Britton Loyden

Homicide victim Britton Loyden, 23, of Vineland

Vineland resident Britton Loyden was found dead and her child's father has been charged with her murder, police said Saturday.

Ismael Pierce was originally charged with aggravated manslaughter in connection with Loyden's death, but after an autopsy was completed the charge was elevated to first-degree murder.

Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said Sunday she would not comment on the cause of death, however, because it was an ongoing investigation.

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Loyden, 23, of the 1900 block of South Main Road, was reported missing by her mother late Thursday night, along with her 1-year-old son, police said.

Detectives Antonio Ramos and Ron DeMarchi continued the investigation Friday, and found the child unharmed and in the custody of his father, Ismael Pierce, 24, of the 900 block of South Spring Road, police said. Loyden's body was found in a bedroom of Pierce's home.

Pierce was immediately arrested, charged with aggravated manslaughter and taken to the Cumberland County Jail on $200,000 cash bail, police said. After an autopsy Saturday, the charges were upgraded to murder and bail increased to $500,000 cash.

"We're going to miss her," Loyden's sister, Jillian Loyden, said Saturday evening.

Jillian Loyden, a professional soccer player who was a backup goalkeeper last summer for the U.S. national team in the Women's World Cup, declined further comment.

On their MySpace pages, written about a year ago, Britton Loyden and Pierce described a loving relationship.

"I am engaged to my best friend and the love of my life," Loyden wrote on her MySpace page. "He made me a mommy and I'm loving every second of it."

Loyden also expressed the desire to go back to school and earn her degree so that she could earn better money, and mentioned Pierce's two sons from another relationship.

But "tweets" Pierce sent out to friends in the last few days tell a different story.

"Nothing is how we planned it to be, one big insanity plea," Pierce told his friends Thursday on Twitter, apparently writing about Loyden.

Pierce's last tweet was on Friday, apparently just before his arrest.

"Tryin' to remain relaxed," he wrote.

Contact Elaine Rose:




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