Reporting Vickie Thomas
DETROIT (WWJ) - The case of a missing Detroit mother has now turned into a murder investigation.
Evelyn Gunter went missing on March 10. The 47-year-old was last seen around 6 p.m. by her grandson. Relatives say Gunter had just come home from running errands and was dressed to go out. She left the house and never returned.
Two days after Gunter disappeared, charred remains wrapped in barbed wire were found in a garage on the city’s west side — but no one knew it was the missing mother.
Detective-Trooper Sarah Krebs with the Michigan State Police told WWJ’s Vickie Thomas it was impossible to identify the remains.
“It was a hard case to identify because it appeared that somebody had gone to great lengths to get her to be unidentifiable,” she said.
When Gunter didn’t show up for work, her family knew something bad had happened. Her daughter told investigators that she received a text message from Gunter’s phone, saying she was going out-of-town to visit a friend.
But relatives said the text message was suspicious. Days before her disappearance, Gunter welcomed a new grandchild, and relatives said she would never just take off like that. Family members said they couldn’t help but wonder if Gunter might have been targeted because she had access to a large amount of cash, after receiving a 401K deposit and paycheck from General Motors.
Shortly after Gunter’s disappearance, her new Chevy Impala was found parked outside of Club Celebrity on Detroit’s west side. The man driving the vehicle, a convicted felon who served years in prison for rape and attempted murder, told police that Gunter loaned the car to him while she was out-of-town. Police impounded the vehicle.
Days went by as Gunter’s relatives continued to search for answers. Then, three months after Gunter vanished, investigators got a break in the case.
“Her family came to our June 25th DNA event that was held at the Wayne County Morgue, and they donated their family reference DNA sample to be compared with remains that are being held at the Wayne County Morgue,” Krebs said.
A positive match came back identifying the charred remains as Gunter. The match gave some relief to grieving family members, but also opened a new door in the search for answers. Who killed Gunter? What did they do to her? Why her? Those questions may never be answered.
“Her remains were in a condition that there was little information on who that person was and I doubt without DNA we would have been able to identify her,” Krebs said.
Gunter’s devastated family held a funeral service Saturday, but declined comment. The lead detective in the case is also not commenting.
Crime Stoppers is expected to increase a reward for information in the case to $2,500 – now that it’s a murder investigation. Anyone who knows anything about Gunter’s disappearance or murder is asked to call 1-800-SPEAK-UP.