Authorities are still searching for the body of a missing Pompano Beach woman who they believe was murdered by her husband, and said the evidence left behind in the couple's home "paints a very gruesome picture" of her last moments.
Broward Sheriff's Office detectives held a news conference Tuesday morning to ask the public's help in finding the body of 53-year-old Irene Lanning Xeniti, two days after they announced the arrest of her husband, 54-year-old Ian Lanning, on a first-degree murder charge in her death.
Investigators said they found evidence in the couple's Pompano Beach townhome that suggested Xeniti had been murdered in the home and that her body had been disposed of in an unknown location.
"There's a large amount of evidence to indicate that somebody did not leave that house alive," Sgt. Bryan Tutler said Tuesday. "We're still searching for a lot of answers."
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Investigators haven't said how they believe Xeniti was killed but said it could have involved anything from a shooting to blunt force trauma. But they're pretty certain that it happened at the couple's home and that there was an attempt to clean up the crime scene.
"There was a lot of evidence, forensic evidence, that we could see inside the house, indicated an attempt to clean up," Sgt. Kevin Forsberg said. "Obviously, with giving a little respect to the family, we're not going to give details on what we saw in there, cause they are pretty graphic, it's pretty horrific what we saw in there."
Authorities said they were first notified that Xeniti was missing on May 29, but Lanning lied to them telling them he hadn't seen his wife since May 14 when she left their home. Detectives believe she was murdered the morning of May 21, and said there's evidence that her body may have been in Lanning's car.
"Committing a crime is not very easy without leaving evidence. I can tell you there was an extensive amount of evidence in that house and it paints a very gruesome picture," Forsberg said. "So we're confident that Irene is deceased and obviously we're looking for her remains to get them home to her family members."
Xeniti and Lanning had been a couple for around eight years and were married for around two years, and friends said there had been a history of marital issues, detectives said.
Friend Tasia Tsakonas told NBC 6 on Monday that there weren't any signs Xeniti was in danger.
"I just can’t believe it, I mean why would he do that to her, why would he take her life? If they didn’t get along why didn’t they just split up and let her live her life?" Tsakonas said. "She has kids, grandkids, why would he take her life away? I cannot forgive him for that, that is, I’m so upset over this."
Detectives said Lanning never filed a missing persons report and was "nonchalant" about her leaving him. Once they discovered inconsistencies in his story, the case went from a missing person to a homicide, officials said.
"He was very nonchalant in suggesting that she left him. That was one of the red flags that stuck out when we tracked their last movements and where their locations were and what they were doing as far up to the 21st," Forsberg said.
Lanning remains held without bond following his arrest.
"He has been semi-cooperative but his level of cooperation has, if, we wouldn't be looking for her body if we had all the answers we're looking for," Tutler said.
Detectives believe Xeniti's body may have been disposed of in a body of water, and said they've been focusing their search on the Intracoastal waterways in the northern end of Broward County, from Hillsboro Inlet south.
"It has been an extended period of time since we think that this incident occurred, so we've had a storm, obviously there have been a lot of tidal changes," Tutler said. "So I don't want to give a specific area because the area that we probably should be looking in is probably bigger than what we have evidence to show as far as where we think he went."
Investigators said they're also seeking anyone who may have had contact with Lanning in the past month.
Anyone who may know anything is asked to call Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS.