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Sex offender arrested after Henrico mom found dead in Colorado lake

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- The Colorado man arrested for murdering Heather "Helena" Hoffmann was a "multi-state sexual offender," according the law enforcement.

Hoffmann, a 23-year-old Fort Collins, Colorado woman, who grew up in Central Virginia, disappeared in June after she left work and was found dead hours later in a Colorado lake.

"She was last seen leaving [McDonald's] on June 21 at 1 a.m. when her shift [at McDonald's] ended," a Fort Collins Police spokesperson said. "[Helena] typically walked home from work. She was found in Sheldon Lake wearing a black polo shirt with a McDonald’s logo, black pants, black boots, and a black purse."

After detectives determined Hoffmann was not killed accidentally, they discovered evidence that link her to Jeffrey Scott Etheridge.

Etheridge, 28, was charged with First Degree Murder with sexual assault charges pending, police said.

Etheridge is a "convicted multi-state sexual offender," according to the Larimer County Sheriff who posted his frustration with the crime on Facebook.

"Because of current laws and rulings, he was allowed to register as a transient sex offender- with no legal residence," Sheriff Justin Smith wrote. "This is not the first murder in our community attributed to a transient, but it's the most reprehensible. In fact, the records show many felony assaults, rapes and attempted murders committed by such transient criminals in recent years."

Hoffmann moved from Sandston, Virginia to Colorado in 2012 to be with a man she met online, the Coloradoan reported.

Zach Denton, father to Hoffmann's four-year-old daughter, called her a kind woman.

"She tried to pass her love of literally everything onto [their daughter] Mary," Denton told the Coloradoan. "I think it was one of her favorite parts about being a mom."

He said she had a "unique charisma" and "always tried to befriend whoever looked liked they needed a friend the most."

"She loved spooky Halloween-esque things, the Gothic culture and styles," he said. "She loved painting, drawing, and music. She wanted to pass her love of art to our daughter, and they shared a wonderful bond that was beyond compare. She was special to many people out here, and we want to be sure shes remembered as more than a tragic victim. She was a mother, an artist, and a dear friend."

A memorial service for Hoffmann will be held Saturday morning at Mechanicsville Baptist Church in Mechanicsville.

She is survived by her daughter, her parents, and her brother, according to an online obituary.

Friends and family can email memories and express condolences here.