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Posted on Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 5:50 p.m.

Police release update in death of EMU student Julia Niswender

By John Counts


Julia Niswender

Photo from Facebook

Police don't have much more information to share with the public in the homicide investigation of 23-year-old Julia Niswender than they did a few weeks ago.

In an update sent out Wednesday afternoon, Ypsilanti police said they continue to investigate and conduct interviews while closely working with Niswender's family.

"We are still awaiting results from toxicology, forensic laboratory analysis and a final autopsy report," the release said.

Messages left with Ypsilanti police by Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon were not immediately returned.

Jacob McLaughlin, who has been designated as the Niswender family spokesperson, said the family is still waiting on answers.

"They're angry and they're frustrated," he said.

However, the family understands police need time to conduct a proper investigation, according to McLaughlin, who added the public perception is that crimes get solved in an hour like on television procedurals.

"We expect the same," McLaughlin said. "But this isn't one of those shows."

McLaughlin has known the Niswender family for nearly 12 years and graduated in 2008 from Monroe High School with Julia and her twin sister, Jennifer. The sisters would have shared a birthday later this month on Jan. 25, which is heightening emotions around the Niswender household, McLaughlin said.

Police found Niswender dead at 9:30 p.m. Dec. 11 in her Peninsular Place apartment. Investigators were called to the residence after a suitemate reported Niswender hadn’t been seen for a few days. Ypsilanti police immediately ruled the death a suspected homicide.

There’s been no indication from police on what was found in Niswender’s apartment that led them to rule her death a possible homicide and the results of an autopsy, performed days after she was found, were inconclusive.

The 23-year-old Monroe Township native had no signs of trauma on her body during the autopsy.

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



Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 9:58 p.m.

I'll bet if a cop or a prominent person was involved they would have had the toxicology reports already.Put a RUSH on the's been 1 day short of a month.Get into the next gear and do the job.


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

In real life, these things aren't as fast as they are on TV crime shows.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 10:13 p.m.

I'm surprised that someone with your in-depth knowledge of the workings of the criminal justice system somehow missed the fact that the police don't conduct toxicology tests, and they have no control over when the specimens they send out for analysis get processed and reports get completed and sent back to them. Must have been an oversight.

Richard Carter

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 9:50 p.m.

It could well be that they have a lot more info than they're saying, but not releasing it because it could harm the investigation or tip off someone that's being watched as a suspect. I doubt anything nefarious is going on in not releasing the info... police commonly withhold information, so they can validate eyewitness testimony (and sometimes even confessor testimony... some people have caved under pressure and falsely confessed... the cops want to make sure that the details given in the confession actually match reality).

Bertha Venation

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 9:07 p.m.

The update is that there is no update, but I think they want us to know they are still working on the case and haven't let it go cold. Bless her family.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 7:34 p.m.

This is inexcusable. The family, friends, and EMU community deserve to know something substantive surrounding this poor girl's unnatural death. I went to class last night at the Quirk building on EMU campus, and that is the hub of the Communication, Media and Arts department, and there were pictures of Julia all over the place serving as a memorial. I hope the next "update" provides some solid answers to why she is dead.

martini man

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 7:31 p.m.

It's a shame that Julia's family have to wait so long to get any information. We watch all these CSI type shows on TV and they get the lab results and catch the perp all in a matter of days ..sometimes in ONE day. But in the real world,apparantly, it takes months and months just to get basic reports. Meanwhile, the victim's family and loved ones wait and grieve, not knowing the true facts. Hopefully the authorities know more than they are telling the media.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 6:18 p.m.

It is not about Killer: It is very reasonable to suggest that we have several murder mysteries and the cases could not be resolved due to paucity of evidence. The problem in this story relates to understanding the circumstances that caused or contributed to this untimely death. There is a reason to suspect homicide and the reason is not shared. That would not generate confidence in the ability of the investigator to discover the truth about this death. As I have commented before, the autopsy must have determined the probable date and time of this death and that information could be shared with public and give the public an opportunity to verify that estimated date and time. If there is evidence that refutes the estimated date and time, the investigation could be on the wrong track.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 7:06 p.m.

