NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A community is mourning a grandmother who was found Saturday in her burning SUV.
"She had a big heart. Everybody loved her. She loved everyone," said Arnold Mercadel.
Mercadel can still remember the first time he saw his sister.
"I went to the hospital. And my mom said that's my Christmas gift. She always wanted a girl, and she finally got that girl. And now that girl is gone," Arnold said, sobbing.
Arnold and others still have a hard time believing Trina Mercadel is dead.
"She was a sweet, loving, crazy person," said Trina's cousin Edward Gaspard Jr. "I'm just lost."
Firefighters found Trina's SUV on fire in the St. Roch neighborhood early Saturday morning. Once the blaze was out, they discovered the 44-year-old inside. Police say she had been shot to death.
"I'm just thinking, what was going through whoever did this's mind to be that savage, to take a mother away from her children, to take a mother away from her grandchildren, her mother, her father?" questioned Gaspard. "Who could do such a thing? A heartless person."
Gaspard was much more than Trina's first cousin. He says the two grew up doing just about everything together.
"My best friend, my sister, really. My cousin. I'm gonna miss her," Gaspard said.
To her family, Trina was a wonderful mother. It came naturally to her. She was also a fantastic cook with a few unforgettable specialties.
"Stuffed bell peppers," said Arnold. "And steak!"
She was also a jokester and a gambler.
"There's not a one day that goes by I don't think she didn't want to play cards," said Gaspard. "She's in the bright lights up there, probably sitting in the casino."
While those who loved her will keep her memory alive, they hope whoever took her life answers to the law.
"In due time, I hope NOPD finds out who did it and justice will be served," Gaspard said.
Police are still searching for a suspect and a motive.