More than a week after a 33-year-old Texas mother and her infant daughter vanished, authorities said Friday they found the woman dead more than 100 miles away but the baby safe, and have charged a suspect with kidnapping and tampering with a corpse.
Heidi Broussard and her 1-month-old daughter, Margo Carey, were last seen Dec. 12 in their hometown of Austin, Texas, after Broussard dropped off an older child at an elementary school. Their abrupt disappearance drew national attention, and authorities now say the search appears to have ended with the baby being found alive but her mother dead at a home near Houston.
Broussard's body was positively identified by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Science, which called her death a homicide by strangulation.
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"Although we are grateful that it appears as though we have safely recovered baby Margo, again we do believe Miss Broussard lost her life in this incident," Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told reporters at a news conference.
Manley said the person arrested in connection with the case had been charged with two counts of kidnapping and one count of tampering with a corpse. Bond for the suspect, Magen Fieramusca, was set at $600,000.
Fieramusca was described as a close friend of Broussard's. Friends told NBC News that Fieramusca, also known as Maygen Humphrey, told them she was pregnant and she had an online baby registry listing her due date as the same as Broussard's.
Authorities said the baby found at the house looked like Broussard's child but were still awaiting DNA tests. The baby was described as being found "healthy" and placed in the custody of Texas Child Protective Services.
Tammy Broussard, Heidi's mother, earlier told NBC News that police told her the body was likely that of her daughter and that the body was found in the trunk of a car at the home in the Houston suburb of Jersey Village, about 130 miles southeast of Austin.
Austin police Detective Brad Herries said that after receiving numerous tips, a lead was generated this week that led to a "location of interest" in the Houston area. He said investigators zeroed in on a residence and detained a person outside the residence Thursday, and then obtained a search warrant to search the cars and residence.
Manley said there may be additional charges in the case as the investigation continues.