Tampa murder victim's sister searches for answers

The only lead in the hunt for a Tampa-area serial killer is grainy surveillance video of a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt, walking through the neighborhood where three people have been shot to death.

And there is a Tri-State connection to that investigation.

Police in Tampa have been looking for the killer for 16 days now. The murders began October 9th when 22-year-old Benjamin Mitchell was shot in front of his home.

The second victim, 32-year-old Monica Hoffa was killed October 11th.

Then last Thursday a 20-year-old autistic man who had just graduated from high school was killed.

Police say none of the victims were connected-- and fear the suspect may be a serial killer taking lives for no reason at all

The sister of Monica Hoffa, the second murder victim, lives in Evansville with her husband and three children.

Eyewitness News spoke with Monica’s sister Ivy as she remembered a soul that she hopes will never be forgotten.

"This is a picture of my sister. This is my favorite picture ever,” said Ivy Hoffa Gates as she looked at an old photo of her and her sister.

There are no words for the emotions Gates has been experiencing.

“On Thursday the 12th, had major abdominal surgery and Friday the 13th they actually found her in the field where she was murdered,” she said.

When she got home from surgery, she received a call from her dad that will never be forgotten.

“I really can't put into words what I felt when I got that phone call,” she said.

She's left now with memories, “She truly believed everybody needed to be loved,” and heartbreak for her family and the other families involved.

“My sister had dreams of getting married and having babies and that was taken from her,” said Gates.

When together, the family of four siblings was unstoppable.

“I mean you go to get family pictures and you think you know you should have a nice shot but this the kind of thing we do,” she said about a family photo taken the last time they were all together in 2012.

Monica was fluent in sign language because her mother was deaf. She always taught Ivy words and phrases, but when Ivy struggled, Monica always said, “If you don't know any other sign just know the sign for ‘I love you’ and I think that speaks volumes for the kind of person my sister was.”

She says Monica was the type of person who was able to approach anyone and everyone.

“She was actually famous for saying ‘Hey I love you’. And that inspires me, that's the legacy she left and that's how I want to be.”

But as days pass, frustration builds for the lives lost and the unknown, knowing the killer could be anywhere.

“The more we get this story out that just gives the Tampa Police more leverage to get more manpower out, more resources,” said Gates.

But until that day comes, she'll continue to search for answers and always love everyone she meets unconditionally, just like Monica.

(This article was originally published October 25, 2017)

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