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Posted on Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 8:22 a.m.

Police investigating EMU student's death as apparent homicide

By Cindy Heflin

Editor's note: This article has been updated with information from the scene of the crime and from Huron Valley Ambulance spokeswoman Joyce Williams.

Ypsilanti police are treating the death of an Eastern Michigan University student as an apparent homicide.


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 in a press release.

The cause of death has not been determined, police said in the release.

The apartment is part of the Peninsular Place apartments near the intersection of Huron River Drive and LeForge Road.

According to her page on Facebook, Niswender was studying communications at EMU and working as a sales associate at Walmart in Pittsfield Township. She's a graduate of Monroe High School and attended Monroe Community College.

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.

The Peninsular Place apartments were 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.

Niswender’s first-floor apartment had decorative candy canes hung from the door. A friend wrote a note on a blue advertisement, reading simply “RIP = ? Love you, Julia.”

Neighbors living in the same section of the complex as Niswender declined to speak to when they answered their doors Wednesday morning.

Nikki Jackson lives in an apartment near the block of apartments where Niswender died Tuesday. Jackson said she returned home at 8 p.m. and nothing was out of the ordinary. About 9:30 p.m., there were suddenly police cars outside her window.

Jackson said she didn’t go near the area of Niswender’s apartment because police had the area blocked off.

“They weren’t letting people in that section and the people who parked there had to walk around so they wouldn’t come close to the area,” she said.

Jackson said a van came, seemingly from the Washtenaw County Medical Examiner’s Office Wednesday. Two amublances from the Huron Valley Ambulance service were sent to the scene as well, spokeswoman Joyce Williams said. However, Niswender was pronounced dead at the scene upon their arrival.

“There was nothing we could do,” Williams said.

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). reporter Kyle Feldscher contributed to this report.

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Lorrie Mayzlin

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 11:57 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. ***IF YOU ARE ON ONE OF THE CAMPUSES --- PLEASE call someone (anyone) if you feel alone or scared -- and ALWAYS keep an eye over your shoulder. Good luck with the rest of your final exams everyone.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 8:41 p.m.

My condolences to Jennifer and her family. Julia will be missed.

Bob Krzewinski

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 8:27 p.m.

My complete condolences to the family and friends of the student. While all the facts are still coming in, one thing that was mentioned was that the scene of the crime was a first floor apartment. This is not meant to blame the victim in any way possible, but for crime prevention please take steps to make sure your own first floor entrances are secure. Make sure windows and doors are locked when away from home or before turning in for the night. Also, if travelling, consider getting a second floor or higher room at a hotel. I travel extensively (around 150 nights a year) and our company has a non-negotiable policy of not booking first floor rooms at hotels due to crime records showing break-ins of the lower floor rooms.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 11:52 p.m.

75% of murder victims know their attacker. Among college aged females it's almost 90%.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 8:25 p.m.

I'm a student at EMU and I can honestly say that everyone here is truly sad about this. Many of us knew or recognized Julia and her sister, Jen, which makes this so devastating. I had a class with the two and it really hurts to hear something like this! Julia was a very beautiful person and I'm so blessed to have known her. I'm incredibly sad that she left us so soon. My deepest prayers are with the close family and friends. As far as the person who did such a horrible thing to this angel, I hope justice is served!

Gloria Hartman

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 8:06 p.m.

This beautiful young woman, is my son in laws cousin.........the family is shocked and in a horrible state of disbelief. My granddaughters are with them now, trying to deal with Julia's death. Please, be never know when it may happen in your family.

J Matt Shelden

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 8 p.m.

Obviously a talented young woman removed this mortal life so tragically. Sadly she has been taken from her loving family way too soon. I am not from the local area and yet I too sympathize. As should ALL human beings. Thank You Cindy H. for keeping an watchful eye over the public outpouring...both good and BAD. And for the BAD people responsible? I look forward to the day of sentencing and your eventual time of judgement.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 5:20 p.m.

This is a tragic event that should, and undoubtedly will, leave our university community in mourning. I hope that further illumination of this case can bring some degree of peace to her family, I can't even begin to imagine how unbearable this experience must be for them. Further, I hope that those who would take advantage of this tragedy to level their egos against Ypsilanti and the Eastern Michigan community will take some time to reflect on their impetuous, immature behavior - regardless of your 'obligation' to deride those who don't meet your (evidently strict) socioeconomic standards, it is beyond inappropriate to bring that sophomoric behavior into a situation such as this. Let's try to come together as a community, to whatever degree that is possible.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 10:36 p.m.

Sadly I'm not at all surprised.I've come to the conclusion that there are many people who are so miserable and pathetic in their own lives that there is nothing that they won't use to make them feel better about themselves regardless of how low they have to stoop to do it.But this will fall on deft ears I'm afraid.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 5:19 p.m.

Prayers to this beautiful woman's family and friends. A life taken far too soon. Gods Speed.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 5:14 p.m.

My question is this: why was this picture chosen for this article? I went to her FB page, there are literally hundreds of photos of this young women dressed professionally at work, at school and with friends. I'm just wondering who makes the photo decisions for and wondering if more sensitivity might have been considered before selecting a photo for a murdered woman.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 8:33 p.m.

It's the picture she used for her Twitter account.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 7:25 p.m.

Renegade.....Really ? and I mean REALLY ? a young girl ( he's young enough to be my daughter so she's a girl ) is murdered and you are worrying about a picture ? I mean really ?


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 6:53 p.m.

I see nothing wrong with this photo and no insensitivity in the choice.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 6:48 p.m.

