FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Police have made an arrest after a woman’s body was found in a lake following her shift at McDonald’s.
Fort Collins Police Services have arrested Jeffrey Etheridge, 28, in the death of Heather “Helena” Hoffmann, 23, who was found in Sheldon Lake inside City Park.
“Nothing can prepare you for not having that other person there anymore,” said Zach Denton, who shares a daughter with Hoffmann.
A passerby spotted Hoffmann’s body in the lake last week. Investigators say she was killed while walking home from her job at a nearby McDonald’s.
“She walked that park every single day, she must have walked it a couple hundred times, she knew it like the back of her hand,” said Denton.
An autopsy revealed her injuries could not have been caused by drowning or an accident.
Through the course of their investigation, detectives found evidence that they say links Hoffmann’s death to Etheridge.
Etheridge was booked into the Larimer County Jail on the charge of first-degree murder. Sexual assault charges are also pending.
He appeared in court by video on Thursday.
“From day one, detectives and officers were examining evidence at the scene, working with the coroner’s office to really look at this and determine ‘Was it accidental or was it intentional?” Through the course of the investigation they were able to gather evidence that ultimately led us to the suspect,” said Fort Collins Police spokeswoman Kate Kimball.
Etheridge is a registered transient and sex offender in Colorado.
“I was a transient once myself and not every one of them is a bad person,” said Denton. “I don’t look at him as a transient; he’s a killer, that’s what he is.”
Denton attended a memorial service for Hoffmann at a park in Fort Collins on Thursday. They released dozens of black balloons in her memory.
“We don’t want her to just be a body that was found in a lake,” said Denton. “She was a person, she was a mother, she was an artist.”
Etheridge is due back in court next week.