When people are in difficult circumstances, they find strength they didn't know they had.
June 28--VIRGINIA BEACH -- The mother and son with matching brown eyes smile down from portraits on the wall.
Here she is in the hallway at 18, posing for her high school graduation photo.
Here he is in the dining room, dressed in his Tiger Scout uniform and a baseball cap.
It has been a decade since Lois Schmidt and Jonathan Vetrano were here in this house.
Now, Nancy and Joseph Bloise visit their daughter and grandson at a cemetery. They trim the grass with clippers and wipe down the grave marker with a cloth to keep it tidy.
"It doesn't get any easier," Joe said.
Ten years ago, someone killed Lois and Jonathan in the family's home. The killer shot and wounded Lois' 25-year-old brother, Morgan Bloise, killed one of the dogs and shot another, and set the house on fire.
Police have yet to solve the case.
Still, the Bloises hope one day they'll have an answer to who took Lois and Jonathan away.
"I've begged them to make an arrest before I die," Nancy said.
"I want to see it here on earth."
Lois was 29 and working hard to get her life together in 2004.
After two failed marriages, Lois and her two children -- Jonathan and Samantha, then just a baby -- had moved back to her parents' house in Level Green in 2003. Her divorce from her second husband was finalized early the next year.
Lois got a job at an insurance agency. She took Jonathan to church on Sundays and enrolled him in school.
Joe was like a father to 7-year-old Jonathan, who called him "Dedad." He liked to help Joe cut the grass, and afterward the two would sit on the stoop of the shed, drink a Coke and eat a fresh pear from the tree in the yard.
On June 28, 2004, the trailer was packed for the weekend. The family planned to go camping for the Fourth of July. Samantha was away for a four-month visit with her father in Florida.
Nancy was in the shower about 6 a.m. when she heard the dogs barking.
She asked her daughter about it. Lois said someone came to the front door, claiming to be a former classmate. She didn't recognize him and closed the door, Nancy said Lois told her.
When Nancy left the house that morning, Joe was already gone for the day.
Lois was getting ready for work. Jonathan was in bed. Lois' brother, Morgan, was asleep in his room.
Police at the time said someone entered the house not long after Nancy left.
Nancy's phone rang about 7:50 a.m. It was Morgan's girlfriend. Morgan had called her, telling her to call 911 to send help to the house. She could barely understand him.
At the time, Nancy thought he must have had a stroke. She would learn later he woke up to Jonathan's screaming, opened the bedroom door and was shot three times, she said.
Police had blocked off the street by the time Nancy arrived. From the corner, she could see smoke billowing from the house.
She tried her daughter's cellphone.
Joe kept asking officers: Where are Lois and Jonathan?
On a day they were supposed to be camping together, the Bloises buried their daughter and grandson.
A few weeks after the deaths, police said they were looking for a customized raspberry-colored pickup with an extended cab and tinted windows. It had been spotted in the neighborhood that morning, and police said the truck may have been connected to the killings.
Nancy learned in the months that followed that Lois told a friend she was worried something was going to happen to her, she said.
Nancy also remembered something strange from the day before the slayings. It had been Lois' birthday, and Nancy and Joe took Jonathan out for the morning so Lois could sleep in.
When Nancy called her daughter later, Lois said she was out, driving around. Nancy thought it was strange at the time and now believes Lois had gotten scared and wanted to get out of the house.
Nancy said she believes Lois and Jonathan may have been killed in a murder-for-hire plot. She believes the person who came to the door that morning was there for an identity check, to make sure it was the right house, and the fire was set in an attempt to eliminate evidence.
"Whoever came in here had to know what they were doing," she said. "It happened fast."
Police said they have investigated that possibility but couldn't discuss details.
After everything, the Bloises decided to stay in their home.
They gutted it and reconfigured the rooms. Whoever killed Lois and Jonathan wasn't going to force the family out of the house, too.
"I refuse to let that happen," Joe said.
The Bloises haven't seen Samantha since the deaths. Joe said the hope of seeing her again, perhaps after she becomes an adult, keeps him going.
Nancy said she has relied on faith to help her get through. She focuses on her son and his family "because I still have them," she said.
Morgan declined to be interviewed for this story.
Each time Nancy meets with a detective, she takes notes. She adds them to an growing binder of questions and answers.
The Police Department has its own binders on Lois and Jonathan.
Their case fills 18 of them, plus 50 DVDs and an entire filing cabinet.
Theirs is one of about 65 cases being handled by the Cold Case Homicide Unit, which has one full-time and two part-time investigators.
Active cases have a time limit of about three years, said Detective Doug Zebley, the department's full-time cold case investigator. Homicide investigations end up in the cold case unit once that much time has passed, all leads have been followed to their conclusions and the primary detective is no longer on the case.
Zebley took over the unit in January, bringing with him 18 years' experience as an investigator, nearly 10 of those in homicide.
Lois and Jonathan's case wasn't new to him. He worked on it for several months in 2004 before he returned to patrolling the streets. He was the first investigator to interview Morgan about what happened that morning.
"This one sticks with you," Zebley said.
Each case in the unit has its own review sheet that describes what's been done and potential next steps. Each is rated based on how much is left to do.
Those that rank higher often have the most evidence or are more vicious in nature, Zebley said.
"That's why this one has been worked on so hard for so long," he said.
Detectives once spent three months alone investigating a single piece of evidence in the case, he said.
Zebley said he thinks Lois and Jonathan's case is solvable. He hopes friends will come forward if they know something that could help, even after all this time.
"I hope to conclude this one before I leave Cold Case," Zebley said.
"I think we're on track."
Nancy said she doesn't expect to find closure. She doesn't think it exists when it comes to homicide.
"We live death daily," she said.
"You go to bed at night crying, and you're praying, 'Please, God, don't let me wake up. I don't want to face another day.'
"And you wake up the next morning, and you're crying: 'Why did you let me live through the night...,' "
Nancy found support through the local chapter of Parents of Murdered Children. She met people there who lived the same nightmare.
Through the group, Nancy learned of something else: the victim impact statement. The statements often are read at sentencing hearings, giving loved ones a chance to talk about how the crime has affected them.
Nancy started writing one a few years ago.
She said she knows they have a long road ahead of them. But she keeps revising her statement, waiting for the day she'll get to read it in court.
Margaret Matray, 757-222-5150, firstname.lastname@example.org
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