Editor's Note: This story has been updated with new information.
One hour after Missy Bevers arrived at the Creekside Church of Christ in small-town Texas, she was found dead inside, surrounded by broken glass.
Surveillance video has led police to believe that the mother of three was killed by a person dressed in cop gear, including a black helmet, black gloves, and vest marked “POLICE.” Midlothian police say the unknown individual forcibly entered a couple of rooms in the church and may have been looking for something, even Bevers herself.
Sgt. Nick Harp told The Daily Beast “the strange part is that nothing has been reported taken.”
“He certainly doesn’t display the characteristics of somebody who is trying to burglarize a place. He’s taking his time, walking slowly around.”
But by late afternoon on Tuesday, police walked back earlier statements that identified the suspect as male. They released a new snippet of surveillance video in which the suspect's gait appears to be feminine.
"We are backing off our statement that the suspect on video was a man," Midlothian Assistant Police Chief Kevin Johnson told KXAS-TV. "I know we said 'he' over and over again yesterday, and that was a mistake. There's a lot of speculation based on the gait and appearance that this person may be a woman. It's a legitimate question right now. We no longer will say the suspect is a man. That does not mean I'm saying this suspect is a woman. It's just that at this point we can’t rule it out. We don't know yet."
Police said the suspect was carrying a tool that was used to break out windows.
Harp added that it’s unclear how the suspect obtained the tactical gear and impersonating a police officer is a crime, if the suspect isn’t in fact a cop.
“It’s tragic,” Harp said. “It’s sad for the Bevers family and the community as a whole. It’s not something that we’re used to seeing. It certainly doesn’t sit well.”
Police say Bevers, a trainer with national fitness program Camp Gladiator, moved Monday’s session indoors because of the weather in Midlothian, about 25 miles southwest of Dallas.
“If it’s raining we’re still training,” Bevers posted on Facebook the night before. Bevers arrived at the church in sports garb with her equipment around 4 a.m. to set up for class. (Camp Gladiator used the church as one of several locations for boot camps but is not affiliated with it.)
At about 5 a.m., several of Bevers’s students stumbled upon the disturbing scene. Harp says police aren’t releasing any other details about the condition of her body or the manner of death, besides that she was pronounced dead on the scene by a county justice of the peace.
A preliminary autopsy performed Tuesday is inconclusive, according to the Dallas County medical examiner's office. The cause and manner of death are "pending," and it may be weeks before the medical examiner releases an final report.
Bevers’s friend Cody Beasley told The Daily Beast that she was “full of life.”
“She was an amazing woman. It’s hard to hear what happened to her,” he said.
Beasley met Bevers at a dance studio near Midlothian where he and Bevers’s daughters took dance classes, before she found her passion of personal training. While the other parents ignored him, Bevers was “always so nice.”
After he moved to Dallas, they fell out of touch but would still communicate over Facebook.
“She was never in a bad mood, she never had anything bad to say about anybody. She brought the positive out of everybody,” he said. “I couldn’t image why somebody would have done that.”
“The Camp Gladiator community is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of our trainers, Missy Bevers,” the company said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her family at this time.”
A candlelight vigil was held for Bevers on Monday evening.
A $10,000 reward has been offered for information on the suspect by dairy company Oak Farms, which has helped law enforcement in the area by providing rewards for the last 50 years, said local administrator Ed Spencer.
“We step up on especially horrific homicides, like crimes against children, public safety people, and in this case a good person who was apparently killed in a church,” Spencer said. “Those kinds of cases that pull at your heartstrings when you hear about them.”