Sherese Bingham didn't have any children, but she did have two dogs that she treated like her babies. And her giant German Shepherds may play a key role in figuring out who killed her.
A freezing night in December 2012, and along the banks of the White River in Indianapolis, a horrifying scene: On a walking path, the body of a woman.
She was face down on blood-stained concrete as two German Shepherds fiercely guard her body.
"They were circling the body and being aggressive towards anyone who were approaching," an undercover police officer, who will remain anonymous to protect his identity, tells Crime Watch Daily.
It's not long before medics and cops swarm the scene.
"Unfortunately, they were met by the two dogs, described to us as being very vicious and protective of her person," said the undercover officer. "They were initially unable to approach the victim to check for signs of life."
There were none. And police soon learn the victim is 52-year-old Sherese Bingham. What they don't know is who would want her dead.
"It's almost like a Sherlock Holmes tale, just a mystery that just dropped out of thin air," said WXIN Investigative Reporter Russ McQuaid. McQuaid followed the unsolved, cold-blooded murder of Sherese Bingham for years, a case that has stymied cops and kept the community on edge.
"She died of a gunshot wound to the chest, and it was from a bullet from her own weapon," said McQuaid.
That weapon was found lying next to her, along with her cellphone. Cops believe she tried to make a phone call before she died.
"Sherese kept a weapon, a handgun for her own protection. She always kept it in a pouch. The pouch was discovered at home and the gun was discovered by her side," McQuaid tells Crime Watch Daily.
But a gun and two fierce dogs didn't protect this devoted churchgoer on the very night she needed it the most. Police investigators quickly rule out suicide and robbery.
Her adoring family is stunned that someone had point-blank murdered Sherese, a married career woman who held several degrees.
"She had a way about her that when she walked in a room she made people turn their heads," said Deborah McMurray, Sherese's aunt.
"My baby sister Sherese, we call her 'Reesie,' she always wanted to help somebody," said Keith Walker, Sherese's brother. "She took care of my mother when she was sick. She helped my dad out, helped my brother out."
Although Sherese had no children, her dogs were like her babies. Even at a young age she had an uncanny ability to train German Shepherds.
"She was, I'm going to say about 9 or 10, she had a dog named 'Cruiser,' beautiful German Shepherd," said Deborah McMurray, Sherese's aunt. "That dog could do just everything with her."
In high school, Sherese was a popular student athlete. In her late 20s she met a man named Eugene. The couple had been married for 28 years.
The family says if things were amiss in the couple's marriage, Sherese kept it to herself. Then, they say, after almost three decades together, the couple drifted apart and seemed to live separate lives.
"After they had been married for years, she would say that he had his own room downstairs and that's where he would be, and she would be upstairs running the house, her dogs, going to work, whatever, but he would always be in that room down there," said Deborah. "Isn't that strange?"
On the night of Sherese's murder, with Eugene down in the basement, Sherese took the dogs on a walk to one of her favorite spots.
"It's a little bit desolate in the fact that you won't see other people," said reporter Russ McQuaid.
"The dogs was very protective of her, they was like guard dogs, and nobody could get close to her, and that's what everybody is puzzled about right now," said Keith. "Who got that close to her to murder her with her own gun?"
The family says there was really only one person who the dogs would allow close to their beloved master.
Were Sherese's dogs comfortable around Eugene?
"Yes, they was very comfortable with her husband, he took them walking, he fed them, he took care of them for all them years," said Keith.
If only dogs could talk, this family soon began to wonder what they might reveal.
Shortly after the shooting, Keith grew disturbed that Eugene didn't call him immediately, waiting till the next morning to reach out.
At Sherese's funeral, family members say they noticed Eugene's behavior was odd.
"He talked more than ever and we kept looking at him because he was talking," said Deborah. "I ain't even ever heard his voice until then. It was weird."
But weird certainly couldn't prove murder. And there were other unexplainable possibilities also. Looking back, Aunt Deborah recalls an eerie conversation she had with her niece shortly before her murder.
"I'll never forget this, it's when she kept talking about 'Do you think I'm paranoid because I feel like I'm being followed?'" said Deborah. "She said it's a dark blue Blazer that keeps following everywhere I go. So she kept all these different locations to herself and him."
In another disturbing phone call:
"The day she got killed, she said 'I just want you to know I love you,'" said Deborah. "That was maybe about three hours before she died."
Was Sherese living in fear, and did she have a premonition of her own death?
