of joy, real bubbly and friendly,” Senia Theus said. “She was very goofy, happy. She was always smiling, even when she was crying.”

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call California Highway Patrol at (323) 644-9557 or make an anonymous tip at (888) 412-7463.

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