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Search continues for answers in Medford woman’s mysterious death

Police investigated behind 21 Emery St. in Medford, where Barbara H. Novaes's body was found Monday.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

MEDFORD — The search for answers in the mysterious death of a Medford woman continued Tuesday, one day after her body was found in a recycling bin underneath a porch at her home.

Barbara H. Novaes was last seen alive Sunday afternoon, and her body was discovered by authorities Monday behind the duplex at 21 Emery St. where she had lived with her college-age son for many years, according to officials and neighbors.

Novaes had been reported missing by her son early Monday, according to Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan, whose office is leading the investigation into the 61-year-old woman’s death. Ryan said Monday a cause of death has not been established, but it is considered “suspicious.”

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Novaes’s daughter, Marina Novaes, said via Facebook her family was “numb” in the aftermath of her mother’s death and she asked for privacy, adding that her mother was “the best human being that ever lived.”

Police scoured the property for evidence Monday, and television news stations reported that investigators returned there Tuesday.

Novaes’s well-kept, mint green house sits on a tree-lined residential street in the city’s Hillside section. A Black Lives Matter sign was visible on the front lawn Tuesday, alongside a banner emblazoned with a daisy and the word “Welcome.” A floral wreath adorned one of the front windows, and two baskets of flowering plants hung from the roof of the porch.

Alex Viveros, a neighborhood resident who just graduated from Tufts University, said a suspicious death in the student-heavy area is “very, very, very unusual.”

”This is generally a pretty quiet neighborhood,” he said, calling the case “heartbreaking” and telling a reporter that he and other members of the Tufts community were awaiting the results of the probe.

Viveros added, “All of our thoughts and prayers go out to the family right now.”

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Ryan took to Twitter Tuesday to inform the public that the probe remains active.

“Members of the public with any information should call @MedfordPolice [at] 781-395-1212.”

Michael McLaughlin, vice chair of the Everett School Committee, said via Facebook early Tuesday that he regularly saw Barbara Novaes when he visited Everett Bank, where she worked.

“Heartbroken is an understatement for how I am feeling,” McLaughlin said. “When something like this occurs in life it truly makes you question so much. Rest In Peace Barbara Hovey Novaes. You sadly are gone but won’t be forgotten. When I saw you at the end of last week, I would have never imagined it would be the last time, I will think of you every time I walk in the bank, which is mostly daily.”

Richard J. O’Neil Jr., president and CEO of Everett Bank, said in a phone interview that Barbara Novaes worked at the bank for roughly 18 years and was an officer of the financial institution.

“We’re deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague,” O’Neil said. “She had many friends and customers in the community and was really a shining light here — highly regarded, highly respected and loved and that is not an overstatement.”

O’Neil described Novaes as a dedicated mother and said “our hearts go out to her family. ... We’re at a loss here. And the employees are trying to deal with it as best they can, because again, she’s part of our family. It’s a tragic day, a tragic loss.”

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Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria also offered his condolences to Novaes’s family in a statement posted Tuesday to Facebook.

“She was simply a wonderful person who always had a nice thing to say and was always eager to help and support whomever needed it,” DeMaria wrote. “She was very loving and caring to my family, especially my daughter Caroline whom she formed a special bond with over the years. We all mourn her tragic loss at this time and pray that her family finds the strength to endure at this terrible time.”

Barbara H. NovaesTwitter

Novaes was a longtime member of the Grace Episcopal Church in Medford and a friendly and familiar face in her neighborhood, according to residents and Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn, who spoke about her on Monday.

Her son told police he had last seen her around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, and he believed she was going to get a manicure, Ryan said. On Monday, he found the front door of the home ajar and located his mother’s cellphone, keys, and wallet inside the house and her car parked outside, Ryan said.

About 6:30 a.m. Monday, he called police and Novaes’s body was found in the bin underneath an enclosed area of the porch, Ryan said.

Novaes had been in contact with Medford police in the past for “a variety of reasons,” Ryan said without elaborating.

The district attorney urged people to remain vigilant and to lock their doors, but said she could not yet say whether there was an ongoing public safety threat.

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Travis Andersen and Steve Annear of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.


John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe. Andrew Brinker can be reached at andrew.brinker@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewnbrinker. Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.