Fire Started To Cover Up Murder, Police Say

"I was hoping this morning I would wake up, and it would just all be a really bad nightmare," Misty Winters said.

She came back last night from an out-of-town trip, only to find out the woman she and her former neighbors affectionately called Ms. Schneider was a victim of murder and arson -- a frightening reality that has them scared for their own lives.

"I'm a very scared person as it is. And this has just made it 15 times worse," Winters, who used to live two doors down from Schneider, said.

Neighbors of Schneider say she always kept her flowers watered and loved spending time in her garden. They say, at 93, she was active and independent.

"I hope I'm that active when I'm 93," Winters said.

Even after moving away, Winters kept in close contact with Cecelia Schneider and cleaned her house every month.

"She kept to herself," Schneider said. "She was a lively person, happy. She loved the Lord. Just a really sweet lady."

"It always strikes a nerve with us when any situation like this occurs," Sgt. Destry Walsworth, of the Tyler Police Department, said. "And especially the elderly 'cause they can't defend themselves."

Tyler police say investigators looked into a claim about a missing spare house key. They found it, but will not specify where it was found. They also found Schneider's stolen car, crashed into a ditch.

"It's puzzling me -- whoever did this..." Sharon Harris, one of Schneider's neighbors, said.

"She didn't have any enemies," Winters said. "She only made friends. She was like a grandmother to me and my kids."

The person who killed Schneider may have been seen driving her car between last Friday night and Saturday morning. It's a beige 1997 Toyota Camry with Texas license plate number W01WVM. Police say the person likely suffered some injuries when he or she ran the car off the road. Anyone with information is asked to call the Tyler police or fire department.

Julie Tam, reporting.