"She knew something. She did. Maybe she wasn't sure, but she knew," said Deborah. "That's what hurts, and I can never get through a conversation if I tell that part without crying, because I can still hear her say that."
When did Aunt Deborah first start suspecting that Eugene may have been involved?
"From the beginning," said Deborah. "That was straight up from the beginning, never thought of nothing else because them dogs will not let you near her, OK? We always said the answer is in the dogs."
The killing remains unsolved, even though her family believes police arrested the right man at the beginning of the case -- only to see him let go.
"These dogs are devoted to her, and for somebody to get close enough to her to shoot her, if she didn't shoot herself, they would have to know those dogs, those dogs would have to know that person," said WXIN Investigative Reporter Russ McQuaid. "There's only one other person those dogs know, and that's Eugene."
Family members say he is a quiet guy who keeps to himself, locked away in his basement lair. But one day Sherese made a devastating discovery.
"That was one thing she said that sticks: 'I've been sleeping with the enemy, I don't even know this man,'" said Sherese's Aunt Deborah McMurray.
Sherese's husband Eugene was leading a double life, carrying on a 14-year affair with another woman.
After finding out about the affair, Sherese's family says she made a bold statement: she sold her wedding ring to a pawn shop.
Sherese had also taken out at least three different life insurance policies, totaling about $1 million.
"It's a large sum of money and a large motive for someone if they had access to that sum of money," said Russ McQuaid.
But could detectives physically link him to the murder? Eugene adamantly denied he killed Sherese.
When detectives processed the gun found next to Sherese's body, they say they could not find any usable prints.
Russ McQuaid says Eugene's DNA was all over it.
"Eugene said 'Well, I used to clean her gun for her, of course my DNA is on the gun,' and you look at that and go, 'Well, he's got a point there,'" said McQuaid.
But what about the gun pouch -- why was it not with her on the night she was gunned down?
"Her firearm and her pouch should have always been together," said McQuaid. "Her pouch was left at home."
Family members say that Sherese rarely took her gun out while walking the dogs, because she knew her dogs would protect her if she ever ran into trouble.
"Either she leaves that gun at home and that gun makes its way down to the banks of the White River, or totally out of character for her, she carried that gun without its pouch on her person as she walked her dogs," said McQuaid.
When police interview Eugene about how the gun discharged, he says the dogs did it, suggesting a theory that the dogs jumped on her, triggering the gun to go off.
"The police looked at that theory," said McQuaid. "They tried to determine where would this gun have been in, how easy is it to trip this gun off, and a dog jumping in a shirt pocket, I mean there are certain things that just defy credulity."
"No. Anybody in their right mind wouldn't think that," said Aunt Deborah. "How are you going to shoot yourself, or the dogs knocked her down? Or -- no."
Cops gave Eugene a polygraph test, but his results came back inconclusive. Were there other suspects at the time, or did the investigation keep leading back to him?
"The investigation keeps leading back to Eugene," said McQuaid.
"If you go with motive if you go with DNA, if you go with familiarity, this was the direction that led state police to eventually put charges on Eugene."
Eventually Eugene is charged with the murder of his wife. But this was no cut-and-dried case. A month and a half before the trial was slated to begin, all charges were dropped after cellphone evidence failed to place him at the scene.
"We know we charged the right person, but we just need that little bit more information," said the undercover police officer.
But Sherese's family believes those cellphone records do reveal some activity that could be considered suspect.
On December 11 and December 12, the day before Sherese was killed, and the day of her murder, Eugene deleted nine phone calls for his cellphone.
"Between that time frame, the day before and the day of, I wouldn't be thinking about deleting anything," said Keith. "The main thing I'd be thinking about, 'What happened to my wife?'"
Two months after the murder, cops give Eugene's girlfriend a polygraph test -- which she failed. But with no evidence tying her to the murder, police cannot charge her, nor is she considered a suspect.
It's now been four years, and Sherese's family honors her memory at a prayer vigil on the anniversary of her death. But cops are frustrated. They are at a standstill on the case.
"I feel the evidence pointed in the same direction no matter how we turned it, or how we looked at it," said the undercover police officer.
Police still consider Eugene a suspect in the murder of his wife, but they do not have evidence to charge him with the crime.
We reached out to Eugene's lawyer for comment, but several calls were not returned. And with no arrest, the family is devastated that justice still eludes their beloved Sherese.
Investigators say they are hoping that someone who knows something or overheard a conversation about what really happened that night will do the right thing and contact Crime Stoppers Central Indiana at (317) 262-TIPS.