Ex-boyfriend charged with mother of four's death
MIAMI (WSVN) -- The ex-boyfriend of Linda Renee Innocent has been charged with her murder.
Vernon Howard, who is already in jail for unrelated charges, well be facing another charge for the killing of Innocent.
A coroner says Linda Renee Innocent was murdered and the medical examiner has determined that Howard strangled her to death. Police discovered her body inside the trunk of her car, following an airport employee's report of a tell-tale odor at MIA's Dolphin Parking Garage.
Police identified the 34-year-old Sunrise woman's body after she went missing over a week ago. Police discovered Innocent's body inside of her black 2005 four-door Audi on the fourth floor of the parking garage after an airport employee called authorities when he/she smelled a foul order on the floor while collecting carts around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Miami-Dade Police arrived on the scene, set a perimeter around the vehicle and towed it to the Medical Examiner's Office where authorities waited for a warrant to open the car's trunk.
According to authorities, Innocent, a hospice care worker, vanished Sunday, July 15th, after she left work from an unincorporated Fort Lauderdale neighborhood near State Road 441 and Davie Boulevard.
According to a family member, Innocent was on her way home Sunday night to meet her fiancé for a date. "She called him at about 8:15 p.m., asking him to make sure he's ready, so they could go out to their reservation at a restaurant," said innocent's sister Juny Bernadin.
"I was just like, 'OK, I'm just going to get ready, and I will wait for you when you get here.' I didn't think anything of it," said Innocent's fiancé Derek Francis.
That Sunday, a relative of Innocent's patient who asked not be identified, recalled the missing woman's mood that day. "Everything was nice. She was a very good worker. I know Linda was having some problems on the telephone. A lot of times she'd come out on the porch, and she would start crying," he said. However, he added, by the end of the day, her mood had improved.
Innocent left work in her Audi, which would not be seen again until early Tuesday morning.
When Innocent never arrived home, her fiancé, family and friends called her cell phone all night but only reached her voicemail. "That's when we said, 'This is not in her character. This is out of character,' so we thought something was wrong," said Francis.
According to Bernadin, Innocent and Francis were in the process of moving in together to start a fresh life with her four children. During the time Innocent remained missing her children offered desperate pleas for her safe return. "If you find her, please bring her back because I want to see her so much," said one of her daughters, as her voice cracked when she tried to hold back tears.
"All I want to say is whoever has my mom I want them to give her back," said her 10-year-old son Desmond Howard, as he put his hands over his head and broke down in tears.
Police say her last few phone calls Sunday night were made to Howard, who she has a restraining order against. Police say, according to her cell phone records, Innocent last spoke to Howard.
Innocent's friends and colleagues, with the agreement of her family, have established a trust fund for the four children of Linda Innocent through South Florida Wachovia Banks. In order to make a donation, just visit any Wachovia branch and ask about the "Linda Innocent Trust Fund."
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