Princeton University student Misrach Ewunetie’s cause of death could take weeks to determine, official says

A ruling on the cause and manner of death of a Princeton University student may take weeks, a county prosecutor’s spokesperson said Friday, after her body was discovered near campus tennis courts following a dayslong search.

Misrach Ewunetie, 20, of Ohio, was found dead Thursday afternoon on the New Jersey campus, ending a search that began last weekend, when her family reported they hadn’t been able to reach her.

A medical examiner’s officer was conducting an autopsy Friday. However, the cause and manner of death will not be determined until toxicology and other test results are returned, and results could take weeks to receive, said Casey DeBlasio, spokesperson for the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.

Ewunetie’s body was found on Princeton grounds, behind tennis courts, officials said. There were no signs of injury, and the death didn’t immediately appear to be suspicious, the prosecutor’s office said Thursday.

Ewunetie, a junior sociology major, was last seen early on October 14 near a residential building, the university has said. Roommates remembered her sleeping in her dorm room that morning, Ewunetie’s family has said.

Her family contacted the school Sunday night to request a well-being check after not hearing from her for several days, Princeton Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun wrote Wednesday in a message to students.

The school’s public safety department began looking for her that night and the next day issued a campus alert asking for information about her whereabouts, the school says.

Ewunetie was volunteering at one of the school’s 11 eating clubs on October 13, student newspaper The Daily Princetonian reported. Terrace Club student leaders told the paper Ewunetie was on “duty” doing housekeeping work during a live music performance at the club.

“On Thursday night, one of our members who was initially signed up for duty was unable to attend our event, and Misrach volunteered to cover their shift. After the club had closed and all of the duty responsibilities had been fulfilled, Misrach — as well as the other members on duty — left for the night,” the club wrote to the paper.

Her death is an “unthinkable tragedy,” the university said Thursday in a news release.

“We are planning an opportunity for students to join together and remember Misrach,” the school said.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who’d said he’d been in touch with law enforcement agencies during the search, tweeted Thursday he was heartbroken by news of her death.

“Our hearts go out to her family, friends, and fellow students who knew and loved her,” he wrote.

The autopsy was being performed by the medical examiner’s office in Middlesex County, DeBlasio said. That is adjacent to Mercer County, where Princeton is located.

There are no threats to the Princeton campus or student body as related to Ewunetie’s death, Calhoun wrote in a letter sent to students and their families Friday.

Calhoun wrote that patrols will increase in student living areas out of an abundance of caution.

The school will provide counseling services, and opportunities for students to remember Ewunetie will take place Friday and Monday, when classes resume after fall break.

Student’s brother called her a ‘beautiful soul’

During the search, Ewunetie’s brother Universe Ewunetie described his sister Thursday as a “precious, beautiful soul,” a “great listener” and someone who “cares about people beyond her.” The brother and other relatives were putting up fliers about his missing sister on campus.

Universe Ewunetie said their father first tried contacting his sister on October 14 but didn’t connect and assumed she was busy. By October 15, calls and texts were going through, but still, no response — and, by Sunday, the calls were going straight to voicemail.

Her family was particularly alarmed she missed a meeting regarding her citizenship on Saturday, Universe Ewunetie said.

Friday’s letter from the university said Misrach Ewunetie is remembered as “a kind and loving friend.”

Besides the Terrace Club, she was involved in New College West, which “organizes a wide range of activities for our community, from social and cultural events to intramural sports,” Calhoun’s letter says

“An immigrant from Ethiopia who settled in Ohio, Misrach was active in African students’ organizations as well,” Calhoun added.

Ewunetie was a graduate of the Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland said.

“The Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School community is profoundly saddened at the news of the passing of Misrach Ewunetie, a former honor student, class of 2020, who was found deceased today on the campus of Princeton University,” Deacon James Armstrong said.

The non-profit group Minds Matter Cleveland was “devastated” by the loss of Ewunetie, a member of its class of 2020, it said.

“We hold her family and all others who loved her close to our hearts,” the group said.

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