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Posted on Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

Police: Autopsy report will point death investigation of EMU student in right direction

By John Counts


Julia Niswender

The preliminary autopsy report of the 23-year-old Eastern Michigan University student found dead in her apartment Tuesday was expected to be available to police later Thursday afternoon, Ypsilanti police said.

Lt. Deric Gress said the case is still being treated as a homicide investigation, but he could not release many more details at 1 p.m. Thursday.

"Right now, it is still being ruled as a suspicious death," he said. "We're still treating it as a homicide. It's a complicated case. I think the autopsy will point us in the right direction."

How the investigation proceeds hinges on what the preliminary autopsy reveals, police said. Gress hoped to have the results later Thursday afternoon. Once the results are in, Gress said police will be able to release more information to the public.

In an email exchange with at 12:50 p.m. Thursday, Washtenaw County Medical Examiner Dr. Jeffrey Jentzen said that there was no new information to release.

In the meantime, investigators continue to conduct interviews and sift through evidence, Gress said. A technician unit with the Ypsilanti Police Department has been through the room in the Peninsular Place room where Niswender's body was found Tuesday night. The apartment complex is located in 1000 block of Huron River Drive in Ypsilanti, off the EMU campus. Police said in a release they were treating the death as an "apparent homicide."

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Gress said first and foremost police have Niswender and her family in mind and they don't want to release any information that may be speculation at this point. Many EMU students who attended a security forum Wednesday afternoon expressed concern about their own safety on campus. While patrols have been increased, there are still a lot of unanswered questions in the case.

Gress said police needed to be careful with what information they release given the situation.

"We don't want to cause a panic," he added.

Check back to later for information as it's released.

John Counts covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 4:23 a.m.

Thankfully, while police are constrained in what they can say to the public, they are not constrained in their investigation once they've examined and had time to analyze a crime scene. They are moving ahead, though it seems to us they're standing still. I am grateful for that - and I remain saddened over this tragic situation along with the rest of the community.


Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 3:49 a.m.

It will be almost a month before the complete and final autopsy will be revealed. Until then we will only get half the answers the police truly need to go after who did this. Truly sad indeed.

wendy walter

Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 2:55 a.m.

Apparently, these apartment units have common social areas with 3 bedrooms with locks. They are called suites.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 9:36 p.m.

My condolences to the family and the EMU community. Thank you to and to EMU for being as timely and forthcoming with information as possible. I remember the student's death six years ago, when one of our kids was still attending EMU. I don't think I've quite forgiven Vick and the others who knew it was a murder investigation, but chose not to let the EMU community know.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 7:31 p.m.

This story is so tragically sad.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 7:03 p.m.

"Gress said first and foremost police have Niswender and her family in mind...." "Gress said police needed to be careful with what information they release given the situation. "We don't want to cause a panic," he added. I realize the sensitivity of the whole situation. But short of any real information the default assumption for folks in the area is there is a killer on the loose who may strike again. Please note Ann I AM NOT SPECULATING. I am suggesting a worst case assumption people should take till they know more.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

Perry White, that still doesn't mean anyone else was involved. Police have to treat a lot of unattended deaths as potential homicides, just in case they are. They have to document the scene, preserve evidence, look under every rock, etc., but that doesn't mean they are going to end up being homicides or murders or whatever. Angry Moderate is's also quite possible no one else was involved. No one knows yet.

Angry Moderate

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 9:19 p.m.

Right, I am just wondering why they say "treating" it like a homicide. It sounds like they mean that they are conducting a homicide investigation to find out what happened--not that they have reason to suspect that over an accident, medical problem, etc. I certainly hope this tragedy was some kind of accident and there isn't a killer on the loose.

Perry White

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 9:14 p.m.

@ Angry Moderate - The police have said, "We're still treating it as a homicide." A homicide is a death at the hands of another.

Angry Moderate

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 8:15 p.m.

Why is everyone assuming that the death was caused by another person? It seems like the police have avoided saying that so far.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 8:05 p.m.

Still does not explain why nothing is being released. Why not let the public know they don't think a crazed killer is on the loose if thats the case. They didn't even tell the cause of death even after the autopsy is done. Why ?

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 8:01 p.m.

I think people should be cautious till they know otherwise. Assuming a worst case as a default is like fastening my seat belt. I don't actually assume i am going to get in an accident every time I drive my car but my default setting is to fasten my seat-belt as though an accident is on the agenda. The chances another John Norman Collins is on the loose is pretty close to zero. But until the police are able to offer more the chances aren't zero.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 7:48 p.m.

He/she is correct. 75% of homicide victims in the US know their assailant. Almost 90% of college aged women do.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 7:39 p.m.

with all due respect to this situation and statement, the odds are that she knew the assailant and that person is at large, but not on a killing spree, soon to strike again. again. the odds are this person is hiding out or trying to get out of town so I disagaree with your default assumption - I think its the opposite the killer will not strike again, is in hiding, and trying to get out of dodge so lets go catch 'em

Silly Sally

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 7:03 p.m.

This is so sad, and similar to 6 years ago. I will be interesting to know what her roommates had to say; if they saw anyone come and go from her room. I do not recall reading anything about this. I hope that her family can pull together after this. They'll be in my prayers.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 7:14 p.m.

This particular apartment complex is set up differently than most. Each bedroom has it's own locked entry from the shared living space. A roommate could not just go into another's bedroom to look.