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Posted on Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Julia Niswender homicide: Police have 'exhausted' leads in EMU student's death

By John Counts

There are now two unsolved homicides involving college students in Washtenaw County.

Months before University of Michigan medical student Paul DeWolf was found dead from a single gunshot inside his room at a fraternity, Eastern Michigan University journalism student Julia Niswender was found drowned in a bathtub in an "unnatural position" at her Ypsilanti apartment, according to police.

Police don't think the cases are at all connected, but investigations continue in both. Each have cash rewards for information leading to the arrest of a suspect. As Ann Arbor police track down leads in the DeWolf case, however, the Niswender case seems to be at a standstill.


Courtesy photo

"There are some things still at the lab, but no new leads in the case," Ypsilanti police Lt. Deric Gress wrote in a statement. "Detectives have exhausted most of the viable leads at this point."

Ypsilanti police did not wish to comment further.

The last major announcement in the Niswender case came in April, when police confirmed that when the 23-year-old woman was found Dec. 11 at her off-campus apartment in Peninsular Place, she was in the bathtub in an "unnatural position" and that the cause of death was asphyxiation from drowning.

Family members have said that the apartment door was locked and that there were no signs of sexual assault or struggle, but that the apartment was in disarray and a few items were missing.

The case was investigated as a homicide from the beginning.

"This case has always been and will continue to be a homicide," Ypsilanti police Chief Amy Walker told in April. "... There won't be a stone unturned."

Police interviewed more than 100 individuals from areas ranging from Ohio to the Upper Peninsula in the case with no luck in developing a suspect.

A $10,000 reward continues to be offered by the Duvall Group Investigations PLLC for more information regarding Niswender's death. Individuals with information are being asked to contact the Michigan State Police at 1-800-SPEAK-UP or the Ypsilanti Police Department at 734-483-9510.

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



Mon, Aug 19, 2013 : 4:33 a.m.

When months go by without solving a crime on a college campus, chances are it will never be solved. The population is too transitory. It would be interesting to know what the "missing" items were. Why be so coy and mysterious at this point? Geesh!


Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 12:23 a.m.

"unnatural position" what exactly does that mean? Turn the Niswender case over to fresh eyes like Washtenaw County Sheriff Dept.and /or Michigan State Police.


Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 12:09 a.m.

very very frustrating.start by thinking drowning didn't kill her.that was done after she was dead as least that's what I believe.who killed her?how they did it?don't know.


Tue, Aug 13, 2013 : 4:45 a.m.

wow this the same location where co-ed murders happened in 70s sort of chilling to think about.


Tue, Aug 13, 2013 : 12:38 p.m.

Same location in that it's Ypsilanti?


Tue, Aug 13, 2013 : 4:43 a.m.

I know i will get voted for making comment in 21st century , however have polices thought of bring in a psychic investigator ... just go wash the show unsolved mysterious and see what I mean when causes go cold then anything could help.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 11:17 p.m.

but Edgar cayce is unexplained ..he the real deal psychic


Tue, Aug 13, 2013 : 12:38 p.m.

Psychics are useless. When they hit, it's by accident. Check out the actual prediction success rates of those con artists.

Honest Abe

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 11:16 p.m.

You people and your 'Vote Down' button. Get over yourselves!

Honest Abe

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 6:45 p.m.

I know this is a long shot, but what items were missing from Niswenders apartment? Again, this could help someone recall something that could result in a lead! I know the police cannot reveal everything, but they have to release a little more info in hopes of getting help from someone.

Honest Abe

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 6:40 p.m.

I must say that it was pathetic to read that the house Paul dewolf lived in was worried about money ($100K) and more money was raised for that, then money being offered as a reward to catch his killer. A $10K reward offered for the killer but they want $100K for a stinking frat house????!!!

Honest Abe

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 6:36 p.m.

-What are the conclusive toxicology results from the Niswender case? -Is there a possibility the Niswender case is NOT a homicide? -What 'unnatural' position was she found in? Dewolf Questions: -What caliber of weapon was used ? -Was there a shell casing recovered ? -Was there any sign of forced entry ? -Has anyone had their fingers tested for residue? -Have all housemates been questioned/interrogated? -Is is possible someone was playing with a gun and it went off? So they panicked and ran? -Was Dewolf in any type of romantic relationship? Both cases are strange and they appear to have no motive. The Police need to release more if they want help from the public. Releasing more about the weapon used in the Dewolf case may help someone remember something that could be that missing piece. The Niswender case is just as bizarre. Any homicide is sad and tragic, but you just do not really hear of someone 'drowning' another person. Both of these cases are awful, but give us something to work with or do not expect much from the public. These cases are at a stand still. Lets try and bring these cases to a close for the families and the communities.

