Body of missing Princeton University student Misrach Ewunetie found

Her "body was found outside on the Facilities grounds behind the tennis courts," officials say.

ByBrynn Gingras, Nicki Brown and John Miller, CNN, CNNWire
Thursday, October 20, 2022
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Authorities found the student's body at about 1 p.m. Thursday outside behind some tennis courts.

PRINCETON, N.J. -- The body of missing Princeton University student Misrach Ewunetie was found on campus Thursday, the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office said.

Her body was found at about 1 p.m. on the facilities grounds, behind tennis courts, according to a statement from Mercer County prosecutor Angelo Onofri and Kenneth Strother Jr., the school's assistant vice president for public safety.

An autopsy by the Middlesex County Medical Examiner will determine the cause and manner of death, the statement said. There were "no signs of injury and her death does not appear suspicious or criminal in nature."

In a statement, the university called the death an "unthinkable tragedy."

"Our hearts go out to her family, her friends, and the many others who knew and loved her," the university said.

"We are planning an opportunity for students to join together and remember Misrach."

Earlier Thursday, Ewunetie's family said they had been "kept in the dark" by authorities, according to her brother, who added they're desperate for information and working to put together a timeline of her whereabouts.

Ewunetie, 20, went missing six days ago, prompting university officials to intensify their search for the junior.

SEE ALSO: Princeton University seeks help finding missing student

Her family was particularly alarmed she missed a meeting regarding her citizenship on Saturday, said her oldest brother, Universe Ewunetie.

"There's no constant update or interaction with us," he told CNN by phone on Thursday, before the body was discovered, referring to campus authorities and the prosecutor's office. "We're really kept in the dark."

Universe Ewunetie said authorities told him the investigation will take time. "That's one thing we don't have, we don't have time," he said.

CNN has sought comment from the prosecutor's office and the university's department of public safety about Universe Ewunetie's claims.

Investigators were searching Lake Carnegie, on Princeton's campus, and the surrounding area after authorities used bloodhounds to trace Ewunetie's scent from the dorm to the lake, according to a law enforcement source.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted that he has been in touch with various law enforcement agencies regarding the missing student.

"I've been in touch with @NewJerseyOAG, @MercerCoPros, and the @NJSP who are doing everything they can to find missing @Princeton University student Misrach Ewunetie," the Governor tweeted.

Universe Ewunetie described his sister as a "precious, beautiful soul" who is a "great listener" and "cares about people beyond her."

The family was "not particularly happy" Ewunetie went to Princeton because it is far from the family home in Ohio, but they "didn't want to discourage her," said the brother, who, with other relatives, was putting up fliers about his missing sister on the New Jersey campus.

"It's very painful. (A) nightmare I cannot wake up from," he added, fighting back tears. "I wish she's somewhere out there."

Universe Ewunetie said their father first tried contacting his sister Friday but didn't connect and assumed she was busy.

By Saturday, calls and texts were going through, but still, no response -- and, by Sunday, the calls were going straight to voicemail.

Family members said they spoke to her roommates, who remembered her sleeping in her dorm room on Friday morning.

Ewunetie was last seen around 3 a.m. near a residential building on the New Jersey campus, according to the university.

The university reported her missing on Monday and urged anyone with information to contact the Department of Public Safety.

"As part of the continuing efforts to locate missing undergraduate student Misrach Ewunetie '24, there is an increased law enforcement presence on and around campus today including the use of a helicopter, drones and watercraft," the university said in an update to the community Wednesday morning.

Ewunetie was volunteering at one of the school's 11 eating clubs on Thursday night, the president of the club told the student newspaper, The Daily Princetonian. Terrace Club President Alexander Maravcsik told the paper that Ewunetie was on "duty" doing housekeeping work during a live music performance at the club.

"On Thursday night, one of our members who was initially signed up for duty was unable to attend our event, and Misrach volunteered to cover their shift. After the club had closed and all of the duty responsibilities had been fulfilled, Misrach -- as well as the other members on duty -- left for the night," Maravcsik wrote to the paper.

Sara Elagad, executive director of the non-profit Minds Matter Cleveland, told CNN that Ewunetie's disappearance was unusual. Ewunetie was a 2020 graduate of the Minds Matter Cleveland program, which looks to close the education gap of high-achieving low-income students.

"It is not at all in character for her to purposely go off the radar or be out of touch with family," Elagad said. "We are supporting her family as they assist law enforcement efforts to safely locate her."

Ewunetie was a 2020 honors graduate of the Villa St. Angela-St. Joseph High School, according to a statement from the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. "We are praying for her swift and safe return," a statement from Deacon James Armstrong read.

In an email to students, W. Rochelle Calhoun, Princeton's vice president for campus life, said Ewunetie's family contacted the school Sunday night to request a well-being check after not hearing from her for several days.

"Since Sunday, DPS has been actively working with the Prosecutor's Office and with state and local police departments to follow all leads in the search for Misrach," Calhoun said in the email.

School officials released a statement Thursday that said in part:

"It is with great sadness that we share heartbreaking news about the death of Misrach Ewunetie '24... Since Misrach was reported missing on Sunday, the Department of Public Safety has been working closely with local and state law enforcement and does not believe there is any related threat to campus or the surrounding area.

Misrach's death is an unthinkable tragedy. Our hearts go out to her family, her friends and the many others who knew and loved her.

We are planning an opportunity for students to join together and remember Misrach. Information about the gathering will be shared separately when details are known.

We know this is an upsetting time for our community, especially Misrach's fellow students. There are many people and resources on campus that are here for you. Members of the University community may contact the following resources for support, guidance and counsel"

READ FULL STATEMENT FROM UNIVERSITY

"Dear University Community,

It is with great sadness that we share heartbreaking news about the death of Misrach Ewunetie '24.

The Mercer County Prosecutor's Office and the Department of Public Safety have announced that Misrach's body was found on campus earlier today. An autopsy will determine her cause of death, but they said there were "no obvious signs of injury and her death does not appear suspicious or criminal in nature."

Since Misrach was reported missing on Sunday, the Department of Public Safety has been working closely with local and state law enforcement and does not believe there is any related threat to campus or the surrounding area.

Misrach's death is an unthinkable tragedy. Our hearts go out to her family, her friends and the many others who knew and loved her.

We are planning an opportunity for students to join together and remember Misrach. Information about the gathering will be shared separately when details are known.

We know this is an upsetting time for our community, especially Misrach's fellow students. There are many people and resources on campus that are here for you. Members of the University community may contact the following resources for support, guidance and counsel:

Students

Counseling and Psychological Services
o Call 609-258-3141 during business hours
o After hours, contact the counselor on call by calling our main number 609-258-3141 and pressing 2 to speak with the counselor on call.
Faculty and staff

Carebridge
o To speak with a licensed professional and begin counseling, call Carebridge at 800-437-0911. Counseling services are available 24/7.
o Carebridge offers free, in-person counseling at the Employee Wellness Center at 350 Alexander Street on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Schedule your appointment online. Parking is available onsite.

All other inquiries should call the Princeton University Emergency Hotline at 609-258-7000.

Princeton is a close-knit community, and we mourn Misrach together.

My thoughts are with you all,

VP W. Rochelle Calhoun"

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