Was She Murdered? Inside the Mysterious Death of an Instagram Influencer Found Along Tx. Roadside

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On the Friday after Thanksgiving, Alexis Sharkey left her apartment and vanished without a trace.

When she didn't return, her husband, Tom, began reaching out to Alexis’ friends and family members, asking them if they had seen the vivacious young woman who had become a well-known Instagram influencer.

Tom Sharkey did not report his wife missing, but a friend notified police. “We are so very desperate,” her mother wrote on Facebook on November 28. “Please help us find her and bring her home.”

But the following morning—just two days after she was last seen—the family’s worst nightmare came true: A sanitation truck driver saw a pair of feet protruding from some bushes and discovered Alexis’ nude body along a Houston road just three miles from her apartment.

The cause of death wasn’t immediately apparent: Authorities said her body showed no outward signs of trauma. While final results from the autopsy are still pending, the coroner’s office says  they have not ruled out foul play.

“The doctor is going to do her usual thorough exam and she will release a cause and manner of death when she is finished,” Michele Arnold, Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences spokesperson, tells PEOPLE in the latest issue, on newsstands Friday. “But we are not ruling out anything.”

For more on the troubling case of Alexis Sharkey, subscribe now to PEOPLE, or pick up the latest issue, on newsstands Friday.

Those close to Alexis insist someone must have murdered the outgoing young woman. “A naked female in her 20s, found in the bushes,” her friend Chealsea Turnbow tells PEOPLE, “It’s definitely foul play. This is something straight out of a horror film.”

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Friends tell PEOPLE that Alexis and Tom Sharkey were having marital problems, but she had not yet filed for divorce. (Tom has denied those rumors.) Internet commenters soon began pointing fingers at Tom, prompting him to take to social media to defend himself.

"While some of you were posting on social media helping us locate my world, others were wasting time talking about other things," he wrote on Facebook. "Basically crap talk! You all should be ashamed of yourselves! I have been assisting the deputies and making phone calls to fine [sic] out what happened to my wife. Next time, stop and think! And realize you don’t know it all!”

Police tell PEOPLE they have not eliminated anyone as suspects in her death — and cannot definitively say she was murdered. The investigation is ongoing.

The Alexis Sharkey case will also be discussed on Thursday's episode of PEOPLE (the TV Show!), a new 30-minute show inspired by PEOPLE news, covering entertainment and exclusive celebrity interviews. The syndicated show airs and streams at 7 p.m. ET, from Monday to Friday.

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