I do not think there is anything wrong with the chosen picture. It shows what someone took away from this poor girl's family- a beautiful, happy, outgoing young girl. What an absolute tragedy. Bad things can happen anywhere. Young women need to remember how vulnerable they are to these sickos and always take as many precautions as they can to keep themselves safe. Be safe over being polite...


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 5:02 p.m.

This is Tragic. My prayers go out to the family and friends of this young lady. It is sad your not safe in your own home these days. Let her rest in peace> :-(


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

Julia,was a graduate of Monroe High School and Monroe Community College. She also worked at the Monroe Meijers for many years before moving to continue her schooling. What a shock this morning to see her life was taken last night. My prayers go out to her family,friends and coworkers both at Walmart and at Meijers,she will be missed. May the police find those who are responsible for this crime.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

What a horrible thing to happen to such a young person.

Candace Rawks

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 4:55 p.m.

I want to thank for monitoring the comments on this web site and deleting those comments that are meant to trash or harm an entire community based on an incident. I have lived in Ypsi for over 10 years and LOVE it. it is an enriching, funky, unique and diverse community. I came to this article today to fight for Ypsi - yet again - from folks who don't 'know' Ypsi and like to judge from afar. I had thre articles from Ann Arbor murders in the last 2 years I was ready to share for those folks who think they live in some other reality. But now I see I don't need to do that. My deepest condolences to the family and friends of Julia and for my community. It is tragic when this happens and we feel the pain as a community.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 4:54 p.m.

@ Cindy Heflin. Perhaps with highly sensitive stories like this one, the discussion thread should be turned off. I understand that it's part of what is about, but I don't see much good that comes out of it with things like this. When my co-workers daughter was murdered, the discussion thread had very hurtful remarks. Maybe this should be more a news story and not social commentary.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 6:46 p.m.

Good point! I would hope this would be full of polite, thoughtful comments. Instead it is a bunch of deleted posts. At least close it for 24 hours.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 4:48 p.m.

This is sad and horrifying. My thoughts go out to the family.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

Very grim. Hope they catch and prosecute the perp. Sympathy to the family.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 4:46 p.m.

RE: Ypsilanti police are treating the death of an Eastern Michigan University student as an apparent homicide. – All I can say is that parents of young women who go away to college live with this kind of anxiety; that their daughter will fall victim to violence. My sincerest sympathy goes out to Ms. Niswender's parents , family and friends.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 6:46 p.m.

I would include all parents.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

I type this with tears in my eyes. I live in the heart of the EMU community and love our neighborhood. My household will be praying for those close to Julia.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 4:09 p.m.

Awful, just awful, parents are not meant to outlive their children. My prayers go out to all that knew her.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 3:57 p.m.

This poor girl! I hope the person who caused her death, if it's indeed a homicide, is found quickly. I'm a Communications Grad student and the Communications department at EMU is fantastic. We lost a valuable person in our community. I feel for her family as the holidays are approaching.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 3:53 p.m.

Very very tragic and senseless. I hope the police are able to solve this one quickly.

Cindy Heflin

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 3:40 p.m.

Please refrain from speculation and general bashing of a particular area or institution. Comments of this nature have been blocked, as well as comments complaining about other comments. is following this story and more information will be posted as soon as it is available.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 7:02 p.m.

I never understand why allows comments on a story like this. The result is always predictable, a slew of comments that end up being blocked. Aside from kind condolences to the victim's family, no one really has anything to say or add. And if someone does have information that would add to the story, it should first be verified by and added to the story itself.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 3:39 p.m.

Dear God, my heart is breaking for her family. The pain must be unbearable.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 3:27 p.m.

My condolences to her family and friends. To everyone else, let the police do their jobs instead of hand-wringing about the word "apparent" and all this other nonsense.

Paula Gardner

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

We don't yet know the circumstances of this death, but a lot of people are mourning this young woman right now - and that includes one of my colleagues, who knew her. We're watching comments closely for off-topic comments and will be moderating with a heavy hand. This is not the time or story to draw too many conclusions about what (and where) this took place.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 6:45 p.m.

This article has been much more moderated than many others involving death. It seems that just because someone on your staff has relations to this person that the comment supervision has increased. You should treat all articles the same, regardless of who you or your friends know. That being said, RIP to this young woman and my prayers are with her friends and family.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

I think that you should leave them up. It looks like everyone else is doing a good job of responding intelligently.

Paula Gardner

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

We're going through them again right now.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

Thanks, Paula. I don't understand why you can't be a little more heavy-handed with some of the comments that are still standing. There are many family and friends grieving this morning, and the inappropriate Ypsi/EMU-bashing comments should be deleted, IMHO. Deepest sympathy to Julia's family and friends. This is a very sad day for many people.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of this young woman. Her life was cut short far too soon. As for the posters on here saying nasty things about EMU, get a life. Your comments are all inappropriate in light of what has happened to this young woman, and in general wrong.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

I'm interested in the use of the word "apparent" in "treating this as an apparent homocide," given that the cause of death has not been determined. Did the police say "apparent" or was that added by the staff? Apparent (adjective): " Clearly visible or understood; obvious."


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 4:46 p.m.

A seasoned investigator will look at any death investigation as a possible homicide. Until you are satisfied cause is natural or self inflicted, you have to rule out involvement of other persons.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

You know what they say about statistics, Navy.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

It can also mean "manifest to the senses or mind as real or true on the basis of evidence that may or may not be factually valid"

Cindy Heflin

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

Police used that word and said the cause of death has not been determined.


Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

How sad! My condolences and prayers go out to her family. Hopefully they will catch the person who is responsible for this.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

my thoughts as well.