Texas officials are treating the gruesome discovery of an unidentified female found dead on the University of Texas at Austin campus as a possible homicide while police continue to investigate.
Late Tuesday morning, April 5, the University of Texas Police Department (UTPD) responded to reports of a deceased female found in a creek behind the UT-Austin alumni association building. Neither the victim’s identity nor the cause of death was released but UTPD, which is handling this as a possible homocide, indicated the victim is in her 20’s and known to the campus community, according to Austin NBC affiliate KXAN-TV (NBC).
Throughout much of the day, UTPD and the Austin Police Department (APD), assisting with the investigation, remained on scene. They asked students to avoid the area while during the investigation, also urging them to be cautious. According to KVUE-TV, the body could be a student missing since Sunday, April 3.
Police officials told Time-Warner Cable News’ Alex Stockwell the young woman was a freshman UT student who studied dance.
University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves flew back from a trip to Amarillo. “This is a difficult and tragic day for our campus and our campus community,” Fenves told reporters Tuesday evening.
He said he spoke with UTPD, APD, the University of Texas System Police, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), and the Texas Rangers about the unidentified female. Fenves commented that the university will increase officer patrols as a precaution, stating “all law enforcement assets will be deployed to protect this campus and community.” The beefed up police presence will also include Texas Rangers and Texas DPS.
Fenves tweeted, “For those on campus tonight: I have directed 50 officers from UTPD, APD and DPS to patrol our community.”
For those on campus tonight: I have directed 50 officers from UTPD, APD and DPS to patrol our community.
— Greg Fenves (@gregfenves) April 6, 2016
At the press conference, Fenves said: ”UT is a community, a family. When a tragedy like this occurs on campus, in our home, we have to come together.”
Earlier, University of Texas Police reassured students that “the campus is safe,” based on current information in the ongoing investigation. University police advised students to practice their normal personal security and be aware of their surroundings at all time. Still, UPD Captain Don Verrett cautioned students to remain aware of their surroundings, not use their earbuds and try to travel in pairs when walking on campus, according to KUT, the public radio station operated by the university.
Capt. Verett encourages students to walk in pairs on campus, don’t use earbuds, be aware of your surroundings
— Syeda Hasan (@KUTsyeda) April 5, 2016
Fenves also released a statement on the body found on the UT-Austin campus:
“Today, we are dealing with a tragedy on campus. University police have discovered a body in Waller Creek behind the alumni center and are investigating a possible homicide.
I have spoken with campus public safety leaders and am writing to assure you that we are doing everything possible to ensure safety on campus. We are also working closely with Austin police to identify possible suspects. We are unable to release the name of the victim or any details until the family has been notified.
Based on the information we have and our conversations with police, the campus continues to operate fully, and all classes and events remain on schedule.
I will work with university police to keep you notified as new information becomes available. Anyone with information about this crime should contact university police at 512-471-4441 or, in an emergency, dial 911.”
UT-Austin Vice President for Student Affairs Gaige Paine offered counseling services to students, if needed, through the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center in the wake of the tragedy.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.