BY JEFF TRUESDELL , PEOPLE magazine
Marsha Tucker knew she’d found a girl that her son would like.
“She was just a very down-to-earth country girl,” she recalls of Terri “Missy” Bevers, the victim in a still-unsolved mystery: Police in Midlothian, Texas, continue to search for the person who entered a church early on the morning of April 18 and killed Bevers, 35, a married mom of three girls, as she readied to teach a predawn fitness class.
When they met in 1997, Tucker and Missy were co-workers at a Bealls department store. “I liked her,” says Tucker. “I thought about my oldest son: ‘I think he’d like her.'”
So Tucker decided to play Cupid. Phone numbers were exchanged, and Missy began chatting with Tucker’s son, Brandon, 42, who works with his family-run fuel distribution business. They arranged a first date for lunch during one of Missy’s work breaks.
“He’d been to a wedding that day, so he showed up in a tuxedo,” Tucker recalls with a laugh. “So he made a really good impression.”
Her son was smitten, too. “She was definitely the one,” Tucker says. “That was it for him, more or less.”
At the time, Brandon was considering a move out-of-state. “I didn’t want him to move, of course,” says his mother. “But Missy was star-struck. She was like, ‘I’d follow him anywhere.'”
Nine months later the couple married. Tucker had gone along with her future daughter-in-law as Missy picked out a wedding dress, “and I knew that when my son saw her, he’d get tears in his eyes,” she says. “He did.”
After a honeymoon cruise to Alaska, Missy got her certificate in special education and taught for two years before becoming a stay-at-home mom after the couple’s first daughter was born in 2001. A second and third daughter followed.
But she finished each pregnancy vowing to get back into shape – and after the youngest of her children, now ages 8, 13, and 15, had reached second grade, Missy embraced fitness training as a new career.
Her frequent social media posts about her fitness classes and whereabouts may have provided a clue to her killer, Tucker believes.
Surveillance video from inside the Creekside Church in Midlothian captures the suspect, dressed head-to-toe in concealing black SWAT-like gear and wielding a hammer, as the person broke into the church around 3:50 a.m.
Missy entered about 30 minutes later. She was found by a student who arrived for the 5 a.m. exercise class, crumpled on the floor and with fatal puncture wounds to her head and chest.
In an open letter shared with PEOPLE, and another posted on her Facebook page, Tucker pleaded for the killer to come forth.
“I hope they read it,” she says. “I hope they just really have a heart and this is something they regret.”
Missy’s husband, says Tucker, “misses his wife.”
As for the couple’s daughters, now surrounded by “a bubble of God’s grace,” she adds, “A lot of people are praying for them.”