JERSEY VILLAGE, Texas (KXAN/NBC News) — Heidi Broussard, an Austin mother who has been missing since Dec. 12, was found dead in the trunk of a car Friday near a home in Jersey Village, Texas. That’s near Houston. While Austin police would not confirm the identity of a suspect in the case, a woman who was a friend of Broussard’s was arrested on charges that match those of the suspect.
That friend, Magen Fieramusca, has since been booked into the Travis County Jail.
Broussard’s 3-week-old daughter, Margo Carey, was found alive in good condition, according to a report from NBC News. NBC News spoke with Tammy Broussard, Heidi’s mother, who told them those details.
On Friday afternoon, Harris Co. Institute of Forensic Sciences positively identified the body as that of Heidi Broussard. The cause of her death was also determined to be “ligature strangulation,” which is defined as a “type of strangulation that occurs with the use of mass that is not the body weight.” An example of this kind of death is being strangled by a rope.
In a briefing on Friday afternoon, Austin Police Department Chief Brian Manley explained that investigators are confident that the baby is Margo Carey but confirmation is still pending.
“Everyone [was] hoping for an outcome that appeared different than the one we had, and that was with a loss of life,” Manley said, after recognizing APD’s homicide division, missing persons division, special investigations unit, robbery unit, violent crimes task force and organized crime division; the Texas Department of Public Safety Rangers; the Travis County District Attorney’s Office; the FBI and its child abduction rapid deployment team; Texas Parks and Wildlife; Travis County Search and Rescue; and Child Protective Services.
The child is healthy and CPS is caring for her, according to APD. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said the girl is in a foster home and it is working with law enforcement to verify possible relatives.
APD would not name the person arrested in the case, but said that person is charged with two counts of kidnapping and one count of tampering with a corpse. Manley said additional charges may be filed as investigators uncover more evidence.
A car parked at the home on Bo Jack Drive where law enforcement have been since Thursday night is registered to Magen Rose Fieramusca, who was arrested Friday by APD on two counts of kidnapping and tampering with evidence. That evidence was a human corpse, records say. She is being held on $600,000 bond.
She was arraigned on Friday morning on six different traffic citations.
On Friday night, Fieramusca was no longer listed as being in the Harris Co. Jail and cars that were seen leaving the jail were seen arriving at the Travis Co. Jail, where she also faces charges.
Fieramusca was booked into the Travis County Jail just after 10 p.m. on Friday.
Austin attorney, Jackie Wood, told KXAN that she had been appointed and she would visit with Fieramusca on Saturday. Wood’s law office website says she is dedicated to “representing those accused of committing crimes, either as adults or as juveniles.”
According to court documents, the only criminal history Fieramusca has is a felony theft charge in Harris County in 2018, which was dismissed Nov. 5, 2019 because “probable cause exists, but case cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt at this time.”
Longtime friend of suspect and victim speaks out
Caressa Potter, longtime friend of both Broussard and Fieramusca, told KXAN reporter Steffi Lee that she had been in contact with Fieramusca every day since Broussard has been missing. Potter said they talked multiple times a day, and during those calls, Potter said she could hear a baby in the background.
Potter said Fieramusca told her friends and family she also recently gave birth to a baby named Luna Mae, but wouldn’t show any pictures of her.
KXAN has found baby registries under the name Maygen Humphrey with Amazon and Target. Descriptions for both indicate a location as Houston and a due date as Dec. 1, 2019.
“Her story wasn’t too far fetched,” Potter said. “She did her research, I feel like — I feel like she really did plan this. She thought about this.”
Potter said Fieramusca used to go by the name Maygen Humphrey, but doesn’t know when she changed her name. She said the three met each other at church camp when they were pre-teens. Potter described Broussard and Fieramusca as “best friends.”
After the story broke, Potter said she was talking to Fieramusca and another friend, and all of a sudden, Fieramusca abruptly said, “I gotta go! I gotta go!” She then hung up and Potter hasn’t heard from her since.
The camp Fieramusca and Broussard once attended is known as the Texas Bible Institute.
The sprawling, rural property is located in Columbus, Texas.
KXAN crews stopped there on our way to Houston.
A spokesperson there did confirm the pair attended Texas Bible Institute in the mid-2000’s.
“We can confirm they were students,” she said, “Unfortunately there’s nothing else we can say about her, other than our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”
Neighbors on Bo Jack Drive say it’s a quiet neighborhood, and every person KXAN’s Candy Rodriguez talked to was shocked something like this could happen in the area.
“When we found out the Texas Rangers were involved, it got a little more important to us,” Darryl Ehlert said. He has lived in the neighborhood for 35 years.
“I didn’t know what to think,” he said.
Ehlert said APD asked for surveillance footage from his doorbell camera, and specifically law enforcement wanted to know if a black SUV drove by Thursday night. Ehlert said his footage didn’t show one.
Darla Bundick also lives in the neighborhood, and when she talked to Rodriguez, she got emotional.
“This is very upsetting,” Bundick said. “And that poor baby, she’s not going to have her mom. I just can’t believe it.”
Helping the family
A group of parents in South Austin say they knew Heidi Broussard well. They sat beside her every week to watch their sons play baseball for the Oak Hill Youth Sports Association.
“I don’t think they missed a single game. They were always there,” Julie Jensen said of Heidi Broussard and Shane Carey, who frequented the baseball games to cheer on Broussard’s six-year-old. “She was always cheering for him. Even with a big, ol’ pregnant belly, she was there in her chair, cheering them on.”
A representative of the Oak Hill Youth Sports Association expressed their condolences:
The members of the Board of The Oak Hill Youth Sports Association were shocked and saddened at the tragic loss of Heidi Broussard, and our deepest condolences go to the Carey and Broussard families.Oak Hill Youth Sports Association
Jensen’s son also plays on the same team, The Marauders. She said she and Broussard bonded by the sport. Now she wants to help out her two children.
Jensen has organized a fundraiser. She said she is collecting anything and everything for the family — that includes baby clothes, food, gift cards and of course, money.
“In the middle of grief and heartache, people are there for one another. So all we can do to make an impact on someone’s life, especially a little boy, that’s what we are going to do,” Jensen said.
If you want to help, you can Venmo Jensen @JulezA or Paypal/email at firstname.lastname@example.org to organize a gift drop-off.