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Memorial for woman found dead in basement vandalized

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Family and friends of a woman found dead in a basement are demanding answers just days after her memorial was vandalized on the east side of Indianapolis.

Police said Stephen Jones, 32, has been arrested and charged with murder for the death of Martha Cronkhite, 34.

Family and friends said they set up a memorial outside of the home where her body was found in the 2500 block of East 18th Street.

They returned over the weekend to find the memorial broken and destroyed.

“I don’t know how anybody could disrespect a memorial like that,” said Rebecca Stutler, victim’s friend. “Who could do that?”

A new memorial for Martha Cronkhite now sits outside of the home where police say her body was found in the basement a week ago.

“The big wood cross was taken apart, thrown in the middle of the street, all the candles were busted, one stuffed animal had its head pulled off and destroyed,” said Stutler.

Police said the victim was found in a plastic tub wrapped in plastic bags. An autopsy report shows that she died from blunt force trauma to her face and head.

The Marion County Coroner’s Office said Cronkhite had lacerations to her arms, nose, face, and three gunshot wounds to her body.

“She had a huge heart and it’s really hard for me to understand how somebody could do something like this to her,” said Stutler.

Rebecca Stutler organized a candlelight vigil and a balloon release to remember her friend of 18 years last week.

She told 24-Hour News 8 that she has an idea as to who did it, but says she will never understand why.

“I broke down honestly,” said Stutler. “I think a few neighbors heard me because I was out here crying hysterically.”

Stutler said she last talked to Martha a few weeks ago. She described her friend as a nice and caring person, someone who would go out of their way to help others.

“Anytime you talked to Martha, you knew you were going to laugh,” said Stutler.

Stutler said she wants people to remember Martha for her generosity and not for how she died.

“Nothing so far has made any sense in the death of Martha. I’m praying that we can all have closure,” said Stutler. “Martha can have closure and peace that we find out the truth about what happened.”

Stutler said Cronkhite had been living with Jones and his girlfriend on and off for about five or six months.

The couple told police that Cronkhite was their house cleaner. Stutler disputes that claim, saying she was not.

“The story that’s being told doesn’t seem like the Martha that any of us know,” said Stutler. “Something just doesn’t seem right with the whole thing.”

Jones’ next court date is scheduled for September.