Investigators in Wise County say they're following strong leads in the case of a young mother who was murdered and then her house was set on fire.
As restoration crews cleaned out the home-turned-crime scene Monday afternoon in small town Lake Bridgeport, the open door revealed the charred outline of crosses that once hung inside.
They’re clues about the woman who lived there, 32-year-old Lauren Whitener. Her family said she was a devoted mother, an Army veteran who served on the front lines in Afghanistan and a woman of deep faith.
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Firefighters found her body after putting out the flames early on the morning after the Fourth of July.
"It was mostly a celebration the night before. She unfortunately didn't survive the full night," said Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin.
The medical examiner ruled she was murdered before the fire was started. Sheriff Akin said his deputies have identified multiple potential suspects.
"We don't feel as if this is anything random," Sheriff Akin said. "We feel as if the victim was targeted."
Investigators have interviewed roughly 40 people. The Sheriff said Whitener's seven-year-old son and her roommate were both gone for the night, but there was a block party there with people coming and going the night of July 4.
"There were several people down there shooting off fireworks," said neighbor Kim Williams. She watched from her front porch, never imagining what was coming in the hours ahead. "How horrible. Absolutely horrible," she said.
Whitener was deeply loved. She was a surgical scrub nurse for Wise Health System and at her recent graduation, her mother gave her a sign with the words: "I love the person I've become because I fought to become her."
Now her family plans to fight for justice and for the memory of a young mother gone too soon.
Whitener’s mother told NBC 5 her daughter was her heart and soul. She said she’s relying on her faith that Whitener is with Christ and that she's already forgiven her killer or killers, though she wants them caught.
The Texas Rangers and Tarrant County Arson Task Force are helping Wise County with the investigation. The Sheriff said that despite the fire, they did find evidence that's being processed in crime labs in Dallas and Austin.
The cause of the fire has not been determined. Officials are pursuing the case as a capital murder investigation.
Anyone with information about the incident is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 940-627-8477.