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Police had been called multiple times to Medford home where woman was found dead under porch

Police investigate behind 21 Emery St. in Medford, where the body of Barbara Novaes, 61, was found Monday in a recycling bin underneath a porch.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Police were called to the Medford home of Barbara Novaes, a 61-year-old bank officer whose body was found Monday in a recycling bin underneath a porch at her home, for multiple reasons in recent months including a suicidal threat last November, records show.

The police calls for service to Novaes’s home at 21 Emery St. were listed on the department’s daily dispatch log posted to its official website. No arrests have been made in connection with Novaes’s death, which remains under investigation.

According to the logs, Medford police were called twice to the home on Nov. 16, 2021, for a suicidal threat. The first call came in at 8:09 p.m., and a “duplicate call” was made at 8:10 p.m., the logs show.


Police were called to the home again on Feb. 8, 2022 for an identity fraud report and also responded there on April 21, 2022 for a disturbance. The calls for service, first reported by WBZ-TV, don’t name the parties involved in the incidents or provide further details about what occurred.

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. Ryan said Monday a cause of death has not been established, but it is considered “suspicious.”

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 Novaes’s home for evidence on Monday and Tuesday.

Her 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 Tuesday that 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.”

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.

“Barbara Hovey Novaes was a beloved member of Grace Episcopal Church,” the church said Wednesday in a statement. “Barbara had a passion for social justice and was a regular participant in many walks for peace and hunger relief in the Boston area. She was a gifted Sunday school teacher, and she raised her children at Grace, where they developed life-long friendships.”

The church said her smile “lit up the room, and her caring was extended to us all. Our hearts are broken by her untimely death. We thank the media and any interested parties for respecting our privacy as our faith community grieves with her family.”


Novaes’s 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 has 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.

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report. This is a breaking news story that will be updated when more information becomes available.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.