Leads developed for killer of North Texas mother left in burning home, sheriff says

Investigators have developed some leads in the killing of a 32-year-old Wise County woman whose body was found in her burned home on July 5, the sheriff said Monday.

Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin also said the investigation has turned up a possible suspect, but he didn’t provide any details.

“We’re keeping some information close to our vests,” Akin said in a telephone interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Monday.

On Friday, authorities identified the victim as Lauren Whitener, 32, of Lake Bridgeport. Lake Bridgeport is about 60 miles northwest of Fort Worth.

Investigators with the Wise County Sheriff’s Office and Texas Rangers have collected several items of forensic evidence in Whitener’s slaying and sent them to crime labs in Dallas and Austin.

Akin believes Whitener was killed on the morning of July 5 at her duplex on North Main Street in Lake Bridgeport. After she was killed, someone set the duplex on fire.

Shortly after 4 a.m. on July 5, Lake Bridgeport and Bridgeport firefighters responded to the scene and quickly extinguished the fire.

“The duplex suffered smoke and water damage, but the fire was contained to a bed and couch,” Akin said.

The Wise County fire marshal and members of the Tarrant County Arson Task Force are continuing to investigate, trying to determine the cause and origin of the fire.

An autopsy by the Dallas County medical examiner’s office ruled Whitener’s death as a homicide, but authorities have not released a cause of death.

“There were wounds,” Akin said, but he did not provide any details.

Whitener was the mother of a young boy, but the child was not home at the time of the killing or fire, according to WFAA-TV. Family members also said Whitener was an Army veteran and a surgical tech.

Julie Johnson told WFAA-TV she had no idea who would kill her daughter, who she called a loving mother.

“It’s a horrible tragedy,” Johnson said. “But I know my daughter is with Christ and I feel really, really sorry for the person who did this because they’ll have to live with this forever.”

Anyone with information should call the Wise County Sheriff’s Office at 940-627-5971 or Crime Stoppers at 940-627-8477.

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