Two days after the parents of missing Indiana University student Lauren Spierer made a desperate plea for those with knowledge of the case to step forward, a badly decomposed woman’s body was discovered Sunday floating between some debris in Fall Creek, about 50 miles north of the Bloomington campus.
Police said Monday that the condition of the creek water initially made it difficult for investigators to determine the victim’s age, race or ethnicity or obvious cause of death, reports the Indianapolis Star.
On Tuesday, however, the coroner’s office said the body found in the creek is not the missing 20-year-old fashion merchandising major from Edgemont, N.Y., who disappeared after drinking at a bar on June 3.
“The decedent that was found appears to be that of an African American female,” Alfarena Ballew, the chief deputy coroner of Marion County, said in a statement. “This is based on skeletal characteristics confirmed by a forensic anthropologist. The identity of this decedent will still need to be confirmed using DNA and dental records.”
There is speculation that the body may be that of a local great-grandmother, 74, named Dorothy Mae Heard, who went missing on June 13 (though her car remained in her home driveway).
“We just don’t know who she is,” says Kendale Adams, a spokesman for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
In a press conference at Bloomington police headquarters Friday, Lauren’s father, Rob Spierer, joined by his wife Charlene, said, “We are appealing to the parents of the children who may have firsthand or secondhand knowledge of what happened to Lauren.”
Among those to whom Spierer referred are Jason Rosenbaum, 20, the last person to admit seeing Lauren in the early morning hours of June 3 after a night of partying.
The search for Lauren was composed of more than 1,000 volunteers and some 1,500 tips.
Beside Rosenbaum, the list of several persons of interest to police includes Spierer’s boyfrend, Jesse Wolff. An attorney for Rosenbaum said in a press release that his client has passed a polygraph test.
Bloomington police Captain Joe Qualters has said that only one of Spierer’s friends has voluntarily come forward to police to share information.
• Reporting by DIANE HERBST