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Posted on Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 12:20 p.m.

Eastern Michigan University community mourns student found dead in apartment

By Katrease Stafford

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include information from a family spokesperson.

The death of an Eastern Michigan University student has devastated those who knew her.


Julia Niswender

Julia Catherine Niswender, 23, was found dead in her apartment in the 1000 block of Huron River Drive about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night, Ypsilanti police said.

The cause of death has not been determined, police said in a news release, but is being treated as an apparent homicide.

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Monroe resident Jacob McLaughlin has been designated as the Niswender family spokesperson.

McLaughlin told he has known the Niswender family for nearly 12 years and graduated in 2008 from Monroe High School with Julia and her twin sister, Jennifer.

McLaughlin declined to share any specific information about the investigation at the request of the family.

"There is an ongoing investigation and the main thing I want to stress is to respect the privacy of the immediate family and make sure the investigation is able to run its course," McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said about 50 to 60 family members and friends have gathered at the family's house in Monroe to remember Niswender.

"The family is in complete and utter shock," McLaughlin said. "... It's devastating."

McLaughlin said the family will be releasing a statement at some point, though he isn't sure when.

A classmate and professor described Niswender as a career-driven and friendly individual.

EMU professor Megan Gore said Niswender was one of her "favorite" students. Niswender was a junior, majoring in communication, media and theatre arts at EMU. Niswender also attended Monroe Community College.

"She was passionate about her studies in electronic media," Gore said. "She strove to do her best no matter what the assignment was. Several weeks ago she took a trip to New York with our electronic media program and was so excited to share with me her experiences."

Gore said Niswender often shared her career aspirations.

"She always had a smile on her face and loved to laugh in class, making the classroom environment very special for everyone," Gore said. "I am devastated by her loss as I know her classmates are as well."

EMU student Adrienne Ayers was in an audio production class with Niswender that was taught by Gore.

“We worked together on an audio project for class and she was in my group,” Ayers said. “Every time I came to class Julia was always happy and she was always nice to me. She was funny and always made me laugh. Her personality was the kind that would make you want to be friends with her. I never saw Julia upset or anything and she was a true sweetheart."

Niswender's sister, Jennifer, recently graduated from the EMU journalism program. EMU professor Carol Schlagheck, who taught Jennifer, also is from Monroe.

"It’s tragic and I’ve met Julia and I knew her sister, Jennifer," Schlagheck said. "I‘m crying. I’m shocked. They’re both from Monroe and Monroe is mourning. It’s horrible. We feel badly for the whole family. They were very close."

EMU police are working closely with Ypsilanti police in the investigation, EMU spokesman Walter Kraft said in an emailed message to the campus community Wednesday morning.

Niswender's apartment complex, Peninsular Place, was quiet Wednesday morning, with a few EMU students making their way to class down Leforge Road toward campus, peering at the TV news truck parked in the entryway of the complex. The apartments are near the intersection of Huron River Drive and LeForge Road.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Detective Sergeant Thomas Eberts at 734-482-9878 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAKUP (773-2587).

Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for her at or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.


Nicole Streeter

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

I am sorry to hear of this young woman's death,. As a former student and Alum of EMU, I saw the construction of Peninsular Place apartments, and often wondered how college housing would work out right next to the well known section 8 /ghetto apartments directly behind and across the street. For years, those other apartments and Le forge itself have been known as the slums, although many a college student has lived in the area due to low cost/rent living, My own vehicle was broken into once while I was at the apartment of a classmate tutoring him in History. one of the oldest bar/restaurants known in Ypsilanti, The Wooden Nickle, which sits across the street from Le Forge, was a staple in the college community, until the "clientele" changed and violence became part of a regular occurrence there. The tried changing the name, but it didn't matter, and it closed it's doors back in 2006-2007 ( I believe) My thoughts go out to the family of this young woman. Although no info has been released as to suspects, I would like to know if this was a random act, or if it was a person she knew? Obviously the PP apartments doesn't want bad publicity, but I think they should acknowledge that they are a college student based complex, built feet away from a well known complex that has for years, been known as "one of the worst areas of Ypsi".


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 11:42 p.m.

Our family is praying for her family. No words can describe the pain they are feeling.

Lorrie Mayzlin

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 11:24 p.m.

No matter the circumstances, the end result is devastating to two different cities -- Monroe and Ypsilanti ... the college campus, despite "outsider" views is a community by itself, entwined into a larger city. I pass by this group of campus housing every day on my way to Washtenaw Community College (I also attended MCCC and transferred to WCC/EMU for my program). It hits home in a hurry because you never know who or what is lurking around the corner. Ypsilanti has always had it's share of an ill lot -- with transient people. This type of news is the type of news that no parent ever wants to hear -- and prays about everyday when they send their children off to a larger college campus. It makes it doubly hard for parents because of the the timing -- just before Christmas...and harder for students at Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College and even University of Michigan -- as we are ALL in our final week of the Fall 2012 semester. The burden of final exams and the stress that causes, now coupled with the death of a friend, and the worry that if this is determined to be foul play without suspects, that they are still out there -- somewhere... My sympathies go to Monroe County Community College, because it is such a small college and everyone knows everyone.... to the family, because as a parent this is more than we should ever bear.... to the campuses of EMU, WCC and UM, because as a student, this weighs heavily on our already burdened shoulders. May she find peace in God's light.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 6:16 a.m.

"....with transient people." Way to show your stereotype and prejudices. :( Just because someone is down on their luck and may be temporarily homeless does not make them bad people or further provoke them into being murderers. Let's not jump to conclusions here.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 10:28 p.m.

*Apparent* homicide, "cause of death not determined."


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

This is the standard language of police reports and, especially at this stage of the investigation, no other terminology would suffice. If the writers of chose other words they would be substituting their own judgment for that of law enforcement. I don't understand why you would ask them to be less than professional. Unless you're implying that the police are being deceptive, in which case I have a lovely, handcrafted tinfoil hat I'd like to sell you.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 12:45 a.m.

Unnecessary criticism of a sad situation. As a prolific commentator, you might realize that instead of being pertinent, this time you are the one off the mark. So sorry for your lack of discretion and impetuous remark.

City Confidential

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 12:35 a.m.

GoNavy, the death scene may have contributed to the use of the word "apparent". If the apartment showed evidence of a crime, but the exact cause of death has not been determined, the police could still use the word apparent.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 9:35 p.m.

My wife and I send our thoughts and prayers to Julia's family.

Linda Peck

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 6:55 p.m.

Thank you, Miss Katrease, for your touching writing on Julia Niswender. I pray for blessings for her and her family and friends.