Woman facing murder charges in Falls Lake death

Joanna Madonna (Wake County Sheriff's Office)
June 17, 2013 3:37:29 PM PDT
Authorities have taken a woman into custody after a man's body was found near Falls Lake Sunday morning.

Joanna Madonna is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 64-year-old Jose Manuel Perez. She is currently being held in the Wake County jail. In an appearance before a magistrate Monday, she did not speak and was ordered held without bond. She was represented by a public defender.

According to Wake County property records, Madonna and Perez lived together in Raleigh.

Wake County deputies said a resident found Perez's body around 5:30 a.m. Sunday while walking in the area of Old Bayleaf Road and Highway 98.

Wake Forest resident Tom Newnam said at first he saw what he thought was a trash bag, but as he got closer he realized it was a man lying on the ground.

"His shirt was over his head and as I approached him I could see that the shirt, especially as it went under his body, was soaked in blood," he said.

Authorities have not said if a crime happened where Perez was found or if his body had been dumped in the area.

Neighbor Mark Moore said Perez was a great guy.

"I can't believe he's gone," Moore said.

Moore told ABC11 Monday that he and Madonna shared an interest in music and recently played together at her home.

"Jose was there, and we said hello and talked a bit," he said. "Then she offered me a cup of coffee, we went out on the back deck, found some songs to play and sing together, probably 2 or 3 hours worth, and then I came home.

Moore added that the couple never seemed to be angry or potentially violent.

"No, no, never saw or heard anything," he said.

ABC11 has learned Perez was a Vietnam veteran who flew helicopters.

Deputies said he was wearing a wedding ring and had a "Support Veterans" wristband on one arm when he was found.

Madonna reportedly worked as a translator for a Raleigh law firm. Wake County Schools confirms she worked for the district as a substitute teacher from March 2009 to March 2013. She spent the entire 2011-2012 school year as a full-time Spanish teacher. She spent the last three months before leaving in March, as a special education teacher at Garner High School.

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