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Police investigating death of Provo woman as a murder

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PROVO — Police say they are investigating the death of a 60-year-old Provo woman as a murder.

Belen Perez was found with a cord around her neck and some kind of strong chemical, possibly bleach, poured over her body. The Utah State Medical Examiner's Office has ruled the woman died of strangulation, but could not conclusively say she was murdered.

"Their findings were inconclusive … but I can tell you that from a Provo Police Department standpoint, we're treating this as a homicide," Provo Police Lt. Mathew Siufanua said.

Perez's son found his mother in her home, 1675 W. 50 North, around 4 p.m. Wednesday, Siufanua said.

Kimberly Bennett, a neighbor, heard screams from Perez's son and ran into the house. Perez was lying on the floor, her phone just out of reach. Bennett said she called 911 but knew there was nothing anyone could do to help.

"Her son kept trying (CPR) and I said, 'She's gone. She's gone,'" Bennett said. "He just kept repeating, 'My momma was the best mom in the world. How could someone do this to her?'"

Bonnie Burt, Perez's neighbor for nearly 20 years, said Perez was a kind woman who enjoyed working in her yard and feeding the neighbors' cats.

"She was the nicest, sweetest, most gentle, little lady," said Burt, adding that neighbors fear Perez was the victim of a random attack. "You think you're in your home and you're safe, but … you can be in your home and innocently perhaps answer your door, your whole world can change."

Investigators are asking anyone who might have information about the death to call Provo police at 801-852-6210.

Contributing: Sam Penrod, Haley Smith

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: McKenzieRomero