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Sina Nerisa Solomona, a mother of one, was pronounced dead by medics at her house in Cass St, Ashburton.
Police today revealed she had suffered traumatic head injuries.
They were still making inquiries to establish her movements in the hours leading up to her death, and were talking to people she knew.
A post-mortem examination would be carried out tomorrow.
Solomona, from Porirua, had recently moved into the home with her family and worked at Canterbury Meat Packers.
She is survived by her young daughter Kaira.
Friends of Solomona have poured out their grief on social networking sites.
Jason King wrote: "A beautiful soul taken way too early. To have seen you only a short time before you were taken and then no more. A tragedy that breaks my heart."
And another friend, Kate Moses, posted: "What a sad and tragic day for everyone blessed to have known Sina. She had a great and funny personality and you always knew where you stood with her. Prays and thoughts for all her family, daughter and friends Kia Kaha."
The South Canterbury town was rife with rumours after the house was placed under police guard. Four forensic officers were at the property yesterday and a crime scene investigation caravan was parked across the road.
A neighbour, who declined to be named, said there was a heavy police presence at the house.
"There was police everywhere and a crime caravan was set up so I knew something serious had happened," the neighbour said.
"There were lots of rumours doing the rounds that someone had died and later there was speculation it was something more sinister, it was a murder," the neighbour said.
"It would be very unusual for something like that to happen in a small town like Ashburton, which makes it all pretty shocking."
Senior Sergeant Grant Russell said police were still trying to establish a cause of death.
"We are making enquiries into the circumstances surrounding her death and would like to hear from anybody who may have information that will assist the enquiry," the spokesman added.