VICTORIA, Texas – The body of a Child Protective Services program director was found Wednesday in rural Victoria County, and police say she had received threats related to her work.
Family members reported Sally Blackwell, 53, missing after she didn't show up for work Tuesday morning.
Victoria police Lt. Mike Hernandez said the case was being investigated as a homicide. He acknowledged that Blackwell had received work-related threats but would not elaborate, the Victoria Advocate reported in its Wednesday editions.
"We are hoping to wake up from a nightmare," said Holly Tachovsky, Blackwell's niece.
The family is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the killer's conviction, she said.
"This is now about finding justice for Sally Blackwell," Tachovsky said. "We need to find that person so we do right by Sally."
CPS investigates reports of abuse and neglect of children, and, if necessary, places them in foster care.
Blackwell was hired at CPS as a caseworker in the department's Cuero office in 1990, and became a supervisor in 1998, agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins said.
In 2001, she was promoted to program director in Victoria, where she oversaw 46 caseworkers, their supervisors and support staff in nine counties.
Crimmins said in a news release that employees are trained to handle workplace violence, to deal with hostile clients and how to handle their own personal security when visiting homes.
The agency is "shocked and saddened," he said.
"Everyone who was aware of her disappearance had been hoping there would be a happier outcome," he said. "Word has been spreading across the state."
Tachovsky said Blackwell loved helping children. Her aunt was a calm woman who could "talk you through your sorrow and grief."
"She knew her job had risks but she was dedicated to it," Tachovsky said. "Not that we know it had anything to do with it."
Blackwell's last known communication was with a co-worker about 9 p.m. Monday. An overnight search Tuesday came up empty, Hernandez said. County employees discovered the body late Wednesday afternoon, he said.
Police continued to hunt Wednesday night for evidence under floodlights along the country roads where Blackwell's body was found. Hernandez said he didn't know whether Blackwell was killed at the scene or her body dumped there.