Honest Abe

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 6:59 p.m.

Besides. When the cops come out and say that have hit a brick wall; it's time to try other things. Who are you to ask me why I want to know? I can ask anything I wish! Especially when there are at least 2 killers wandering my streets!

Honest Abe

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 6:56 p.m.

The public needs to know. It may help someone remember something or it could help result in a lead for the Police. Not to mention, the perps are out on the streets that my family and I are on!! That is why! We are ENTITLED to know more!


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 6:45 p.m.

Wow, luckily you are here to let us all know the questions PROFESSIONAL investigators should have asked. There are MANY reasons not to tell the public certain details. The real question is why do you feel the need to know these details?


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 4:36 p.m.

"Family members have said that the apartment door was locked..." That's hearsay but it still provokes one to wonder how it was that the door remained locked. Suggesting from actual experience: IF true, then the trail likely involves finding how someone (the presumed killer) got possession of a key to her apartment. Secure the keys to your residence. Anything or anyone who short-circuits that security is exposing people to such risks as we see in this case. That's all I'm saying.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 5:17 p.m.

A lot of doors lock when you close them behind you. I don't understand the significance of this.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 4:04 p.m.

If the investigation is at a "standstill" what is the point of keeping the autopsy secret?


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

Correction: There are THREE unsolved homicides involving college students in Washtenaw County. Renee Welka in July, 1994. I pray the killers of these two young people are brought to justice, and their families are provided with some sense of justice and closure. Unlike the family of Ms. Welka.

Kyle Feldscher

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

That's correct, KME. Those interested can read a piece by Lee Higgins written a few years ago about the case here:


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 12:39 p.m.

I'm curious as to why we're ("we", as in the media and the police) still calling it a "homicide." I really wish that the YPD would put the community more at ease in this matter - for example, are residents of the city or surrounding areas at risk of anything?


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

When you can't find something; you're probably looking in the wrong place!


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 12:10 p.m.

I don't understand why when the case is dead that the police and news outlets still feel the need to tease all of the sets of eyes and ears out here with things like "Un-natural position" It may be inconsequential. But it may not be.

Jack Gladney

Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 11 p.m.

a2citizen is correct in the comments above. Surprisingly, even those have not been deleted.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 6:54 p.m.

My opinion has nothing to do with her "unnatural position"


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 6:43 p.m.

@ A2citizen, Which is EXACTLY why the police and others do not release more than a NEED TO KNOW basis. You DONT know what the position is, and if it is out of the media, if somebody ever were to slip and say I saw her such and such a way, they would know they were somebody who saw or was involved. Tell me what purpose you knowing ANYTHING besides unnatural position you need to know?


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 6:06 p.m.

matt, it's not actually "basic common sense". If I gave you my speculative, yet realistic, scenario my comment would be deleted. And that scenario does not involve a "murderer".


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 2:42 p.m.

The unnatural position of her body is the entire reason that it is being considered a homicide and not an accident. Feels weird to even write seeing as how it is such basic common sense.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 11:53 a.m.

Terribly frustrating. I still am unclear about since she was found in a bathtub, is there actual "evidence" of death by another person (ie., homicide), or just an unfortunate accident? There are too many holes in this story and it's terrible that there is nothing concrete given to the public about why this girl died. I really feel for her family.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 2:54 a.m.

djacks24, I agree.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 2:45 p.m.

Basing it a homicide on the body being in "unnatural position" and a few items missing or in disarray? How come there has never been any kind of toxicology reports released? What exactly is the "smoking gun" that definitively rules this being a terrible accident out?


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

If the police believed there was any other reasonable explanation for the scene of the crime, they would call this a suspicious death, not a homicide. That leads me to believe that the "unnatural position" of the body excludes the possibility of an accident. The police don't release more specific details because 1) they don't feel it's necessary to develop leads, and 2) they keep some information secret in order to filter out phony leads.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 11:18 a.m.

Let's hope so.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 11:03 a.m.

Some day, some way, the truth will come out and the responsible assailant will be punished.


Mon, Aug 12, 2013 : 6:40 p.m.

Not really. Many cases go unsolved. This is not CSI where the case is solved in an hour.