Family of 2016 murder victim continues to search for answers after defendant found not guilty

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – A Ballantyne family is seeking justice and answers after their loved one was killed in 2016. Nia Hantzopoulos’s body was found dumped in the trunk of her car in December of 2016 after being missing for more than a week.

Her family says although her case went to trial, and the person charged was found not guilty, they are making sure she is not being forgotten.

Hantzopoulos’s family spent nearly five years looking for justice in her case. When the case finally went to trial in May they thought there would be a guilty verdict. But that’s not what happened after a jury found Humberto Medoza not guilty. Now the family is trying to move forward while still desperately searching for answers.

“We don’t understand why. We can’t understand why someone would hurt a 65-year-old woman,” said Virgina Karras, Nia’s daughter.

Karras has been seeking those answers ever since he mom went missing in December of 2016. Days later police found her body in her car, parked at a shopping center in Ballantyne. Through their investigation, CMPD eventually arrested Humberto Mendoza for murder.

“How do you hurt someone and just walk away and have a life and we’re left with nothing but a memory,” Karras said.

Mendoza went to trial in May. After evidence was presented by both the defense and prosecution, the jury ruled Mendoza was not guilty of murder. Mendoza’s attorney, Kenneth Snow, spoke with WBTV News and say Mendoza spent nearly five years in jail awaiting trial for a crime he did not commit.

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Nia Hantzopoulos who have suffered a tremendous loss. Our client spent close to five years in jail waiting for his day in court — so there are no winners here,” said Snow in a statement. “After hearing the evidence presented from both sides, the jury reached its verdict in less than two hours, fully exonerating our client.”

MORE: Man found not guilty of murder in 2016 death of Charlotte woman

Nia’s family still believes Mendoza is responsible, although he’s been acquitted through the justice system.

CMPD says there are no other suspects in this case so it will remain closed.

“All these years trying to move on, it just gets harder and harder really everyday knowing she’s not here,” said Xena Balaouras, Nia’s granddaughter.

The family says they will continue to move forward taking it day by day and seek answers in what happened to Nia and who could have committed this crime. They say they will honor Nia every step of the way.

“Her memory will be eternal to us. We can’t help the way the justice system works. We wont’ let this consume us,” said Karras.

“We’re going to move forward, we’re going to do things in our life that would make her proud like she was here,” said Christyna Balaouras, Nia’s other granddaughter.

Copyright 2021 WBTV. All rights reserved.

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