WILLIAMSON COUNTY – Stephanie Uzzle looked out into the expansive 50-plus acres that was her late mom’s property, taking note of the creek below and the field beyond that bleeds into a vibrant fall-colored forestland stretching as far as the eye can see.
It truly would be a beautiful sight, and a prized piece of family property passed through the generations, she said. That was before Uzzle’s mom, 53-year-old Lisa Uzzle, was found dead, a victim of an alleged premeditated homicide. Police have said that Lisa Uzzle was shot to death before her body was discovered inside her by home by firefighters on Sept. 6, 2014, as they responded to a blaze that destroyed the place.
Lisa Uzzle began building her humble one-story ranch house on McGeesville Road in rural Williamson County about five years ago. Stephanie Uzzle said her mom thought building a house in the quiet countryside on the land left to her by her late father would usher in a fresh start as she was going through a divorce to her husband, Stephanie’s father.
One of Lisa Uzzle’s main wishes was for the home to have a nice, large porch where she would eventually spend many early mornings drinking coffee before work.
“This is what she built as her personal sanctuary,” Stephanie Uzzle said Wednesday. “It turned out to be her hell.”
Today, what's left of the house is nothing but a dirt outline of where her mother's dream once stood.
Stephanie Uzzle said that she had recently spoken with her mother the day before her death, a Friday as they did almost daily, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Friends later reported that on the Saturday her body was discovered, Uzzle was seen earlier in the day at a couple of different establishments around Marion, getting her nails done and clothes shopping. It was as if she had an evening out planned, Stephanie Uzzle said, but no one came forward to say they knew what those plans were, she said.
It was the next morning, a Sunday, Stephanie Uzzle said, that she got a call that her mother's home had burned and a body had been pulled from it that they believed was that of Lisa Uzzle.
The news chilled her to the bone, but Stephanie said that as she began to process the information, she had many questions. Her mother was a light sleeper. Even a leaky faucet would wake her, so she couldn’t understand how she could sleep through a fire and not escape the blaze.
Law enforcement apparently had questions as well. Just more than a month after her death, Williamson County State’s Attorney Brandon Zanotti called a news conference to say that authorities had ruled her death a homicide. At the time, Zanotti said investigators found the fire and Lisa Uzzle’s death to be suspicious because of evidence found while sorting through debris at the scene.
A forensic pathologist’s report revealed that Uzzle did not die in the fire, but of multiple gunshot wounds before the fire. Zanotti said then that authorities had ruled her death a homicide, and said they believed the killing was premeditated and not random.
That news conference was about a year and a week ago, but no more information on the case has been reported publicly by law enforcement since that time.
Recently, Zanotti said his team continues to meet with investigators from the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office on the investigation, but offered nothing more. Noting the passing of a year without any arrests, Zanotti added, “It’s one of those really sad cases.”
Reached on Monday about the case, Williamson County Sheriff Bennie Vick, directed calls to Captain Brian Thomas, a detective. Multiple calls to Thomas on Wednesday afternoon went unreturned.
Stephanie Uzzle, who lives with her husband in El Paso, Texas, and is in town for a couple of weeks dealing with her mother’s estate, said she stopped by the sheriff’s office on Wednesday morning and was told that Thomas was out of the office.
She asked that he receive a message to call her, but had not as of Wednesday evening, she said. Before that, she said, it’s been about six months since she’s heard any updates from the sheriff’s office.
Stephanie Uzzle is frustrated with what she feels is a lack of interest in keeping her mother’s case in the forefront, and that it's taking so long. She said that she and many of her mother’s friends have a suspect in mind, and they do not feel as though law enforcement has done a sufficient job investigating the leads they have provided.
While a conviction won’t bring back her mother, it will provide some sense of closure, she said. Because not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about the tragedy. Someone should be held accountable, she said, because they have caused irreparable pain to many.
Stephanie Uzzle, 28, worries about her younger brother, Matthew, 22, and her father, who is Matthew’s full-time caretaker, a responsibility that Lisa Uzzle had shared with her husband. Matthew has a severe form of cerebral palsy and is non-mobile and non-verbal. And she’s sad that her 3-month-old son, Christopher, will never know his grandmother. Stephanie became pregnant the month after her mother died. When she gave birth three months ago, she wanted nothing more than to share the joy with her mother.
“But he’s how I know she’s with us," Stephanie Uzzle said, looking down at her son. "She was so excited about having a grandchild,”
Stephanie Uzzle said that, because the blaze completely destroyed her mother’s home, she wasn’t left with many memories. Her childhood photographs and other family heirlooms are gone. What she has left is a few more recent photos on her Facebook page, and couple of items that were recovered from her mom’s locker at the Marion office of the U.S. Post Office, where she was the union steward and a 25-year-employee.
With a laugh, Stephanie Uzzle said those keepsakes recovered from her mother’s workplace included a couple of gag items, such as some "plastic poop" she would use to tease her co-workers.
It’s not much, she said, but it is a small reminder of all the silly, uninhibited joy Lisa Uzzle brought to the world around her.