A body discovered in a river in Providence, Rhode Island, United States, has been confirmed to be that of Sunil Tripathi, a 22-year-old Indian American student who went missing on March 16.
“I can confirm that the body was that of Sunil Tripathi,” Dara Chadwick, public information officer for the state's Department of Health, told Rediff.com on Thursday.
She added that that the medical examiner's office in Providence identified the body through a forensic dental examination, but said she would not be able to provide details of what caused his death.
Two days ago, Lieutenant Joseph Donnelly had told Boston.com that “it’s very, very possible” that the body could be that of Tripathi. Donnelly warned that the body, that of someone in his twenties, could only be identified for certain when the medical examiner’s office in Providence identified it.
The body was found on March 16 sometime after 5 pm. An officer of the Brown University Department of Public Safety had told Rediff.com that a body had been found though no details were available then.
It was found in the Charles river, near India Point Park, one of Tripathi's favourite places to visit. The last confirmed video of him showed him going south on Brooks Street, which heads towards India Point Park.
While his family had described Tripathi as being troubled, they had organised a long and hard campaign to find him, relying on social web tools and the media to get the word out -- and to see if anyone had seen him.
Tripathi had taken a break from his studies at Brown University to reassess his priorities, his maternal aunt Nina Taylor had said.
The same day, the Tripathi family, led by mother Judy, first worked at their campaign to get people to put messages on their hands and put up the pictures on Facebook, in the hope that the viral message would run up against someone who knew what happened to Tripathi, the youngest of three siblings.
She (Judy) then went off to view surveillance tapes that may provide some clues to her son's whereabouts after he left his apartment.
The father, who had taken a short trip to Pennsylvania to manage his neglected business, was to be back late in the night.
The new campaign came after Tripathi was falsely identified as one of the suspects in the Boston marathon bombings last week. The family took down the Facebook page they had put up as part of search efforts, putting it back up only after the impression was corrected.
Those reports were allegedly sparked by Kami Mattioli, who had attended the same school as Tripathi had -- RadnorHigh School, in Radnor, Pennsylvania. Rediff could not contact Mattioli -- the number in her CV appears to have been changed.
The problems were compounded when commentators on reddit, an aggregator site, dissected the information the FBI had released and helped further the rumours. The moderator of the offending section -- which has since been marked private -- and Erik Martin, the reddit general manager, have both apologised for the error in identification.
Tripathi has been described by various people as being gentle, non-confrontational and, at best, used to relying on logic in refutation.
Taylor said the family had tried to channel the negative energy into something positive by using it to bring more attention to the campaign to find Tripathi.
Doug Lindsay, a house painter, befriended Tripathi when the latter was volunteering to teach children at the Fox Point Library. Speaking between moves as he played chess with children, he described Tripathi as having a “nice vibe,” one that encouraged him to ask the former Brown student to work for him.
Tripathi took his last check from Lindsay at the library but cried off apologetically because he was not up to it, said Lindsay, who said he missed the young man.
“If he had been a jerk, no one would care. (But) everyone liked him.”
Image: Sunil Tripathi
Photograph Courtesy: Find Sunil Tripathi FB page