Why is there reason to suspect homicide, just cause the police say so. The police should share their information of why they feel its a homicide. Its been a full month now, students are not 2nd class citizens. If this happen in say Bloomfield Hills, we as the public would get more info from the police, IMO.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 4:05 p.m.

Some cases are never solved, ever. Those people who think a month is some unreasonable length of time for a crime to go unsolved need to go talk to the parents of any of the victims of the Oakland child killer, a multiple homcide case from the 1970's in which zero arrests have been made, or the family of Medgar Evers, who waited 30 years for the known killer to be convicted.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 7:29 p.m.

You seem to think you have information that the police don't have, Paul. Why don't you go share that with them. You've already determined that a "crime" was committed, in the same sentence you point out that for all anyone knows, she could have died in her sleep. Where you got the idea that you, as "the public" have some right to information is a mystery to me. The suggestion that the police would withhold information about an clear and current danger to the public is irresponsible and unsupportable, and absent that, you have nothing on which to base your argument, which was....what, exactly, again? While you are schooling YPD on how to properly conduct a suspicious-death investigation, you might pick up a few bits of information, such as the fact that YPD is not associated with EMU PD, other than in a neighborly kind of way. EMU PD, which is a branch of the university, is a separate organization from the city's police department. While I'm sure the city wishes all the best to EMU in terms of robust enrollment, etc., what goes on at EMU has ZERO bearing on how crime is investigated by the city.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 7 p.m.

That is true but we know that a crime DID take place. For all we know she may have had the flu for a few hours and got very sick fast and died in her sleep. If so, then we as the public should know. Now if her room was trashed and stuff of hers is missing, well, maybe an intruder is responsible. A few details would be nice and it would not harm the investigation but then it might cause a change in enrollment over at Eastern.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 2:44 p.m.

Any word on the killer that's roaming loose out there? Can we unlock our doors? This was labeled as an "apparent" homicide the day of the incident (not "possible" homicide as the article now suggests). Anyways, this "update" was another one of those "non-updates" - as in, "we'd like to update you by letting you know we have no new information." It's like when you're on hold, and the automated voice apologizes for your wait and lets you know a service representative will be with you shortly.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 5:17 a.m.

"Four to six weeks is pretty standard" for a forensic toxicology test according to Dr. Barbarajean Magnani, chairwoman of the Toxicology Resource committee for the College of American Pathologists. Since Miss Niswender died a full four weeks and one day ago answers should be a couple weeks away.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 4:32 a.m.

Once the toxicology report is back, everything will be clear.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 2:12 p.m.

Maybe. Hopefully, for the family's sake.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 10:19 a.m.

From what I understand that is correct


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 4:25 a.m.

no news is ... no news

Walaa Mahmoud

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 4:17 a.m.

I just love how the title to this article has "update" in it and people are probably getting so anxious to know about how this happened to her and NOTHING is updated about how she died but a few words from a family friend.....REALLY?


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 4:08 p.m.

You are wrong. As has been pointed out by another poster, the word "update" does not equate with new or changed information. It means you are being advised that the current situation is unchanged from the previous situation. Now you are current, or "updated."


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 4:07 a.m.

Thank you for the 'update". I do wonder periodically what's been happening on the case. So sad. I feel so sorry for the family. I hope they eventually find out something. To all you 'haters': it's just an update to let the public know that they haven't forgotten that we, the public, want to know. I, too, wish it could go faster, I'm sure the police do too!


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 3:25 a.m.

This is the third article that has run that states exactly the same thing - no new updates. Come on guys, at least try to fake journalism.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 4:11 p.m.

a2gretta, speak for yourself. The article title does NOT imply progress to people familiar with the definition of the word "update." About the only context in which the word "update" has come to imply change is in the world of software. In the world of crime, update means status report, not a change in status.

Kyle Feldscher

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

eze- Speaking personally, I've been receiving multiple requests every week for more information on this case since Julia was found dead in December. Even if there's no information released by police, we feel it's our responsibility to make sure interested people know where the case is. We continue to ask questions, we continue to try and find out what's happening.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

Kyle, I think the issue is that your headline implies progress: "Police release update." While I understand that you wouldn't want to criticize the police in the headline, yours does imply a change worth releasing. It may be technically accurate, but it leads a reader to think new information is being shared.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 2:17 p.m.

