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US: Missing 22-year-old Indian origin girl found dead

March 12, 2014 09:23 IST

The body of Jasmine Joseph, 22, who went missing from her Syosset, Long Island, New York home since February 24, was found in her car at a busy parking lot not far from her home.

The family later identified the body at the Nassau County Medical Examiner’s office. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.

No visible marks were seen on the body. Her Nissan Altima car and her body were located in Syosset Plaza off of Jericho Turnpike at around 1 am, on Tuesday.

She was one of the three Indian students who went missing in one month. Pravin Varughese, 19, a second year student at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Illinois, went missing on February 12 and his body was found on February 19, just five days before Jasmine went missing. In the third incident Reny Jose, 21, a mechanical engineering student at Rice University in Texas, disappeared from Panama City Beach, Florida since March 3 and still there is no information of him.

Police removed Jasmine’s vehicle from the parking lot after discovering that the license plates matched her car. The keys were found inside the car.

Police came to her home at around 4 am to inform the sad news. Her winter jacket and other belongings were handed over to the family.

It was a shock for the family members, who were in the belief that she was safe somewhere and would come home now or later.

The family said they had searched the parking lot thoroughly earlier, but there was no trace of her car. How the car was found now seems a mystery.

Meanwhile, Inspector Kenneth Lack of the Nassau County Police department told the local media that her death appeared to be a suicide. He said she was found wedged in between the front and back seats on the floor of the car. She was not visible to passersby.

Joseph was a nursing student at the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury. But after her disappearance, the college clarified that she had not been enrolled in the college since May 2013.

But her father Sony Joseph showed credit card records for paying $ 6072 for the fall semester in July, 2013. If she was not a student how the college accepted fees for the semester too was not explained. He also said the college had agreed to refund it.

Anyway, the family was not aware that she was not going to college till her disappearance. She left her house in the morning of February 24. At about 5:17 pm she called home saying that she was studying at the college library.

The family and friends had mounted a vigorous campaign through Facebook, and the number of the group swelled to more than 7000 people. People from far and wide have come forward to help the search and console the family.

Soni Joseph is an engineer with the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority and mother Lovely is a registered nurse at North Shore-LIJ Health System. Her older brother is a medical student in Caribbean.

The community is upset that the police have not properly investigated the case even though community leaders met with the Nassau County officials. Nobody could believe that a car with a dead body was lying at a busy parking lot for two weeks in spite of an ongoing investigation.

“The car was lying not far from the home. We feel the authorities have not done all that was possible to find out her. They waited on the excuse that she was an adult,” Paul Karukappillil, a leader of the Federation of Kerala Associations in North America (Fokana) said. Jose Thayil, publisher of Kairali, one of oldest Malayalam publications, asked District Attorney Katheelin M Rice to institute an investigation about the whole thing.

Pravin Varughese died of hypothermia, according to the autopsy report. He ran to the woods and met his death there. The reason for running to the woods at midnight was not fully uncovered. His tweets and phone call showed that he was in a dangerous situation. The police maintain that there was no foul play, but the family had demanded a thorough investigation.

Varughese left a party at around 11:30 pm and went with an acquaintance. On the way there was a dispute between them and Varughese ran in to the forest, according to the police. The person who gave him a ride went to the police few days later.

But there were reports that a police officer stopped the car on that night but found nothing wrong. The driver told the officer that one person ran to the woods and the officer looked for him some time and left. There was no follow up and it ended in tragedy.

In the third incident Reny Jose, 21, and 20 of his friends from Rice arrived in Panama City Beach in Florida on March 1 and were staying at a beach rental to celebrate spring break. The Bay County Sheriff’s Office was contacted on March 4 by friends who reported that Jose was not seen from 7 pm the day before.

His clothes and phone were discovered in a trash bin near the house. His wallet, with identification and credit cards, was found inside the rental home.

The BCSO Air Unit used helicopter soon to search the area. A diving team was engaged later.

According to a police report, a friend told them that Jose had taken LSD, an illegal drug known to cause users to hallucinate and behave unpredictably, and spoken of committing suicide on March 3, and he had also taken LSD the day before that.

The parents, who live in Latham, near Albany in New York, are staying there coordinating the search. Most of his friends had left Florida before the parents arrived there.

“Reny is a wonderful, loving person who is doted on by his entire family. Despite the recent allegations regarding a drug incident, Reny's 4.0 GPA in his engineering program suggests otherwise. We desperately just want him home and urgently plead with all of Panama City for their help,” the family said in a statement.

He is the only son of Jose George and Shirley. He has a sister, Reshma.

Jose’s family created a Facebook page, FIND RENY JOSE, to share information. Deputies are asking anyone who might have information to call 850-747-5079 or CrimeStoppers at 850-785-TIPS (8477).

Meanwhile, Bay County Sheriff's investigators told news Channel 7 that there were no signs of foul play, but they had not ruled out anything. They said they still believe Jose went swimming in the gulf, after taking LSD, and that he drowned. 

Image: Jasmine Joseph


George Joseph in New York