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Elkhart couple found in van identified, family and community picking up pieces


It's been 24 hours since an Elkhart family's life changed forever.  A mother and father of five, found dead in a van, a block away from their home. 

The Elkhart County Sheriff's Department identifying the couple as 31-year-old Susana Alvarez and 38-year-old Alberto Avelino. The autopsy, conducted Sunday morning, revealed the cause of death were single gunshot wounds to the head.

"We're going to miss her a lot," says Alvarez' 21-year-old sister, Ana Alvarez.  She has no words. 

In a vacant lot, just steps from her sister's home, where she and Avelino were found, a vigil held in their honor.

It was a day of gloom. Rain and tears were streaming down the faces of all 100 people in attendance. 

"She was the whole world to these five kids," says Joseph Smith, Alvarez' husband, and uncle to the children. 

Smith and Alvarez will now be caring for their five nieces and nephews. But they know it takes a village 

"We're going to need a lot of help with five more kids in this world who need the whole community to raise them," says Smith. "We don't know how to deal with this."

And the community is ready to be there for the Avelino family.

"We pray, we try to think.  But the most important thing is we're all together, and we're all in support," says Delia Vazquez, a family friend.

Many, like Vazquez, are still recovering from the shock of this sudden tragedy.

Vazquez says they had been looking for the couple, but did not think to look in their own backyard.

"We never check in the back of the house. It's very close," she explains.

As the family is grieving, Vazquez says there is one thing they can use.

"The most important thing is to pray for the Avelino family," she says. 

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