Family in shock after mother's murder in Manatee grove - FOX 13 News

Family in shock after mother's murder in Manatee grove

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Those who knew her say Maria Moralez was no stranger to hard work, and for good reason.

"She was a good mom, single mother, you know, she raised us by herself for a good while," said Maria's son Jose Moralez.

The mother of five drove a tractor at a Manatee County grove to make ends meet.

That, unfortunately, is where she would take her last breath Wednesday.

"A co-worker went to the grove where the victim works looking for her. She was on her tractor and she was kinda slumped over," said Manatee County Sheriff's Office Spokesman Dave Bristow.

20-year-old Jose Moralez is the oldest of Maria's five children. She leaves behind three sons and two daughters.

"I just, I'm going to miss her you know," said Moralez.

In the wake of this tragedy, he's moving back home to take care of his siblings and try to hold the family together.

Meanwhile, investigators with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office look for a suspect.

"She was shot, and right now we're working the case and do have some very good leads right now," said Bristow.

Those leads point right at Joel Ramirez-Hernandez, Maria's ex-boyfriend and father of her 3-year-old daughter.

Investigators call him a "person of interest."

He used to live with the family at their Bowling Green home until the older boys eventually kicked him out late last year.

"He would drink a lot everyday," said Moralez. "A bunch of emotional abuse, mental abuse and some physical that I've seen."

Deputies have stopped short of naming Ramirez-Hernandez a suspect, but still would like a word with him.

Meanwhile, the Moralez clan pushes on without the matriarch of the family, missing her every step of the way.

"Everyone has a mom you know and they're very special," said Moralez. "She was a good woman."

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