Kyle, you have some control?

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 1:42 p.m.

Hi eze- As tdw noted, and we've clarified in the previous stories, there may not be new info but it provides an update to those who are wondering regarding the status of the case. We do not have much control over the police investigation and provide the information to you as soon as it is available.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 10:19 a.m.

Some people are wondering what the progress is or lack of


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 2:53 a.m.

If this case is too difficult for them will they please ask for outside help ? The local police were not able to catch that crazy freeway shooter, it took a federal task force--and a $102,000 reward--to catch that guy. Now they are spending gosh knows how much money to try him in court and how little money is being spent to investigate this death ? We deserve some answers, they stated they believe she was killed--why, we should have a right to know. Was it cause young people usually just do not die without warning or is it more then just that?


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 6:46 p.m.

We as the public should be made aware if there is a violent criminal on the loose. If it happen once, it could happen again. The police are to protect the public, that is their job. If they are unable, then get somebody else to take over their job. Yeah, yeah, the police don't want to cause a panic and have EMU loose students to other colleges, that seems to come first for them, while they hope it doesn't happen again. I just hope justice is done soon. That is if a crime really did take place, we do not have the answers thanks to the tight lip police dept.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

You deserve some answers? What makes you think you deserve anything in relation to this crime? If you want to go out and hire mediums or robot dogs or something, you foot the bill. It might be cheaper to just have a little patience. This isn't a television show


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 2:48 a.m.

Did the word "update" change its meaning since I last looked?


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 2:44 p.m.

"We're sorry for the wait. Please remain on hold and a service representative will be with you shortly."


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 1:15 a.m.

I'm wondering if they said "suspected homicide" simply because of a few years back when the school withheld information about a student being murdered. Maybe being overly-cautious for liability reasons possibly? Either way, I hope the poor family gets straight answers soon.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 2:46 p.m.

Actually, the original article stated "apparent" homicide. As in, it was clearly a homicide. Those were the police department's words, as conveyed by


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

@GP, yes she was an EMU student but this is an Ypsi Police case. The murder you mentioned happened on campus and was an EMU Police case, thus the school was directly involved. Not the case here.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 2:16 p.m.

I am also thinking they said "suspected homicide" because they got in trouble with the feds over not reporting the prior incident. So they're now over-cautious.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 2:09 p.m.

Or it might be because they don't yet have definitive evidence upon which to base a conclusion.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 2:44 a.m.

True but they can't be sued, might be more for public relations.

Honest Abe

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 1 a.m.

Their (YPD) lips are moving, but no words.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 1 a.m.

Something is rotten in Paradise, I'm afraid. Sad that the EMU Community cannot glean more information.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 12:43 a.m.

Something is screwy here. Someone is not wanting the results to come out I'm wondering. In this modern age they certainly should have a cause of death. This is not the 1950's.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 2:08 p.m.

You're watch too many television crime shows. This many not be the 1950's, but it is also not television. Feel free to hire a medium to solve the crime.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 12:57 a.m.

Could just be inconclusive...but if it is...they should just say so.

Amanda Erickson

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 12:15 a.m.

Is there a link to a YPD Media Release?


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : midnight

So, pretty much, this story says nothing.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 9:13 p.m.

yes ..sort like the "everything is alright alarm...."


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

No, this story says that the police still have nothing--or nothing to say. There's a difference.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 11:50 p.m.

So...they got nothing.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

Sorry, the above should have been a new post; it was not intentionally directed at Goofus.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

Everyone please note that the word UPDATE does not necessarily mean CHANGE. To UPDATE someone on a situation is to inform them of what is going on. Unless you have been told that you will be updated ONLY IF THINGS CHANGE, then you cannot assume that an update is a change. Even if the update tells you nothing new, you at least know that the information you had is still current and the agency issuing the update is still engaged in the situation. If someone you loved was in the hospital, would you be satisfied if the doctors and nurses didn't update you on their condition merely because there was no change? During the Iran hostage crisis, newscasts were updating people every day on the situation. For probably 440 of those 444 days there was no change. Didn't hear anyone complain that the public shouldn't be kept constantly updated on the situation just because there was no change. Most people prefer to know that the information they have is current, and not just assume it is.