IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Watch the Dateline episode "Horror at the Lake" now

Dennis Murphy reports.

On a humid night in July 2019, authorities received a frantic 911 call from Carlos Hallowell, who reported a horrific scene at his Florida home.

The 17-year-old said he had been napping when he was woken up by dogs barking. When he went to investigate, he discovered his adopted mother, Denise Hallowell, dead in the bedroom from an ax blow to the back of the head.

What once was a pleasant home on the lake in Inverness, Florida had turned into a house of horrors.

Denise’s neighbor and good friend Amy Alford said she heard the thump of helicopters overhead that July evening.

“My other neighbor down the road called me and she said the driveway was lined with sheriff’s cars and then she said there was a forensic unit there,” Amy said. “And then that really worried me.”

And then she learned: her friend was gone.

“I felt my knees buckle, and I had to hold onto the post,” she said. “And it was just a blur after that. We always planned to be -- grow old together at the lake. That didn’t happen.”

Loved ones remember Denise as a caring and considerate friend, who they say was really more like a sister.

You can watch our full episode, “Horror at the Lake” now.

You can also watch on Peacock TV or listen to the podcast.