Missing Mom Found Dead in Car at Miami Airport

This is a rush transcript from "The Big Story With John Gibson," July 24, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GREGG JARRETT, "BIG STORY" GUEST HOST: It's the "Big Investigation." Cops in Florida are looking into the death of Linda Renee Innocent, a 34-year-old mother of four who went missing over a week ago. This morning she was found dead in the trunk of her own car. The car was found in a parking garage at the Miami International Airport. "Big Story" correspondent Douglas Kennedy spoke with the Broward County, Florida, sheriff late today and has some new information on the case. Douglas?

DOUGLAS KENNEDY, "BIG STORY" CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Gregg, the sheriff is calling this a sad end to a tragic story, particularly because of Innocent's four young children. He says his focus now turns from the missing person case to a murder investigation.


KENNEDY (VOICE-OVER): This is the car belonging to Linda Innocent, the mother of four who has been missing for nine days. Police say the black Audi with Innocent's body stuffed in the truck was found early this morning at Miami International Airport by an airport employee doing maintenance.

CARLOS MAURA, MIAMI-DADE, FLORIDA, POLICE: This morning around 1:30 a.m., an employee that was walking in the area picking up carts that are used to move luggage smelled a foul odor coming from the fourth level of this building.

KENNEDY: One mystery solved. Now police have to figure out exactly what happened to Innocent, who disappeared July 15. Innocent worked as a hospice nurse and failed to come home after leaving the hospital at 8:00 p.m. that Sunday night.

Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne has been doggedly pursuing the case for the past week.

KEN JENNE, BROWARD CO, FLORIDA, SHERIFF: As soon as the medical examiner frees it up, our crime scene will be going through that automobile, every inch of it, to determine what was there. Whether it was in contact with the assailant or whether it's contact with Ms. Innocent or anyone else, we will find that out.

KENNEDY: Innocent's disappearance captured the heart of the nation this week after her young son pleaded for her safe run.

DESMOND HOWARD, LINDA INNOCENT'S SON: All I want to say is whoever got my mom, I want them to give her back. If you find her, please bring her back because I want to see her so much.

KENNEDY: Law enforcement initially had interest in Innocent's current boyfriend, but say he has been open and cooperative. They are now focused on her ex-boyfriend, Vernon Howard. Innocent had a restraining order against Howard, but had made three calls to him between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. the night she disappeared. Howard is now in custody on an unrelated drug charge.

JENNE: Now this is a good thing because while he — certainly we would call him a person of interest, not a suspect, we don't really need a suspect at this stage of the game, because one, that boyfriend is in jail, and two, we have got plenty of time.


KENNEDY: He says he is going to take his time and build a rock-solid case. He says he wants to make sure there is justice for Linda Innocent and particularly, Gregg, for those kids.

JARRETT: Absolutely. It just breaks your heart to listen to the son…

KENNEDY: Terrible. Really awful.

JARRETT: ...pleading for the safe return of his mom and it'll never be. Look, there are cameras there at the airport, right?

KENNEDY: Yeah, you know, the sheriff says since 9/11 they put in dozens and dozens of new cameras at that airport, and he is very hopeful that whoever parked that car there is going to show up on one of those cameras. And they are going to build a rock-solid case against whoever it is.

JARRETT: All right. Douglas Kennedy, thanks very much.

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